Guinea pig wellness (Proceedings)


Guinea pig wellness (Proceedings)

Nov 01, 2010

Guinea pigs belong to the family Cavidae. Four digits on the forepaw and three digits on the hindpaw characterize Cavidae. Guinea pigs originate from the high planes of South America therefore they tolerate cold better than heat. There are 3 original/standard breeds that were first recognized: American (English), Abyssinian, Peruvian; however there are now a total of 13 breeds recognized. Guinea Pigs make excellent pets. They are low cost, low maintenance, extremely docile, rarely bite, very social, and easy for small children to hold.


3 choices when choosing a house: Buy a commercially manufactured cage, have one custom built from a pet store or a feed-and-garden store, or build you own. Each guinea pig should have a minimum of 2 square feet in its cage. Most commercial cages are designed for 1 guinea pig. It is important to NOT house guinea pigs in a cage w/ a wire bottom as they very easily catch feet & legs on the mesh bottom and can lose toes or break legs. Large glass aquariums do NOT make good houses as they are difficult to clean, have very little air circulation (inc. ammonia), and retain heat. Guinea pigs do not handle heights well and if multiple levels are available they should be close together. Guinea Pigs prefer temperatures of 65-68°F, do not do well with colder drafts, and are very susceptible to heat stroke at >80°F. It is recommended to try to place cages away from heat vents and direct sunlight. Guinea Pigs should not be housed with rabbits, cats or dogs as they can carry Bordetella which can be very serious if transmitted to the guinea pig. The recommended bedding is the same as with other small mammals: Yesterday's news/Carefresh, Aspen wood shavings, Pine shavings, Timothy hay (No cedar shavings, No cat litters, No corn cob beddings, No straw). The bedding should be changed 2 times weekly. Water bottles are recommended as dishes can be overturned and soiled easily. Guinea pigs are notorious for playing with their water bottles. The food dish should be heavy/difficult to turn over and a hay rack is advisable to keep hay off cage floor. Cage furniture should consist of a variety of rocks, bricks, and tubes. These help to wear down claws, provide a hiding place, and help alleviate boredom. They should be checked routinely for signs of wear & tear.


Guinea pigs are strict herbivores and they digest fiber more efficiently than rabbits. In the wild they eat grasses, wild fruits & veggies. Guinea pigs need Vitamin C supplementation as they lack L-gulonolactone oxidase which is involved in synthesis of ascorbic acid from glucose therefore they are unable to manufacture or store vitamin C. Grass hay is one of the most important parts of the guinea pig diet (Timothy, Oat or Orchard grass hays are the best). Hay should be available at all times. Guinea Pig pellets are important but should be provided in proper amounts. They provide a proper balance of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Pellets can lose Vit. C as it sits on the shelf so recommended to buy small amounts & make sure freshly milled (less than 90 days). Pellets however do not contain high enough fiber to regulate digestion and thus the importance of hay. The adult guinea pig should be fed 1-2 ounces per adult guinea pig. Fresh veggies & fruits are also an important part of the guinea pig diet. They help prevent boredom, makes diet complete/optimal. These should be introduced slowly in small amounts in order to prevent gastric upset & diarrhea. Feed veggies & fruits high in Vitamin C such as Broccoli, dandelion greens, cabbage, kale, mustard greens, parsley, green and red bell peppers, beet greens, Kiwi, apples, fresh tomatoes.

The ideal guinea pig diet:
Food consumption 6g/100g/day
Water consumption 10ml/100g/day or 100ml/kg/day
GI transit time 13-30 hours

Guinea pigs are social animals and live in family units centered around an alpha male and seek physical contact with other guinea pigs when housed together. However two adult males not brought up together may not tolerate each other's company and housing them together can lead to fighting, resource hoarding and eventually death for the submissive, weaker guinea pig. Guinea pigs do not groom one another so acts of hair pulling or ear nibbling are signs of aggression. The vocalizations of guinea pigs are well characterized (Whistle, purr, chutt, chutter, whine, tweet, drr, scream, squeal, chirp, grunt).