While guinea pigs do not need vaccines, they are still complicated little creatures that need an annual health check if you want to keep them healthy. There are also lots of things that you can do to keep the veterinary bills at a minimum and you can find more info here, in our comprehensive article.
When do guinea pigs require veterinary assistance?
A guinea pig has an average lifespan of 4 to 6 years, and while that might seem short to you, for them it is anything but that and with proper care, you can extend the lifespan of your furry pal and provide it with a healthy and happy life.
While all guinea pigs can develop health problems that will require veterinary care, older piggies are more prone to them than younger critters. These pets are prey animals and they try to hide any sickness and that means it can be very tricky to know when your guinea pig is unhealthy and by the time you notice any signs, your pet might have been sick for a while.
No matter how cautious you may be, your pet is bound to face illness at some point in its life and it is important to recognize the signs fast and seek treatment as soon as possible. General guidelines that can help you tell when your critter is sick includes any sudden change in behavior such as scratching, licking or vocalizing more or less.
Any change in eating or drinking is also a sign that something may be wrong with your pet, so you need to be on the lookout and see if your furball is ingesting less food or refusing its favorite snacks. You will also need to be wary of any change in appearance such as swollen areas, flaky skin, loss of fur, and squinty eyes.
Unusual discharge from the body such as odd urine and feces, bleeding, or runny nose and eyes should be met with a quick visit to the veterinarian as well. Lastly, health problems may also cause changes in the movement for your pet, causing it to start limping or become outright unwilling to move.
Common guinea pig health issues
We can’t cover all of the medical concerns that guinea pigs have, but we have decided to make a list of the most common health issues that can send your pet to the veterinarian. Do keep in mind that each pet is unique and it is entirely possible for your critter to reach old age without any major health concern if you take care of it properly.
Just like humans, guinea pigs require vitamin C because their bodies cannot make it for them, and when your critter does not get enough vitamin C from its diet, many things can happen. Teeth can loosen, fur can get rough and joints can swell.
A guinea pig that has a vitamin C deficiency will stop eating and have diarrhea and gut stasis. While this can be very painful for your pet, it is preventable by giving your fellow companion a high-fiber diet that consists of plenty of hay. Your vet may also prescribe vitamin C supplements if they are needed.
Respiratory problems are also common for these critters and bacterial pneumonia is one of the most important ones. Similarly to vitamin C deficiency, you have complete control over whether your pet will develop it.
As long as you keep your pet’s home clean and dry, and make sure that the piggie is kept in a room that has good airflow and normal humidity, your pet should be safe.
Signs of pneumonia include sneezing, coughing, wheezing, weight loss, discharge from the nose and eyes, and a general sickly look. Other types of pneumonia that your piggie might get include viral pneumonia and Bordetella. In the case of Bordetella, you can prevent it by not having your guinea pig come into contact with dogs and rabbits.
Abscesses are also very common in guinea pigs and they can appear almost anywhere on the body or in the body. The severity of them can vary on a case by case basis which is why you should inspect your furry pal daily by petting it and looking for any unusual lumps on the body.
Because guinea pigs have teeth that keep on growing constantly and a very small mouth, dental problems are inevitable. If teeth are not worn down properly, they can overgrow and your pet may develop an uneven bite. As long as you give your critter a balanced diet with lots of food for it to gnaw at, you can save yourself lots of visits to the vet later on.
Ringworm is another common affliction in guinea pigs and while the name may have you think of a worm, it is actually a skin infection that is caused by a fungus. It causes scaly and itchy bald spots that generally start on the head and then move to the back and the rest of the body.
You can prevent ringworm by keeping the environment clean and not letting your pet get into contact with any infected animals.
Guinea pigs are also prone to diabetes and if your pet suddenly starts to drink more water or eats normally but still loses weight, this could be caused by a lack of insulin or too little of it. While the cause of diabetes in guinea pigs is still under discussion, keeping your pet into normal weight limits can help in this regard since overweight pets are more prone to it.
If your critter does get diabetes, your vet will advise changes in diet and oral or injected medication which might be required either for the rest of its life or only once since diabetes can go into remission in guinea pigs.
Regardless of these common illnesses, you should always contact your veterinarian if you suspect that your pet is ill or something else is wrong with it. Especially since each critter is unique and its response to certain health issues may differ.
Vaccination and neutering
Unlike most other similarly sized furry caged pets such as ferrets or rabbits, guinea pigs don’t have a standard vaccination to protect them against transmissible health conditions and illnesses. While this makes the cost of caring for your pet significantly cheaper, it does not mean you should stop taking it to the vet for an annual health check.
Annual health checks are very important since they let your vet keep track not only of your pet’s health but also its wellness and condition. This is essential since it lets the vet spot any potential problems that cannot be noticed by the owner.
If you’re wondering about neutering your guinea pig you should know that while this practice is not as widespread as it is with other pets, a guinea pig can still be neutered if necessary. If your critter stays in the cage with a same-sex companion, then neutering is not necessary.
It is only when you have females and males together that neutering can become a necessity if you don’t want them to breed. For guinea pigs, it is the male pet that needs to be neutered.
Help your pet stay healthy
While you can’t prevent all illnesses, you can keep your pet healthy and happy for longer if you follow a few simple tips. First, the cage should offer at least 7.5 square feet of space for your pet to explore. Larger cages are better especially since your guinea pig will need a companion. Having enough room to exercise and play is very important in keeping your pet healthy.
The diet you provide your critter is equally essential and as is the case with most pets, your guinea pig needs a balanced diet to keep it in top shape and help its digestive system run smoothly. These critters need to have access to unlimited and clean hay every single day, and that does not include the hay you use for bedding.
They also need appropriate pellets and fresh vegetables each day. You may offer fruits but only in moderation since the sugar level in them is high and as we mentioned earlier, guinea pigs can get diabetes. Do remember to keep their cage clean and let them out of the cage a few times a week.
You must also give them lots of toys and affection since guinea pigs are social animals and they should always have another one of their kind to keep them company. As long as you follow these simple tips, you’ll find that not only will your pet be happier, but it will also be happier and your veterinary bills will no longer have to be a burden.