This is an information piece on Guinea pigs and their hairless little friends.
Guinea pigs are popular pets to keep, unfortunately not much research is done beforehand. Guinea pigs are friendly pets that need to be looked after by a friendly caring hand for them to completely come out of their shell due to their prey drive.
Please see the below guidance regarding the care for our little guinea pigs.
Guinea pigs are very social creatures as they lived in big herds in the wild. They need to interact with their own species, ie other guinea pigs.
Thus guinea pigs should be housed with other guinea pig(s). If you were considering getting a single guinea pig because you will be able to spend ample time with them then please keep this in mind.
Guinea pigs sleep roughly only 4 hours a day, thus they are awake for 20 hours. Let’s say that you spend a lot of time with you guinea pig (+- 4 hours a day) in between work and other chores. If you equivalent that to0 a week then your guinea pig will have company for just over a day per week, this means that your guinea pig has no interactions for about 6 out of 7 days.
Thus we cannot stress enough that your little guinea needs a friend.
Guinea pigs are often housed together with bunnies. This is never a good idea for the following reasons:
- Picture having only one friend to talk to and then they do not even speak your language.
- Guinea pigs are also significantly smaller than rabbits and are thus often bullied by rabbits.
Remember one kick from a rabbit can fatally injure a guinea pig.
Guinea Pig Sounds
Guinea pigs are quite vocal creatures with many different sounds.
- Wheeking: this is a noise of excitement, usually connected to food. This is also a noise that is only made to humans and not a noise made to other guinea pigs. Many guinea pigs will make a very loud wheeking noise in anticipation of getting some tasty treats when their owners open the fridge or get out the food container.
- Purring: Purrs have different meanings, depending on the pitch of the sound and the accompanying body language. Guinea pigs that feel contented and comfortable will make a deep purring sound, accompanied by a relaxed, calm posture. However, if the purr is higher pitched, especially towards the end of the purr, this is more likely a sound of annoyance. In fact, a guinea pig making this noise will be tense and may seem to even vibrate. A short purr, sometimes described as a “durr,” may indicate fear or uncertainty, usually accompanied by the guinea pig remaining motionless.
- Rumbling: A guinea pig rumble is deeper than a purring noise. It is made when a male romances a female and sometimes females in season also make it. Often accompanied by a sort of “mating dance” called “rumble strutting”.
- Teeth chattering and hissing: This is a warning sound to show that they are NOT happy at all. Teeth chattering is often accompanied by the guinea pig showing its teeth, which looks like a yawn, and it means “back off” or “stay away.”
- Shrieking: A piercing, high-pitched squeak called a shriek is a fairly unmistakable call of alarm, fear, or pain from a guinea pig. If you hear this sound, it would be good to check on your guinea pigs to make sure everything is OK and none of them is hurt.
- Whining: A whining or moaning type of squeak can communicate annoyance or dislike for something you or another guinea pig is doing.
- Chirping: This sounds just like a bird chirping and is perhaps the least understood (or heard) noise that guinea pigs make. A chirping guinea pig may also appear to be in a trancelike state. There is no definite answer to the meaning of this sound.
Please follow the following link for a YouTube video regarding guinea pig sounds:
Little Adventures – Guinea Pig Noises & What They Mean: https://youtu.be/BB8j3X3UyZA
Breed of Guinea Pigs
|Abyssinian guinea pig||
This breed is a popular breed to keep as a pet as they are not very high maintenance and require minimal grooming.
The Abyssinian is different from other breeds of guinea pig due to its coat, which is marked with radially growing swirls or cowlicks of hair referred to as rosettes.
The Abyssinia guinea pig actually originates from South America.
|American guinea pig||
This is the most common breed of guinea pig and the most popularly chosen as a pet.
They are very low maintenance due to this short straight hair. They do not need to be groomed on a regular basis like the long-haired guineas.
|Peruvian guinea pig||
The abnormally long fur of the Peruvian guinea pig is due to an autosomal recessive gene. Peruvian guinea pigs are unable to groom themselves thus they are a very high maintenance guinea pig.
The Peruvian is one of the best-known long-haired guinea pigs.
|Teddy Guinea pig||
The Teddy guinea pig gets its name from its coat. Their cot makes them look like little teddy bears. Their fur has more hair than other guinea pig breeds, thus it is denser. They are not a high-maintenance breed, though weekly grooming is advised.
Another difference between the Teddy and other Guinea pigs is their “Roman nose” which is wider and curves upward.
|Texel guinea pig||
This is a newer breed of guinea pig (Silkie x Rex). They were first bred around the 1980’s. They were officially recognised as their own breed in 1998.
They have long, shiny curly hair. They thus require a bit more care than the short hair guineas.
|Sheltie guinea pig||
The Sheltie guinea pig, also known as a Silkie, has very plush hair. Their coat is also long and needs a lot of attention.
Thus regular grooming is a necessity and more experienced owners are advised.
|Rex guinea pig||
The Rex guinea has short, dense wavy coat and a hedgehog-like appearance. They also available in longer-haired, wavy haired variants.
A Rex guinea Pig requires some special attention, as their toe nails grow at a faster rate. For this reason, they require more grooming than other Guinea Pig breeds may.
|Baldwin guinea pig||
Baldwin guinea pigs start off with a full set of hair; they then start to lose their hair from 2 to 5 days after birth. They lose all of their hair over the course of 2 months.
The Baldwin guinea pig was discovered by Carol Miller, a breeder in California, the result of a spontaneous, recessive mutation in her White Crested guinea pigs.
Their care is much like that of other guinea pigs. However, lacking a coat they are a bit more sensitive to temperature extremes and must be protected from drafts as well as direct sunlight. They also tend to eat more to maintain their metabolism and body heat. And remember, what comes in must come out. Thus they need more regular cage cleaning.
Skinny pigs are near hairless guinea pigs. Skinny pigs are a relatively new breed of guinea pigs. They were originally created in a lab in 1978 by crossing a hairless guinea pig breed (Baldwin) with a haired guinea pig.
You might want to know the differences between a Baldwin and a skinny pig. Baldwins are originally born with hair and they lose their hair as time passes to become completely bald. Where a skinny pig is not born with much hair and they usually only have hair on their faces and feet, some however have some hair over their body as well, they are referred to as werewolf skinny pigs.
We always say the bigger the better. They need a flat surface to run around in as they are very active little animals. They do not do well with ramps, wheels etc as they can easily fall and break something. Thus before taking in guinea pigs please consider if you have enough space.
The minimum cage size recommended for two guinea pigs should be 120cm x 60cm x 45cm, however for the sake of your guinea pig’s health and happiness, consider providing as large a cage for them as possible.
There are a lot of different cage option available, please try and avoid pet store cages as they are not big enough for your guinea pig. There are a lot of more affordable DIY cages that you can make if you are willing to pit in the work. You can also have a look at the plastic playpens available at places like plastic land etc.
Please keep in mind that an open air environment is better for guinea pigs. Cages like fish tanks where airflow is limited can lead to upper respiratory issues in guinea pigs. Thus cages need to be well ventilated.
Please see some examples below:
You get different types of bedding that suit different households.
Paper bedding (Usually Kaytee or Carefresh):
This is a very soft bedding tht is kind on the guinea pigs, especially suitable for Skinny pigs and Baldwin guineas. This bedding absorbs some of the odour but the bedding is still messy. This is an expensive alternative.
This bedding is expensive at first but definitely the least expensive in the long run, this is also kind to the guinea pigs if kept dry and clean. Usually good quality fleece liners can be washed in the machine and reused for a couple of years. To order fleece products please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
• Kitty litter
• Corn Cobs
• Raw straw
• Cedar shavings
• Pine Shavings
• Scented trees
Guinea pigs are prey animals and thus need ample hiding spaces to feel safe in their environment. There are a lot of creative ways to incorporate hiding spaces into the cage:
Here is a list of items needed in a guinea pig cage, please keep in mind that some guinea pigs are territorial, thus you may need more than one of each item.
• Food bowl
• Water bowl / bottle: When using a bottle please ensure not to use the bottles with the springs in front. Those are better suited for rabbits and other larger animals as guineas are not always strong enough to move the spring to let water through.
• Hide’s: Please make sure you have at least one hidey per guinea pig. This is very important as many guineas do not share their hiding places at all.
• Litter tray: This is not a necessity, but does help to speed up cleaning as a lot of guineas prefer to o their business in a specific area in the cage.
• Toys: Guineas love to chew on items, thus provide them with some guinea pig safe chew toys as they grow bored quite easily.
Guinea pigs should receive a balances meal every day. The ideal combination per guinea pig per day is:
• 1 cup of veggies (See below for a list of food allowed and not allowed)
• 1 big spoon of pellets (Burgess or Selective)
• Unlimited hay (Timothy, Inja, Russel rabbit hay etc)
Veggies and Fruits
• Cucumber – Low nutritional value but high water content
• Bell Peppers – Green, Yellow & Red (remove all seeds)
• Carrots – Both the root & green tops (take note of the high sugar content though)
• Butterhead Lettuce
• Romaine Lettuce (In moderation)
• Red leaf Lettuce
• Swiss Chard
• Curly Endive
• Sweet Potato Leaves
• Chicory Greens
• Mint (In moderation)
Note that the below fruits should be fed in moderation as they are very high in sugar, thus n more than once a week in very small quantities.
• Apple (remove all seeds – contains Cyanide compounds)
• Pear (no seeds)
• Dried Apricot
• Banana (very low quantities)
• Seedless Grapes or Raisins (but not both)
• Watermelon (in very low quantities)
• Cranberries (low quantities)
• Cherries (without pips)
Please note that the below should NEVER be fed to guinea pigs!!
• Grapes (Can cause Kidney desease)
• Altered foods such as canned or cooked foods
• Pickled veggies
• Nuts, seeds, lentils, beans (exceptions are green beans)
• Red hot chilli peppers
• Collard greens
• Bok Choy
• Dairy products, meat, fish, eggs, bread, chocolates
• Alcohol, teas, coffee, carbonated drinks
• Iceberg lettuce
• Corn kernels (popcorn)
• Seeds (choke hazard)
• Tomato leaves and stalks
• Avocado, coconut (too high in fat)
• Jams, jellys and fruit preservatives
• Horseradish root
• Commercially grown flowers
Interesting to know: Veggies and Fruits
Here is a fantastic article on Guinea Pig Diet, written by an exotic vet in Germany who is also a Guinea Pig Mom herself.
German animal care standards are one of the leading standards in the world. They are years ahead in research and knowledge on exotic pet care.
What do I feed my Guinea Pigs?!
Herbs, herbs and more herbs. Why? Because research as shown that this is the closest to natural diet that a guinea pig can receive and it meets all the requirements for nutrients, vitamins and minerals, ensures good dental condition and is best for the intestine and digestion.
What about vegetables? What about Vitamin C?
Vegetables are great treat but are not completely necessary. We give vegetables maybe twice a week. We, do, however, often given fresh grass along with hay and greens.
Herbs also contain Vitamin C! Most fresh produce does!
And as long they receive their daily amount of pellets, there isn’t a need to supplement with additional high vitaminc C vegetables.
“Normal vegetables such as carrots, fennel, celery, peppers, cucumber, parsnips, kohlrabi, broccoli, beetroot etc. should be fed cautiously! On the one hand, all of these vegetables fill you up much faster than greens, which is not ideal for tooth abrasion, and “normal” vegetables cannot be grinded by the teeth, they have to be chewed. If given too much, “normal” vegetables can lead to dental problems. In addition, these vegetables contain almost no structured crude fiber that is essential for the intestines. Too many “normal” vegetables can therefore lead to indigestion. In small quantities, however, such vegetables are often in great demand and can be fed. Fruit has the same disadvantages as “normal” vegetables and also contains a lot of sugar”
The rules for a good diet:
1. The food must provide nutrients, vitamins, minerals in the right amount
2. The food must ensure that the teeth are optimally worn and the tooth roots are spared
3. The food must optimally nourish the bacteria in the intestine and support the intestinal motor skills
Grooming and general care
This is based on the type of guinea pig you have.
The rule of thumb is the more hair the more grooming is needed. Long haired guinea pigs like your Peruvian guinea pigs also need to have regular hair trims as the hair can become knotted or they can step on it.
The short haired guinea pigs like your American guinea pigs do not need much grooming as they tend to take care of yourself. If you are a beginner guinea pig owner the short haired guineas are a good first choice.
Due to the bedding used for guinea pigs their nails tend to grow quite long and need to be trimmed at least every 6 weeks.
This can be quite stressful for the owners. If the owner is too nervous at first the guinea can be taken to a vet for trimming where the vet can assist and give guidance to the owners.
If you do accidentally cut into the Kwik of the nail you can use the following methods to stop the bleeding:
• Kwik-Stop powder or other commercial styptic powder product• Cornstarch or flour can also be used in a similar manner
• You can try pressing the nail into a bar of soap or bees wax.
• For minor bleeding, simply applying pressure to the tip of the nail may be effective.
Guinea pigs clean themselves on a daily basis, thus giving them baths is not necessary.
Giving a guinea a bath can have more risks than rewards.
You may think that they will feel great if they are clean but baths often times lead to illnesses like pneumonia or it damages their natural oils.
Thus only bath your guinea when they are super dirty or a vet tells you it is necessary.
Health related information
Health checks are an important part of owning guinea pigs. Whether they are skinny pigs or guinea pigs.
Piggies can go from 100 to 0 in a matter of hours. They are prey animals and thus they try to hide their illnesses for as long as possible.
It is thus important to know where an exotics vet is situated before acquiring your piggy.
To help spot illnesses weekly health checks are a good way to go.
There are a couple of things to do regularly:
- Weighing your piggy: This is the easiest way to see when they are not feeling well. If your piggy loses more than 50g then that can be a cause for concern.
- Checking their body for lumps: piggies are prone to lumps. This can either be cancerous or a cyst. Both needs veterinary attention.
- Eyes: Piggies get hay pokes quite easily and if you catch it fast enough then the recovery rate is a lot higher.
- Ears: there is a lot of bacteria that forms in the ears. This regular cleaning is necessary.
- Nail clipping: This is important to do every 6 weeks at least. (Please see above grooming tips for guidance)
If you have a boar there is an additional check that you need to perform. Ie boar cleaning. I prefer to do this at least once monthly.
Please see a video below on how to perform health checks on your piggies.
General items to consider
Guinea pigs hide illnesses very well due to their prey instincts. They do not want to appear weak as that will make them targets to predators. It is thus very important to know which symptoms to look for and to perform regular health checks.
Signs & Symptoms of illness:
- Crust on the eyes, nose, ears & genitals
- Hair loss
- Red skin
- Dry flaky skin
- Sneezing, couching or wheezing
- Low appetite
- Inability to move around much
- Excessive scratching
- Squealing when being picked up or touched
- Hopping instead of running/walking
- Watery, small or less poops then normal (be aware of poop colour too)
- Gritty, sludgy or discoloured urine
- Ulcerations anywhere on the body, mouth or feet
- Cloudy, red, or sunken eyes
- Refusal to drink water
Always ensure that you have a Guinea Pig First Aid Kit at home
- Baytril antibiotics (the only safe antibiotics for Guinea Pigs)
- Several sizes of syringes (without needles)
- Suspension medication for a runny tummy
- Revolution (Kitten & Puppy) for Mites and other parasites
- Antiseptic/ anti-fungal/ antibacterial ointment or spray (F10 works well)
- Nail clippers
- Exocin eye drops
- Sterile gauze
- A sharp pair of safety scissors (rounded point so as not to harm your Guinea Pig)
- A few packets of Guinea Pig Critical Care.
- A clean towel or blanket
- If you can find it, PURE Cranberry juice (for bladder issues).
Upper Respiratory Infections (URI)
Guinea pigs spend much of their time around air that is filled with small particles, and as such they are quite prone to developing infections within their respiratory systems: their noses, throats and lungs.
Some symptoms of a respiratory infection include listlessness, lack of movement, lack of eating, a puffed up coat, sneezing, coughing, wheezing, and/or discharge from the nose and eyes.
If you notice any of these symptoms you need to take your guinea to the vet immediately as this can be life threatening. This can develop into pneumonia. Your guinea will need antibiotics to clear up the infection.
Please note that this is very urgent as the guinea could pass away within a few hours after the symptoms appear.
This is thus not treatable through home remedies!
Scurvy is caused due to a vitamin C deficiency in guinea pigs as their bodies cannot produce their own VitC, thus they should be supplied with it in their diets.
If they are not spplied with enough this can cause bone and blood vessel abnormalities, enlarged adrenal glands, bleeding in the limb joints, rib muscles and intestines.
The average guinea pig needs between 10 and 30 mg/kg daily for good health.
The signs of Scurvy include:
- Lethargy, weakness, unwillingness to move
- Hopping instead of walking, enlarged or stiff limb joints
- Not eating, loss of weight
- Eye and nose discharge
- Rough coat
Immediate medical attention is required for guinea with scurvy.
Mange mites are deadly to guinea pigs.
The leave large wounds on the guinea due to scratching and biting as the mites make them very itchy. During severe cases death is caused by dehydration due to the large wounds. The mites can also cause seizures in guinea pigs
Mites will seldom leave the guinea unless brushed onto the bedding or as a result of overpopulation or the death of the guinea. With no guinea, they will usually die within 3 weeks. However the eggs, which are laid in burrows in the skin, may survive independently for long periods of time.
Mites can be transmitted through invested animals or invected hay batches, thus no matter if your animal does not come into contact with others, they can be invected through eating their hay.
Precautions can be implemented.
It is recommended to treat your guinea pigs with ½ vile of Kitty and Puppy Revolution every 3 months to stop the spread of mites.
Abscesses are form due to infections, the guinea’s body produces a substances in order to try and get the problem under control. Abscesses can occur anywhere on your guinea pig. It can sometimes be identified by a hard ‘abscess capsule’ that will form around it. Abscesses can develop both under and on the skin of your guinea pig. If you notice that the area around an open wound is swollen and red, and develops into a capsule, then your guinea pig has an abscess.
The guinea will need medical attention to drain the abscess with antibiotics to get the infection under control.
Be sure to wash the infected area with a mild disinfectant from your vet, and then it’s a good idea to provide the poor guinea pig with lots of vitamin C.
Tumours can occur all over your guinea pig, and if you do feel a lump then we advise taking your guinea pig to the vet, especially if it’s appeared very suddenly. Guinea pigs are capable of getting cancer, but in less serious circumstances the lumps may actually be treatable cysts. If a lump is hard, it may be a harmless fatty cyst, but if the lump grows or is rather large then a trip to the vets is needed.
Guinea pigs exposed to high temperatures could suffer from heat stroke, for example over 25 or 26 degrees celsius. They have thick fur and they do not have the ability to sweat to help regulate their body temperature. Thus they are not supposed to be kept in direct sunlight. Skinny pigs are also prone to sunburn.
If your guinea pig is lying down and breathing very rapidly, then you’ll need to put a bit of cool (but not icy) water onto it to help it cool down, and move it into a cool spot, preferably one that has a nice breeze. If it’s still panting, put a bit more of this cool water on it and keep a close eye on your pet. To help prevent heatstroke, give your guinea pigs plenty of shaded areas to rest in and keep them in a well-ventilated area out of direct sunlight.
As rodents, guinea pigs have both continuously growing incisors (front teeth) and molars (chewing or back teeth). Thus this can lead to serious problems if the guinea pigs don’t have enough items to chew on in their cage.
Guinea pigs with dental disease are typically extremely interested in food, but reluctant to eat. They may drop food while chewing, refuse harder food types, dribble, or have difficulty chewing and swallowing.
There is usually weight loss, which may be accompanied by diarrhoea, constipation or depression. Dental disease is very common in guinea pigs, so owners should be vigilant in order to treat early, before the development of secondary problems.
Bladder stones and Urinary Tract Infections (UTI’s)
Bladder stones are a condition in which stones form within the urinary system due to a build-up of calcium. This is very serious conditions which can lead to death within 24 hours of the symptoms arising. Thus a trip to the vet is necessary.
Symptoms include little to no urination, a distended bladder (the stomach will be quite hard), and you may be able to feel stones within your guinea pig. Your pet also may sound as if it’s in distress whilst it’s urinating.
Calcium build-up in the bladder can lead to bloody urine and infections, so keep an eye out for this in your guinea pigs’ litter. If you do spot some blood, then that guinea pig needs a trip to the vet.
Guinea pigs are prone to ringworm (Trichophyton mentagropytes), this cannot be treated with Revolution like with mites, and it requires antifungal cream (preferably like F10) which can be obtained from your vet.
Guinea pigs can catch ringworm from other infected guinea pigs or they may even pick up the fungus from their environment if an object or their bedding is contaminated.
The first sign of a ringworm infection in guinea pigs, is the appearance of bald patches which typically develop around their heads.
The scientific name: Ulcerative pododermatitis
This is an extremely painful infection of the footpad. The footpad is swollen and may be crusted and/or bleeding. In severe cases, the cavy may be reluctant to move, depressed, and anorexic. This can become very serious in a short amount of time, especially if the infection spreads to the bone, this may lead to the amputation of the leg or death.
Bumble foot can be caused by the following:
- Rough bedding
- Wired cage bottoms
- Dirty cag environments
Beginning phases of Bumble foot
More serious stage of Bumble foot
A vet will need to be consulted I you notice this in your guinea.