Guinea Pig Care Guide

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From http://www.pbspettravel.co.uk comes our latest Guinea Pig Care Guide, detailing all that the caring pet owner needs to know about guinea pig care.

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Guinea Pig Care Guide Produced by: https://www.pbspettravel.co.uk

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Guinea Pig Cages: The Beginners Guide Guinea pigs are one of the most endearing small pets. They seldom bite they rarely get ill and they are both clean and quiet. Indeed normally the only sound you will hear from your pet is a wonderful “churring” or squeaking when he or she realizes that food is on its way. However despite the popularity of guinea pigs as pets many owners misunderstand the needs of their pets when it comes to housing. The purpose of this article is provide some common-sense guidance on guinea pig cages to help you keep your pet safe and secure. The Purposes of Guinea Pig Cages Before we start to investigate the types of guinea pig cages available it is important to stop and think for a moment about what we are hoping to achieve. By better understanding the needs of your guinea pig you will be in a better position to provide the perfect home for your squeaking pet. In this respect there are four main factors that need to be considered: Security Guinea pigs are relatively shy animals. They are easily startled and may run around madly when surprised or scared. The first consideration in terms of your guinea pig cage should therefore be towards offering this much-needed security. The easiest way to accomplish this and help make your guinea pigs feel safe and secure is to offer “visible barriers” – quite simply places where your guinea pig can hide away from view. This means that either your guinea pig cage should offer enclosed corners where they can hide or you should include items such as piles of hay or wooden houses in which he or she can hide if scared. Enclosure Next up of course your guinea pig cage should prevent your pets from escaping. Whilst guinea pigs very rarely jump it is wise to fully enclose your pet. This means that cages with sealed lids are generally preferable to open cages. Protection Your guinea pig cage also needs to protect your pet from outside interference especially predators like foxes if kept outdoors. Once again this means that a solid cage which will not allow people or animals access to your juicy guinea pigs are advisable.

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Comfort Lastly of course your guinea pig cage needs to offer a high level of comfort. This means that your pet is able to avoid the worst of the weather to stay dry and to move about in a reasonable space. Guineas Pig Cage Dimensions In terms of space the next question is really how big a guinea pig cage should really be. Here fortunately we have some conclusive answers. The RSPCA recommends a minimum cage size of 120cm by 60cm by 45cm for a pair of guinea pigs. Remember that guinea pigs are sociable animals so keeping more than one can be beneficial. While this sounds like a lot of space for two tiny guinea pigs it is worth remembering that guinea pigs can be quite active pets. If such a space is not possible consider getting the largest cage you can possibly accommodate and supplement this with regular exercise such as in a separate run. Types of Guinea Pig Cages There are three main types of guinea pig cages for sale in pet shops or online. Broadly speaking these are categorized as outdoor guinea pig cages indoor guinea pig cages and guinea pig runs. Each has their own unique strengths and weaknesses so when shopping for a guinea pig cage try taking into account the above points. In doing so you can feel certain that your guinea pig is housed properly. Guinea Pig Hutches / Outdoor Guinea Pig Cages The most common form of housing are guinea pig hutches. These are large wooden boxes with mesh over part of the front. This mesh then allows sunshine and fresh air to enter the cage creating a more natural environment. Outdoor guinea pig cages however do have their critics. For one it is important that your pet can stay warm and dry in winter which can be difficult with an open- fronted cage. For safety therefore try to ensure that your pet has a secure bedding area packed with fresh straw so it can get out of the worst of the weather. In addition to this it can be wise in the worst weather to lightly cover the mesh – using something breathable like a bit of old sacking – to keep out the worst of the rain. Even better consider moving your guinea pig hutch indoors over winter bringing it back out into the garden in the nicer months.

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Indoor Guinea Pig Cages Gaining in popularity over the last few years are indoor guinea pig cages. These typically consist of a solid plastic bottom with a clip-on cage area on top. The plastic base helps to make your pet feel secure while keeping in mess from wood flakes excess food and so on. They look in short like an oversized hamster cage. The open cage top allows in light and fresh air and also facilitates an excellent view. That said in a guinea pig cage with a completely open top it can be easy to startle your pet especially when you will typically looking down at it. In such cases it can be smart to cover up one end of the cage thus offering extra privacy for your pet. If possible also consider raising the cage up off the floor. In this way your pet will avoid drafts be less startled by passers-by and will be just as easy to see. Guinea Pig Runs The final options in terms of guinea pig cages are the many runs that are available. These typically provide more overall space than the average guinea pig cage which can be good for your pet’s health as well as allowing for more extensive exercise. Note that the open-topped runs are really only safe for indoor use. If you want to allow your pet to run around outside you will want a fully-sealed unit to protect it from cats and foxes. In addition guinea pigs allowed to make use of an outdoor run should be properly shaded to prevent overheating in summer. Putting your guinea pigs into a run can be a great idea and add lots of environmental interest. It can also be great for your lawn assuming no chemical weed killers have been used on it recently.

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What Do Guinea Pigs Eat There are a huge range of different guinea pig foods for sale and much conflicting advice on discussion forums about how best to feed your guinea pig. For anyone wondering what guinea pigs eat what follows is a complete introduction to the guide. Simply follow these steps and you’ll be well on your way to a happy and healthy guinea pig… What do Guinea Pigs Eat Guinea pigs are herbivorous animals – that is to say that they feed almost exclusively on plant material. Unlike some other rodents – such as hamsters and gerbils – they are unlikely to enjoy or even eat insects like locusts and crickets. In terms of what the feed guinea pigs there are a number of food groups that you should be able to check off your list… Fresh Water Guinea pigs can drink a surprising amount so should have fresh water available at all times. This is generally best provided in a drinking bottle which helps to keep the water clean and fresh. Water made available on a bowl is usually soon made dirty and so is less hygienic. It is good practise to empty your guinea pig’s water bottle every day and refill it with clean water rather than only changing the bottle when the water runs out. There are two reasons for this. Firstly water that has been left to sit for some days – especially in warm and sunny weather – is likely to be less fresh and healthy than water straight from the tap. Secondly a guinea pig that suddenly starts to drink considerably more or less than usual can be an indication of health problems. If you get into the habit of replenishing the water daily you’ll be better placed to see if your pet’s water consumption suddenly changes. Under such circumstances it is wise to consult a veterinarian for professional advice. Hay In the wild guinea pigs feed extensively on wild plants in particular a range of grasses. Hay is essentially dried grass which is both delicious to your pet and also provides a useful source of fibre.

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Hay that is left on the floor of the cage cat get soiled so it is better to invest in a hay rack which keeps the hay off the floor. Your guinea pig then drag out the amount that it wants keeping the remainder fresh and nutritious. Guinea Pig Mix The third aspect of a balanced and healthy diet is one of the many commercially- available guinea pig mixes. These typically come in the form of a “muesli” type or a pelleted variety. The muesli-type guinea pig foods look appealing to our human eyes being as they are filled with an assortment of different seeds flakes and dried vegetables. However sadly guinea pigs have an unfortunate habit of sorting carefully through the food picking out only those bits which they enjoy most. For this reason it is generally a better idea to feed a food that consists of uniform pellets or kibbles in order to ensure that your pet benefits from all the nutrients required. Your aim should be to ensure that your guinea pigs bowl is never fully empty like water your guinea pig should have access to their pellets at all times. Vitamin C Guinea pigs are one of the few animals which like humans cannot create their own vitamin C. Without suitable levels of vitamin C guinea pigs can suffer from scurvy which is neither pleasant for the owner nor animal. In order to avoid this situation it is critical to provide your guinea pig with as much variety in their diet as possible. Some authorities suggest supplementing the diet with additional vitamin C. This is most easily achieved by purchasing a water-soluble vitamin C supplement from a pet shop which can then be added to your guinea pig’s water bottle. Vegetables The provision of vegetables should be considered a critical and integral part of feeding guinea pigs as opposed to an occasional treat. A range of vegetables may be fed including celery carrots bell peppers broccoli and cabbage.

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Fruits Guinea pigs generally love fruits but due to the fact that they are high in sugar they should only be fed in moderation. Ideally fruits should be seen as an occasional treat rather than a stable part of your pet’s everyday diet. Examples of suitable fruits include apple pear melon and strawberries. Wild Plants It should come as no surprise that a range of wild and garden plants can be safely fed to your guinea pigs. Of these fresh grass is arguably the most enjoyed of all. If feeding grass to your guinea pigs you should avoid feeding clippings from your mower – which can taint the grass – and instead tug handfuls out manually. Other wild plants which may be safely fed include chickweed and dandelion leaves a perennial favourite. Treats A range of guinea pig treats are available in pet shops and may be fed in moderation. These should however never become part of the regular diet lest nutritional deficiencies arise. A handy and greatly-enjoyed treat among guinea pigs is a piece of wholemeal or granary toast – especially on a cold day. What Foods Can’t You Feed To Guinea Pigs While the above guinea pig food list should provide you with an extensive list of guinea pig foods to get started with it is also important to appreciate that there are many foods which are toxic to guinea pigs and should never be fed. The following foods should never be fed to your guinea pigs:  Rhubarb  Onions  Potato  Tomato leaves  Flower bulbs Disagreement exists regarding citrus fruits with some authorities recommending you steer clear of them while others feel they offer beneficial vitamin C. In in doubt we would encourage you to avoid feeding them and instead to rely on a dietary vitamin C supplement if necessary.

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Treats for Guinea Pigs We are a nation of pet keepers and love nothing more than bringing joy to the lives of our animals. Unsurprisingly with their stocky rounded bodies and cute faces guinea pigs are no exception. The real question becomes what can you use as treats for guinea pigs Some General Rules Before we talk about some specific treats for guinea pigs it’s important that we establish some basic rules. Guinea pigs tend to have quite sensitive stomachs and there are many foods that are either unhealthy for them or will make them ill. This is especially so for any new foods that they aren’t familiar with. The first rule of treating your guinea pig is therefore to only feed very small amounts of treats. The second rule is to be absolutely certain that you know what your guinea pig is and is not allowed to eat. In the past for example it was considered nice to offer guinea pigs a nice warm piece of wholemeal or granary toast. These days however the RSPCA recommends against this. It suggests that your guinea pig’s natural cousin – the cavy – very rarely has access to grains root vegetables or fruit so these should only be fed in tiny doses – if at all. Lastly remember that while guinea pigs naturally have quite a stocky appearance they can be prone to weight gain. An obese guinea pig is not a healthy guinea pig. Once again therefore treats should only be used in moderation. Sugary treats are best avoided for this same reason. Wild Plants as Treats Treats by their very nature tend to be something a little bit “different” and special. As it turns out there are several wild plants that guinea pigs seem to go wild for and are only acceptable at certain times of the year. Two of the best are chickweed and dandelion leaves – both of which are hoovered up at a speed you wouldn’t believe Vegetables as Treats Guinea pigs love a huge range of different vegetables. Cut into small pieces they can make a perfect treat or why not make your own fresh “guinea pig salad” for them to enjoy Some examples of popular treats for guinea pigs include:

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 Beetroot  Bell Peppers  Broccoli  Brussel Sprouts  Carrot  Celery  Corn on the Cob  Kale  Tomato  Watercress Fruit as Treats Remembering that fruit should only be fed as a treat very occasionally items such as raisins seedless grapes or slices of apple and pear can make a very special treat for your pet. Other Treats for Guinea Pigs A number of commercial treats are available for guinea pigs and can be bought from most good pet shops. Lastly if you happen to have any fruit trees in your garden then providing a branch from an apple or pear tree can be a much-relished treat as well as helping to keep your guinea pig’s teeth under control.

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A Guide to Guinea Pig Teeth Although it may only look like your guinea pig has two upper and two lower incisors they actually have twenty teeth. Inside their tiny mouths along with the incisors are a pair of upper and lower premolars and three pairs of upper and lower molars. Interestingly guinea pigs do not have canines. Instead they have a gap called the diastema. This is simply the name given for a gap between two teeth many humans have it and it is completely normal in all mammals. Your guinea pig’s teeth are open rooted and grow continuously. To combat this a correct diet is imperative. This will allow your guinea pig to gnaw and chew to keep their teeth at the appropriate length. Guinea pigs have sharp front teeth so it is best not to let them nibble anything and everything. The enamel of the teeth is white like ours. Many people do not realise guinea pigs have molars due to fat pads in their cheeks making them invisible. Many vets use buccal pad separators these are designed to gently hold open the guinea pig’s mouth to aid examination. Ensuring your guinea pig has healthy teeth is a must for their overall wellbeing. Therefore it is essential to get to know all about your guinea pig and this includes oral care. The guide below will take you through all you need to know to keep your guinea pig’s teeth healthy. Checking Your Guinea Pig Has Healthy Teeth Although not obvious to the untrained eye your guinea pig has very long incisors. The top and bottom incisors can grow up to 1.5 centimetres long. Do not be alarmed if you catch a glimpse of these pearly whites in all their glory it is completely normal. If your guinea pig is eating normally and is showing no signs of distress this shows that your guinea pig’s teeth are naturally being worn down with their food which is exactly what should be happening. Both top and bottom incisors should match up in length and show no signs of deterioration. Guinea Pig Molars Your guinea pigs back teeth are also known as cheek teeth. Understandably they are a lot harder to examine. They sit far back in your guinea pigs mouth which is often full of food making checking difficult. When it comes to your guinea pig’s molars it is best to let the vet handle any examination unless something is glaringly obvious. Vets have special tools and will be able to rinse out your guinea pigs mouth to get a better picture of their oral health.

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Breaking Teeth Sometimes your guinea pig may chew too hard on their cage and manage to break a tooth. Therefore it is best to check your guinea pig’s teeth regularly just in case they have had a mishap. If you find they are broken or damaged in any way your guinea will need to have their teeth trimmed or filed so that they are even again. Any sharp or serrated edges can puncture and damage the inside of your guinea pigs mouth. My Guinea Pig Is n’t Eating If your guinea pig’s appetite changes it is most likely due to dental problems. Guinea pigs can get a condition known as ‘anorexia’. Unlike humans this refers to a loss of appetite. Sometimes guinea pigs can stop eating altogether due to dental issues. This can often spiral into other health problems and your guinea pig can get very ill. If you notice that your guinea pig isn’t eating their food or have stopped eating altogether you must make an appointment with you vet immediately. How to Wear Down a Guinea P i g’ s Teeth More often than not diet is the main reason as to why your guinea pig’s teeth aren’t as healthy as they should be. Guinea pigs need a low calorie high fibre diet and should be fed high quality hay and lots of fresh grass every day. The right food can help keep dental problems at bay. Compressed pellet foods specifically designed for guinea pigs are a great accompaniment to hay and grass and will help keep teeth worn down. Having something to gnaw on besides food will also be useful. Tree branches that haven’t been touched with pesticides or chemicals are a great natural choice for guinea pigs. Hardwoods such as apple hickory maple or oak are ideal and will have your guinea pig nibbling for hours. Your guinea pig may also benefit from a salt lick or mineral block. Not only do they contain essential vitamins and minerals guinea pigs will also gnaw on this block which will help grind down their teeth. However it is best to seek advice from your vet when selecting a mineral block for guinea pig use. Common Guinea Pig Dental Problems No matter how much you try to keep your guinea pig’s teeth healthy sometimes Mother Nature has her own plans and your guinea pig can fall foul of one of the

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three nasties below. Always keep an eye on your guinea pig’s teeth and if worried pay a visit to the vets. Elongated Roots Like rabbits guinea pig’s teeth are open rooted and continuously growing. Sometimes the roots of your guinea pig’s teeth can get pushed up or start growing into the jaw. This results in elongated roots and an oral examination will not indicate that this is happening. However in the bottom teeth sometimes bumps can be felt along the lower jawline. If you notice your guinea pig’s eyes tearing or bulging this can be an indication that the roots of the top teeth are growing incorrectly. Any guinea pig with dental issues will be given an x-ray. This can give an extremely clear picture of your guinea pig’s teeth and if they are suffering from elongated roots. For guinea pigs who are in the early staged of the condition a chin sling may be used. A chin sling is a piece of material that will be attached around your guinea pigs jaw with small Velcro straps. Malocclusion Maloccluded teeth are teeth that have not worn properly and are overgrown. It may only appear that the front teeth are being affected but more often than not it occurs in the both the front and back teeth at the same time. As the issue worsens the ability to chew will deteriorate and the front teeth will not receive their normal level of wear which keeps them healthy. In most guinea pigs the bottom molars grow towards the tongue whereas the top molars grow outwards towards the cheeks. Maloccluded teeth can cause sores injuries and infections in your guinea pigs mouth. Furthermore the overgrown teeth will prevent chewing and eating of food often resulting in guinea pig weight loss. Malocclusion in your guinea pig can often be identified by the following symptoms:  Your guinea pig picking at food or not eating at all anorexia  The mouth of your guinea pig constantly hanging slightly open  Weight loss  Wet hair under the chin and around the mouth  Discharge from your guinea pig’s eyes or nose  Chewing on one side of the mouth  Small pieces of food dropping out your guinea pig’s mouth  Picking up food and dropping it You vet will take an x-ray of your guinea pig’s mouth although maloccluded teeth will be obvious. Maloccluded molars will be ground and filed usually under anaesthetic. The front teeth will be filed. Often if malocclusion is advanced your

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guinea pig may need veterinary dental work every few weeks until the problem is eradicated. Broken Teeth and Tooth Loss Guinea pigs can be vulnerable to broken teeth particularly if their diet is inadequate and lacking Vitamin C. Vitamin C is essential for bone and tooth growth. Broken teeth or the loss of teeth entirely can also be due to injuries or accidents. With healthy guinea pigs any damaged or lost tooth will grow back absolutely fine. However monitor your guinea pig to check that the remaining teeth do not get too long and start causing damage to the gums or lining of the mouth. If a tooth has been broken close to the root or there is a bloody hole where a tooth used to be flush out any food with a small syringe. A teaspoon of salt in a pint of warm water will do the trick. It is important to keep the hole clean to prevent infection. If your guinea pigs broken tooth is sharp or ragged it is best to see your vet. Furthermore if the opposing teeth begin growing inwards and contacting the mouth book an appointment as soon as possible to save your guinea pig any further damage. Guinea Pig Teeth Summary Your guinea pig has open rooted teeth and as mentioned above they will continuously grow. If a tooth is broken or lost your guinea pigs teeth will fall out of line. This can cause issues as the remaining teeth will not be wearing down properly. Overcrowding and overgrown teeth can become very painful problems for your guinea pig and can cause sores and infections. This can lead to weight loss as they struggle to ingest food. If your guinea pig has healthy teeth this is an indication that their diet is appropriate and they are getting all the nutrients they need from their food. Checking your guinea pig’s teeth on a weekly basis is ideal. The more you do it the more used to it your guinea pig will get. Having a strong bond and a guinea pig who is not averse to being handled will help you catch any dental problems in the future.

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How to Handle Guinea Pigs Guinea pigs are one of the most popular small pets loved by children and adults alike. With their stocky bodies and willingness to vocalise at feeding time they project an image of cuteness. That is of course until you try to handle them… Guinea pigs can be surprisingly fleet-footed when you’re trying to catch them and frustratingly fidgety when they are being held. More than a few owners have virtually given up trying to handle their pet as a result but this is a shame. What follows are some proven tips to make handling your guinea pig safer and more enjoyable for everyone including your pet… Getting Your Guinea Pig Used to Handling Guinea pigs are natural prey animals so it makes sense that they are easily- spooked. In their native Peru a guinea pig that takes flight sooner rather than later is likely to be the guinea pig that survives. In captivity however this same attitude can make catching your guinea pig a regular frustration. The first key to getting your guinea pig used to handling is patience. Not only will it take time for your pet to feel safe around people but any sudden movements on your part can rapidly undo all your hard work. Before you even try to lift your guinea pig up therefore it is wise to spend quality time with your pet. Start off just sitting near the cage talking in a calming voice to your pet. Let them get used to having you around so that they learn you are no threat. This needs to be a regular repeated process. Spend just a few minutes with your guinea pig at first slowly increasing the period of time you spend together over some weeks. Once you can gently approach the cage without spooking your guinea pig and they feel confident enough to walk around the cage in your presence rather than trembling in their house the next step is to try gently feeding your pet through the bars. Move slowly and deliberately offering a favourite tidbit. Don’t expect much interest at first it can take several attempts and plenty of time before your guinea pig approaches. Longer still until they happily tuck into your offering without worry. Once this has been achieved the next stage involves opening the cage door and following the same method of gentle talk treats and slow movement. Everything should be designed to keep your guinea pig as calm as is possible. Only under such conditions will your pet grow in confidence.

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Once you can approach and open the cage then reach in and have your pet eat from your fingers you can gently try to initiate contact. Just a gentle stroke on their side to begin with. Then longer strokes. Eventually you should be able to reach around your pet and gently lift them out of the cage. General Guinea Pig Handling Rules For such a flighty animal the process of being able to gently lift up your guinea pig rather than endlessly chasing them around the cage can take weeks or even longer. Be patient and gentle and it will happen in the end. However once this point has been reached things get far more enjoyable. You can lift your pet out of the cage and enjoy “hands-on” time with him or her. Before we discuss the process of lifting and handling your guinea pig however it does perhaps pay to consider some general advice on handling guinea pigs. First and foremost aim to get your guinea pig used to anything new in very small chunks of time. The first time you pick up your guinea pig for example it will feel very alien to your pet. Hold them for just a few seconds then place them back into the cage. This time can be slowly increased over the weeks until a reasonable handling period has been reached. Secondly always consider the health of your guinea pig. Smaller children for example should be carefully monitored at all times to ensure the guinea pig is not under any distress and that the correct routine is being maintained. Even adults however should take care. As guinea pigs are easily spooked they may try to leap from your arms at any time if surprised. A guinea pig falling from a height may not end well. It therefore makes sense to a remain continually vigilant when handling your pet to reduce the risk of a “leap of faith” and b to hold your pet close to a soft surface. In this way should your guinea pig jump it will have less distance to fall and a softer surface to land on. Note that baby guinea pigs seem to be particularly suicidal and will leap almost without warning. Fortunately as guinea pigs age they tend to calm down a little making handling easier. This does mean however that larger guinea pigs can make better pets for children as they are less prone to sudden escape attempts. How to Lift Up Your Guinea Pig It is very important to lift your guinea pig up correctly. Doing so reduces the chances of your pet getting hurt either because they are squeezed too tightly or have the ability to jump out of your hands.

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Guinea pigs should ideally have their entire body supported when being lifted to avoid pressure on the spine and should be gently but firmly restrained with both hands. Slipping one hand underneath the guinea pig to support the whole body while using the other ontop of the rodent to keep it restrained tends to work well. How to Hold a Guinea Pig Holding a guinea pig safely is rather similar to the lifting process thought should be given to both support and restraint. It is important to remain in control at all times to prevent jumping. Guinea pigs are less athletic than many smaller pet rodents like rats or gerbils so allowing them to climb onto your shoulder etc. is generally best avoided. All too often a guinea pig will fall after such an ambitious climb. Guinea pigs are normally best held when resting on one of your fore-arms. Many guinea pigs seem to feel safe when resting in the crook of your elbow on your folded arm. The other hand can then be used to gently stroke the guinea pig or if necessary to restrain it. Aim to jeep calm at all times and talk gently to your pet. If you have followed the guidance above then your pet should be used to your voice and should associate it with calmness and safety.

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How to Breed Guinea Pigs There is little cuter than a baby guinea pig. Unlike most mammals they’re born fully- furred with their eyes open and able to run around within moments of birth. They’re also quite a bit larger than you might expect being comparable to a small hamster. Little wonder then that so many people want to breed guinea pigs. However breeding guinea pigs is not an activity which should be approached lightly. Not only must you satisfy yourself that you have suitable homes for any guinea pigs but you also need to understand that there are serious health risks for pregnant guinea pigs. Generally speaking experts recommend that guinea pigs should only be bred by professionals following a very strict system to minimise the risk to mother and pups. The Suitable Pair Female guinea pigs reach sexual maturity at a surprisingly young age. It is not unusual for them to be capable of reproducing from as little as 4-8 weeks of age. This means that great care should be taken to separate out young guinea pigs in order to prevent unwanted pregnancies. If you do decide to breed guinea pigs then it’s critical that you select a female of a certain age. She should not be too young most authorities recommend a minimum age of 3 months but she also mustn’t be too old. An odd quirk of guinea pig biology is that the ligaments joining together the pelvic bones can harden with age. This can make birthing difficult. In older females a Caeasarean may be required. Even then there are considerable risks and it is not uncommon for mother or young to die as a result. Ideally if a female is to be used as a sire then she should be bred before she is six months of age which will help to set her hips and make future births rather less fraught. Males may be of almost any age though older males tend to lose vigour. Introducing the Pair Guinea pigs are typically quite docile and sociable creatures. While adult males boars will fight females and pairs rarely do so.

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The best method of introduction is to place the male into the female’s cage. This reduces stress on the female. The pair can then be left together until you’re confident that the female is carrying young. How Do I Know If My Guinea Pig is Pregnant The most obvious sign of pregnancy in guinea pigs is that their food intake increases dramatically while they very visibly put on weight. Handled gently you may even be able to feel the babies in her belly. To be certain a vet can examine your guinea pig where they will be able to tell you how many babies you can expect and to check the family for health. Gestation in Guinea Pigs Gestation periods in guinea pigs can vary widely. The average gestation period is roughly two months – with 60-70 days being typical. Be aware that the longer the gestation period the more chance there is of a miscarriage so long gestation periods can be a bad omen. During this time the mother will need additional care. It is wise to handle your guinea pig as little as possible. This reduces stress and prevents the chance of a baby being accidentally injured. Additionally offer your female plenty of food and water with a particular emphasis on calcium-rich foods like watercress. As you get closer to the date of birth it can be wise to remove the male entirely. While it is sad to leave her on her own most guinea pig mothers birth best alone. In addition the mother can fall pregnant again within hours of birth. As pregnancy is so physically draining it is best to remove the male thus preventing a second pregnancy soon afterwards. Giving Birth Guinea pigs have quite small litters. An average number of piglets is between one and four though larger litters are sometimes experienced. The young are astonishingly precocious and may be seen trying adult food within days. Most baby guinea pigs are fully weaned between 14 and 28 days. At this point the sexes should be separated to prevent any unwanted pregnancies.

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Common Guinea Pig Illnesses Guinea pigs are typically very healthy animals when kept properly. Indeed as you’ll see many of the more common guinea pig diseases are easily avoided with the right husbandry. That said there are a number of ailments which guinea pigs seem more prone to which is the focus of this article. Signs of Guinea Pig Illnesses While guinea pigs suffer from very few health issues the diseases and problems affecting guinea pigs can be surprisingly diverse. Some of the more common symptoms of illness in guinea pigs include:  Loss of appetite  Lethargy  Audible breathing problems  Lack of urination/defecation  Diarrhoea  Hair loss  Persistent scratching If any of these symptoms are experienced then it makes sense to seek veterinary assistance as soon as possible as most guinea pig illnesses will clear up quite quickly if caught early on. Common Illnesses in Guinea Pigs Dental Problems Guinea pig’s teeth grow constantly throughout their lives. If these are not kept in check they can become overgrown or misaligned. Dental problems in guinea pigs can result in your piggie going off his food for long periods of time. Monitoring the volume of food that your guinea pigs are getting through can be a good indication of problems. Even more effectively carry out weekly health checks on your guinea pigs where you can very gently pull back the lips and inspect your guinea pigs teeth. Here’s how. As a preventative method guinea pigs should be provided with tough chews to gnaw on. Anything from wooden toys to toasted wholemeal bread are suitable options.

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If your guinea pig is still unlucky enough to be affected then it will normally be necessary to have your vet gently clip the overgrown teeth. This is a fiddly but reasonably hassle-free procedure. Diarrhoea While guinea pigs positively thrive on a diet rich in fruits and vegetables such foodstuffs have been known to cause diarrhoea in the past. This is especially so when very watery items – such as iceberg lettuce – have been fed in large quantities. However it’s not just diet which can cause digestive problems in guinea pigs bacterial infections of the gut can also be a causative factor. In cases where your guinea pig is producing runny stools withdraw all fruit and vegetable matter from their diet increase the fibre content of their menu such as with the provision of extra hay and seek veterinary attention. In most cases guinea pigs with diarrhoea will recover quickly once the necessary changes have been made to their care. Mites Guinea pigs are not normally prone to too many parasitic infections. Of the potential problems however mites are one of the most common. These are typically picked up either from contact with another infected guinea pig or are transported in the hay/straw they are given. As a result there is little that can be done to fully protect your guinea pigs from mites apart from carrying out regular health checks and ensuring you use only good quality hay and straw. If infected the mites will burrow into the skin of your guinea pig leading to irritation. This is turn can cause your guinea pig to constantly scratch itself leading to red-raw skin and hairloss. There are a range of effective treatment available to get rid of mite infections but it is always wise to seek the advice of your vet. Remember that it will normally be necessary to disinfect the cage too in order to prevent mites from coming back again in the future. Respiratory Infections Guinea pigs come from drier areas of South America and they tend not to cope very well with damp British weather. If kept outside or in a damp room of the house guinea pigs may develop signs of pneumonia or other respiratory infections.

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Such diseases most commonly manifest themselves in the form of wheezing crackling when breathing or general lethargy. If your guinea pig looks or sounds like it’s just run a marathon then there’s a good chance that he or she is suffering from a respiratory infection. As with all guinea pig illnesses veterinary advice should be sought as early as possible though in the future note that keeping guinea pigs indoors during the winter months can avoid many respiratory problems. Scurvy Guinea pigs are notable for being one of the few species besides humans which cannot create their own ascorbic acid vitamin C. Just like us therefore it is necessary to ensure that your guinea pig has suitable vitamin C in their diet. A range of dietary options may be chosen. Firstly try to feed foods which are rich in such vitamins such as citrus fruits and kiwi. Supplements may also be purchased which can be added to your guinea pig’s water bottle. A lack of vitamin C can make itself felt in a range of ways including locomotive problems diarrhoea and weight loss so it’s best to avoid problems before they arise. Urinary Problems Female guinea pigs in particular seem prone to cystitis. Urinary infections can make themselves known in a range of forms from blood in the urine to a lack of urination through to discomfort when urinating. It is very difficult to treat urinary problems at home so if you see any signs of potential infection it is best to consult your veterinarian as soon as possible.