Background Information on Guinea Pigs
The guinea pig (Cavia porcellus) is a docile rodent native to South America. Guinea pigs are lively, lovable pets that require relatively easy care. The most common types of guinea pigs are the English or American Shorthair, the Peruvian (long-haired), and the Abyssinian (swirled hair). The average weight of a guinea pig ranges from 500 to 900 grams (1 to 2 pounds). The average lifespan of a guinea pig is 5 to 7 years.
Diet Recommendations for Guinea Pigs
Guinea pigs are herbivores and they require a diet high in fiber. At MedVet Hilliard, we recommend feeding and using Oxbow Animal products for guinea pigs. The website is listed at the end of this article. Feeding recommendations for your guinea pig includes:
- Grass hay should be available at all times.
- At MedVet Hilliard, we recommend timothy or oat/grass hays.
- Alfalfa hay should be avoided if possible due to its higher protein and calcium content. High dietary calcium may predispose your guinea pig to the formation of urinary stones.
- Guinea pig specific commercial pellets.
- Offer only plain pellets (about ¼ cup per pig). Avoid the kind with nuts or dried fruit, which are high in fat and sugars. This can predispose them to GI upset and illness.
- Fresh greens, vegetables and occasional fruits.
- Mustard/dandelion/collard greens, kale, parsley, cilantro, spinach
- Broccoli, carrots, peppers
- Citrus fruits (oranges), apples, berries
- Guinea pigs are unable to make vitamin C, so they need to be given vitamin C to avoid serious health problems.
- Pellets made for guinea pigs include vitamin C, but the vitamin breaks down quickly on the shelf and becomes ineffective.
- It is best to give the vitamin C supplement to your pig directly rather than putting it in the water source where it is rapidly degraded.
Housing Your Guinea Pig
- The cage you choose should be large enough for your guinea pig to move around comfortably and still accommodate a hide box. The sides of the cage do not need to be especially tall since guinea pigs do not jump very high.
- Any cage should provide adequate ventilation, therefore aquarium tanks are not recommended for guinea pigs.
- Avoid wood flooring which allows urine to soak in and is difficult to clean. A commercially available cage with a plastic bottom and a removable wire top is a good choice.
- Avoid wood chips when choosing bedding, because they can contain harmful oils.
- Safer alternatives include recycled paper bedding or aspen. Any bedding should be changed frequently.
- At MedVet Hilliard, we recommend CareFresh or other recycled paper beddings.
- Your guinea pig should be exercise outside of its cage with supervision on a daily basis for exercise. If not, he may need to be housed in a substantially larger cage. Make sure any wires or other chewable items are out of your pig’s reach.
Handling Your Guinea Pig
Guinea pigs are very social animals and are usually content around other guinea pigs, although this may mean they will be less bonded to their human family. Pigs of the same sex usually get along best give appropriate cage space. Males and females may be housed together if at least one of them has been neutered to prevent pregnancy. The guinea pig’s natural curiosity and friendly disposition makes it fairly easy to handle. Most guinea pigs will approach a hand introduced into their cage and can be easily scooped into the palm of the hand. Cup one hand under the rump while cradling the midsection with the other hand. A two-handed hold is always recommended. Guinea pigs unaccustomed to being handled may jump and run, but rarely turn aggressive.
Sources and Additional Information About Guinea Pigs:
Lafeber Vet Guinea Pig Information: http://www.lafebervet.com/small-mammal-medicine/guinea-pigs/basic-information-sheet-8/
Oxbow Animal Health: http://www.oxbowanimalhealth.com/pet_care/guinea_pigs
Veterinary Partner: http://www.veterinarypartner.com