Make sure your guinea pig is protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease
Things you should do
- Get your male guinea pigs neutered, unless they are intended for breeding and provisions have been made to care for both parents and offspring. Before allowing guinea pigs to breed, seek the advice of your vet to ensure they are suitable for breeding in terms of their health and personalities.
- Before deciding to buy/acquire a guinea pig make sure you find out how he/she has been bred, what he/she has been fed and how he/she has been cared for. Make sure you know if he/she has had any health or behaviour problems before you buy him/her and always check with a vet if you are unsure about anything.
- Feeding your guinea pig the correct diet will help prevent a lot of common diseases such as dental and gut disease and lack of Vitamin C. Check that your guinea pig is eating every day and that he/she is passing plenty of dry droppings. If your guinea pig’s eating or drinking habits change or the number of droppings gets less or stops, talk to your vet straight away as he/she could be seriously ill.
- Check your guinea pigs for signs of illness or injury every day, and make sure this is done by someone else if you are away. In warm weather you should check the fur and skin around your guinea pig’s rear end twice a day, as urine staining or droppings that are stuck will attract flies, which can lay eggs and cause ‘flystrike’, which is often fatal. Read more about preventing and treating flystrike.
- Consult a vet immediately if you suspect that your guinea pig is in pain, ill or injured.
- Front teeth and nails should be checked at least once a week as these can grow quickly. Only a vet should correct overgrown or misaligned teeth.
- Take your guinea pigs for a routine health check at your vets at least once each year.
- Give your guinea pigs treatment for external and internal parasites (e.g. mites and worms) as necessary, as advised by your vet.
- Only use medicines that have been specifically recommended for your individual guinea pig by a vet. Some medicines used for other animals can be very dangerous to guinea pigs.
- Ensure your guinea pigs' coats are kept in good condition by grooming them regularly. If you are unsure how to groom your guinea pigs properly seek advice from a pet care specialist. This is especially important in long haired breeds, which will need grooming daily. If your guinea pig changes his/her grooming habits, you should seek advice from a vet as your guinea pig may be ill.
- A small amount of white discharge around the eyes is commonly seen when a guinea pig is grooming him/herself. However, if this increases or decreases, or there is a discharge at other times, it may be a sign that your guinea pig is ill.
- Consider taking out pet insurance to ensure your guinea pigs are covered if they need veterinary treatment.
- Guinea pigs feel pain in the same way as other mammals, including people.
- Guinea pigs are not good at showing outward signs of pain so may be suffering a great deal before anything is noticed. A change in the way a guinea pig normally behaves can be an early sign he/she is ill or in pain. If a guinea pig is not eating, is more quiet or hiding more than usual, he/she is highly likely to be ill or in pain. Read more about guinea pig behaviour.
- Guinea pigs are vulnerable to many infectious diseases and other illnesses, especially dental disease.
- Guinea pigs that are stressed are much more likely to become ill.
- Signs that a guinea pig may be suffering from stress or fear can include hiding most of the time, chewing cage bars, over-grooming, altered feeding or toileting habits, over-drinking or playing with the water bottle, sitting hunched, reluctance to move, and repeated circling of his/her enclosure.
- Some breeds of guinea pig have been selected for exaggerated physical features which can cause them to suffer and reduce their quality of life. For example long-haired breeds have very long hair which easily becomes matted.