Please click on the links below to learn more on the subject!
GO TO: A TO Z (Front Page)
Many people get very concerned when they detect bad breath in a guinea pig and get overly concerned that it could be indicative of a kidney or diabetic condition. Let me make it clear that the acetone scent that these conditions cause are not only totally different from the occasional bad breath that guineas can produce, but the animal would be showing many more signs of illness before it reached the stage known as Ketosis that produces the characteristic odour. This odour is very much like the fluid used to remove nail polish and nothing like the more common bad breath that can occur.
There are usually two main causes: one is dental and the other mouth infections. Both mean that the guinea pig is unable to completely clear its mouth of food debris, which, being retained in the mouth, turns bad and gives off a sour odour. The treatments are either corrective dental work or curing the mouth infection, which is usually fungal but can be bacterial.
It’s advisable to bath guinea pigs once every three months. Alternate the shampoo used between anti-fungal and anti-parasitic. There seems to be no middle ground between those who enjoy being bathed and those that seem to take it into their heads that their owners have suddenly taken into their minds to drown them. The latter kick and scream at the tops of their voices and try to jump out of the sink or bowl in which they are being bathed. However, rest assured, I have yet to have one, or heard of one from other owners that had a cardiac as a result of these violent protests.
I do my own in the kitchen sink, then once they are well lathered up I put them into the bath tub for five minutes to let the anti parasitic/fungal medication soak well in. I find it best to rinse them out by putting them on the draining board and just pouring a few jugs of water over them.
Luckily the habit some guinea pigs have of barbering their companions’ hair is not too widespread. Personally, I have never come across a boar that does this but that doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily unique to sows. My current stock, which cohabits in various combinations, is free of any ‘barbers’ and I think the last time I had one was about six years ago. Though I have had some success when a barber is cohabiting with another guinea by applying some Lavender oil to the coat of the barbered one, I know of no other method to curb this behaviour.
Needless to say, if I get one in my main pen there is no way that I can lavender the rest of the pack. The good news is that I have never heard of a guinea pig suffering from a hairball and most of them do grow out of this habit.
Despite what I said in my first book, ‘The Proper Care of Guinea Pigs,’ never ever bed them on sawdust or wood shavings. This is the worst kind of bedding possible. There is always very fine wood dust in it which can cause respiratory problems in guinea pigs if they constantly breathe it in. It is also far less hygienic, for the urine does not get a chance to evaporate, leaving patches of wet pulp, a great breeding ground for all manner of bacteria!
Paper shavings are fine but I much prefer newspaper and hay. Let’s nail the lie that hay is a breeding ground for parasites. In truth, there has never been any in-depth research about the cause of the parasites that guinea pig flesh is prone to. As I have stated many times, the fact that guinea pigs can often been seen chewing on newspapers is not a problem, for the printing ink is either not toxic or they do not ingest enough to make it so. So long as they do not read the garbage that is written therein, they should be fine!
I maintain that one of the reasons that I seldom, if ever, see any kind of dental problem in my own stock is because of the hay they are bedded on which covers the whole of the floor areas of my pens. The hay is not only excellent and essential roughage for them to graze upon; it gives their teeth plenty of work to do to keep them trim.
With hay and newspaper lining, the cleaning out could not be easier. It is simply a matter of rolling up the newspaper with what remains of the soiled hay and the droppings. I always spray around the edges of my pens with an animal friendly antiseptic before putting the newspapers and hay back down.
Even following all the precautions that I advise to prevent guinea pigs getting into combat the unexpected can and will happen, on that you can rely.
The treatment of bite wounds is simply down to common sense issues such as where the wound is and how deep it is. In the majority of cases, treat as you would treat a child. Clean the wound thoroughly and use a guinea pig friendly antiseptic. Lavender oil is my antiseptic of choice but the excellent T.C.P. is ideal. Remember to clean and dress the wound two or three times a day for the first couple of days.
Wounds that are deep and long around the mouth or nose need to be checked out by an expert and, if necessary, need to be sutured by a vet.
If ever you suspect that the wound has become infected (if this does occur it is usually after a two or three days) it will need prescription only medicines, so it will require a visit to a vet. You can tell if a wound is infected if the patient winces as you palpate round the sides of the wound or if it looks as though it is beginning to get inflamed and is hot to the touch.
Providing you keep the wound clean and dress as advised, secondary infections are relatively rare.
These are more problematical in boars than in sows because the stone are usually retained in the bladder and usually surgery under a general anaesthetic is necessary. In sows, the stones usually work their way down to the end of the urethra and, if they are detected early enough before they get too big, they can be eased out by the use of a water-soluble cream such as KY gel. If they are too large, then they can be removed under local anaesthetic by some vets but by no means all of them. The symptoms are squeaking sounds as urine is being passed, similar to those that are heard when a guinea pig is suffering from cystitis but punctuated at the end by a louder squeak and the animal lifting itself high on its back legs.
Of course, heavy bleeding
from a serious wound or any kind of orifice is a case for emergency veterinary
care. However, bleeding from minor cuts is very quickly stopped by the
application of some ice.
Guinea pigs can usually be left to sort out the business of bonding themselves and their owners would be wise to observe how they go about it so that when they want to get in on the act they know how to do it.
In the main, grooming is the main way that guinea pigs bond, much of it carried out around the head area and it is by finding out the favourite spot where a guinea pig likes this grooming that will give you a head start. The ears are usually a universal favourite, but some like it under the jaws, on top of the head...
The normal respiration rate for a guinea pig is about 80 per minute. Be aware that some guinea pigs hyperventilate at times to almost double this rate. Despite asking many people with far more expertise than me, I have yet to discover why some guinea pigs do this. The good news is that even though I have had guinea pigs that have had various ailments who breathe in this manner, in the main most go through periods of this kind of breathing, which can last for days, with no apparent harmful effect on their overall health.
The dangerous type of breathing is when it comes from deep down in the diaphragm in long heaving gasps. This is usually accompanied by a slow heartbeat and is indicative of kidney or heart problems. In most of these cases the administration of the prescription only medicine, FRUSEMIDE at the dose of 0.2 sub cut injection. This powerful diuretic is extremely effective in stabilising the animal and restoring it to health. This drug acts upon the kidneys, flushing them out and thus easing the strain on the heart. Sometimes a second dose is necessary but, in the main, one is sufficient. Needless to say, the guinea pig needs to be thoroughly examined and monitored by a guinea-competent vet.
This is a term used by many in the guinea pig fraternity, which is nowhere near as drastic as the term at first implies. It describes a loss of coat in the middle to lower part of the back of guinea pigs and is quite a common phenomenon. It is usually indicative of a mild fungal skin condition which the application, three times daily, of Aloe Vera gel, can quite quickly clear up. Be aware that very occasionally guinea pigs, and human beings for that matter, can be allergic to Aloe Vera. In these cases, either paint IMAVEROL anti fungal dip on these patches or Tee tree oil.
This is one over the counter medicine that should always be kept in stock. It is an analgesic and a gut relaxant. It is formulated for ladies who suffer from period pains. It is vital to use this drug if the guinea pig is suffering from acute diarrhoea. In cases of abdominal bloat it is vital in conjunction with liquid paraffin or gripe water. It is mainly the gut-relaxing qualities of this drug which are so helpful in all these conditions.
Blindness for domestic guinea pigs seems to be no problem whatsoever. Even those that are not born blind, quickly learn to cope without sight if they lose it. I currently have a sow which has suffered from cataracts all her life and now that she is getting old, the sight has gone completely. However, this has made no difference to her pecking order in that she is still boss pig over her much younger companion. I make no special provision for her or any blind guinea pig for I have learned that they are just as capable of shoulder shoving and bottom bumping themselves in at the food trough or when the green food arrives as their sighted companions.
As one of my first guinea pigs died because it was given a drug which was toxic to the species when I took it to a vet for treatment for this condition, I have very strong feelings about it. I have yet to come across a single case of Bumblefoot which has caused a serious hazard to the overall health of a guinea pig.
The symptoms are swelling of the footpad, with causes the skin to break and over which scabs are formed. The owner is usually alerted to this by the guinea pig limping. A great deal of research has gone into trying to uncover the cause of this condition but I have yet to read any veterinary medical book which has come up with a convincing answer.
Sometimes Bumblefoot can occur when there is an overall mycotic problem and the use of the prescription only drug, GRISEOFULVIN seems to clear this up in tandem with curing the mycosis However it is unclear whether this is a result of the anti-fungal properties of the drug or the anti-inflammatory ones.
In the main I leave well alone, for after a while the swollen tissue in the foot will calcify, the limping will cease and the animal will carry on as though there were no problem at all.
As there are other causes for swollen foot pads, obviously the guinea pig should be checked out by an expert before deciding what, if any, action is to be taken.