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Dalmation guinea pigs wear the same kind of coats as Dalmatian dogs. They are smooth-coated and regretfully tend to have more health problems due to excessive in-breeding.
Dandruff in guinea pigs is usually indicative of an underlying fungal problem but it can be caused by any kind of skin damage. The best treatment is to bath them using a shampoo for human beings that is recommended as a scalp cleaner. I prefer a shampoo which is formulated for horses called FUNGIKLENZ, which also has anti-fungal properties.
The most common deformities in guinea pigs seem to be around the head, such as dental problems, cleft pallet and undershot jaws. These are usually caused by in-breeding, a practice that I am very much against. Mother Nature sorted this problem out years ago and as she was in the business for millions of years before we were around, humans should take note. In animals that live in packs in the wild, as soon as a male becomes fertile and shows sexual interest he is kicked out of the pack, usually by the dominant male.
The teeth of guinea pigs are continuously growing due to the hard workload they have to cope with. If they were like our own, they would quickly be worn down by all the grazing that guinea pigs have to do to take in sufficient roughage. The symptoms of over grown or maloccluded teeth are dribbling and loss of weight, and if the guinea pig is observed while it is trying to eat it will be clear that it is making heavy weather of masticating food.
My biggest bone of contention with the veterinary profession is the continued use of anaesthesia to carry out corrective dental work. I was taught to carry out corrective dental work by the Cambridge Cavy Trust fifteen years ago and I know I have saved many guinea pigs’ lives with this skill.
The veterinary profession claim that this kind of work is impossible as it would over-stress the animal and it cannot be held still enough for such delicate work. As most guinea pigs are far too debilitated by the time they get taken to a vet to have the corrective work carried out, very many die as the result of anaesthetising an animal that is too weak to take it. In all the time that I have been carrying out this work, I have only lost one animal where I can say that it died as the result of shock, and I can’t even be sure that this was the actual cause. This statistic has to be considered in the light of the fact that I probably have corrected more guinea pigs in my time than a vet will have to in a lifetime’s practice.
I’m pleased to say that a few open-minded vets are coming to us and learning non-anaesthetic skills but in the main, our techniques are dismissed out of hand by people who have not even taken the trouble to come and see us do it.
Sometimes it is necessary to syringe feed a guinea pig after dental work. See SUPPLEMENTARY FEED.
Though in the main most skin conditions in guinea pigs are attributable to either fungal or parasitic activity, sometimes they can get skin problems which cannot be so easily pinned down and treated. If my treatments for dealing with fungal or parasitic problems fail then I switch to several general treatments that work well in human beings yet are still safe to use on guinea pigs. Calamine lotion, E45 cream and some herbal skin balms I find pretty effective. There are also some very good shampoos such as T-gel and Selsun that will clear up the condition after a couple of applications.
As is the case in human beings, diarrhoea can be a passing thing which will clear up after traditional treatment or a life-threatening one, and it is important to differentiate as soon as possible.
If there is just a looseness in the pellets, temperature is normal and there is an appetite of some kind, even a reduced one, then usually IMMODIUM at the dose rate of 0.5 for a couple of days or half a DIOCALM tablet will do the trick. The herb Shepherd’s Purse is also very effective for this mild kind of diarrhoea.
If the diarrhoea is quite fluid and yet again there is still an appetite but with a slightly raised temperature, then it is advisable to give one BUSCOPAN pill plus the same dosage of IMMODIUM or DIOCALM.
If the diarrhoea is fluid, the guinea pig’s coat is all fluffed up and it is off its food then it will need some kind of bulking treatment such as IMMODIUM but it will definitely need to be taken to a vet quickly for antibiotic treatment.
If there is any doubt in an owner’s mind about the degree of diarrhoea, then it should be taken to a vet to be assessed for, make no mistake, diarrhoea can be indicative of a serious illness which needs urgent treatment.
In all cases, it is important to syringe the same kind of re-hydration fluid that is recommended for use on humans with diarrhoea to replace the body salts that will have been lost.
This is not all that common in guinea pigs but it can occur and it can be treated in a similar way to the way it is treated in human beings.
The signs are the guinea pig drinking a lot more, passing much more urine and weight loss. When a urine stick test is done it will show high on the scale for glucose. This is, of course, a case for prescription only drugs, so it has to be taken to a vet.
The dominant guinea pig in a pair is far easier to figure out than the one in a pack. Whether this is because I have only had experience of all-sow packs, apart from the occasional boar, I wouldn’t like to guess. Perhaps the boars express their dominance more by their behavioural patterns. In pairs of boars, the most common sign displayed by the dominant one is shown through his sexual behaviour. It is he who is more likely initiate mating by jumping on the back of his partner, who early on in their relationship will show some signs of resistance but usually simply ignores the fact that his companion is trying to goose him with a show of total indifference after a few weeks.
In my experience, when both individuals of a pair display more aggressive kind of behaviours such as the usual teeth chattering and circling one another like boxers looking for an opening, they are more likely to settle down together with one gaining the dominant position by mutual consent. It is only on the rare occasions when one of the pair does not put up some show of resistance to outright aggression that it leads to the dominant one becoming too aggressive to cohabit.
In a sow pack, it is not necessarily the most aggressive sow that will have dominance. I think this is why sows can live in packs harmoniously. The dominant sow seems to rule by mutual consent through the sheer force of her personality. If a new sow which has a very dominant nature is introduced to the pack, then the dominant sow can lose her position but I have yet to see the change through a kind of western style fight at sun down. They just kind of change places without all the sound and fury and danger of being injured that could happen with boars. As a mere male myself I have to take my hat off to the girls and say they have got a far more sensible system of changing places!
You can usually spot the dominant sow by the way she will steal another one’s place when it’s sleeping, or shoves other sows out of the way when she wants to get at the food trough. Other sows in the pack will avoid eye-to-eye contact when they meet and give her a wide berth when they pass her.
The Dutch guinea pig has the kind of marking that a Friesian cow has. It has a smooth coat of white but the patterns on its coat are of a darker colour.
I always think of them as Panda piggies for they usually have lovely dark patches around their eyes.
Of course we all hope that our guinea pigs will die of old age and I look upon this as a natural process rather than an illness, as so many human beings seem to regard it. O.K. so the death is usually caused by renal, respiratory or cardiac failure when the age factor is the cause, which I guess can be regarded as illness. However, since in many cases this is neither a traumatic or particularly painful process, in the main I prefer to let nature take its course.
The symptoms are usually the loss of appetite, sometimes over the course of a few days, at other times overnight. By this time, like in the case of old age in humans, there is loss of body tone, weight and a general frailty. The guinea pig will withdraw from the pack by finding a quiet spot, and usually turning its back on the hurly-burly of pack life by sticking its head in a corner. One of the strange things I have noticed about the act of preparing for death is that the majority seem to always stand on all fours and cease lying down in the resting positions. It’s as though there is a conscious decision to meet death standing up.
I will offer water but never force the guinea pig to drink and not offer food unless it shows an interest when I put the fresh food or dry feed in for the pack as usual. The last thing a guinea pig or any other animal, the human one included, needs when it is in the process of slipping off this mortal coil is someone trying to make it eat.
It can take between one and three days for a guinea pig to die, and though it is important to carefully monitor them during this period, handling is not necessary. The reason you monitor them is because sometimes they may have a Nazareth-like turn around and pick up again by showing interest in what is going on and their demeanour becomes more alert. With these cases you should then certainly treat them in the same way as you would convalescing guinea pigs and syringe feed if necessary. In some of these cases the animal may pick up and have another two to six months of good quality of life to live, and has the right to have that life fought for by its owner.
The approach to the end of a guinea pig’s life may look traumatic and be distressing for the owner but I always urge a hands-off policy, for the animal is not aware of what is going on. The guinea pig will usually be on its side, and a series of what look like electric shocks can go through the body. This is its nervous system doing what hospital defibrillators do when the heart begins to fail. Many also begin to have rapid leg movement, which looks like, and my fanciful mind tells, is it having its last run around in this world before leaving it. The running movement is usually very frantic and seems to upset owners more than the shocks that go through the body and this is when owners want to take it to a vet to have it put down. Many times people have phoned me at this juncture and I have asked them to get a torch and shine it close into the guinea pig’s eyes and told them before they do, just what they will see. The iris remains wide upon to the light, indicating what I have told the owner that the guinea pig is totally unconscious and will die very soon, oblivious to all sensation.
After sixteen years of experiencing this process very many times, I have never known a guinea survive once the ‘running’ before death has occurred.