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Guinea pig health and welfare

Health logo © RSPCA publications and brand 2010

 

Ensure your guinea pig is protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease

  

Brown guinea pig being held on a lap © iStockphoto

Guinea pigs need:

  • Neutering if male, unless intended for breeding and provisions made to care for both parents and offspring. Before breeding, seek veterinary advice to ensure health and personality suitability.
     
  • Careful consideration. Before owning guinea pigs, investigate breeding/how they’ve been cared for/fed. See if they’ve had/prone to health/behaviour problems. Some breeds have exaggerated physical features which can cause suffering and reduce their quality of life, e.g. long-haired breeds have fur which easily becomes matted. Ask a vet if unsure.
     
  • Correct diets - help prevent lots of common diseases e.g. dental/gut disease and lack of Vitamin C. Check guinea pigs eat daily, passing plenty of dry droppings. If eating/drinking habits change/quantity of droppings reduce/stop, consult your vet immediately - they could be seriously ill. 
     
  • Checking for illness/injury daily. Ensure this happens when you’re away. In warm weather check fur/skin around their rear end twice daily. Urine staining/droppings stuck attract flies, causing flystrike (often fatal). Guinea pigs feel pain but don’t show any outward signs so may suffer before being noticed. Changes in normal behaviour can be an early sign of illness/pain. If they’re not eating, are quieter/hiding more than usual, they’re highly likely to be ill/in pain. Stressed guinea pigs are more likely to become ill. Seek veterinary advice immediately if you suspect they’re in pain/ill/injured. See: behaviour
     
  • Their front teeth/nails checked at least weekly - these grow quickly. Only vets should correct overgrown/misaligned teeth.
     
  • Veterinary check-ups at least annually. Consider pet insurance.
     
  • Treatment for external/internal parasites (e.g. mites/worms) as advised by vets.
     
  • Treating with only the medicines recommended for them by a vet. Other animals’ medicines are dangerous to guinea pigs.
     
  • Well-maintained coats – groomed regularly. If unsure about grooming seek specialist advice. Long haired breeds need grooming daily. If guinea pigs changes their grooming habits, consult your vet, they may be ill. Small amounts of white discharge around the eyes is common when they’re grooming. If this increases/decreases, or there’s discharge at other times, it may indicate they’re ill.