Guinea pigs are among the cutest pets that people own. They are members of the rodent family and originate in South America. They are also known by the name “cavy” which derives from the scientific name Cavia aperea. Guinea pigs are born fully haired, eyes open and ready to run. They make great pets for adults and children alike and enjoy the human-animal bond that develops between owners and their pets.
Guinea pigs are very active pets so buy the largest cage possible. There are cages that are specifically made for guinea pigs that do not have wire on the cage bottom. This is an important feature as guinea pigs can get their feet caught in the wire and break a leg very easily or develop pressure sores on the weight baring surfaces of their feet.
Guinea pigs enjoy playtime and run and jump with obvious joy. They like tossing toilet paper rolls and even some small dog toys around. Providing tubes to run through and little houses to hide in help keep your pet content
Guinea pigs prefer using a water bottle rather than a bowl if given the choice. Water bowls also tend to get full of litter and debris quickly so keep this in mind when purchasing your equipment.
Hay should be fed in abundance each day. Timothy, oat, sweet grass, and meadow grass are all very good and depending on the time of year, some if not all will be available. One important side note to remember: alfalfa is the “candy bar” of hays. Too much alfalfa can contribute to gastro-intestinal and urinary tract problems because of high protein content, so feed this type of hay sparingly. Offer dark leafy green vegetables daily as well at one-half to one cup per guinea pig. This will provide higher levels of vitamin A and increases fluid intake (as well as making life more enjoyable for your ‘pig. Stay away from carrots and other high sugar foods such as grapes, raisins, bananas, etc.
Guinea pigs have a unique dietary need. Because they can’t synthesize vitamin C, their diet must be supplemented with this vitamin. If they do not get enough vitamin C, they can develop scurvy. Depending on pellets or vegetables to supply is risky. Our hospital diagnoses over 50 cases of scurvy a year, most of these cases end with the death or euthanasia of the guinea pig. We recommend using human a vitamin C product and stock and sell it at the hospital. Pelleted foods can also be offered as a treat. one tablespoon given daily should be adequate.
The most common problems we are presented with include: scurvy (hypo-vitaminosis C), urinary tract infections and stones, fungal and parasitic skin infections, and teeth problems. We will cover these problems in separate postings.