Guinea Pigs

Guinea Pig Care

Also know as cavies, guinea pigs are rodents Native to the Andes Mountains of South America. In the wild guinea pigs are herbivores (vegetable eaters). The three most common breeds are the Abyssinian (rough, short coat), the American or English (classic shorthair), and the Peruvian (longhair).

Because they feed continuously, healthy guinea pigs make frequent, formed fecal pellets. They also normally produce and ingest softer stools throughout the day, called cecotropes, which provide them with important proteins and vitamins. Guinea pigs are very social and often bonded with 1-2 other guinea pigs in pairs or trios. They are fully furred and able to eat solid foods soon after birth. Generally, guinea pigs live on average about 4-5 years, but may live to up to 7-8 years with proper care. When it comes to caging, the larger the better. Visit cavycages.com for further ideas.

Like many of our “prey species” they do not show outward clinical signs of disease because of their innate preservation instinct. In the wild if the predator sees any signs of “weakness” they will become targeted rather quickly. This is why is so important to have your guinea pig examined every 6 months by an experienced exotic animal veterinarian like us before they suffer and become too ill to be helped.

Wellness Info

Post-Purchase Exam: Physical Exam, Fecal Analysis, Microchipping, Discuss and Schedule Spay/Neuter

6 Month Exam: Physical Exam, Fecal Analysis

Annual Exam: Physical Exam, Fecal Analysis, CBC/Chemistries

Geriatric Exam: Physical Exam, Fecal Analysis, CBC/Chemistries, Radiographs, Ultrasound

Emergencies

If your guinea pig is exhibiting any of the symptoms described below, contact us immediately at 843-216-8387.

Diarrhea or decreased number of stools, lack of appetite, weakness, depression, painful when lifted or touched, head tilted to one side, rolling or flipping.

If your guinea pig is not eating, his or her gastrointestinal system can go into stasis, a serious condition which may require extended hospitalization and treatment or even surgery to correct. You can try syringe-feeding ground pellets or Oxbow Critical Care mixed with water. This will provide fiber and nutrients to support your pet until you are able to get to our clinic. Not eating is often related to dental issues or internal disease, and as such is an emergency situation which demands medical attention. It is important that we examine your pet as soon as possible to correct the underlying condition.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8iGZVYVm5Bg – How to Syringe Feed Your Guinea Pig

“Most Common Mistakes” (reported by Guinealynx.com)
1. Dismissing medical signs as non-medical.
2. Waiting to see a vet.
3. Seeing a non-exotics vet.
4. Accepting veterinary diagnosis/treatment without question or research.
5. Failure to get proper diagnostic procedures done.
6. Mistaking secondary signs of illness as the primary cause.
7. Mistakes with medications — wrong medication or insufficient dosage or duration.

A guinea pig’s health can deteriorate rather quickly. By the time problems become apparent, illnesses may be life-threatening. They very seldom recover from an illness without help. Prompt, competent veterinary care is crucial to saving the life of a sick guinea pig. When caught early, most illnesses can be cured fairly easily.

A young guinea pig being syringe fed to supplement her nutritional requirements.

Services

Wellness Exams, Grooming, Boarding, Microchipping, Gender Determination, Diagnostics, Behavioral Consultation, Spaying/Neutering

Boarding

In order for your guinea pig to board with us we require an exam within the last year with a clean bill of health. A fecal test with no parasites seen is also required. Your guinea pig can have no changes in health since the last examination. If your pet’s examination was done by a different veterinarian, it needs to have been within the last six months and your pet’s complete record needs to be sent to our facility several days before boarding so we can evaluate the record to ensure all testing was done to our standards.

Anesthesia and Surgery

Guinea pigs can be challenging when it comes to anesthesia and surgery. Before your guinea pig is to undergo anesthesia and/or a surgical procedure make sure that your veterinarian is very familiar with this species. They should have the same level of care given to any other animal. If you are out of the area and your veterinarian is not as familiar with guinea pigs please have them contact us and we will be more than glad to help them with any questions.

This guinea pig is ready for surgical removal of a tumor on her back. As you can see by the picture she is laying on a circulating warm water pad to keep her warm during the procedure. She is also intubated with an endotracheal tube, which is imperative to provide oxygen support and has a CO2 monitor to evaluate levels and her breathing. She also has an intravenous line going into her right hind leg to provide fluid support and maintain her blood pressure. She has a rectal probe to monitor her body temperature and a pulse oxymeter monitor on her right front leg to measure her heart rate and blood oxygen saturation.

This little one had a femoral fracture and it was fixed with “external pins”. The green composite (TMP) is so she will not nibble at her pins.

Common Diseases/Conditions

Hypovitaminosis C (Scurvy)

Guinea pigs cannot synthesize their own vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and it must be supplemented in their diet. Some fruits and vegetables that are high in vitamin C but they would have to eat so much of them that it would cut back on their dietary intake of roughage needed to keep their teeth healthy (ground/filed down). Mixing a liquid form in their water is not a good idea since vitamin C is inactivated by light exposure and also creates a media for bacteria and mold to grow in their water bottle. We recommend giving Vitamin C supplements directly into their mouths as a liquid or pill form, not as yogurt treats since they can be high in sugar. We sell chewable tablets and a very tasty liquid form that most guinea pigs crave. Clinical signs of hypovitaminosis C are vague since it affects many organ systems and can lead to life threatening conditions. Some present for not eating, not moving around as much, being quieter than usual, etc.  In general it is best to have your guinea pig examined by an experienced exotic animal veterinarian so he/she can determine if your guinea pig is suffering from this condition.

Respiratory disease

Guinea pigs with respiratory disease exhibit runny eyes and nose, coughing, sneezing, weight loss, and difficulty breathing. It starts as upper respiratory disease and can become pneumonia if left untreated. Guinea pigs with these signs should be examined as soon as possible by an experienced exotic animal veterinarian such as us. This disease can lead to long-term consequences so a speedy and accurate diagnosis and treatment plan is necessary.

Reproductive disease

Female guinea pigs are quite prone to reproductive disease. Ovarian cysts/tumors, uterine, cervical and mammary neoplasia (cancer) are among our most common presentations.

Intra-operative picture of a guinea pig with 2 uterine tumors. Spaying her at an earlier age would have prevented these from developing.

This is a male guinea pig with a large, infected tumor of the right mammary gland. Surgical removal and neutering helped this little one out, but left unchecked the tumors can become so advanced that surgery is not even an option. This condition can develop in males and females. Neutering and spaying guinea pigs decreases the risks of these painful conditions from ever developing.

Male guinea pigs are also prone to reproductive disease. Intact males (boars) build up secretions around their “reproductive area” and develop a very foul smell. Routine cleaning is recommended to prevent impactions and/or infections. Neutering at an early age will prevent this from happening.

These are not two guinea pigs; this is a guinea pig with a very large testicular tumor. Spaying (female) or neutering (male) your guinea pig will prevent most of these conditions from ever occurring.

Ear disease

Ear disease (“otitis”) is quite common in guinea pigs.  It is bacterial in origin and is often diagnosed during routine physical exams, which emphasize their importance. Ear disease in general is quite a painful condition but unfortunately owners do not recognize it until it is well advanced and the pet presents just generally ill (not eating, spending more time laying or sitting down, having urine staining and/or unkempt fur), or with a head tilt. To further evaluate the disease process a culture of the ear is obtained to try to identify a pathogen, blood work and radiographs are taken to stage the disease and a treatment plan is established. Medical therapy by itself is unrewarding but may offer some comfort and surgery might be indicated to gain better access to the disease area. In general ear disease is an ongoing process and long-term management will be necessary.

Urinary disease

Urolithiasis or “bladder stones” are mineralized deposits that can be found anywhere in the urinary tract from the kidneys down to the urethra. In the vast majority of cases they are quite advanced and very painful. Obesity, an all-pelleted diet and age seem to be a common denominator. Clinical signs range from having pink or bloody urine to straining to urinate in more advanced cases. Radiographs can give you an immediate diagnosis and surgical removal is the treatment of choice. This is a medical emergency!

Surgical removal of a urolith lodged in the ureter of a guinea pig.

Pyelonephritis or kidney infection is common in guinea pigs but unfortunately it can go undiagnosed for a long time since at the beginning there are no outward clinical signs. Ultrasound, a blood panel and a urine analysis may help to diagnose it.  This is a medical emergency!

Dental disease

Acquired dental disease is very common and primarily develops due to insufficient wear of their teeth.  In the wild they are grazers feeding primarily on fresh grasses; good quality unlimited hay should be the bulk of their diet. Early in the disease process staining or matting of the hair around the chin area might be the only sign.  In more advanced cases their teeth are so overgrown that they cut through their gums. This can become quite painful and eventually they will be unable to eat. A thorough oral exam and radiographs are needed to get a diagnosis, stage the disease process and dental trimming, performed under anesthesia, is necessary for correction. This is a medical emergency!

Here is a picture of a guinea pig with overgrown molar teeth which required several corrective trimmings prior to being back to normal; this is very uncomfortable so it is very important to have your guinea pig’s teeth evaluated every 6 months.

Skin diseases

Skin diseases are very common in guinea pigs; mites, ringworm and sarcoptic mange are amongst the ones that we diagnose the most. Getting an accurate diagnosis and the right treatment plan will get your guinea pig feeling better a lot sooner. Remember that sarcoptic mange and ringworm are “zoonotic”, which mean that they can be transmitted to humans.

This guinea pig was presented for seizuring. This little fellow had a very advanced case of “mange” and would go to into seizures due to the severity of the itch. The symptoms were not diagnosed or treated until the condition had become very painful and severe; the guinea pig was hospitalized under intensive care while being treated. This is a medical emergency!

Choosing a Pet

TYPE PROS CONS

Guinea Pig

Quiet, social and affectionate but not needy Do not judge heights well, do not tolerate rapid temperature changes well
FYI: MUST be spayed / neutered to avoid reproductive tumors, cancers and cysts, must have Vitamin C supplement, prone to dental issues