Guinea pigs make for adorable, empathetic, and playful companions but do require specific care. Today, our Cave Creek vets explain how you can care for a pet guinea pig if you are thinking of adding one of these exotic pets to your family.
Guinea Pigs are a species of rodent native to the South American Andes. They are social inquisitive creatures and make excellent household pets. Although they are commonly thought to be easy first pets for children, they require plenty of attention and proper care.
Before your guinea pig's homecoming, make sure you have a nearby vet who is capable of caring for them.
The following information is a basic overview of guinea pig care. If you are thinking about adding one of these exotic pets to your family, you should seek further information to ensure you can provide them with the care they need.
Guinea pigs are social creatures so they will be happiest if they have another guinea pig to keep them company. Any combination of sexes can be housed together, although if males and females are paired off they will need to be fixed unless you'd like a littler of babies!
If one of your guinea pigs is a bit older or more dominant than the other, there may be some issues with chewing on the ears or hair of the newer, less dominant one.
Guinea pigs that are paired off will be a little less social with you than lone ones since they have their socialization needs met.
Daily handling and grooming are important whether you have a single, or multiple guinea pigs. Handling will help build your guinea pigs’ confidence and for developing friendly and social guinea pigs.
Daily grooming is essential for both long-haired and short-haired guinea pigs to help keep their coat in ideal conditions. Using an. appropriate brush to brush the coat gently in the same direction as the hair grows. This will gently remove dead hairs, tangles, and pieces of twigs, dry leaves, or burrs stuck in their fur.
During grooming take the opportunity to check your guinea pigs’ health and to ensure that they are free from external parasites, such as fleas and mites which cause itching and skin irritation.
Keep an eye on the length of your guinea pigs’ toenails (ask your veterinarian to advise you on how to assess whether the nails need clipping). If the toenails are found to be overlong, have them clipped by a veterinarian or someone experienced in clipping guinea pigs’ toenails.
Guinea pigs spend most of their time in their cage, so there are several important factors to consider when acquiring and arranging their housing.
The cage should have a footprint of at least 7.5 square feet for a single guinea pig, and at least 10 square feet for two. Guinea pigs will also commonly develop sores on their feet if the floor of their home is too rough, so make sure you have a solid-bottomed cage and cover it with soft bedding like shredded newspaper or fleece blankets.
Do not use cedar shavings for their bedding. It is toxic to their bodies.
And finally, guinea pigs may be trained to drink water from a bowl, but have an easier time drinking from a bottle.
Just like people, guinea pigs don't create their own Vitamin C, so owners need to make sure they get enough in their diet. One of the best ways to do this is to make sure any commercial food your purchase for your guinea pig is specially formulated for them. Your guinea pig will also need a lot of grass hay as a staple of their diet.
On top of these, you should provide your pet with a ready supply of leafy green vegetables like romaine, and red and green lettuce. Avoid darker leafy greens like kale or spinach if you can. They contain more calcium than your guinea pig needs and can often cause painful bladder stones that may require a trip to your vet.
Although you may be tempted to include fruit into your guinea pig's diet, they don't need the extra sugar and may become overweight if it is part of their weekly diet.
Guinea pigs need plenty of exercise, mental stimulation, environmental enrichment (toys, tunnels, etc), and the ability to express their natural behaviors. These behaviors include social interaction with other guinea pigs, walking, running, tunneling, exploring, playing, stretching horizontally, retreating to a shelter to hide, foraging, chewing, gnawing, and jumping.