Most of us have had a pet at some time during our lives. Part of being responsible for another living creature means that you are also responsible for their health and well-being to a large extent. Sadly, many people will rush a cat or dog off to the vet, but pay little mind to health concerns of smaller, exotic animals such as the guinea pig.
Fluffball the Guinea Pig – In the Cool Zone
Guinea pigs are gregarious, which means that they live in groups – Or Herds. To ensure that your pet is happy and content, you should ideally keep him or her with one, two, or even more guinea pigs. Of course, this gives rise to the question of breeding. If you are not interested in breeding your guinea pigs (Which is not recommended), it would make sense to have them ‘fixed’. Many people do not realize that this is an option; however, it most definitely is, although many vets are not equipped to handle this issue. This is why you have to source a reputable “exotics vet”
Housing for guinea pigs is very important. There is a wide range of ready-made cages available in pet stores these days; however, they are very seldom suitable for guinea pig habitation. This is because these little animals actually require quite a lot of space, and the commercially sold cages are not usually big enough, no matter what the pet store and manufacturers tell you. In order for your guinea pigs to be happy and content, they will need accommodation with around 7 square feet per animal.
Choosing the right bedding for the cage is also important, as some commercial brands can cause breathing problems for the animals. Timothy hay is the best bedding you could choose, and ideally, you should line the enclosure with newspaper covered with a layer of hay. Not only will the animals use the hay for bedding and other purposes, they can also eat it, thereby ensuring that it has a double function. It is best to avoid wood chips because it is believed that these can cause foot problems.
When it comes to diet, guinea pigs are not fussy eaters, and can basically consume the same types of foods that humans do, at least when it comes to veggies. Meat is never to be provided, because guinea pigs are strictly herbivorous. They love lettuce, carrots, celery, apples, bananas, etc. A word to the wise however, is to make sure that, when providing celery that you cut across the grain. The reason for this is that the strings can actually cause the little animal to choke otherwise.
Sometimes you see guinea pigs that are losing their fur. This can be traced back to a vitamin deficiency and so ensuring that they have adequate amounts of vitamin C is important. Timothy hay is very important for their dietary needs, however providing a good quality pellet food is also recommended, which should be offered freely on a daily basis.
Health care is obviously of vital importance. Most vets are not equipped to ‘fix’ these animals, which is obviously unfortunate. When it comes to health concerns that might require medical help there are two issues that are most commonly seen:
This is when the guinea pig develops sores or cysts on their feet. As mentioned earlier, wood chips are believed to be a major contributing factor, but it must be stated that the real cause has not be categorically identified as yet.
2. Anal Impaction
Usually, the males are more prone to this problem. Anal Impaction also tends to affect older males. Essentially, the term describes when the anal muscles are weak and the animal is unable to defecate properly. This can lead to a backup of toxins in the system; however, it can be squeezed out gently if you know what you are doing. Ideally, you should take the animal to a vet for professional care.
As a reference only, the Guinea Lynx website has some great discussions relating to guinea pig medical help.
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Sourcing an experienced vet is essential and should be the first thing you do before your piggy has a problem.