Our Guinea Pigs are a domestic version of wild Guinea Pigs originating in South America. For optimal health, it is important to provide a diet similar to their wild relatives. The following advice addresses the main health and husbandry needs for our Guinea Pigs.
General HealthAs with all pets, Guinea Pigs should be checked daily for signs of illness. Regular handling will help you get to know your pet; you should become aware of what is normal for him or her. Guinea Pigs can develop health issues like other pets and vigilant owners can spot a change in their pets. We are here to help so contact us for help and advice.
DietDental and digestive disorders are common in Guinea Pigs and a poor diet is almost always to blame. Guinea Pigs need a diet rich in vitamin C as unlike rabbits, they cannot make it themselves. And diets high in sugar and calcium can be harmful for your Guinea Pigs. Essentially they need to eat a large amount of fibre. The best sources of fibre are grass and good quality fresh hay. Check your pets hay source daily to keep it fresh as it will be trodden on and soiled. We don't recommend hay racks as these can be dangerous. Actively encourage foraging, a hutch full of hay can be a great source of enrichment and warmth!
Guinea Pigs fed on commercial mixtures tend to selectively feed. Instead choose all-in-one pellets which are rich in fibre and a source of vitamin C e.g. Supreme Selective Guinea Pig or Burgess Supa Guinea Pig. Pellets should be used only as a complementary diet and not the sole food source. Your guinea pig should be weighed regularly and you should use the feeding guide on the food bag.
Guinea Pigs love weeds such as dandelion, groundsel, chickweed and clover! Many fruits, e.g. apple, are high in sugar so use as a rare treat and not as a regular part of your pets diet. Peppers (doesn't matter what colour!) are a good source of vitamin C and can be fed daily. Other added daily extras can include Romaine or little Gem lettuce and fresh greens. You can offer the following foods in moderation - as twice weekly treats: carrots (they love carrot tops with full greenery!); herbs such as mint, coriander and basil); kale; broccoli; courgette; raw corn on the cob; celery and cauliflower. It is wise to avoid commercially prepared treats, as these are often high in sugars and fat, so try branches from apple and willow trees as a healthy treat and a great source of fibre! All these extras should only be given in small amounts. These are likely to be more tasty than hay and grass but it's important the Guinea Pig is still hungry enough to eat their hay and grass. Like all animals they need fresh water each day.
TeethGuinea Pig’s teeth grow constantly, which is why it is important for them to eat a diet high in fibre. Overgrown teeth will be very uncomfortable, painful and will cause signs of salivation, dribbling, saliva staining on their chin or front feet, difficulty in eating or not eating and weight loss. Their front teeth (incisors) can be examined regularly at home. Their back teeth (molars) cannot be seen and will need to be checked by a vet if they show any of these signs. If you have any queries regarding your pet, please do not hesitate to contact us.
NailsGuinea pigs have 14 toes - four toes on each front foot, and three on each back foot. They use their nails to dig, scratch about, groom and handle food and objects. If your Guinea Pig is active they may never need their nails clipping but it is important to check them regularly and handle each foot and toe.
Each nail has a blood vessel and nerve supply called the 'quick' which runs down its centre. If your pet's nails are white you will be able to see the pink quick and you can carefully trim the tip of the nail if they have become overgrown. Dark nails make the quick near on impossible to see. Catching the quick during clipping is painful and your pet's nail will bleed. Never clip your Guinea Pigs nails unless you have the means to stop it bleeding e.g. a styptic pen or powder. If you are concerned then contact us and one of our veterinary nurses can clip them for you.
HousingGuinea Pigs can be kept outdoors or indoors. Feeling safe is number one priority, they are prey animals after all.
They need a hutch/cage which is draft, weather and vermin/predator proof. Guinea Pigs are susceptible to temperature changes. During the colder months they require extra bedding and a protective cover over the hutch at night. In hot weather guinea pigs can suffer from heat stroke. They will mouth breath when they are overheated; if this happens contact us for advice. Heat stroke can be prevented by keeping the hutch in a shaded area and filling a plastic bottle with water, freezing it and placing it in their hutch so they can lean on it if they need to!
Their hutch/cage should be checked every day and should be cleaned out at least 1-2 times a week, especially during the warmer months. Space is important for any animal, so always get the biggest hutch you can afford. Pets kept in hutches need environmental stimulus and exercise is important. Try hiding their food and give them boltholes to hide and play in. Give your Guinea Pig a secure run, ark or enclosure so they can graze. This should be portable enough to be moved frequently onto fresh areas of grass.
CompanionshipGuinea Pigs are very sociable animals and most will become unhappy if living on their own. It is important for them to have a companion.
The best pairing is usually a neutered male and 1 or 2 females. It is possible to keep 2 males together, provided they have been brought up together, but it is advisable to get them both neutered to reduce the risk of fighting.
Guinea Pigs will live happily in groups but it is important to keep only one male, regardless of whether they have been neutered. Introducing adult Guinea Pigs should be done slowly and under supervision whilst they get to know each other.
You should avoid pairing a Guinea Pig with a rabbit, as they are different species and require different care, including a different diet.
NeuteringMale Guinea Pigs can be castrated and for most pet owners wanting to keep male and female Guinea Pigs together this is the best advice. This is generally carried out at 4 months of age. Guinea Pigs have a life expectancy of 4-7 years, sometimes more.
BreedingBefore any decision is made to breed from your pet, regardless of species, remember that there are many pet's in rescue homes that are in need of rehoming. You must ensure you have a plan for the off-spring, you have a responsibility to them all as the owner, if you are unable to find suitable homes. Guinea Pigs can have large litters of up to 7 ... a lot of Guinea Pigs that will need a loving forever home. If you do not plan to keep all of the off-spring you need to find suitable homes for them. Baby animals are very cute, but they will grow. Guinea Pigs reach sexual maturity at a VERY early age.
It is advisable to bring your Guinea Pigs to us for a full check up, before breeding commences. They need to be in good health to produce healthy offspring. Overweight and underweight Guinea Pigs should not be bred from. Male Guinea Pigs become sexually active very quickly and we recommend separating male and female by 3-4 weeks of age. The female is pregnant for 65-72 days and the offspring are fully formed, eyes open and eating solid food within 24 hours, as well as feeding from their mum. Guinea Pigs can have up to five litters a year, so birth control planning is vital! Guinea Pigs need to have their first litter before they are a year old. This is before their pelvis fuses, narrowing the birth canal. If their first litter is after this time they will have difficulty in giving birth and should not be bred from. Male Guinea Pigs can be castrated and for most pet owners wanting to keep male and female Guinea Pigs together this is the best advice. This is generally carried out at 4 months of age. Guinea Pigs have a life expectancy of 4-7 years, sometimes more.
ParasitesParasites such as mites, lice, fleas and flies can affect your guinea pig. They can be transferred between Guinea Pigs and through their bedding. If you notice your Guinea Pig has a poor coat condition, is scratching or biting its fur and causing sore patches then this could indicate parasites.
Apart from being very uncomfortable, if left untreated your pet can become unwell. It is important you contact us for advice if you see any of these signs. Treatment is available by administering an insecticide or insect repellent specifically for rodents. We can advice you of the best and safest product and if used as a preventative measure, can keep your Guinea Pig free from parasites.