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Guinea pigs are wonderful pets to keep – they are real characters and are a pleasure to have around. If you make sure they are kept nice and healthy, guinea pigs can live up to 10 years which means they really do become part of the family. Lots of kids love having them as pets so teaching your children how to look after them is really important. Doing a little research before bringing a guinea pig home will certainly help you when it comes to looking after them. It will also help you recognise when things might not be 100% right with your new pet. This is also very important because if you catch health problems early enough, very often they are much easier to treat successfully.
Common health issues that guinea pigs suffer from include respiratory problems. These health problems can be caused by a number of viruses as well as bacteria. You'll notice that a guinea suffering from a respiratory disorder will sneeze a lot and have a lot of discharge from their noses and often their eyes too. They often go off their food and become lethargic, they have difficulty breathing. It goes without saying that if you keep your guinea pig in a really clean environment, then you reduce the chances of them developing any respiratory problems. A clean cage that's placed where there are no drafts, goes a long way to helping keep your pet stay in good condition. You should also avoid using any dusty bedding material in their cages because this too could contribute to respiratory problems. If you get a new guinea pig to keep an existing pet company, make sure you keep them apart for a while – by quarantining the newcomer you make sure no diseases or other health problems are introduced to your existing pet. If you think your guinea pig has a respiratory problem, then you should make an appointment and take them to see your vet as soon as you can.
There are many reasons why lumps appear, it could be a fatty lipomas or an abscess, it could even be a tumour. If the lump is an abscess this is caused by a bacterial infection which normally develops after the guinea pig has suffered an injury of some kind. The abscess is usually round and has a thick, smelly discharge. If the lump is a tumour, you may not have to worry too much because it could be benign and not cancerous at all. It might well just be a cyst which more often than not are found below the skin and are pretty harmless. If on the other hand it is a fatty lipoma, these are normally benign being just fat deposits that are also found under the skin. By regularly checking your pet guinea pig over, you will detect any lumps earlier rather than later, and this goes a long way when it comes to dealing with them successfully. If you find a lump, take your guinea pig along to your vet so a correct diagnosis can be made and then the right treatment administered.
Another common problem many guinea pigs suffer from has to do with their teeth. By nature these creatures need to wear them down by gnawing on something because their teeth continually grow. There is a genetic problem known as malocclusion which many of them suffer from. This means their teeth are not aligned correctly and therefore they grow too long. If teeth are too long then you might find your pet\continually suffers from mouth infections which include ulcers both on their lips and/or tongues. Malocclusion often makes it very hard for them to eat too. Unfortunately, there is not much you can do about the condition but it is very worthwhile having your vet trim their teeth regularly. This will keep them at the right length and prevent any discomfort and ulceration.
If not fed the correct diet, guinea pigs get very constipated. Some may even suffer from diarrhea if they are fed the wrong sort of food. Both constipation and diarrhea are serious conditions for guinea pigs – they are life-threatening conditions to these small creatures and must be treated immediately with the right type of medication. Signs that your guinea pig may be constipated include a distended stomach, lethargy and the lack of droppings in their cages. A guinea pig with diarrhea is often very messy and dirty under its tail and they lose condition very quickly. The way to prevent your guinea pig from suffering from constipation is to make sure they have lots of fresh green vegetables included in their daily diets and that they have constant access to fresh, clean water. When it comes to diarrhea, you have to make sure the environment in their cage is kept clean. You must clean them out on a daily basis. If you introduce any new foods into their diets, make sure you do this gradually. Always avoid feeding your guinea pig any foods that contain processed sugars because these will interfere with their digestive system – feed a little fruit to your guinea pig occasionally and not too often. If your pet shows any signs of either conditions, you should take them to see your vet immediately so that they can be given the right sort of treatment.
The majority of skin problems seen in guinea pigs are usually caused by some sort of external fungus. Infections have a tendency of starting around the face and then spreading to other areas of their bodies. The first thing you notice is a bare patch which then develops sores on it. These itchy spots get worse as the guinea pig does everything it can to scratch it repeatedly. Parasites too can cause skin problems, these include lice and mites that live on the guinea pig's hair. Again the signs to look out for are constant scratching and hair loss. Some poor creatures when they are infested with the parasites run round in circles because of the discomfort. You need to get the right sort of louse and mite powder from your vet to treat the infestation safely. One way to help prevent skin problems is to make sure the humidity levels are kept as low as possible. Never keep too many guinea pigs in one cage either. If you think your pet guinea pig has a skin infection, whether caused by parasites or bacteria, you need to get them to the vet so that a correct diagnosis can be made and subsequently the condition can be treated.
If your guinea pig lives in a cage with a wire base to it, then very often this leads to sore feet and hocks. Hind legs get red and swollen and very often there is a noticeable hair loss on them. You need to get a guinea pig with sore feet to the vet as soon as you can, so that an antibiotic ointment can be applied to their legs. Then you need to change the flooring of the cage to prevent the condition from happening again. A good design for an outdoor cage has solid flooring for around a third of the whole area, the rest can be wire as this should not cause too much of a problem with sore legs.
When the weather gets hotter during the summer months, guinea pigs can suffer from heat stroke. Very often they show signs of this by laying stretched out, panting and drooling. If you find your pet in this condition, you need to get it into a cooler environment immediately and wrap them in a cool, wet towel. Then take them to see the vet straight away. In order to avoid the condition, never leave your guinea pigs' cage in full direct sunlight and if indoors, make sure they are not too close to any heat sources like radiators. Never leave a guinea pig in a hot car for any lengths of time as this is sure to be fatal to them.
Just occasionally guinea pigs may develop eye problems, but this is normally due to some other condition they may have which includes a respiratory infection. Diabetes, problems with their teeth and dehydration are other causes for eye problems in guinea pigs. You'll notice a crusty or watery discharge from their eyes which can either look like they are protruding or receding, although sometimes they just look cloudy. One thing to bear in mind, is that guinea pigs may also develop corneal ulcers which are as a direct result of some kind of injury to their eyes. These may appear to be swollen and watery and the guinea pig will paw at them, they will also squint a lot too. They can also develop cataracts which could because they suffer from diabetes or it could be due to old age. Sometimes it is genetically inherited. There are some guinea pigs that are born blind but they can lead relatively normal lives whilst others go blind as they get older. Keeping guinea pigs in a clean and healthy environment goes a long way in preventing any eye problems occurring. Diet too plays a vital role but if you do notice there could be a problem, then you need to take your pet to the vet straight away so that the correct treatment can be administered.
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