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Guinea Pigs 101

What to know about keeping a Guinea Pig as a Pet
by

Jennifer Newman

on 27 April 2016

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Transcript of Guinea Pigs 101

Guinea Pigs 101
Background
Larger than hamster/gerbils but smaller than rabbits
Average lifespan is about 5-7 years
Guinea Pigs weigh a few pounds
Usually very docile
They can be good starter pets for older children
with appropriate adult supervision
Average Cost of Ownership
Initial Costs:
AWLA Adoption fee= $10 per animal
Cage= roughly $70
Litter Box= $15
Food and Water Dishes=$20
Ongoing Costs:
Food= Approx $105 per year
Toys and Treats= approx. $30 per year
Annual Vet Exam= approx. $ 70-$100 per year
Litter and bedding material= approx $415 per year
Pairs or Singles?
Adopting a single pig
Guinea pigs are very social and like to live in small groups
A single pig may require more time/attention due to loneliness
Adopting two pigs
Females enjoy the company of other females
Two males are best picked from the same litter (unless you adopt two from the League that have already been housed together).
The League often has bonded pairs available
Housing Males/Females Together
Guinea pigs of the opposite sex should never live together or be allowed to interact with the opposite sex per the AWLA adoption policy.

Guinea Pigs have the potential to multiply rapidly and there are shelters across the country with too many Guinea pigs as a result of mixed-sex housing and "accidental" interactions.

More than two?
Housing and Environment
Cage Type and Size
Pigs need roughly 4 Square ft. per animal
Cage should have
SOLID
flooring--wire flooring is rough on piggy feet and can result in injury and discomfort
Glass aquariums are unsuitable due to poor ventilation
Top-less cages as pictured bottom right are OK in houses without other pets and may allow for easier cleaning and interaction with your pig(s).
The recommended cage size for
one pig
is 38" x18" x18"
The recommended cage size for
two pigs
is 46"x24"x18
BIGGER IS ALWAYS BETTER!
Note: pet stores often sell "guinea pig" cages that do not meet the recommended size
Temperature and Placement of Cage
Indoors, away from drafts & windows- pigs are susceptible to heat stroke
Pigs prefer temperatures from 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit
Outfitting Your Pig's Cage
Guinea pigs love to hide! Good options for hiding places include:
PVC Pipe
Pigloos
Cardboard Boxes
Untreated wood
Paper or Bedding can be added to line the cage. Avoid cedar or pine chips (dangerous to pigs)
Outfitting Your Pig's Cage-Litter boxes
Guinea Pigs can be litter box trained (this takes time and PATIENCE)
Use Carefresh as the bottom layer (do not use cat litter)
Make sure plenty of hay is available
Remove wet matter daily
Completely change out and clean box every 4-5 days (or more frequently if you have multiple pigs)
Note:You might need to move the box to
THEIR
preferred location to encourage litter box use!
Outfitting Your Pig's Cage- Food/Water Dishes
Heavy ceramic bowls are best to avoid tip-overs
Water bottles attaching to cage side are a good choice too
Hay racks can be used to keep hay contained and out of the litter box

Toys and Enrichment
Chew toys are essential to keep teeth from overgrowing and to prevent boredom- recycled cardboard(free of tape and staples) and untreated wooden chew toys are good options
Feeding Your Pig
Guinea Pigs should be feed a high-quality pellet diet. Avoid artificial colorings and flavors (shouldn't look like Trix or Lucky Charms cereal). Pellets should make up the bulk of their diet. Feed as per recommendations on the food bag.

They should always have fresh timothy hay or orchard grass available. Alfalfa hay is only suitable for young guinea pigs.

Guinea pigs should have fresh vegetables daily, as well. About a handful of fresh veggies or fruit for each pig is sufficient.

Be sure to remove any uneaten veggies or fruit from the cage before they spoil (otherwise your pig could get sick).

Fresh, clean water should be available at all times. Empty and refill water bottles-don't top off to avoid making your pig sick.
Veggies in Your Pig's Diet
Small amounts of fresh vegetables (about a cup a day) are an important additional source of vitamin C and other nutrients. Adding Vitamin C to water is not recommended as pigs drink very little and it starts to break down as soon as you put it into the water.

Modest amounts of a variety of vegs (and a few fruits) are best!
Feed primarily green leafy vegetables-Parsley, romaine lettuce (rather than iceberg, which has less nutritional value and may result in loose stools if given in excess).
Fruits should be only a small part of the diet
Don't give too many carrots -- at most, only a small carrot every other day or so
Avoid or severely limit cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower as they may cause gas
Cut up celery in small pieces so the strings don't cause problems
Avoid starchy vegetables like potatoes- they can be very high in oxalic acid


And clean, pesticide-free grass, clover, dandelion greens, corn husks and silk, will be appreciated by your pet. Rinse vegetables thoroughly.

Do not feed wilted or spoiled food. Vegetables must be introduced slowly, to avoid digestive upsets.

Good Veggie Choices for Your Pig
Leafy Greens:
Kale
Mustard greens
Parsley
Romaine lettuce
Spinach
Turnip greens
Arugula
Boston Lettuce
Bibb Lettuce
Dark Green Lettuce
Red Leaf Lettuce
Romaine
Cilantro
Escarole
Fresh Veggies:
Bell peppers (green, orange, red)
Brussel sprouts
Carrots (and carrot greens) in small servings
Celery (Cut into small pieces since the strings can be a choking hazard)
Corn on the cob (with husks and silk, cut into pieces since the silk can be a choking hazard)
Cucumbers
Greens such as clover and dandelion; Harvest from a garden or purchase at a grocery store and wash well; don't pick from roadsides
Snow peas, sugar peas, snap peas
Tomatoes

Handling Your Pig
Pigs have delicate fragile bodies and may be frightened to be picked up.

The main thing to consider when picking up a guinea pig is to support both the front end and the hind end of the animal. Slip one hand under the belly just behind the front legs, and then support the hind quarters with your other hand. Bring your pig close into your chest – that way he (or she) will feel more secure and less likely to wiggle to get free.

It's important to handle your pig often so that
he/she gets used to people!

Let's watch a video that shows us the proper
technique.


Grooming Your Pig
Brushing-
Daily brushing with a soft brush reduces shedding and is important for the long-haired varieties
Bathing
- Pigs seldom "need" baths and many are never bathed. But if they do require one, a shampoo formulated especially for small animals will help avoid drying their skin. Use a shallow bowl of warm water, rinse, and dry thoroughly to avoid chills before returning them to their home. Avoid getting water in their ears.
Nail Clipping-
A scissors style small animal clipper provides good control. Pay close attention to "quick" to avoid cutting into the living part of the nail. A light shown from beneath dark colored nails may be helpful locating the quick if it is hard to see. If the nail is accidentally cut too short, a styptic pencil will help stop bleeding.
Grooming Your Pig
Here are a few ideas for methods of spot cleaning the area:
Malaseb is a very popular cleaner. Shampoo the problem area with this product, let sit for ten minutes and rinse.
Dawn dish washing detergent reportedly removes the grease.
A non-abrasive mechanic's hand cleaner like Swarfega may help you clean this area.
Apply Neosporin, hold your guinea pig for 10-15 minutes (to prevent him or her from ingesting it) then remove antibiotic ointment with dish washing detergent.


The Grease Gland-t
he grease gland in a guinea pig is located just above where a tail would be (if they had a tail). Some pigs have active grease glands that can be a challenge to clean.
Cleaning Ears-
A weekly examination of the ears and a cleaning every other week is recommended.

Use a product like Oticlens or use a drop of mineral oil in each ear, let sit for 5 minutes, clean the outer ear carefully with a soft cloth wrapped around your finger. Avoid getting water in the ears.
Hair Trimming-
Who can benefit from trimming hair?
Guinea pigs with extremely long hair (shorten so it does not drag)
Any long haired guinea pig in hot weather (trim to comfortable length)
Long haired guinea pigs prone to urinary tract infections (trim butt hairs)
Feeding Your Pig-Things to Avoid
Avoid feeding you pig pellets or treats with nuts, seeds, dried fruit and dyed pieces.
Do not feed dairy and meat products (pigs are herbivores)
Avoid seeds in husks (like sunflower seeds), which can be a choking hazard.
Do not feed rabbit pellets (they do not contain Vitamin C and some may even include antibiotics toxic to cavies).
Avoid or use sparingly, cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, collards, bok choy, broccoli), as they may cause gas in your pet.
Do not use mineral wheels.
Avoid commercial treats marketed for cavies (like yogurt drops) which can even be detrimental to their health. Consuming these empty calories (many contain fat, sugars and even excess calcium) can result in decreased consumption of the basic foods they really need.

Exercising Your Pig
Your Guinea Pig should be given time out of the cage daily for exercise and play.
Avoid using guinea pig "exercise" balls
Be sure to check for loose wires or other hazards to your pig.
Baby pools make an exellent excerise area and they are very easy to clean!
Exercise pens are great as well and they take up very little space when not in use!
Veterinary Care for Your Pig
When you adopt from the League, your adoption fee includes a coupon for a free office visit with one of our local participating vets. Your pig should be taken to the vet annual for a check-up or anytime that you feel your pig is sick!
Guinea pigs are very good at hiding illness so it is important to monitor your pig daily.
Common signs that something isn't right include sneezing, coughing, diarrhea and lethargy.
What Questions Do You Have?
Where to Get More Information
It's imporant to do new group introductions slowly
You should plan on alternate living arrangements, i.e. extra cages if they don't get along
The 3 common breeds are:
Smooth-coat
Abyssinian (hair grows in fluffy tufts all over the body)
Peruvian (long, silky hair that flows to the ground)
There are also "skinny" or hairless Guinea Pigs(not as common) and the Texel guinea pig with the unique and curly long coat
You can even make your own toys!
Full transcript