Inner South Veterinary Centre
47 Jerrabomberra Ave
- 1800 785 330
Guinea pigs, also known as cavies are a type of South American Rodent. The females are called sows, the males boars and the babies pups or young. Guinea pigs reach breeding age at around 2 months old. Pregnancy lasts on average 68 days and they have on average 4 young.
Poor diet is a leading cause of health problems in guinea pigs, leading to dental problems, gastrointestinal problems and obesity. Many commercial diets are inadequate for their needs. In the wild guinea pigs eat a wide variety of fibrous vegetation. It is recommended to provide pet guinea pigs with a constant supply of fresh grass and/or grass hay. Grass hays include meadow, pasture, ryegrass, oaten, wheaten, timothy and paddock hays. Avoid legume hays such as lucerne and clover as they are too high in protein and calcium. We recommend Oxbow Timothy Hay.
In addition to hay, guinea pigs should be provided with at least 3 different vegetables or herbs each day. Suitable vegetables include; broccoli, cabbage, celery, endive, carrot tops, Brussels sprouts, spinach leaves, Asian greens and dark leafed lettuce varieties. Suitable herbs include; parsley, dandelion, coriander, basil, dill and mint. Fresh leafy greens are very important as they are rich in vitamin C. Guinea pigs have a very high vitamin C requirement.
A premium quality commercial pellet mix, such as Oxbow Cavie Cuisine should be offered in small amounts – 1/8th cup/day. Pellets should make up 5% of the diet for a guinea pig.
Treats can be offered but only in small quantities (maximum of 1-2 tablespoons per guinea pig per day). Suitable treats include; most fruits, root vegetables (carrot, sweet potato) and capsicum.
Desexing is recommended at 4-6 months of age or at around 200g body weight. In boars this helps to prevent disease, particularly accumulations of secretion around the genital areas or behavioural aggression. Desexing is of benefit in sows as it eliminates the problem of ovarian cysts and unexpected pregnancy. The procedure is a little more involved in sows and needs to be discussed with your veterinarian.
If you notice any of the following then you need to seek veterinary attention:
Guinea Pigs have amazing teeth! They have a set of sharp, chisel like incisor teeth used for plucking and cutting up food. This is followed by a large gap, or diastema, and a set of four cheek teeth on top and the bottom jaw, both left and right. All their teeth grow continuously. They wear against each other in a very particular pattern. This maintains the length of the tooth and the cutting edges of the teeth in top condition.
This very dynamic mouth is the reason Guinea Pigs are able to thrive on grass. They are experts and snipping it up and grinding it down! However, if their teeth grow out of alignment they can end up with some serious problems!
Teeth may grow out of alignment for several reasons. Congenital malocclusions occur when the Guinea Pig is born with a face or jaw malformation that leads to incorrect tooth wear. Acquired malocclusions occur when incorrect diet or incorrect chewing action lead to incorrect tooth wear.
Sharp spurs and spikes can form on the edges of the teeth and stab into the Guinea Pigs tongue and lips. These spurs can get so long over the tongue they can trap it against the bottom of the mouth, preventing the Guinea Pig from moving food around its mouth properly. Incisors can over grow and eventually the Guinea Pig is unable to pick up food with these overlong teeth.
Often the only sign of dental problems is a reluctance to eat food that used to be happily consumed. Refusal to eat hard pellets or vegetables that require biting and chewing such as whole carrots or a refusal to eat long strands of hay with a preference for soft grasses and green leafy vegetables are warning signs. If you notice any of these changes please seek veterinary attention for your pet.
Our veterinarians are happy to help you establish the best home care routine to care for your pet’s dental health. Diet and lifestyle are vitally important factors and you can have a huge influence on this important aspect of your pet’s care. Remember, a happy Guinea Pig has a healthy mouth and you can help them so much with this!
Guinea pigs are social animals so keeping more than one may be considered. Suitable mixes include 2 females, male and female (if you want many young!) or mixes of neutered guinea pigs. It is not recommended to mix guinea pigs with rabbits as guinea pigs can get diseases from rabbits and they may bully each other.
Hutches need to be rain proof and provide protection from predators and temperature extremes. They should be easily cleaned and well ventilated. Soiled bedding should be removed daily and the hutch should be totally cleaned weekly. Suitable bedding materials include; hay, straw and paper cat litter. It is good to provide “bolt holes” in the form of upturned boxes or covered areas for guinea pigs to retire to. Guinea pigs should be given the opportunity to exercise outside the hutch for a few hours each day.