Guinea pigs are amongst the preferred pets for Americans because they are convenient and less expensive to look after. However, this doesn’t mean that they won’t get sick, so make sure to read our recent post to find out more about how to properly keep them in good health. Regular visits to the vet, as well as good hygiene and a healthy diet, are the most important factors in preventing diseases, germs, bacteria, and parasites.
Although Guinea pigs are usually kept as indoor pets, this doesn’t mean that they cannot get in contact with germs, bacteria, dangerous parasites or pests. They are more sensitive than other rodents, so they will require constant visits to the vet if you want them to live a long, happy, and healthy life.
A thorough visit to the vet is also the best way to prevent your small, furry animal from succumbing to infections that can lead to serious health problems in the future. However, there are plenty of other ways to protect your Guinea pig, so let’s take a closer look at them.
Guinea pigs are amongst the biggest rodents and generally live between 5-8 years in captivity, sometimes even more. The average adult body weight ranges from 1.3-3 pounds, depending on the age, breed, and gender. Some Guinea pigs have a naturally increased appetite, while others are exposed to episodes of anorexia, especially because of stress.
The female pigs give birth to 1 up to 10 pups at the same time, with a total number of up to 5 litters per year. They are quite prolific, as one male named Sooty can vouch.
After escaping his cage and ending up locked in another one with no less than 24 females, Sooty bred with all of them, being now the proud father of 43 children. After he was found by his owners and put back into his cage, the pig slept for two days, probably recovering after playing the role of a Casanova for too many times.
The animals originated in South America and became popular pets in Europe around 300 years ago. They are easy to tame and represent wonderful companions for people of all ages, including children. However, they are social creatures and shouldn’t be kept without a pair, even if you offer them all your love and spare time.
Similar to chinchillas, Guinea pigs are prone to certain health affections so they require regular visits to the vet. Let’s take a closer look at how you can keep your furry animal safe and ensure it lives a long, happy, and healthy life.
Guinea pigs and worms
This furry rodent might pick up worms from the fresh food it eats, as well as from hay or grass that is offered to complete its diet. Whenever you are providing food to your Guinea pig, there is a slight chance that it is contaminated with insect eggs.
As we previously mentioned, one efficient way to make sure your pet remains healthy is to take it to the vet regularly and check it out. Apart from that, you should always thoroughly wash all the food ingredients the Guinea pig enjoys and pay close attention to any changes regarding its skin, appetite, fur, weight or stool.
What are the most common parasites your pet might contact?
Lice and mites
These are external parasites that can infect various small animals, including rabbits and Guinea pigs. Ear mites cause a thick, red crust to form inside the external ear. They are usually associated with other symptoms, including itching, head shaking or ear drooping.
Guinea pigs and rats can also get lice, which is followed by crustiness and mild skin inflammation, as well as hair loss and a dull coat. You should know that rodent lice are species-specific, meaning they will not affect humans. However, if you notice any of these signs on your pet, you should have it immediately checked by a vet for a complete treatment.
Another common parasite that affects most mammal species, including humans and rodents, are fleas. When your Guinea pig is infected with fleas, the animal might experience symptoms like loss of hair, skin redness, itchiness, crustiness, and a dull coat.
What other symptoms of parasitic infestation should you look at?
When your Guinea pig is affected by a parasitic infestation, it will rapidly start to lose weight because it won’t be able to absorb any nutrients through the walls of its intestine. Unless parasitic infestations are treated in time, they can lead to malnourishment and severe medical conditions.
Apart from that, other symptoms may also include runny droppings, itchiness, redness, bald patches, and an overall dull coat.
How can you protect your Guinea pig from parasites?
We cannot stress enough the importance of regular visits to the doctor. Keep in mind that Guinea pigs are rather sensitive animals, meaning they are prone to certain health problems, including parasites.
Although your pet might look like it doesn’t need too much care and pampering, you should constantly monitor it to notice any signs of potential problems. Unfortunately, not all owners can spot when something is wrong with their animals, which means that most parasites can spread faster and cause more damage.
As a general rule, you should take your pet for a routine check-up every six months in the first two years of its life to be able to notice any changes in its look or mood. A vet will be able to tell you more about the pig’s condition and if it suffers from a parasitic infestation.
It is essential to follow the vet’s treatment recommendations and never use over-the-counter medication or drugs that your doctor hasn’t previously approved. Keep in mind that most topical solutions and medication are not specifically designed for Guinea pigs, which means their effects might be limited. Moreover, not all products created for cats or dogs are safe for your cavy.
Apart from asking for professional help, there are some things you can do to prevent a parasite infestation in the first place.
Thus, you should start by providing a fresh and clean environment for your pet to live and thrive in. Make sure to thoroughly clean and disinfect the animal’s cage and all the accessories, including the toys, the exercise wheel, and the food and water trays. The bedding should be changed every week or more often, depending on how many animals live in the same cage.
If you’re hosting two or more Guinea pigs, you should provide fresh bedding every three days. Although most parasites are species-specific and cannot be transmitted from pigs to humans and vice versa, you should still pay attention to your hygiene as well by always washing your hands before and after handling your pet or its accessories.
Another way to look after your Guinea pig and prevent parasite infestation is to look after its diet. As we previously stated, all-natural ingredients such as fruits and veggies should be thoroughly washed before to prevent any eggs from developing. If your pet is used to pellets or hay, make sure you only purchase these foods from authorized and reputed sellers that have strict quality control.
Most of the Guinea pig parasites, especially worms and fleas can be completely treated if you follow the strict instructions of the vet. Topical substances, antibiotics, and all other treatments should be administered in the right dose. You should also try to offer the antibiotics around the same hour every day and provide a healthy, balanced, and organic diet for your pet to better absorb all necessary nutrients to fight with parasites.
Guinea pigs are social creatures, which means they should always live in pairs or small communities. However, keeping two or more animals under the same roof also means higher chances of them becoming sick or suffering from various health conditions.
Therefore, you should avoid introducing new animals before the anti-parasite treatment is complete and your pet is healthy. Look for any skin diseases, including bald patches, itchiness, redness or flaking and talk to your vet to find out the best topical solutions or antibiotics. Don’t forget to also boost your pet’s immune system with the help of vitamin supplements if they are approved by your vet.