A QUICK FACT SHEET
BY: JILL M. PATT, DVM
NATURAL ENVIRONMENT: South American Rodent
LIFESPAN: 4-7 years
SEXING: Male guinea pigs have external testicles.
HOUSING: Because of their round body shape, pigs are susceptible to foot sores when housed on wire bottom cages. The new plastic bottom cages are a better choice to keep your pig comfortable. Avoid all wood chip bedding, which can cause allergies and other respiratory problems, recycled paper bedding is usually a safer alternative. A hide box should always be provided to allow a stressed pig to “escape.” Toys should be provided, including safe chewable wood toys made for guinea pigs. A water bottle and food bowl will also be needed.
NEUTERING: Male guinea pigs should be neutered to prevent reproduction. The surgery is relatively quick and safe. The most common complication is the development of an abscess. Good post-operative care and hygiene will reduce this risk.
REPRODUCTION: Females are not typically spayed but should not be breed after a few months of age because their pelvis fuses increasing the risk of birth.
DIET: Guinea pigs should be fed a grass hay based pellet and should be provided grass hay daily in addition to greens and pellets. Guinea pigs do love to eat but treats high in sugar or grain should be limited to keep their GI tract healthy. Avoid alfalfa hay which can cause urinary stones.
WATER: Clean, fresh water in a water bottle should be available at all times.
SUPPLEMENTS: Very important for guinea pigs! Guinea Pigs are unable to make their own vitamin C and therefore must have a vitamin C supplement provided daily. If adequate vitamin C is not provided, the pigs will develop vitamin C deficiency, also called scurvy, leading to a suppressed immune system. Affected pigs are much more susceptible to disease and respiratory infections are very commonly the first sign of immunosuppression, with arthritis, tooth disease and many others also frequently seen. Early signs of respiratory infection include tearing and crusting around eyes, sneezing, weight loss and nasal discharge. I recommend providing chewable vitamin C tablets or powdered vitamin daily to all guinea pigs throughout their lives. I recommend giving a minimum of 50mg vitamin C daily and this dose should be increased for pregnant guinea pigs and those with deficiency to at least 200mg daily. Additionally, all guinea pigs should be provided with at least 1/2 cup of fresh dark leafy greens daily for a natural source of vitamins and nutrients. Many leafy greens are available and will vary with the seasons, but a couple of good ones are kale and parsley.
MEDICAL CONCERNS: Vitamin C deficiency, malnutrition, overgrown teeth, respiratory infections, allergies to bedding, reproductive problems, skin infections
FURTHER INFORMATION: Dr. Jill M. Patt’s web site at: www.littlecrittersvet.com
Oxybow hay products: http://www.oxbowhay.com/index.sp
Guinea Pig lynx: http://guinealynx.info/healthycavy.html