- How to Raise Healthy Guinea Pigs
Home Sweet Home
Of course, your guinea pig's home is your home, but that doesn't mean you can plop them down and give them free rein of the house! Letting them go anywhere and everywhere is only a recipe for disaster when our crafty critter pals inevitably find trouble.
For their safety, you want to provide them a home to call their own. There are several options for guinea pig housing, including traditional wire cages, wooden hutches, and modular cube cages made from wire and corrugated plastic.
Whichever option you decide will work best, you want to make sure it has enough room for the guinea pig to move freely. Since they're small, you might think they'll be happy with a small space, but we recommend providing at least 7.5 square feet of space to run, roam, and get exercise while they are inside.
Don't forget to line the cage with bedding! Common options include paper, fleece, wood, and hay. As your guinea pig pal soils the bedding, it's important to remove it and replace it so they can continually enjoy a clean and safe environment to live, eat, sleep, and play.
Nom Nom Nom
Happy guinea pigs are always chowing down on something, and boy do they eat a lot for their diminutive size. Providing your guinea pig with a healthy assortment of hay, pellets, fruits, and vegetables is key to helping them enjoy a healthy life.
Hay makes up 80% of a guinea pig's diet and should generally be available at all times. If you're wondering if your precious pig pal has enough, it's recommended to give them a heap of hay that's roughly the same size they are. There are many different types of hay, but the best for a guinea pig's nutritional needs is timothy hay.
In addition to hay, having a small bowl of pellets helps provide additional nutrients. Unlike hay, you don't want to give them an all-you-can-eat buffet, because pellets tend to be high in fat and protein depending on the brand. Giving them one-eighth of a cup for every two pounds of body weight is recommended, meaning the porkier pigs can be given a little extra to sustain themselves.
Fresh vegetables are a real treat for your guinea pig, and should make up nearly 20% of their total diet. Bell peppers, carrots, cucumbers, green beans, kale, parsley, romaine lettuce, squash, and tomatoes are all good picks. You should feed your guinea pig fruits sparingly due to fruits' high sugar content, but guinea pigs tend to like apples, bananas, berries, melon, and oranges.
Of course, don't forget to have fresh, clean water available at all times!
Let's Get Physical!
They may be pigs, but that doesn't mean they're content to sit around the cage all day! Your guinea pig wants to play!
Keeping your guinea pig active does wonders for their health, as it combats obesity, provides much-needed mental and physical stimulation, staves off stress and boredom, strengthens muscles and bones, and assists in digestion.
Guinea pigs enjoy a variety of toys, including chew toys, tunnel toys, balls and other interactive toys, and foraging toys which encourage exploration and problem-solving. Playpens are an excellent idea as well, as this provides them a safe and controlled way to get some out-of-cage playtime and more room to run wild.
Remember– your guinea pig is fairly independent, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't interact with, play with, and supervise them. Unattended guinea pigs can get themselves into loads of trouble. Plus, playing with them daily helps nurture a strong bond that'll make you two fast friends for life!
Ready for Your Close-Up?
If we want our guinea pigs looking their best, there are a few grooming activities we should provide to make sure they're comfortable and looking nothing less than dapper.
Regular brushing helps keep their coats in good condition by removing mats and tangles and redistributing their natural oils to encourage a smooth sheen across the coat. If the hair is especially matted or knotted, you may need to give them a quick haircut to remove the problem.
Guinea pigs' claws, if left unattended, might become overgrown and, you may not believe it but, their teeth may become overgrown too! Trim their nails regularly and make sure they have plenty of hay and toys to chew on to keep their teeth an appropriate length.
A "Pig"-ture of Health
Following the above guidelines and advice should help you and your furry friend enjoy a happy, healthy life together. Signs of a healthy guinea pig include:
• Bright, clear eyes
• Shiny, soft coat
• Clean ears and nose
• Active and alert
• Healthy appetite
• Normal breathing
• Well-maintained claws
• Healthy bowel movements
If you notice a sudden change in your guinea pig's appearance or demeanor, be sure to consult your vet to determine if a visit or treatment is recommended. Many common ailments and conditions could be addressed with a little TLC and a few pointers from the vet, but other, more serious situations will require medical intervention. When in doubt, call the vet.
Guinea pigs are simple to care for and make great pets. If you follow our above advice and guidelines, your guinea pig will live a long and healthy life.
In case you didn't know, we here at Happy Paws Upstate do provide pet sitting for guinea pigs as part of our services. If you're going out of town and need someone who understands how to provide the best care for your furry friend, contact us today and book a pet sitter.