How to care for your Guinea Pig

At Molesey Vets, we regularly treat and care for guinea pigs (including skinny pigs), and can offer a range of services. From guinea pig health check ups, and advice on nutrition and weight monitoring, we’re on hand to keep your guinea pig as happy and healthy as can be. Your experienced guinea pig Vet will be assigned to your pet to help consult, diagnose and treat, as well offer practical advice. Read about the types of consultations we can offer your guinea pig.

Book a guinea pig vet consultation

 

Also, don’t forget to collect your Molesey Card – our free loyalty card which gives you 1% back on everything you spend with us! The Molesey Card lets you collect points that can be redeemed against our services. We even give you 500 points (=£5) to get you started! Remember, it’s completely free to join, so ask at reception for more details when you arrive – learn more.

We do not currently recommend vaccinations for guinea pigs.

We would always recommend a health check shortly after your pet is introduced into it’s new home.

Please bring in a detailed list of all food, supplements and medication your guinea pig may be using.

If possible, collect samples of urine and faeces that morning.

If there’s any behaviour you have questions or concerns over, then take a video and bring it with you.

Do not introduce your animal to the rest of your animal family, and don’t let them play together until after the first check up and the vet has assessed your guinea pig as being healthy.

If you do wish to introduce then please ask during your consultation how and when is the best way to do this.

At the ‘Health Check’ we will perform a full physical examination and we will be assessing your new pet’s overall condition, the muscle and fat levels, and hydration and checking for anaemia.

We will be paying particular attention for parasites & for signs of any infectious diseases. We focus on their overall gut function and on their diet, including whether the food and amounts are suitable. We may not perform a full dental check on young animals if the incisors look normal.

Once we have examined your pet hopefully we will have found nothing seriously wrong, and we will then offer any recommendations we think are necessary for the diet and future care of the pet. If there is time we will talk to you about handling and training as this is the right age to be teaching your pet!

Regular Health checks

Once your new guinea pig has settled in, we would recommend bringing them for a six-monthly general health check.

Please ensure you know the brands of foods your pet is on, and any supplements or long term medications.

As before, if possible bring a sample of their urine, faeces and also a picture of their current living conditions (their cage).

This health check will involve assessing body condition, muscle and fat levels, hydration and for signs of anaemia. We will inspect the eyes, ears, and perform a dental examination. We will feel their lymph nodes, palpate the abdomen for any abnormalities and listen to the heart and lungs.

We will inspect their skin, including looking for any parasite or skin conditions. On their feet, we will look for pressure sores or “sore hocks” on their feet, and also assess the length of their nails.

Once we have examined your pet hopefully we will have found nothing seriously wrong, and we will then make whatever recommendations we think are necessary for the diet and care of the pet.

Once your guinea pig is older, or ‘geriatric’ we would strongly advise moving to checks every six months as it is safer.

Did you know that 6 months for a guinea pig is equal to roughly 5 years for a human?

We believe guinea pigs over 5 years are classed as ‘geriatric’ although just like humans, animals age at different rates!  If you are worried or would like a check every 3 months, that’s fine with us. We do understand that the health of your guinea pig is your highest priority.

This health check will involve assessing body condition, muscle and fat levels, hydration and for signs of anaemia. We will inspect the eyes, ears, and perform a dental examination. We will feel their lymph nodes, palpate the abdomen for any abnormalities and listen to the heart and lungs.

We will inspect their skin, including looking for any parasite or skin conditions. On their feet, we will look for pressure sores or “sore hocks” on their feet, and also assess the length of their nails.

We will also be paying particular attention to the ‘gait’ or movement of your guinea pig. This includes their flexibility as mobility problems become more common in older animals. Guinea pigs can occasionally be nervous creatures, so they may not walk around freely in our surgery. If you can take a video of them walking, running, and self-grooming this can be very helpful.

To montior the function of their liver and kidneys, we would recommend taking a blood test every 6-12 months. We usually collect the blood from a vein in the back leg, we only use a small needle to collect 3 drops of blood, and it should be over in no time!

Once we have examined your pet we will then make whatever recommendations we think are necessary for the diet and care of your older guinea pig.

Gut Stasis

Gut stasis is a very serious disease which can affect smaller animals including guinea pigs, rabbits and chinchillas.

If your pet has not eaten or pooped for the last 12 hours then you need to take them to a vet as soon as possible. Gut stasis is an urgent condition and cannot wait for 2 or 3 days.  To keep your guinea pig hydrated you may also need to carefully syringe feed some water before the consultation.

Do not try to offer them snacks or junk food as this can make their condition worse.

Gut stasis can be caused by a number of problems that result in a lack of appetite, and if not treated can become fatal very quickly.

These problems include stress, a fast diet change, too much sugar or carbohydrates, dehydration, grooming too much fur eating too much junk food and not eating enough fibre, as well as dental disease, liver and kidney problems.

We have seen ‘gut stasis’ after such events as owners moving house, changing the pet’s cage, hay and pellet changes, a new pet, the loss of a bonded companion and construction work taking place next door, even thunderstorms!

To reduce the risk of your guinea pig suffering from gut stasis you should:

1) Follow our diet advice and provide them with a high fibre, hay based diet.

2) Do not overfeed them with pellets, oats, biscuits or junk food.

3) Always make sure they have fresh water available.

4) Groom your pet.

5) Encourage them to exercise.

6) Keep stress levels down and reduce change in their surroundings.

7) Introduce dietary changes smoothly and gradually.

Parasites

Endoparasites (worms):

Some guinea pigs do carry pinworms, which are tiny white worms that you may see at their bottom or on their faeces.  They are only 2-3 mm long, wriggle, look ugly but are not dangerous.  Treatment is easy and we can provide this for you.

Ectoparasites (parasites on the skin or hair):

Skin parasites in guinea pigs are much more common. Some, like fleas, can easily be seen running through the fur of a guinea pig. Others, including mange are tiny and cannot be seen with the naked eye.

If you think your animal is too itchy, is losing too much fur or has developed a skin disease then please bring them in for a consultation. If you can, catch a parasite with a piece of sticky tape for us to examine.

Do NOT use any dog or cat flea products on them as these can be too strong for the smaller pets and can even kill them. We can supply you with the correct safe products for ectoparasites.

Female Guinea Pigs

We do not recommend routine de-sexing of female Guinea Pigs unless your vet has identified a health problem, for example cystic ovaries.

Male Guinea Pigs

If you want to keep more than one guinea pig, it is important that you castrate the males.

For a mixed sex pairing, castrating the male can prevent any uncontrolled breeding.

If you want to keep two males then castration can help prevent them fighting.

The best age to castrate male guinea pigs is at the age of 6 -8 months old, once you can obviously see the descent of their testicles into the scrotal sacs (i.e. you can see the testicles bulging).

The surgery is done under general anaesthetic, is fairly quick, has some potential complications like wound infection or bleeding, but is usually safe

At Molesey Vets, we use 3 types of pain relief injections: one before, one during and one after the operation to keep him as comfortable as possible.

We always make sure we give your guinea pig fluids before or during the surgery as this helps to reduce the risk of dehydration.

Our nursing staff will also normally give 2 meals of critical care after the surgery to reduce the risk of gut stasis.

Once he goes home you will need to nurse, support feed and rest your guinea pig for a few days.

In the wild, guinea pigs live on a high fibre diet of grasses and leaves and have over time have developed a specialised gut which is adapted for this coarse diet. Their large intestine contains bacteria that break down the grass fibre, making it easily digestible. The guinea pig pass this fibre through the gut twice to ensure all nutrients are absorbed. As a result of this they produce and eat a special kind of faeces (poop) which many owners never see as their guinea pig eats them directly from their bottom. These faeces are dark, sticky and smelly, and are called caecotrophes.

As a result of this specialised gut and the constantly growing teeth the adult guinea pigs need a diet that’s high fibre, restricted carbohydrate, restricted protein and virtually no fat to stay healthy.

Vitamin C

Like humans, guinea pigs cannot make their own vitamin C so this must be supplemented in their diet. We recommend 50 mg per adult guinea pig per day if there are no vegetables in the diet, and 25 mg/day for those receiving good amounts of vegetables.

We recommend giving your guinea pig and oral source of Vitamin C such as Oxbow “Daily C” tablets.

You should never add drops to their water for several reasons:

1) It may make the water taste sour, and the guinea pig will drink less, becoming dehydrated.

2) The Vitamin C will break down in the bottle when it comes into contact with the water and natural light.

3) It is hard to monitor how much Vitamin C the guinea pig has ingested in a day.

We recommend that a healthy adult guinea pig should only be given a limited amount of fresh pellets twice a day. Each time the amount should be around 1/2 a soup spoon full.

These pellets may claim to be Vitamin C rich, but as this vitamin is fragile and doesn’t last long. Therefore you cannot rely on the pellets  to have the correct amount of vitamin C necessary.

We strongly recommend first-cut or high fibre Timothy hay. Suitable alternatives include orchard grass, botanical & mountain hay are also good choices as they are high fibre, low protein hays. Alfalfa hay is too rich, and contains too much protein and calcium.

Your guinea pig must have unrestricted, 24 hour access to loose hay. They should not be given cubed hay.

You should always ensure that the hay is high quality. It should have a fresh sweet smell, and should not smell dusty or mouldy.

Remember, hay comes in various colours based on the weather conditions and can be cream, yellow, green or light brown. The colour is not important, as long as the hay smells fresh and nice.

An occasional insect may be found, and this is quite natural. However, if the hay is infested with hay then the remainder should be thrown away.

Young (under 6 months), pregnant, sick or old (over 6 years) guinea pigs should be given a larger amount of pellets. If you are unsure on the exact amount, the it is best to seek veterinary advice.

They may also be offered a proportion of alfalfa hay as it is a richer hay, with more protein and calcium.

Fresh vegetables are an extremely important source of vitamins, and most guinea pigs love them. Most will recognise the sound of the fridge and start squeaking!

You should give them around 1-2 rice bowls of vegetables every day. It is best to feed at least 3 different vegetables every day and to rotate through the list. They may be your guinea pigs favourite, but sticking to just one or two types can lead to dietary imbalances or health problems.

Choi Sum, pak choi, yau mak choi, romaine lettuce, bell peppers, broccoli leaves, chinese lettuce, carrots, spinach and parsley are all good choices. Before serving, make sure they are fresh and wash thoroughly. Like all new foods, introduce them gradually and slowly build up the amount.

Fruit is acceptable twice a week in small amounts – perhaps 1/2 a teaspoonful. You should not give them larger amounts in an attempt to increase their Vitamin C supply.

Guinea pig snacks and sweeties, seeds, nuts and biscuits are very unhealthy and should not be given.

Be careful where you buy your guinea pig food. You should buy it from a busy, well established pet food shop. Buying from an established, busy supplier ensures that the food is always fresh. We keep all our hay in air conditioning to ensure it is fresh, so we recommend that the shop you are buying from does the same.

Any changes to their diet MUST be slow and gentle. Introducing new foods too quickly can lead to an upset gut which causes bacterial imbalances and may kill your guinea pig. Please take up to 1 week to gradually introduce a new vegetable or brand of hay or a new brand of pellets.

Water

24 hour access to water is essential. We would recommend having a sipper and a bowl as guinea pigs can often suffer from urinary tract problems, so taking in more water should reduce the chance of this. Do not change their water abruptly (i.e. from tap water to bottled water) as it may taste different and your guinea pig may not drink it. In the past we have seen animals become dehydrated or in gut stasis for many reasons. For example, the water sipper ball getting stuck or because the animal did not like the taste of the new water.

Cage size is important

# of Pigs Minimum PREFERRED in cm

1 – 0.7sq m – More is better 76 x 91
2 – 0.7sq m – 1.0sq m 76 x 127
3 – 1.0sq m – 1.2sq m 76 x 157
4 – 1.2sq m – More is better 76 x 193

The floor of the cage should be solid instead of wire, as a wire base can cause ulcerations on their feet.

If you leave a corner of the cage with wire, many guinea pigs will use that corner as their toilet area. You may have to add a special toilet in.

You must always keep the cage clean and dry. You may use newspaper to cover the base as the inks are soya based and non-toxic. On top of the newspaper you should then have a layer of bedding such as hay or paper bedding like Care Fresh. We wouldn’t recommend wood-chips as they can be dusty, irritant and even poisonous to your guinea pig.

As prey animals, giving your guinea pig a hide box in the corner will help keep them feel safe.

Friends

All guinea pigs should have at least one companion as they are a very social species. When guinea pigs are bonded they will groom each other, talk to each other and play together.

When they have a friend it makes all those hours in a cage waiting for you to come home go quicker.

Younger guinea pigs will usually take quickly to a companion, but adults often won’t and they may fight and cause horrible injuries. If you are unsure about whether it is the right time to introduce your guinea pig to a new companion, then do ask us for advice during your consultation. We do not advise keeping a guinea pig with a rabbit as they may transmit diseases to each other.

One of the most common problems we see with our guinea pig, rabbit and chinchilla patients is dental disease. It is a terrible disease as it causes them pain when they eat!

All these animals have adapted to feed on tough, fibrous grasses that take a lot of chewing. Their teeth continuously grow throughout their life and if they are not worn down properly, or if the tooth position changes in the jaw, then their teeth can overgrow or develop sharp points that cut into their cheek or mouths.

This can be extremely painful and some animals will stop eating and starve to death without proper care and attention.

The most common symptoms of dental disease include eating less, (particularly the foods that need more chewing like hay) salivation and dropping foods.  Some animals may suffer from temper changes where they becoming angry, throwing the food bowl around, biting the cage bars. On the other hand, some want more love and cuddles from their owner.

You may also hear ‘tooth grinding’ or clicking when they open and close their jaw.

You may notice some animals only losing weight or producing smaller faeces.

When you bring your guinea pig in for their consultation the vet will carefully examine the jaw bone and face. They will check their incisors (front teeth) and examine the teeth within the mouth using a speculum. It can be hard for the vet to get a good view as the poor animal will usually chew and push the speculum away with the tongue, and there may be too much saliva and pieces of food floating around.

If we suspect there they are suffering from a dental disease then we will recommend a full inspection under anaesthetic.

We use a specialised dental ‘rack’ which holds the mouth open and examine with the endoscope (a kind of miniature medical camera). During the check we will take pictures and show you them once we have finished.

The vet will then use a combination of equipment to take away sharp spikes and reduce the length of any overlong crowns. If your pet has any rotten or loose teeth then these will be removed.

Owners often worry about the risk of anaesthetic which is understandable. It is true that there is a risk, especially with these older animals, and those that are not in the best condition.

Once the consultation has finished, the vet will give you advice on how best to reduce the risk in future. For example, support feeding for a few days or putting the animal onto an intravenous drip.

Please be assured that we want the same as you, a happy healthy pet, and we will try our best to make this happen.

We have a ward at Molesey Vets that is dedicated to our rabbit, chinchilla and guinea pig patients. It has been designed by our vets to help keep your special little animal as relaxed and comfortable as possible during their stay here.

The ward is cooled to 22 degrees to keep them comfortable. Cats and dogs are scary for smaller animals (they are potential predators) so are kept in separate wards out of the sight and smell of these nervous creatures.

We try to keep the ward as calm as relaxed as possible to help your pet settle in quickly.

We have a wide range of pellets, hays and vegetables available to tempt their appetite, but if you want to bring them a little lunch box of their favourite foods you are more than welcome.

You can also bring in their own water bottle too.

We have wonderful veterinary nurses who are very experienced with the care and handling of these nervous creatures.  This is particularly important when they are not eating and need to be support fed, as many of our sick patients do.

Many guinea pigs that we see become overweight as they mature. They lead a comfortable, easy life, have food available every day and often do not get enough exercise.

If you feel that your little guinea pig is overweight (or if the vet tells you this!) you are more than welcome to make a ‘Weight Consultation’ consultation with one of our veterinarians.

During this consultation the vet may also discuss your guinea pig’s weight, and recommend a weight loss diet. They will also give you advice on the right combination of foodstuff for weight loss for your pet as well as how to encourage exercise.

The vet will set a realistic target weight and a time span for them to lose their weight over.

As you know, losing weight too fast is not healthy, and as guinea pigs are animals are much smaller than us, we may plan for them to lose a few grams per week.

Once the diet plan has been set we will then be happy to make free “weight monitoring” checks for you to follow up, usually every month or two months, and these will be with one of our vet nurses.

It can be very rewarding to see a little bundle of joy regain their mobility and flexibility thanks to their weight loss.

Guinea pigs generally find life much less stressful than rabbits and chinchillas. They may be relaxed, but they will still enjoy having their lives enriched!

They are social animals so a companion is a great idea. If they are kept on their own, then please do spend lots of time with your guinea pig.

Guinea pigs are very keen on their food so giving them a wide variety of vegetables will keep them happy. You could make a foraging tray that can be filled with pieces of cardboard or fresh hay and hide their vegetables in here so they need to search for them.

They are inquisitive and like exploring so let them out of the cage every day to explore, making sure there are no electrical cables they can chew on. To keep them feeling safe (or just for somewhere to sleep) then make sure they have access to a hide box.

Always offer them chew toys made out of safe woods so they always have something to nibble on.

If you would like more advice on caring for guinea pigs, contact our friendly team who will be happy to help.

 

Strictly Necessary

These cookies are required for our website to operate and include items such as whether or not to display this pop-up box or your session when logging in to the website. These cookies cannot be disabled.

Performance

We use 3rd party services such as Google Analytics to measure the performance of our website. This helps us tailor the site content to our visitors needs.

Functional

From time to time, we may use cookies to store key pieces of information to make our site easier for you to use. Examples of this are remembering selected form options to speed up future uses of them. These cookies are not necessary for the site to work, but may enhance the browsing experience.

Targeting

We may use advertising services that include tracking beacons to allow us to target our visitors with specific adverts on other platforms such as search or social media. These cookies are not required but may improve the services we offer and promote.

Change Settings

Welcome. You can control how we use cookies and 3rd party services below

Change Settings Accept
Learn how we use cookies