Guinea Pig Care

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Hide Box and Cage Furniture

Cavies seek ‘visual security’ and need places to hide and feel secure. An upside down cardboard or wooden box with a cut-out door work well. If the boxes get soiled or chewed on, they are easily replaced.

Although they do not climb well, they still like to walk up ramps and climb onto low shelves. They also enjoy rooting and burrowing in hay or straw.

Cage Location and Environmental Temperature

Location of the cage is just as important as the cage itself. Cavies are more active at night, and they require quiet periods of time during the day for rest. They seem more comfortable and relaxed when they are housed in a quiet area free of noise, commotion and excitement. Guinea pigs tolerate cool temperatures better than heat and should be housed out of direct sunlight and in a cool area. The recommended environmental temperature is 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. High heat coupled with high humidity may cause heat stroke.

Nutrition

The recommended diet for pet guinea pigs consists of fresh guinea pig pellets (18 to 20 percent crude protein and 10 to 16 percent fiber) and an unlimited supply of high quality grass hay (timothy hay). Alfalfa hay is not recommended due to its high calcium and protein content, which may predispose some guinea pigs to diarrhea, kidney and bladder stones or urine “sludge”(sand in the bladder).

It is well recognized that all guinea pigs MUST have vitamin C (ascorbic acid) added to their diet. Just as with humans, their body cannot make the vitamin and must rely on vitamin C added to the diet. Although commercial guinea pig pellets have excess vitamin C added, it is active for only 90 days under the most ideal storage conditions. Realistically, the potency is more likely lost in 5 to 6 weeks from the date that is on the package.

It is best to assume that not enough vitamin C is being supplied and to supplement adequate levels of this vitamin in the form of vegetables, fruit and through the addition of vitamin C to the drinking water. Vitamin C is light sensitive and loses 50 percent of its potency in 24 hours. Cover the water bottle (with a sock or foil), change the water and add more vitamin C daily. Many guinea pigs like the taste of chewable vitamin C tablets and can be trained to eat them. An optimum daily amount is 1 to 2 mg per 100 grams of your pig’s weight. Examples of vegetables and fruits that have 20 mg of vitamin C or more per ounce are: guava, orange and lemon with peel, parsley, brussels sprouts, broccoli, collard and mustard greens and kale.

Any breeding undertaking should be taken seriously and left to only experienced cavy breeders. Breeding should not be performed as a school or scientific project or to allow children to witness the miracle of birth. Too many guinea pigs are left homeless and in humane societies.

The most important aspect of guinea pig breeding is that the females (sows) MUST be bred between 4 and 7 months of age. If breeding occurs after this time, serious and often fatal (to both female and young) problems associated with delivery occur. The pelvis of the sow fuses at an early age, which decreases the size of the birth canal. The young are born very large and will not be able to pass through the canal of an older guinea pig and delivery of the young will be impossible without a caesarean section. If they are bred early, the sow’s pelvis is able to expand under the influence of certain hormones and she will rarely have complications with delivery.

Male guinea pigs (boars) will show sexual behavior as early as 3 to 4 weeks, but are unable to produce viable sperm until 11 to 17 weeks of age. The boars should be at least 4 months old before breeding.

The young are called pups (not piglets) and are well developed at birth. They are born with their eyes open, fully furred and standing within an hour of delivery. The pups are also able to eat solid food and drink from a bowl within hours to just three days after birth, but it is recommended to allow them to nurse for three weeks.

Common Diseases and Disorders

  • External parasites: lice, mites
  • Pneumonia
  • Heat stress
  • Vitamin C deficiency
  • Antibiotic associated enterotoxemia
  • Bacterial enteritis
  • Malocclusion
  • Pododermatitis
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Urinary calculi
  • Dystocia
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