Guinea-Pig care tips

Charlotte Howard By Charlotte Howard, 8th Jul 2010 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/2s2t--44/
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Pets>Rodents

Care tips for keeping guinea-pigs happy and healthy.

Care tips for guinea-pigs

Guinea-pigs make great pets, especially for young children. But, they are fairly fragile creatures, and it is important that you know how to take care of one properly before making a final decision. By following a few simple care tips for guinea-pigs, your new pet should live a very full life.

Buying

When buying a guinea-pig you should be aware that as they are social creatures, it is best to buy a pair. Ideally they will be from the same litter, but young guinea-pigs can be introduced to each other fairly easily. Neutering guinea-pigs can be risky as they are delicate creatures and may react badly to anesthetics, because of this it is advisable to buy either two males or two females rather than one of each so that you do not become overrun with tiny babies!

Make sure you have all the supplies you will need before buying your guinea-pig. It is a good idea to have their new home set up and waiting for when they arrive, rather than leaving them in a carrier box whilst you set everything up. Once they are in their home, leave them to settle down and become accustomed to their new surroundings.

Hutch or Cage

Guinea-pigs can live either inside or outside, but which ever you decide, it is important that you choose the correct type of housing for them. If kept inside, a simple cage made of a plastic base and wire lid will suffice. However, if your guinea-pig is living outdoors it is important that you use a wooden hutch with a sloping, felt covered roof. Ideally the hutch will have legs to lift it off the ground away from cold water and possible predators.

It is important that you know how to clean out a guinea-pig hutch so that your guinea-pig remains healthy, and the hutch is kept in good condition. Wooden frames should also be treated to protect them from rotting, but make sure that any preservatives you use are designed for animal houses, and that the hutch is completely dry before you put your guinea-pig in.

Bedding

There are many different kinds of bedding available, but it is important that you choose the right kind for guinea-pigs. Guinea-pigs are delicate animals, so you should choose bedding that is soft and untreated so that your guinea-pig is safe from allergies, skin irritation and injuries to their eyes.

Layering newspaper over the base of the cage or hutch will help to soak up urine. Putting soft wood shavings over the top will help to prevent the smell of ammonia, which can be suffocating if not cleaned out regularly. Hay makes excellent bedding, as well as a good food source. Guinea-pigs do not nest, but they do like to hide and hay allows them to do so.

Food and Water

Fresh water should be made available at all times. It is best to use a drip bottle, but make sure that is cleaned out daily to prevent green algae from growing as this can be toxic to guinea-pigs. As well as clean water, guinea-pigs need the correct diet to give them all of the nutrients they need.

There are many commercial feeds available for guinea-pigs, but it is advisable to choose one that is made of nuggets, rather than a mix. This prevents guinea-pigs from choosing only the bits that they favour. It is also a good idea to pick one that has added Vitamin C. Guinea-pigs cannot make their own Vitamin C, so it essential that it is added to their diet to prevent scurvy.

Guinea-pigs are rodents, and as such their teeth continuously grow. It is important that hard food is made available to keep their teeth trim. Fruit wood such as apple and pear can help with this as well as providing a tasty treat. Hay and grass are also good for this as well as providing a source of fibre. Hay should be provided at all times and make up a large portion of your guinea-pigs diet.

Vegetables and fruit need to be given on a daily basis. Hard vegetables will help to keep their teeth healthy, whilst Vitamin C loaded vegetable such as carrots will help to reduce the risk of deficiency diseases like scurvy. As well fruit and vegetables, plants from the garden can also be given. Guinea-pigs love dandelions, plantain and parsley.

Unfortunately there are also certain plants and foodstuff that you need to avoid as they are dangerous to guinea-pigs. ‘Human’ foods such as chocolate should definitely be avoided. Not only are there chemicals and hormones that can be toxic to guinea-pigs, but any food with a high sugar level can cause diseases such as diabetes. You should also keep your guinea-pig safe from any plant of the nightshade family, this includes tomatoes. These plants are highly toxic to guinea-pigs. Fruit and vegetables that need to be avoided include potatoes, onions, garlic and rhubarb. You should also be careful about giving your guinea-pig any food that has high water content. Lettuce, melon and cucumber can make a tasty treat, but only in small amounts otherwise you run the risk of causing diarrhea.

Toys

Being social creatures, guinea-pigs love to play and toys should be available for them to use. You do not have to go out and spend a lot of money on toys from pet shops though; a simple cardboard tube or old item of clothing can give a guinea-pig hours of fun.

There are many homemade toys that can be given to guinea-pigs to save on cost. This is also a good way of recycling old household items.

Grooming

As with all pets, grooming your guinea-pig will not only help to keep their coat and skin healthy, but also build a bond between you both. Brushing helps to stimulate blood circulation, which in turn keeps your guinea-pig fit and healthy, so even short-haired pets should be brushed occasionally.

If you have a long-haired guinea-pig it is more vital that brushing is a daily occurrence. Matted hair and knots can become a good home for parasites such as flies, fleas and mites. Certain breeds, such as the Peruvian guinea-pig should have their hair kept in foils to prevent the hair from becoming damaged or knotted up. However, these breeds are usually only kept by either breeders or people who show and are very rarely seen amongst the general guinea-pig pet population. Even so, if you do own a long-haired guinea-pig make sure they are groomed regularly.

Health

Guinea-pigs, being such fragile animals, are susceptible to diseases and parasites. The most commonly seen problems include breathing difficulties, mange, mites, fly-strike and scurvy. All of these can be prevented simply by a good diet, regular grooming and cleaning out their hutch often. There are not many parasite treatments available for guinea-pigs, apart from the herbal remedies available in pet stores, but it is still a good idea to speak to your vet to see what is available.

By following these tips and advice your guinea-pig should live a happy and full life. Remember to also make sure you handle your guinea-pig daily, so that they know you and love you. Guinea-pigs can be very loyal if loved and treated right.

Tags

Care, Guinea Pig, Guinea-Pig, Tips

Meet the author

author avatar Charlotte Howard
I write for Helium.com, and am also a published author. Somehow I also manage to be a busy Mum to 2 young children and housewife as well!

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