Guinea pigs make lovely pets, with their cute personalities and soft fur. Though they are small and live in cages, they do require careful and regular care in order to keep them healthy. To ensure your guinea pig does not end up in the vet's office, make sure you avoid these common care mistakes.
Mistake #1: Using cedar or pine bedding.
Though some companies do market cedar bedding for pets like guinea pigs, it is not the best thing to be using. Cedar wood contains potent oils that may irritate your guinea pig's skin, eyes and mouth. Liver damage may also occur in guinea pigs that are kept in cedar bedding for a long period of time. Pine shavings are often seen as a healthy alternative to cedar, and although they may not be quite as dangerous, they're not the best choice either, since they may also contain volatile oils when fresh. Healthier bedding options for your guinea pig include:
- Aspen shavings (these do not give off harmful oils)
- Paper bedding products
- Natural timothy hay
Mistake #2: Not feeding a diet rich in vitamin C.
Guinea pigs are unique animals in that, unlike rabbits, gerbils and hamsters, they cannot make their own vitamin C. They must obtain it from the foods that they eat. If you feed a general pellet made for rabbits or other animals, your guinea pig probably won't get enough vitamin C and may develop symptoms such as weight loss, nasal discharge, and lethargy. To ensure your piggy gets enough of this nutrient, feed a fortified pelleted feed made specifically for guinea pigs. Also, give your guinea pig some vitamin C-rich produce, such as cabbage, peas, broccoli, or oranges each day.
Mistake #3: Using a water dish, rather than a water bottle.
Guinea pigs are very susceptible to respiratory infections, especially when allowed to get wet and cold. Those with water dishes are likely to get wet often, as they may step in the water or spill it. It is much safer to provide your guinea pig with a water bottle than with a water dish, as this will keep both the guinea pig and the cage drier.
Mistake #4: Keeping the guinea pig in a drafty area.
If your guinea pigs is kept in a chilly or drafty area, this will also increase the risk of respiratory infections. Unlike rabbits, which can tolerate cold temperatures, guinea pigs need the temperature to be between 65 and 75 degrees in order for them to stay healthy. Never turn your heat way down when you leave the house (leave your thermostat set to 65), and don't put your pet's cage near a window. Too much heat is a bad thing, too, so avoid putting your guinea pig's cage over a radiator or directly in a stream of sunlight.
Mistake #5: Not providing your guinea pig with play and exercise.
Just like humans, guinea pigs need exercise to stay healthy and happy. A guinea pig that is too sedentary may become overweight and develop liver or kidney problems. It may also become depressed, which will increase its risk of infection. Make sure you let your guinea pig out of its cage for some play time each day. You can do this in a small room, or if you have a backyard, purchase a little hutch to put your guinea pig outside in nice weather. Your guinea pig may not know what to do the first few times you let it out of the cage, but soon it will adapt to running around and playing.
If you avoid the mistakes above, your guinea pig should have a healthy, happy life. If you have any additional questions about caring for your pet, be sure to ask your veterinarian.