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Guinea pigs are a popular pet for children and schools, but many adults too appreciate the presence of these cute, loving little cavies as companions and pets. Like many small animals, the general health and common health conditions that can affect the guinea pig do not receive anywhere near as much publicity as those that affect larger pets such as cats and dogs, but veterinary care for Guinea pigs is constantly evolving, and today, most practices are well set up to treat most of the basic and common Guinea pig ailments.
If you own a Guinea pig or are considering buying one, it is important to garner a basic understanding of some of the basic and most common health conditions that can affect your pet, and know how to identify them.
In this article, we will look at some of the most common Guinea pig health problems in more detail.
The teeth of the guinea pig grow constantly throughout their lives, and being fed the right diet and given plenty of things to chew on is important to ensure that the length of their teeth is kept in check. Guinea pigs that are fed the wrong diet or deprived of appropriate things to chew can soon develop dental problems, which can cause a lot of pain and discomfort for your pet, as well as difficulty eating.
The natural diet of the Guinea pig is very high in fibre, and Guinea pigs need free access to fibrous materials to chew throughout the day. In the wild, Guinea pigs chew on grass all day long, and within a domestic environment, grass or grass hay should be freely available to your pet. Guinea pigs should also be fed a selection of leafy green vegetables for variety too, as well as their normal complete diet.
Guinea pigs are particularly susceptible to developing mite infestations, and often, will contract mites from other Guinea pigs that share their housing, or come to you with mites already in residence.
The symptoms of a mite infestation include itchy skin that your Guinea pig will scratch constantly, which can lead to hair loss and sore patches on the skin. In some cases, the itching can be so pronounced that it will actually disturb your Guinea pig’s sleep patterns.
Mites can usually be treated with a product from your local vet, and it is important to treat not only the affected Guinea pig, but any others that they have come into contact with too. The cage and all equipment will also need to be cleaned thoroughly, and the bedding replaced, to prevent a further infestation.
Guinea pigs need to be fed a direct, natural source of Vitamin C, as they are unable to synthesise the Vitamin C present in dried foods properly. Feeding lots of natural greenery, and plenty of vegetables can help to keep your pet’s Vitamin C levels up. Feeding small amounts of foods such as kiwi, which are rich in Vitamin C is a good idea, although care should be taken not to feed so much fruit and veg that your Guinea pig develops diarrhoea. Supplements and Vitamin C drinks are often marketed for use with Guinea pigs, but these are much less effective than providing a direct fresh food source.
If your Guinea pig is not getting enough Vitamin C, they may suffer from some fairly severe problems including internal bleeding, swollen and painful joints, and problems with the digestive system and intestines. These problems can lead to a loss of appetite, weight loss, and general lethargy and weakness.
Vitamin C deficiency can be very uncomfortable and painful for your Guinea pig, but the condition is entirely preventable with conscientious feeding.
Wild guinea pigs never have to walk across hard or rough surfaces, living out virtually the entirety of their lives on grass. However, within a domestic environment, hard surfaces or wire mesh cages that are not suitably covered can lead to swollen paws, and the development of pressure sores on the soles of the feet. These can be very sore and uncomfortable for your pet, and can even spread to the bone tissue of the feet and legs.
Always ensure that the floor of your Guinea pig’s cage is properly covered with a soft, comfortable material to a suitable depth, such as Timothy hay or other suitable products that are recommended for Guinea pigs. Never leave your Guinea pig in a cage with an uncovered floor, and when you take your Guinea pig out of the cage to socialise with them, do not put them down on hard surfaces or encourage them to sit on anything other than grass or other soft, cushioned areas that will provide padding to the feet.
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