Caring for Your New Guinea Pig
Inside scoop from Aqualand on Cavia porcellus

 

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Misc Lizards 10


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Decorating
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How to Start
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Different Watersprite

Guinea Pig Factoids

Origin

Andes mountains

Attitude

Alert and inquisitive.  Whistles at you.

Exercise

Take out of cage daily

Substrate

No cedar chips

Security

Likes a hide box

Chewer

Needs wood and a pumice block for teeth

Foods

Guinea pig pellets (use untippable bowl)

Supplements

Dried alfalfa and timothy

Treats

Oranges , potatoes, apples, greens, nuts

Water

Use a well protected water bottle

Housing

Sturdy wire best (holds up to chewing)

Cleaning Schedule

Weekly suffices.  Their droppings are dry.

Breeding Age

2 months, 4 better

Gestation Period

9 weeks

Brood Size

1 to 6 kits.  Usually 2 to 4

Keep with mom

4 weeks


LA Pic
Guinea pigs are cute.

LA Pic
Sometimes you just gotta grab the "runners."  Guinea pigs relax quickly.

LA Pic
Young ladies like guinea pigs.

LA Pic
And ladies like guinea pigs.


Origins:  Guinea pigs originally came from the cool, dry areas in the Andes mountains of South America.  The locals raised them for food.  European visitors took them home for pets.  Eventually they made it to the U.S.

LA Pic
Not all albino guinea pigs are solid white.

Name:  Legend has it that Guinea” refers to their original price – a solid gold coin worth much more than the little guys sell for today.  “Pig” comes from the snuffling and whistling noises they make to communicate – especially when they see or hear you coming with food.

LA
Use at least two hands (or three) to hold them.  If you drop guinea pigs, they usually break.

Temperament:  We find guinea pigs inquisitive and quite friendly – especially if you give them a treat once in a while.  Just go slowly and gently with your new pig.  Give him or her a chance to get to know you.

LA
You can find guinea pig-size exercise balls.  This one is too small.
 

Allyn Duensing, June 24, 2008
Your guinea pig page shows a cavy in an exercise ball and says that it is ok to put them on an exercise wheel if you line it with aluminum foil. This is very very very very very wrong. First, guinea pigs spine's are not able to flex down like that of a rat or a hamster. Putting them in a device like an exercise ball or wheel causes intense painful stress on the cavy's back and can have permanent  effects.  Second, a cavy will munch on aluminum foil, which tears up its stomach.   

A:  I'll add your comments to my guinea pig page.  Larger exercise balls and larger smooth plastic wheels are now available.  LA

Activity Level.  Guinea pigs spend a lot of time loafing.  They don’t run three miles a night as hamsters do.  They will use an exercise wheel.  Be sure to put aluminum foil on it, so their tiny feet won’t get caught in the spokes.  Exercise balls work better.  Guinea pigs enjoy getting outside their cage and interacting with you daily.

LA
Wire floor in your guinea pig cage?  Add enough litter to keep their feet from poking thru.

LA
Solid floors work the best for their tiny feet.

Cage:  Adult guinea pigs grow to about a foot in length.  Obviously they need at least two square feet of space.  Remember to take them out to play every day – except moms nursing babies.

Foods:  Standard guinea pig food contains every nutrient they need except water.  In a pinch, rabbit pellets will work if you run out of the right food.  But you’re asking for trouble if you feed it for more than a brief period. Guinea pigs can’t make their own vitamin C (just like us humans).  If they don’t get vitamin C daily, they will sicken and die -- quite rapidly.  Use a heavy food bowl that won’t tip.
 

Chris Griffin, DVM, DABVP, Kannapolis, NC, July 19, 2008
Hi. I came across your web site while surfing today and
found your rabbit page.
I enjoyed seeing what you had to say but noticed a glaring and potentially problematic omission from your diet section.  All hind gut fermenting
animals, including rabbits, guinea pigs and chinchillas, require hay as large portion of the diet.  Pellets are fine but actually much less
necessary for adult rabbits than hay (Timothy or Orchard Grass) because of the extremely high fiber content the stomach and intestines (and cecum)
require to stay healthy and functioning.
Also, the pellets fed to rabbits over six months of age (depending on the breed) should be timothy based as well, to decrease the amount of calcium
that will be excreted via the urine.
I hope this information is seen as being helpful.  I have treated too many rabbits over the past 10 years on diets too low in fiber (Hay). Prevention is the key, and it is easy enough -- unlimited timothy or grass hay.
The information at www.oxbowhay.com is excellent.  I do not work for them, but am very satisfied with their products for rabbits (and other
animals) and think the educational materials they have are great.
Best of luck -- and I hope you find this information helpful.

A:  Thanks for the info.  I found it helpful.  I'm adding your letter to our rabbit, guinea pig, and chinchilla pages.  LA
PS  We carry the oxbow products.

Rachel Beaver, Austin, TX, February 23, 2009
Hello, Your website has been very helpful to me! If you could, I would love for these two comments to be posted on the guinea pig and betta page.

Guinea Pig Comments
The minimum age a guinea pig should be bred is not really an age, it is when they reach 500 grams. Any smaller and it can be very hazardous to their health. Exercise balls should never be used with guinea pigs. Their backs can not bend like a hamsters or a mouses can. If used, it can cause their backs to become paralyzed. Not even large ones are safe. Wire cages should also never be used, in the picture on your guinea pig page, it does not show enough litter to safely cover the bottom. If a wire cage is the only option, it should be covered with towels or a few inches of bedding. Guinea pigs (Since exercise balls are not safe, neither are exercise wheels) need a lot of room in their cage. 7.5 square feet for one and another 2.5 square feet for every one after that. Standard guinea pig pellets do not have all the nutrients they need. There is not nearly enough vitamin C in it. A veggie diet with vitamin C in it should be fed daily, along with other treats to keep their diets varied. They should also have hay every day. I talked to my guinea pig vet about alfalfa and he says it is overall not very good for your guinea pig and should be in strict moderation if used at all in a guinea pig's diet. Guinea pigs actually do require light. They should get out into the sun at least 3 times a week so they can produce the proper amount of vitamin D that their bodies need. I should also point out that guinea pigs do not posses the chromosome to be albino. A guinea pig with pink eyes that happens to be white is known as a pew-pink eyed white.

Please take a look and possibly publish these, thank you for your time.

A:  I do not share your dislike of commercial GP foods and do not think most peoople have the nutritional know how to make a superior food.  However, I'll post your comments.  LA

LA
Guinea pigs also love dandelion greens -- high in vitamin C.

Supplements/Treats:  Guinea pigs really love alfalfa and timothy.  Look around and find a hay manger that works in your cage.  They also like apples and greens.

Lighting:  Guinea pigs require no special lighting other than a regular day and night schedule.

Water:  Water bottles always stay cleaner than water bowls.  Since guinea pigs love to chew, protect their water bottle from their always-gnawing teeth.  (They will also chew on electric wires if you let them.)  You’ll notice they also yank at their water bottles like they’re milking a cow.  They can make a small racket.  Strong GPs will occasionally pull their water bottle apart.

LA Pic
Hold your guinea pig securely.

Handling:  Scoop your pig up from below rather than grabbing from above. At first, you need to hold them against your chest or they think you will drop them – like the blond in the King Kong movies.

Not Exactly Geniuses:  Guinea pigs score fairly low on the SAT exams.  And they’ll never learn to play the piano – except the first two notes in chopsticks.  They’re just friendly little whistlers that sort of grunt contentedly when you lay on the floor with your pig on your chest.  Guinea pigs like their owners.

 

Scurvy:  Lack of vitamin C will kill Guinea pigs within a month.  They get all scruffy looking.  They stop running around.  They may even quit whistling all together.  Too low levels of vitamin C merely prolong the process.

Fresh Greens:  All Guinea pig pellets contain vitamin C, but C deteriorates fairly quickly.  We recommend giving them some C-containing snacks.  Fresh greens hit the spot and really make ‘em whistle.  (Too many greens can give them diarrhea.)  Other C foods include bits of orange, apple slices, cabbage cores, and potatoes.

Hay:  One reason to feed hay besides nutrition -- giving guinea pigs hay to chew on reduces their tendency to chew the hair off of other pigs.  They like alfalfa and timothy.  They prefer timothy.

LA Pic
Regular brown and white guinea pig.

Hair-Types:  Everyone has their own idea of what a guinea pig should look like.  Some people like ‘em all -- regardless of hair type or color.

LA Pic
Short-haired guinea pig.

Smoothes:  In the USA we call ‘em “Americans.”  In the UK, they call them “English.”  If you plan to comb yours daily, these take the least time.  You can make their hair gleam.  Use the fine-wired cat brushes.

LA Pic
Tri-color guinea pig with Abyssinian hair.

Abyssinians:  Sometimes called “whistling cowlicks,” Abyssinian guinea pigs have rock star hairdos when they get a cowlick on top their head.  Groom these guys with a toothbrush.

LA
Peruvian pic added July 2, 2008.

Peruvians:  The long-haired Peruvian guinea pigs comprise maybe 5% of the population we see, so we have no picture right now.  Wood chip litter often sticks to their hair.  Duct tape one of these “dust mops” to a broom handle and he’ll clean out all those dust bunnies under your bed.  Happily, guinea pigs groom their own hair.  If your pig gets mats, snip them out with scissors.  You may have to trim around their eyes.  You may also want to strategically trim their hair if you plan to breed them.


Hairless guinea pig photo from Stan and Jodi Hamilton here in Des Moines.

LA
Hairless guinea pigs are strange looking little dudes.

LA
What a strange-looking little beast.

LA
With no hair, you can actually see where the "pig" part of their name came from.

Hairless Guinea Pigs:  At the opposite end of the guinea pig hair-spectrum we find this non-hairy guy.  Thanks to Stan and Jodi for this photo of a very uncommon type of guinea pig.  Cool, eh.

LA
Here's another hairless with a furry nose ...

LA
... and great big ears.


LA
Ever see a curly-haired guinea pig?

LA 
There were four curlies in this litter.

LA
Called a Texel guinea pig.  His hair grows longer and kinkier.

LA
Another texel -- different color.

Curly Haired Guinea Pigs:  Here’s a new hair type to us.  He looks like a little poodle.  He would be fun to clip like a poodle.

Temperature:  Room temperature works best.  Cool temperatures can cause guinea pigs to catch cold.  Babies in particular suffer when they get too cool.  Hot temps can also kill them.

Security:  Guinea pigs will spend a great deal of time in a hiding place.  They need a box slightly larger than themselves.  Pregnant females especially need a hide box.

LA
Guinea pigs love to explore.  They carefully investigate any tubes you give them.

LA Pic
Guinea pigs love tubes

LA
Young guinea pigs can be hard to sex.  Adult males are fairly obvious.

Fights:  Female guinea pigs pretty much get along together.  You can mix in one male with no problems.  Males usually get along with other males, but if you add one female to your herd of males, watch the fur fly.

LA Pic
More than slightly preggers, this little gal feels like a soon to be momma of two.

 

LA
One week later she's a mother of four nursing piglets.  They need to stay with her four weeks.

LA
Four weeks later this guinea pig is ready to head out on his own.

LA
Two mommas with 7 little one-day old babes.

LA
One of the day-old babes.

Breeding:  Females will produce four litters per year.  As you probably know, this puts a strain on them and shortens their lives.  You’ll have a healthier herd of Guinea pigs if you limit your females to two litters per year.  By the way, Guinea pigs breed very easily.  Keep your sexes apart or you will have kits in nine weeks.  You can safely keep a male with pregnant moms, but be aware that moms will come into heat 10 to 12 hours after giving birth.

LA
These little guys are one day old.

LA
They'll nurse for a month or so.

More Breeding Info:  If not bred by age six months, Guinea pig mommas have difficulty giving birth later.  Their pelvic bones harden up and keep the babies from being born correctly.  We just found this out this year (2003) from our vet tech.  Thanks, Tawny.  We keep learning more about many critters every day.

LA
Here's a little one day old guy whose mother died.  He's now on puppy milk.

Weaning:  We like to keep our guinea pig babies with their moms four weeks.  The pros wean ‘em out at three weeks to keep the males from breeding the baby females.

Life Span:  Your average Guinea pig lives five years.  Occasionally one will live seven.  They grow to about two pounds at 18 months.  

LA
Guinea pigs make nice pets.

Next to Last Word:  When moving guinea pigs to a new environment, keep them on the same food.  Don’t expect them to switch all their habits overnight.  Make any food changes gradually.  

Last Word:  If your guinea pig gets sick NEVER give it an antibiotic.  Most antibiotics will kill guinea pigs.  And since many vets rarely work with Guinea pigs, they don’t always know this.  LA.

Additional Helpful Information from Rebecca Surovic:

Hello! I’m writing to you out of concern for some information you have
on your guinea pig care page. It is admirable that you provide care
instructions for the animals, and some of your advice is spot-on such
as the vitamin C requirements -- and kudos for not advising drops in
the water, which are not a good idea. However, there are some problems
in the advice you give. First, you advise using exercise balls
and exercise wheels. These are dangerous for guinea pigs because their
spines are not built to handle the curves. Guinea pigs need a large
flat area to run in, and benefit by large cages and being given floor
time each day to exercise. They should also never, ever be put on a
wire-bottomed cage, even one coated with bedding. And guinea pigs need
much more than two square feet of space! The recommendation is closer
to 7.5 square feet for the first pig and an additional 2.5 square feet
for each additional pig. You also classify hay as a treat and do not
differentiate between alfalfa and timothy. Alfalfa is a legume and
contains extra calcium. It is useful as a supplement for growing
babies or pregnant or lactating mommies, but can cause bladder sludge
in other adult pigs. Timothy and other grass hays are very important
to a guinea pig’s diet and should be offered in endless supply. While
you say that guinea pigs should be held with at least two hands, you
show them being held in an unsupported manner in many pictures. You
also discuss breeding without mentioning the great overpopulation of
guinea pigs that are put to death every day in animal shelters much
like dogs and cats are. Finally, you mention that a guinea pig should
not have antibiotics. This is both helpful and dangerous. It is right
that they are allergic to some antibiotics that could kill them, but
guinea pigs are prone to upper respiratory illness that requires an
antibiotic or the pig will die. Guinealynx.com sells a care book that
lists medications that are dangerous and helpful. If a cavy-savvy vet
cannot be found, a guinea pig owner can take a copy of this care book
with them to help the vet out. It is the perfect cheat sheet.
Guinealynx.com has the best guinea pig information, and you can find
information on their site that backs up the advice I have given you.
You should also take a look at cavycages.com, which shows how to build
an adequate cage for guinea pigs. The materials used, grids and
coroplast, could be offered for sale in the pet store. Offering help
with construction or pre-cut cage kits would be another way to sell
this type of cage (which is not copyrighted for the express purpose of
helping more pigs get adequate caging) and you would know you were
helping your pigs leave for a better home. Plus, since the cage is
customizable there is always room to buy more materials for it to add
on, and because it is bigger there is more room inside it and owners
will buy more pigloos, chubes, and other toys and hideaways for their
pigs.  Rebecca Surovik

Comments from Sandeep, United Kingdom, May 29, 2005
Hello there. I have just been looking through the guinea pig section on your
website http://www.aqualandpetsplus.com/Animal,%20Guinea%20Pig.htm and I am utterly appalled about the bad information you are giving out.
1) You don’t even have any information on food. You have only got “treats.”  One cup of vegetables should be given daily. Guinea pigs cannot make their own vitamin C like humans, and so the owner has to provide it through vegetables. Green leafy veggies are the best -- Romaine lettuce, endive, dandelion greens, lamb lettuce, rocket. Take a look at www.guinealynx.com and go to the nutrition link
Nuts should never be given. Guinea pigs are not squirrels! All they need is
timothy hay (alfalfa if under 6 months), Oxbow pellets (plain, never mixed
as there is a choking hazard) and vegetables.
2) Have you ever heard of the problem of bumblefoot? This is what you get if you house your pigs on a wire floor:
http://www.guinealynx.com/feet.html#pododermatitis
Keeping them on wire is just cruel, having bedding on top is not enough!
Please please please support cubes & coroplast cages. Take a look here for more details www.cavycages.com They are the only way to go.
3) Males need to be separated from their mums at 3 weeks, not 4. This is
when they become sexually active. Breeding is wrong, especially inbreeding.
4) Balls SHOULD NEVER be used. Looking at a guinea pig in a ball is just disgraceful. They are not as agile as hamsters -- they can injure their spines and break their legs. Guinea pigs do need daily exercise, like you said, but in a pen. The pen should be at least 15 square feet large.
For all information take a look at this website www.gpuk.cjb.net It has all
the basic information
For health care --> www.guinealynx.com
For cages --> www.cavycages.com
General --> www.cavyspirit.com
Please can you update the information on your page.
Thank you
 

Comments from Sandra Lucas, July 21, 2006
I have a few comments about your guinea pig page
http://www.aqualandpetsplus.com/Animal,%20Guinea%20Pig.htm please take the time to read this email as I have taken a long time to write it.

  ●  Guinea pigs ‘wheek’ not whistle |
  ●  A wood block will not keep down the molars, hay is the best thing to keep teeth down
  ●  Alfalfa and timothy are not supplements, alfalfa for nursing mums, pregnant pigs and those under and year, timothy for all others is needed 24/7 UNLIMITED
 
●  NEVER feed potatoes, these are poisonous

  ●  NO nuts, can easily choke and too fatty

  ●  2 month is TOO YOUNG for breeding. 6 months (5 months earliest) and around 700g, NEVER use a fatty sow as there is a large chance of the sow dieing

  ●  Gestation period – 63-72 days

  ●  Babies are pups not kits

  ●  Boars MUST leave mum at 3 weeks (2 if they appear sexually active, rumblestrutting, mounting mum/siblings)

  ●  You can’t get ‘albino’ guinea pigs, nearest are Pink Eyed Whites. There are also ‘dilutes’ such as lilacs

  ●  NO exercise balls/wheels. Guineas don’t have a flexible spine, they are NOT like overgrown hamsters

  ●  NO wire floor, bedding or not they will get bumblefoot

  ●  They need much more that 2 sq feet! At least 7.5 feet per pair plus 2.5 feet per extra guinea

  ●  Mums and nursing babies can be handled

  ●  Greens will most likely only give them diarrhea if they are suddenly given loads, a guinea who has never had greens should be introduced to them carefully

  ●  Cat ‘slicker brush’ types shouldn’t be used, a small comb works better, a wider toothed comb for a longhair, for a teddy use a slicker brush with rubber-type bits on end to prevent the skin being scratched, Abyssinians can be brushed with a small comb like the smooth hair

  ●  Longhairs must be trimmed or wrapped for show, you can not keep a longhair at full coat length, the coat will grow at 1 inch per month for its whole life

  ●  You don’t mentions the amount of care a longhair needs

  ●  The skinny pig used in your picture doesn’t look healthy at all

  ●  You don’t mention the use of baby cream on a skinny

  ●  Curly-haired babies grow to be longhaired texels, alpacas or merinos, a wavy haired baby would be a rex

  ●  The golden male needs to be supported at the back end whist held like that, a large guinea like that can easily get a dislocated spine being held like that, I have known it happen to people

  ●  Males will usually only keep well in pairs, females however can live in a herd

  ●  Pregnant guineas should NEVER be held like in the picture, the uterus shouldn’t be turned like that, it can cause the sow to miscarry

  ●  Sows should be bred at 6 months, left 1 month or 2 after weaning before going back with the boar to ensure she doesn’t put on too much condition. 3 litters MAX per sow in her LIFE is recommended. Don’t breed from a sow that has had problems before

  ●  Take the male out when you are sure the sow is pregnant

  ●  If they don’t give birth by 10-12 months then the pelvic bones become less elastic, at 6 months they should be going with a boar, not having a 1st litter

  ●  An adult weight between 2lb and 4lb ideally

  ●  And advise people to find a good vet before they need one.

  ●  Good forums to recommend: http://www.guineapigcages.com/forum/index.php   http://www.cavycompendium.com/forums/  http://www.pimms-pages.co.uk/forums/

 
I hope you took the time to read this, I will happily write you a page and supply pictures for the guinea pig care section if you would like.

A:  I read and published your letter.  LA

Megan Hinrichs, Oregon, August 14, 2010
Hi LA. I read through your page including all the of comments from concerned guinea pig owners over the content of your page. Regardless of your personal beliefs, a good majority of the information and concerns raise by the previous commenters are true. Yet you stand by your ignorance, and allow your page to proclaim such. Publishing everyone's comments are great for an owner who has the time to go through and read all of them. However my issue is with the first part of your page's content.
Substrate - No cedar chips
You need to expand upon this by letting people know why. I don't recall you mentioning Guinea Pigs are susceptible to respiratory problems, which can be caused by bad judgements in bedding. From my own personal experience and research the best is Carefresh, or if it costs too much, Aspen.
Chewer - Needs wood and a pumice block for teeth
I haven't met many guinea pigs that will actually chew on a wooden stick. Most prefer their houses or paper tubes. One of the best ways of helping with the teeth issue is through unlimited quantities of Timothy or another grass hay.
Supplements - Dried alfalfa and timothy
What about vitamin C? This is a HUGE health concern beginner guinea pig owners need to be aware about. You need to differentiate between alfalfa and timothy hay. Only young cavies and pregnant/lactating mothers should be given alfalfa. Believe what you want, if you walk into any pet store and pick up some generic brand of alfalfa it should state on the back of the label that it is not intended for adult animals. Also hay shouldn't be listed as a supplement, it's a dietary need guinea pigs require every day. Good quality cavy food is made with either alfalfa or timothy, but they require the actual fibers to be healthy.
Treats - Oranges , potatoes, apples, greens, nuts
Greens? Again be more specific. Dark leafy greens in small quantities. Kale is great for guinea pigs. Cabbage, lettuce and broccoli should be avoided because it can led to intestinal problems. What about carrots? Or red peppers? Both are great treats, guinea pigs (or at least mine) love. Never ever ever, give or even recommend giving your guinea pig nuts, seeds or corn. All three are terrible for them.
Your page has some good information about their background but to be taken as a serious website you need to update your information and expand upon it. The chart at the top of the page could use a section about food choices for different ages. Many commercial guinea pig foods rely on alfalfa as the main ingredient. I know at the PetsMart I work for, only two of eight or maybe ten varieties of cavy food we carry are made with only timothy hay, everything else is alfalfa. Which again is great for younger cavies, but once they reach adulthood they need to slowly be transferred to a different diet.
Thank you for your time, and please take the time to change your information or at least do extensive research to learn the facts for yourself.

A:  Thanks for your time.  I found your info useful and added it to my GP page.  LA
PS 
I find that many readers like to read the updates on the pages more than the main text.

LA
Less than 12-hour old guinea pig kit.

LA
His mom and sibling -- family photo, January 17, 2013.

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