Health Care and Diseases in Guinea Pigs
Diet and Health
As discussed, a guinea pig’s diet is particularly important when it comes to vitamin C. It is also crucial in preventing dental disease, which can mean that a guinea pig needs life long veterinary care, with the teeth being trimmed every few weeks. A high fibre diet is essential for digestive health too, lower fibre diets often leading to diarrhoea and obesity.
A guinea pig’s teeth grow throughout its life and so incisors that do not align can become so long that they become embedded in the nose, lips, gums or tongue causing great discomfort and starvation. If the molars become overgrown they can wear unevenly and develop sharp spurs that can lacerate the tongue and cheeks.
Malocclusion (where teeth overlap and don’t align properly) can occur for two reasons. Potentially it may be inherited – in this case the teeth may be maloccluded from birth or it may occur at any point while the guinea pig is growing (up to twelve to eighteen months). In this case it is important to inform the breeder of the guinea pig so that they can avoid breeding any related guineas.
Alternatively, acquired malocclusion may develop later in life (typically at around two to three years old) due to an inappropriate diet. If a guinea pig does not receive enough fibre the molars will not wear down sufficiently and gradually they become longer. With time this lengthening of the rear teeth changes the alignment of the jaw, meaning that the incisors no longer meet correctly. These then stop wearing down and can become twisted and further misaligned as they grow longer. Feeding plenty of hay and grass is the best way to avoid a guinea pig acquiring malocclusion.
Overgrown incisors need to be trimmed frequently, and this is best done by a veterinary surgeon as if done incorrectly the teeth can split or shatter causing great discomfort to the guinea pig. One solution is to remove the incisors under general anaesthetic, which may sound drastic but is often a suitable long term solution. Treating poorly aligned molars is more difficult as an anaesthetic is required to allow the teeth to be filed, this would need to be done several times a year. Certainly, prevention is better than cure.
Parasitic infections are one of the most common reasons for guinea pigs to be brought in to the veterinary surgery.
A mange parasite is the most frequent cause; this is easily treated with the spot-on Xeno, which is available from the surgery.
Fungal infections such as ringworm are also relatively common and also require veterinary treatment.
Many of these skin diseases are infectious to humans so great care must be taken when handling any guinea pig with a skin complaint.
Supplementation with vitamin C is advisable with any skin complaint.
It is relatively common for guinea pigs to develop cystitis. This will cause them to;
- urinate more frequently (often leading to soiling of the fur around their rear)
- often they will show signs of discomfort when they urinate.
- The urine may be the normal colour, or more cloudy or developing a red colour.
If you suspect that your guinea pig has cystitis it is important that they see a veterinary surgeon to receive medication. Repeated soiling with urine can lead to sores, which is very uncomfortable and also puts the guinea pig at risk of cystitis.
Vaccinations and Worming
Guinea pigs do not need any vaccinations or regular worming treatment as they are generally considered unnecessary. If you think your guinea pig may have caught worms then speak to the veterinary surgery.
For more guinea pig advice give us a call at the surgery to speak to a member of our veterinary team.
Alternatively contact the BCC https://www.britishcavycouncil.org.uk for information on varieties and how to contact a breeder.