Guinea pig health and welfare
To give your guinea pigs a happy, healthy life, here's what to do to give them the care and attention they need.
Buying guinea pigs
Before buying guinea pigs, find out about their breeding and how they've been cared for and fed. Ask the breeder whether they've had or are prone to health or behaviour problems.
Some breeds have exaggerated physical features that can cause suffering and reduce their quality of life. For example, long-haired breeds have fur that easily gets matted. Ask a vet if you're not sure.
Your guinea pigs will need neutering if they're male, unless you intend to breed from them and have plans in place to care for both parents and babies. Before breeding, ask a vet to look them over and check they're in good health and have the right personality.
The right diet
It's important to give your guinea pigs the right food, as this will help prevent lots of common diseases, such as dental or gut disease and lack of Vitamin C. Check your guinea pigs eat everyday and that they're passing plenty of dry droppings. If their eating or drinking habits change, or the quantity of droppings reduces or stops, consult your vet immediately - they could be seriously ill.
Guinea pigs need well-maintained coats to be happy and healthy, so you'll need to groom them regularly - long-haired breeds need grooming everyday. If your guinea pigs change their grooming habits, consult your vet, as they may be ill.
Small amounts of white discharge around the eyes is common when they're grooming. If this increases or decreases, or there's discharge at other times, it may indicate that they're ill. If you're unsure about grooming, seek specialist advice.
Guinea pig health checks
Check your guinea pigs everyday for signs of illness or injury, and get someone else to check on them if you're away.
- Check their front teeth and nails every week - these grow quickly. Only vets should correct overgrown/misaligned teeth.
- In warm weather, it's especially important to check the fur and skin around their rear end twice a day. Urine staining and droppings stuck attract flies and can lead to flystrike (which is often fatal).
- Take them for vet check-ups at least once a year.
- Get them treated for parasites such as mites and worms, as advised by your vet.
- Only use prescribed medicine - only give your guinea pigs the medicines recommended for them by a vet. Other animals' medicines are dangerous to them.
It's important to remember that although guinea pigs feel pain, they don't show any outward signs of it, so they may suffer before you notice they're sick. If you notice changes in their normal behaviour, these can be an early sign of illness or pain.
They may be unwell if they're:
- Not eating
- Quieter than normal
- Hiding more than usual
Stressed guinea pigs are more likely to become ill. Ask your vet immediately if you suspect they're in pain, ill or injured.
Finally, it's a good idea to take out pet insurance to cover the cost of any unforeseen vet bills.
Follow the links below to find out more about caring for your guinea pigs.