Guinea Pigs are extremely affectionate animals that could prove great companions for you and your children. However, if you want to make sure they live a long and healthy life, don’t forget to feed them superior quality food like Oxbow Guinea pig food and look after their health. These rodents can easily become overweight or obese or suffer from respiratory diseases.
Guinea pigs are amongst the most common pets found in American households as they are quite easy to look after and don’t demand your full attention 24/7. They don’t need to be taken out for a walk daily and won’t turn your house into a mess when you’re gone for more than a few hours.
Unfortunately, many owners forget that these adorable pets can also get sick and suffer if they are not fed the right food, don’t exercise enough or catch a virus. Let’s take a closer look at the most common health problems your Guinea piggy could develop and see how you can avoid or treat them.
Vitamin C deficiency is one of the most common health issues observed in Guinea pigs. Similar to primates, these rodents cannot produce their own vitamin C, meaning their diet should be rich in foods containing this vitamin. You shouldn’t rule out vitamin C supplements either, especially if your pet is picky.
This ingredient is vital to the normal development of joints, while it will also strengthen the jaws and help your rodent with its fur. The lack of this vitamin in the pig’s body could lead to a series of other health problems, including swollen feet and joints, diarrhea, apathy, ulcers on the skin or gums, and infections.
Based on your pet’s size, age, gender, and general lifestyle, it should receive anywhere between 10 and 50 mg of vitamin C daily. Most of the pellets and dry foods created especially for the needs of Guinea pigs are enriched with the vitamin, as well as other minerals, nutrients, and natural antioxidants to boost your pet’s immune system and support its growth.
If you question the efficiency of these dry foods, you should take your pet to a vet to run some tests. A doctor should be able to say whether or not the rodent requires additional vitamin C supplements or should change some of its dietary habits.
Overweight and obesity
Guinea pigs are the biggest rodents and also enjoy a rather high lifespan of up to 8-10 years in captivity. Out of all the health problems they might develop throughout their lives, obesity will occur in at least 60% of the cases.
There are many reasons why your pet can become obese, and this includes lack of physical movement, depression, eating too much food or eating food that’s too concentrated or rich in nutrients it doesn’t need.
Guinea pigs, as well as hamsters and all other rodents, are hoarders, meaning they have specifically designed cheek pouches to store food in them. This practice could easily determine the owner to think the pet has eaten all the food, hence providing it with more.
Another reason why Guinea pigs can develop problems with their weight is the lack of physical activity. When in captivity, these rodents should live in large cages, filled with tunnels, chewing toys, and running wheels to prevent boredom and help them stay in shape. Ideally, you should also take your pet out of its cage for about half an hour a day and allow it to wander freely around the house or a single room.
Depression or anxiety can also force these cute furballs to overeat. Sudden changes in diet, living in a hostile environment or not having a companion are all factors that can negatively impact the piggy’s health, leading to eating disorders.
Keep in mind that Guinea pigs are social creatures that were not meant to live alone but with at least one companion. You may cuddle your pet often and even sleep with it or spend hours grooming its fur but you will never be enough.
Contrary to public opinion, these rodents can also suffer from anorexia from similar reasons. They develop preferences in the earliest stages of their lives, meaning they can be extremely picky with their food. Even if it seems like your pet is eating the food you bought, in reality, it is only picking what it likes, which means it can easily develop vitamin deficiencies.
A slight change in your Guinea pig’s eating habits, pellets or food brand can determine it to stop eating, which will lead to weight loss, hair fall, and other more dangerous health problems.
We cannot stress enough the importance of a balanced and nutritious diet, rich in high-quality pellets for your pig. Keep in mind that these rodents are strictly herbivorous, so a good source of veggies and hay should suffice. Don’t forget about the previously mentioned vitamin C supplements and you should be able to offer everything your pet needs to grow healthy and strong.
Switching from one food brand or formula to another can cause stressful situations for your pet, and this is why the transition should be made as smoothly as possible. Ideally, the transition should be smooth, over a period of around two weeks. Start by replacing a small amount of the old pellets with the new food and gradually increase the amount by a quarter after the first week.
A healthy diet is also linked to the wellbeing of the gastrointestinal system. Unless your Guinea pig receives enough vitamin C and fibers through food, the gastrointestinal system could stop functioning properly.
One of the most common health conditions is gut stasis, where the GI tract slows down. This can occur due to a poor diet lacking the necessary fibers or other illnesses. We suggest taking your pet to a vet immediately and closely following the prescribed treatment which may often include fluid replacement, supportive care, vitamin C supplementation, and even syringe feeding.
Never give your Guinea pig antibiotics or other drugs unless prescribed by a specialist and avoid playing it “by the ear”.
Ileus is another health problem caused when gas builds up in the gastrointestinal tract, more specifically in the stomach and the intestines. Since there is no food coming into the digestive system, the illness causes discomfort as your pet is unable to release the formed gas. This is a life-threatening problem and should be treated accordingly.
Keep in mind that Guinea pigs, similar to other rodents, should always be eating and defecating. If you notice your pet has lost its appetite or the number of passed stools has shrunk, you may want to take the rodent to a vet.
Guinea pigs are sensitive to cold air drafts and can easily develop respiratory problems or even pneumonia. This is why it’s highly important to consider the location of your pet’s cage.
Generally speaking, the cage should never be placed under a window or near open doors. Keeping the animals away from drafts will easily boost their immune system and prevent further health problems.
Make sure to also wash your hands if you touched another animal as some germs may be transmitted. If you notice that your pet is coughing or sneezing, take it to the vet immediately.
Also known as bladder stones, uroliths are formed in the bladder, causing pain and discomfort. Often enough, the urine is bloody and you may notice your pet to be extremely sensitive around the abdomen area. As with other infections, this one is quite serious and can lead to complications, and even death in some cases.
Unlike other pets, Guinea pigs should be taken to the vet more often to prevent and treat the slightest signs of infections before turning into life-threatening diseases. Apart from regular tests, make sure to also keep your pet active and healthy by providing high-quality pellets and endless supplies of hay.
Fresh fruits, veggies, and a clean source of fresh water should be provided daily. However, you may want to avoid ingredients that are too watery such as watermelon and cucumbers as they may cause diarrhea and an upset stomach.