Recently, our staff at West Valley Animal Hospital have been seeing a large influx of new pets as an unexpected result of the pandemic. While most of these pets comprise dogs and cats, our pocket pet patients have also surged, which is why we decided to focus this blog on guinea pigs. Whether you have owned a guinea pig previously and want to refresh your memory or you just brought home your first piggy, we have the answers to your most common questions.
I just got a guinea pig. Now what?
You should make sure that you understand and meet your guinea pig’s general care requirements. For housing, your guinea pig should be kept in a solid bottom cage, since wire bottom can result in broken piggy legs and toes, with at least two square feet of room per pig. The ideal bedding for your pig is aspen wood shavings or recycled paper bedding. Beware of cedar or pine bedding because the same oils in them that make them smell good to you can cause respiratory infections and liver changes in your guinea pig. Clean out your piggy’s cage at least twice a week to remove damp bedding and eliminate urine odor. For food, you should provide your guinea pig with a constant supply of grass hay, such as timothy hay, which will help to keep your piggy’s teeth worn down and his digestive tract healthy. You should give your guinea pig nutritional pellets twice a day, as well as a half a handful of fresh greens per day. Feed fruit or carrots sparingly as a special treat.
Is it safe for my kids to handle our guinea pig?
Guinea pigs are naturally hardy and good-natured pets and can usually be handled safely by small children. Piggies are more likely to run away if they feel threatened than become aggressive, so the risk of your child getting bitten by your guinea pig is low. Guinea pigs should be held with two hands, one under his bottom and one around his middle. An adult should supervise your guinea pig whenever he’s allowed to roam outside his cage to prevent him from getting lost or chewing something hazardous, like electrical wires.
I heard that guinea pigs need Vitamin C supplements. How should I administer those?
Because guinea pigs can’t make Vitamin C like most mammals can, they need to receive a dose of it each day. When you go shopping, you might find Vitamin C supplements that you can add to water or discover that the pellets you feed your piggy have Vitamin C in them already. The problem with these products is that the Vitamin C in them breaks down quickly, so your piggy doesn’t get as much Vitamin C as he should. The best way to give your guinea pig Vitamin C is by oral syringe once a day so that you know exactly how much your guinea pig gets and don’t have to worry about a deficiency.
Should I get two guinea pigs to keep each other company?
Guinea pigs are very social animals, since they stick together in the wild for their own survival. Having two guinea pigs together lets them socialize even when you’re not home. If you decide to get two guinea pigs, the best pairings are two females or a male with a female, where at least one of them is fixed. Two male guinea pigs may fight with one another. If you decide to only get one guinea pig, you should ensure that he gets plenty of attention from your family.
How much vet care does my guinea pig need?
A healthy guinea pig only requires an annual exam and a stool sample test each year, which checks for intestinal parasites. However, guinea pigs can get sick and display symptoms such as appetite loss, discharge from their eyes or nose, or fewer, smaller, or drier droppings. If you notice any signs of illness, you should take your guinea pig to a veterinarian immediately, since early treatment often produces better outcomes. You should also be sure that your veterinarian takes guinea pigs as patients, since they are considered an exotic pet. At West Valley Animal Hospital, we have over twenty years of experience with pocket pets, including guinea pigs.