Although guinea pigs do not require vaccinations, yearly check-ups including a dental examination by veterinarian is essential. Dental disease is common especially if their diet is low in fibre. Worming every three months is recommended using a product that is safe for guinea pigs like ‘Puppy and Kitten’ worming syrup. Guinea Pigs can also get fleas, mites and occasional ticks. A product like Revolution Puppy/Kitten is excellent for protection again fleas and mites.
Sexual maturity occurs very early in guinea pigs being at two months in females and three months in males. When your guinea pig reaches sexual maturity they can either be de-sexed or separated. Birthing difficulties are common in guinea pigs. Other common problems include skin mites, bladder/urethral stones and respiration disease. A guinea pigs life span is four to eight years.
Guinea pigs are herbivores and as they cannot produce their own vitamin C, it is essential they receive this in their diet. A high fibre diet of 70% grass, (or high quality grass or oat hay), 30% a variety of vegetables (broccoli, spinach, parsley, kale and tomatoes). Carrots and other fruits can be given occasionally as they are high in sugar. Avoid celery and lettuce as they are of little nutritional value. Good quality grass hay pellet diets can be used for up to 10% of the diet. Guinea pig and rabbit “seed muesli mix” is not appropriate as it is high in sugar and very low in fibre. Food and water need to fresh, so change daily. Rhubarb leaves and potato peelings are toxic to guinea pigs. Store their food in a dark cool place as UV light degrades vitamin C.
Guinea pigs who live outdoors need protection from the extremes of heat and cold. Housing can be made from plastic or untreated wood. Your cage size should be at least 70cm x 70xm for one guinea pig and a concealed area is also important so they can feel safe and secure. Avoid mesh wire on the floor; their bedding should be made of soft pine non-treated wood shavings. Saw dust can cause respiratory problems and cedar shavings can cause skin irritation. Good ventilation and at least weekly changing of the bedding is needed to prevent respiratory infections from build-up of ammonia from the urine. Guinea pigs also need access to sunshine and exercise.
One or more?
Guinea pigs are social animals, herd animals and prefer company of one or two other guinea pigs. This does not affect their bonding with you; it just allows them to be happier when you are not interacting with them. If you have a male and female together make sure one or both is de-sexed to prevent unwanted litters, de-sexing the male is an easier procedure; however if two females are fighting de-sexing one of them will help them get along. The sexing of guinea pigs is quite difficult therefore it recommended that your veterinarian does this.