Guinea Pig Care
Guinea Pigs make excellent pets. Guinea Pigs come in a variety of colors, markings and coat types. The more common varieties include American breeds (short, smooth-hair), Abbyssinians (short-haired with “whorls” in their coat), and Peruvians (long-haired with a coat that parts down the center of the back).
Guinea Pigs should have a minimum of two square feet in its cage. Never house a guinea pig in a cage with a wire bottom! Guinea pigs can very easily get their feet caught in the wire mesh, and break their limbs. A cage with a removable bottom pan is perfect. It makes cage cleaning very easy. Cages with a hinged top are easier to manage. Large Aquariums can be used as cages, but they are more difficult to clean and provide less air circulation. Make sure you have a well ventilated wire top. A water bottle with a metal spout is best. The food dish should be heavy (ceramic), so that it can’t be tipped over or one that mounts on the side of the cage. You may want to purchase a hay rack, especially if you use hay as your bedding. The rack will prevent the hay from becoming soiled by urine and droppings. Rocks, bricks and tubes can be used. The rock and brick will help keep the claws trimmed. They also provide hiding places. Any wooden toys for a parrot are suitable for a guinea pig.
The bedding should provide your guinea pig with a soft surface to walk and sleep on, as well as provide insulation and warmth. Hay, aspen and dust free wood shavings are appropriate beddings. Do not use cedar shavings. The essential oils can lead to respiratory disease.
Guinea Pigs are herbivorous. Feed only fresh foods. All guinea pigs need water to survive. Though they can obtain a large portion of their water from fresh fruits, vegetables and greens, they will still require water from a water bottle to stay healthy. Hay is the mainstay of every guinea pig’s diet. Though guinea pig pellets do contain hay, it is not in sufficient quantity to keep your guinea pig healthy. You guinea pig must have a fresh supply of hay every day in order to keep its digestive system regular, and as a general rule, you should allow your guinea pig to have as much hay as it will eat. Guinea pig pellets will provide your guinea pig with the proper balance of vitamins (save for Vitamin C), minerals and other nutrients. Guinea pigs will eat many kinds of fruits, vegetables and fresh greens. By supplementing your pig’s diet with them, you will keep your guinea pig happy, as they may become bored with eating only pellets and hay. And, many fruits and vegetables are sources of vitamin C, providing a natural way to meet your guinea pig’s daily requirement.
Recommended fresh foods are apples, bananas, bread (slightly stale & crunchy, but not moldy), broccoli, carrot greens, carrots and baby carrots, celery (cut into small pieces first), cilantro, cucumber, dandelion greens, grass, green & red bell peppers, green leaf & romaine lettuce, kale, kiwi, mustard greens, oats, oranges, parsley, raspberries, spinach and tomatoes.
Foods to avoid are long celery stalks (the “strings” in celery are difficult to digest), iceberg lettuce (high in nitrates, no nutritional value), any shelled nuts or seeds (guinea pigs can choke on the shell fragments), raw beans (poisonous) and rhubarb (extremely poisonous).
If you add a vitamin supplement to the drinking water, make sure you scrub the bottle out every day. Fresh water daily!!
The chlorine in tap water can actually inactivate ascorbic acid. Vitamin C can be obtained by giving your guinea pig an orange slice.
Diseases & Health Issues
If your guinea pig is having trouble walking, it could be a symptom of scurvy, which is caused by a vitamin C deficiency. You should make sure that your guinea pig is getting at least 10 mg of vitamin C a day to prevent scurvy. If the condition develops, you will need to go see your vet; the guinea pig may need an immediate source of vitamin C, possibly by injection.
Excessive Tooth Length
The guinea pig’s teeth are usually worn down naturally by eating hard foods. If your guinea pig’s diet is too soft, its may grow to excessive lengths. It is best to have the teeth trimmed back. Until then, you may have to syringe-feed your guinea pig if he or she can’t eat on his or her own.
Heatstroke typically occurs when a guinea pig is housed in a cage with insufficient ventilation, or when they are caught out in direct sunlight for too long. It can also occur on extremely hot summer days, even if the cavy isn’t in the sun. Typically, a guinea pig with heatstroke will have a chest that is wet from saliva. It may also run excitedly back and forth, while panting and trembling all over.
Stiffness & Lameness
Guinea pigs are very sensitive to Vitamin E deficiency also. Signs are stiffness, lameness and refusal to move. Their diet should provide Vitamin E (3.5 mg./100 gr. body weight per day)