FAQ: Keeping Guinea-Pigs Happy & Healthy


Can a guinea-pig and rabbit live together providing the cage is large enough?
This is not recommended. A guinea-pig’s rib-cage is very frail and vets see many cavies with fractured ribs or punctured lungs as a result of kicks from rabbits. If they absolutely must be kept together, provide a safe refuge for the cavy within the communal area. The entrance to this should only be big enough to admit him.

Do guinea-pigs make good indoor pets?
Yes, they are excellent indoor companions, as they are practically odorless. However, the cage should be cleaned every other day. They are easy to house-train – start this using some soiled newspaper from the cage placed in a cat litter-tray. They will be more inclined to use this if its placed in a dark, quiet place.

Is a rabbit food-mix satisfactory for guinea-pigs?
There are two reasons why a rabbit food mix may not suit a guinea-pig. You must check it does not contain an additive used to prevent Coccidiosis in rabbits. Most rabbit mixes contain this, but they have a toxic effect on guinea-pigs’ liver and kidneys. Guinea pig pellets and other diets for them are fortified with the vitamin C that guinea pigs cannot manufacture for themselves. Rabbits and hamsters do not need this supplement as they create the vitamin themselves, and so their feed does not contain extra vitamin C. Fed rabbit, horse or hamster food as the staple part of his diet, a guinea pig would quickly become sick with scurvey, one of the leading causes of death in guinea pigs. If fed these other diets, it would be vital to supplement the guinea pig’s intake with vitamin C drops on his food or in his water (20-30 mg per day) and to offer him fresh food rich in vitamin C.

What is the best bedding to provide for guinea-pigs?
Both sawdust and wood-shavings can be very abrasive and dusty, resulting in damage to the animal’s skin and hair, drying the skin and pre-disposing it to problems. We recommend lining cages with a waterproof lining and a thick covering of newspapers topped with hay. In cold weather, shredded computer paper is good. This should be cleaned thoroughly at least once a week and fresh hay for eating should be added on a daily basis.

Can I introduce 2 adult males?
Never.

Can I introduce a young male to an adult male?
Yes, provided the young one is between 4 and 6 weeks old. The young animal should be shampooed to remove odors of other animals and you would be as well shampooing both before introduction. Introduce them while they are both still damp. Cavies are less inclined to fight when drying off and should be used to each other by the time they have. Good food in the cage will also help to distract them.

How do I treat a pregnant guinea-pig?
Put her in a large cardboard box indoors. If this is her first litter observe her closely, but most guinea-pigs give birth without needing human interference. Impending labor is signaled by clearly visible uterine contractions. If these fail to lead to birth within a reasonable time period then contact your vet as there may be problems.

Can guinea-pigs be resistant to mange treatments?
The confusion between mange and mycosis is a common one. While it is just possible that an animal is resistant to it, If you find a mange treatment hasn’t worked, it probably has mycosis. This is due to fungal activity which should be treated with a specific medication. Severe problems would be treated with a fungal antibiotic.

What if a guinea-pig seems interested in food but won’t eat?
Perhaps she is also losing wait. She may have dental problems, which your vet should be able to check for and fix. Since only the four incisors are clearly visible, it is difficult for pet-owners to check how the other 16 teeth are. Overgrown premolars are fairly common, forming an archway over the tongue.

What does a large, black greasy patch at the base of the spine mean?
All guinea-pigs have a grease gland in this area. Females secrete only a little, if any, wax, but males will accumulate large quantities of wax in this area unless cleaned at regular monthly intervals with either washing-up liquid or a medicated shampoo. Ask your vet to recommend one of these.

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