Keeping your guinea pig fit and healthy

Guinea pigs’ teeth grow constantly so it’s important to provide them with plenty of hay, grass and wooden toys to wear their teeth down. Check your guinea pigs’ teeth at least once a week and take them to a vet if you are concerned.

A vitamin C deficiency can make your guinea pigs very sick so it is essential that this vitamin is provided in their diet. Give a fresh portion of vitamin C enriched food and fresh, leafy greens daily.

Regularly grooming your guinea pigs can also help to highlight health problems early. Groom long-haired breeds daily to keep their coats in good condition. Short-haired guinea pigs can be groomed weekly. Your guinea pigs’ nails will need checking weekly and clipping when necessary – ask your vet to show you how to do this.

Check your guinea pigs daily and take them to your vet for a thorough health check at least once a year. See your vet immediately if any of your guinea pigs are showing signs of pain, illness or injury e.g. loss of appetite, runny eyes or nose, flystrike, diarrhoea, dry or irritated skin, hair loss or changes in behaviour.

Travelling can be stressful and can make your guinea pigs ill. Transport your guinea pigs together (if they live with each other and are friends) in a secure plastic carrier. Put familiar smelling items in the carrier and their new home to help your guinea pigs feel at ease.

Settling in

One of the most stressful times for small animals is when they move house. Small animals can carry diseases that can be triggered when moving. Always make sure that new animals are allowed to settle in for a few days before interacting with them so that they are rested and feel secure in their new home. If your new animals show any signs of being unwell after purchase, please contact the store and we may arrange for them to see our vet.

Ringworm

Ringworm is a fungal infection which can affect guinea pigs causing scaly skin and scabs, usually around the nose and ears. It is also found in a range of animals including cats, horses and farm animals. Plenty of vitamin C helps to boost the immune system, which may help to prevent this. Give your guinea pigs lots of dark green leafy vegetables like cabbage and broccoli and keep their home clean. Ringworm can also pass to people so wash your hands thoroughly after handling guinea pigs. In people it looks like a round, red area of skin and advice on treatment can be obtained from a doctor or pharmacist.

Respiratory problems

Respiratory problems can occur in guinea pigs, shown by persistent sneezing and discharge from their eyes or conjunctivitis. Providing your guinea pigs with the correct bedding and draught-free accommodation can help prevent this.

Health and hygiene

All animals can carry diseases, some of which can pass to people. Always clean your hands after handling, feeding your animals, or cleaning their home and equipment and ensure children do the same. Always supervise children to ensure they do not put the animals (or objects that animals have been in contact with) near their mouths. It is best to avoid kissing your animals.

For more information on caring for guinea pigs visit: http://www.rspca.org.uk/guineapigs

If you are thinking of looking after guinea pigs, you’ve really researched their welfare needs and you’re committed to taking care of them for the whole of their lives, please think about giving a home to some of the many rescue guinea pigs available for adoption in our ‘Support Adoption for Pets’ adoption centres, at RSPCA animal centres/branches across England and Wales, or with other animal charities.