You finally got a guinea pig, but you still have some doubts about its maintenance, diet, and health. In short, you are thinking how to care for guinea pigs. You are fortunate because it is precisely the subject of this article!
This small rodent is one of the most popular pets in the United States mainly because of its significant social and cognitive abilities. Also, the care guinea pig needs is relatively simple and it does not require much to live happy if not a lot of love.
In this guinea pig care guide for beginners, you will get to know all the tips and tricks to raise guinea pigs well. Know that these rodents must be respected to ensure their well-being and especially to keep them in good health.
Before bringing your guinea pig home, you must prepare everything beforehand so that the guinea pig feels comfortable in its new home from the very start!
Now, let’s talk about how you can take care of your guinea pigs.
A cage, large enough, at least: 70 x 45 x 40 cm. It should be placed in a place not too stressful, in a room where you are often (the guinea pig needs companionship), away from the sun, moisture, and drafts.
You can put the cage slightly higher to isolate your guinea pig from air currents that may be on the ground and also to improve his field of vision. The most suitable cages are those with bars.
Some important factors about the housing that should be considered are as follows:
Temperature: The ambient temperature must be between 18 to 24 ° C. The guinea pig fears more heat than the cold.
In summer, if you have a garden, you can take it out in an enclosure containing a shelter. But beware, it should be neither too hot nor too cold.
Out of the Cage: Your guinea pig needs daily physical activity. So, plan to let him out of his cage under surveillance for several hours a day to avoid health problems related to obesity and sedentary lifestyle.
Litter: A litter must line the bottom of his cage. It will be made of hemp or corn stover. Mineral litters are to be banned because they can cause respiratory problems if they are dusty, and digestive issues if they are ingested. The guinea pig litter should be renewed at least twice a week.
The Water Pot: Your guinea pig must have clean water available at all times. For this, it is necessary to install a feeding trough attached to the bars of the cage. The water must be changed every day, and the bottle regularly cleaned with white vinegar.
For the food: For his food, he must have a small bowl for his seeds or croquettes, one for vegetables and a manager (or rack) attached to the bars for hay or greenery. Instead, choose heavy, flat-bottomed bowls to prevent your guinea pig from knocking it over.
Accessories: Your guinea pig must also have a shelter in his cage, or ideally a small “house” to sleep or hide. Environmental enrichment is necessary. Also, young branches of trees (hazel, apple tree) to gnaw are much appreciated.
Another crucial aspect of caring for guinea pigs is the diet, which must be based on the consumption of certain foods. The guinea pig is a 100% herbivorous rodent. Its diet must, therefore, be based on fruits and vegetables.
It is imperative to provide forage in the form of hay, always in abundant quantity. This will ensure an adequate supply of fiber, very important for this animal.
For fruits and vegetables, it will always be necessary to choose those that are richer in vitamin C, because this nutrient is essential for guinea pigs (it can only be obtained by food). If we decide to feed it with guinea-pig food, it already contains the recommended intake of vitamin C.
For proper guinea pig nutrition, do not forget to follow these tips:
What fruits and vegetables to give to a guinea pig?
Because of the large amount of sugar they contain, fruits should be considered as a reward or an occasional food. We, therefore, prefer to offer him some vegetables. You can offer salads or other vegetable preparations.
We recommend that you try different foods to find the ones he likes the most. If you do not know where to start, dandelion, lamb’s lettuce, escarole, arugula or peppers will be the right choice, to begin with.
Grooming of guinea pig is necessary for its health. Check out some grooming tips for your pet:
Daily Routine for Grooming:
Brushing: To keep a beautiful and healthy coat for your pet, you must brush it regularly.
Short-haired guinea pig care: Short-haired guinea pigs are easy to maintain, brush at least once a week.
Long-haired guinea pig care: brush regularly every day and especially during molting to remove dead hair.
For example, the Peruvians with very long fur and Texel require a thorough brushing. Because knots can easily form if not brushed regularly. A metal comb can sometimes untie the knots but do not pull too hard.
The Bath: It is not advisable to wash your guinea pig. However, the bath is recommended for long-haired species that, for example, hang around in urine and excrement. Their long coat is then soiled, and the bath will undoubtedly be the only solution.
The guinea pig hates being immersed in the water. For bath, the water should be lukewarm, and rinsing should be done thoroughly. Our little rodent is extremely sensitive to soap that gives skin irritations, dandruff, or allergic dermatitis. So rinse deeply and choose a shampoo specific to the animal.
If he panics when wiping caused by noise and hot air from the hairdryer, let it dry naturally in a warm place.
Sometimes it happens that despite repeated baths, long hairs retain a dirty appearance, the hairs are soaked with urine and other stains. A small shave at the mower should solve the problem for several weeks.
The Size of the Claws: The long claws may eventually break and cause severe pain to the animal and sometimes bleeding. It is, therefore, necessary to cut them if necessary and without hurting him. For this, call a qualified professional.
Note that declawing (onychectomy) is a surgical operation that consists of removing the claws and should never be done in guinea pigs.
Guinea pigs don’t require much. But there are some things that are essential for the well-being of your pet. From food to cage to accessories, here are some things to keep nearby:
- Strong cage with a solid bottom (barred preferred). Various types of housing are available. Choose the right one according to the size and comfort of your pet.
- Bedding (comfortable and non-toxic). Paper bedding is more ideal for this purpose. We discussed enough Best Bedding for Guinea Pigs on our website before.
- Food tray. It will reduce the chance of contamination.
- Hay for optimum fiber and digestion.
- For a healthy guinea pig, a healthy diet is a must. And for that reason keep a fresh supply of food.
- Keeping your guinea pig hydrated is important. Set the water source or bottle to such level that it becomes easy for him to drink.
- Hideouts for sleeping or resting
- A water bottle which is chew-proof
- Supplements such as Vitamin C
- Grooming kit including brush, nail cutter, shampoo, etc.
- Toys and treats for entertainment and play
To finish with the care of the guinea pig, we will now talk about the most common diseases that can affect the species. The state of health of a guinea pig will depend directly on the care you offer, the preventive medicine, and the speed with which you act to detect and treat any disease that may develop. Ideally, you should consult your veterinarian every 6 to 12 months for routine follow-up.
Before we can treat a disease, we must be able to identify it. Unfortunately, guinea pigs do not make it easy for us because they usually show no signs of pain or weakness. So if you think that something is wrong, you should consult a veterinarian.
The only sign of weakness that we can observe ourselves is a behavior of isolation, silence, and hiding in the corner of the cage for a long time.
Here are some of the symptoms that can indicate that a guinea pig is sick:
If you notice anything strange about your guinea pig’s physique or behavior, examine the body of the guinea pig with care to determine which area is causing pain. Although we talk about docile animals, they are easily stressed and can cry loud when they are panicked.
Common Health Problems
A pet that is very popular with families, the guinea pig requires particular care with regard to cage hygiene and veterinary checks.
We will see the most common diseases in guinea pigs in the following guinea pig care chart as well as ways to treat them.
Scabies, ringworm (due to mycosis), and lice
Medicated shampoo and antifungal medicine
Poor living conditions (drafts, environmental hygiene, etc.).
Quarantine may be necessary to limit contamination Systematic antibiotic Fluid therapy
Bacterial or related to food
The common cold
poor living conditions
Heavy antibiotic therapy is needed
In addition to the diseases that can develop in the guinea pig, it is an animal with a fragile heart and very sensitive. He is prone to heart attacks. That’s why he prefers to live in quiet rooms. Its fragility does not make it an ideal companion for young children. These may be too abrupt, which is a real danger for the animal.
In addition, you have to watch your guinea pig prevent them from growing too much. Giving him things to eat that helps to limit the risk of obesity will help.
How to Clean Your Guinea Pig
Generally, it is strongly discouraged to wash your guinea pig. However, the bath is recommended for some long-haired species which requires regular maintenance, or when the coat is soiled by diarrhea or urine.
Always use a shampoo adapted to your guinea pig’s species and type of hair.
Here’s how to bathe him safely:
- Place your guinea pig in a basin or sink filled with warm or lukewarm water. The water level should not exceed the neck of the animal.
- Wet it gradually by taking water from the palm of your hand and gently pouring it over it. Always avoid head, ears, and eyes!
- When you see that your guinea pig is getting used to it, shampoo it gently. Repeat to make sure his coat is well cleaned. Do not forget to talk to him to reassure him!
- Then rinse several times with running water at a rate that is low enough to avoid frightening it.
- Once the bath is finished, place your companion in a thick warm towel, to avoid a thermal shock. Massage it gently through the towel to absorb as much water as possible from the coat.
- When its hair is well dried out, you can wrap it in another dry towel and place it on a hot water bottle. Or hold it in your arms wrapped in your towel while it dries completely.
Some guinea pigs will not enjoy staying still, so it will be the perfect time to play or walk around in the house! This physical activity will prevent them from getting bored. The use of the hairdryer is not recommended, as the noise and heat are sometimes traumatic.
In any case, always make sure your little friend is dry before putting him back in his cage. Give him a nest (or a clean cloth) in which he can take refuge to stay warm the rest of the day.
Watch: How to Clean or Bath Your Guinea Pig
The guinea pig is a calm animal, sometimes shy but always sweet. However, it requires care and maintenance for being healthy. For that, we hope our guinea pig care tips will help you further.
It is always important to think about and ask yourself if you are ready before getting a guinea pig. Also remember that, contrary to popular belief, it is not necessarily the ideal animal for a child.