Guinea pigs are amazing creatures. Their sociability and activity levels make them very entertaining pets. They are easy to tame, quite captivating, and very smart.
These members of the rodent family are natives of South America where they live in large, social groups. Spanish explorers to South America quickly domesticated these cute animals and brought them back to Europe as pets.
Having a good home for your pet guinea pig is very important. Plastic cages with good ventilation are best. The floor of the cage should be smooth and covered in soft bedding, as cages with wire floors can be damaging to the guinea pig's feet. Guinea pigs should have plenty of space in their cages with enough room for food, toys, and hide-aways. There should also be room to sleep in a clean space by themselves. Guinea pigs can be a little "piggy", so water bottles are better than water dishes to quench their thirst.
Bedding is very important as well. Bedding should be a couple inches thick to provide comfort and absorb their waste. Bedding should be free of any harsh oils, perfumes, or dust. Carefresh Bedding is a recycled paper bedding that is very good. Aspen can also make suitable bedding. Bedding should be changes every 4-7 days and waste scooped daily.
Your guinea pig's cage should be placed on a table away from direct sunlight, drafts, loud noises, and the noises of your other pets. Guinea pigs don't like extreme temperature changes, so a stable, moderate temperature is best.
Guinea pigs have very special dietary needs. Similar to people, guinea pigs cannot make their own vitamin C and must get it through their diet. The best diet to ensure this is a fresh pelleted diet made specifically for guinea pigs. These diets contain all the vitamin C they should need. If the diet get too old, the vitamin C can become depleted. If your bag of guinea pig pellets is more than 3 months old, replace it with a fresh one. If needed, vitamin C can be added to the food. Vitamin C should not be added to the water as light degrades it very quickly. Hay should be given daily as a good source of fiber and to help your guinea pig wear his teeth normally. Carrots, broccoli or other leafy greens make good treats, but should be given sparingly.
Guinea pigs shed their fur. If allergies are an issue, this may not make the optimal pet. Because they shed, they groom themselves frequently. Lack of grooming and poor coat appearance can indicate underlying illness. You can help your guinea pig groom by brushing him regularly with a soft bristle brush. Toenails should be clipped regularly to prevent overgrowth.
Given the proper care, guinea pigs will offer hours of endless entertainment for your family. If a guinea pig sounds right for your family, let our staff at Eagle Animal Hospital help you get properly prepared so that your newest family member can be happy and healthy for years to come.
Eagle Animal Hospital serves Chester Springs, Downingtown, Exton, Glenmoore and surrounding areas.
Written by David Matunis, VMD