Click on the links below to learn more on the subject!
GO TO: A TO Z (Front Page)
When I was first smitten by the wee ones it was quite a time before I decided to take on a long-haired variety. Everyone kept telling me that they took a lot of grooming and hair trimming, people were wrong of course, unless their guinea pigs were destined for the sows of the guinea pig fancy.
I trim the under hair of the rear end of my long-haired guinea pigs quite drastically, after I have flicked back the topcoat. On some long-haired guinea pigs this underhair does not grow long, but it takes time to find out which ones they are. In most longer haired guinea pigs the hair growth on the rear end is uniformly long so the undercoat does have to be trimmed back, if it isn’t then it will quickly become soiled and knotted.
My sows I always trim by standing them on a towel and holding them steady with my left hand on their backs. My boars, however, I always trim on a towel on my lap WITH MY LEFT HAND CUPPING THEIR TESTICLES. These tend to dangle, or kind of drag back if they are on level ground and can get hidden in the hair and can get cut. The fact that a vet friend of mine admitted that he too had made a slit in a guinea pig’s scrotum has not lessened the guilt I feel about the time I did it. Perhaps it has a lot to do with the fact that I am male and if there is one thing that one chap does not do to another chap; it is to inflict damage on such a delicate quarter!
It is vital to differentiate between a heart attack and a stroke in guinea pigs. The main aim of the game of course is to identify those that are showing signs of being likely to have a heart attack. Those that keel over without showing any tell-tale pre-attack symptoms invariably die but in the main most show these symptoms beforehand and, usually; very effective action can be taken.
There will be slow gasping breaths from deep down in the diaphragm and when the heart is listened to it will be slow and very uneven. Note, an uneven heart beat alone can be detected in many perfectly healthy guinea pigs, and human come to that matter, so do not get overly concerned if you happen to come across a guinea pig with this symptom by chance. The guinea pig will also be extremely lethargic and definitely off its food.
When these two symptoms are seen it is a matter for urgent veterinary help for it will need a prescription only medicine in the shape of the powerful diuretic FRUSEMIDE and sometimes other drugs. In most cases 0.2 sub cut injected FRUSEMIDE will do the trick and have the animal back breathing normally, and back on its feet within a couple of hours. The reason this drug is so effective is that it quickly flushes out the kidneys, which immediately eases the workload of the heart.
Sometimes, though thankfully not very often, a guinea pig can have a chromic heart problem. Though at first it is wise that it is given FRUSEMIDE, the overuse of this drug can deplete potassium levels, which is the last thing you want to do with any kind of heart problem. The use of herbal diuretics and foods is very beneficial with these animals. I use Potters Watershed at a dose rate of 0.4 daily. Parsley, celery and of course, the proverbial dandelion are excellent diuretic foods. These foods should be fed regularly to guinea pigs that have these chronic heart problems.
I dread hot spells for there will inevitably be a spate of heat exhaustion from owners who do not heed warnings about locating their hutches where they are out of the glare of the sun. Seldom do I get cases where the guinea pigs are kept in owners’ homes and I guess that it is because, in essence, if the temperature is fine for humans then it will be fine for guinea pigs.
The symptoms are that the animal will be flat out, panting heavily and with a high temperature. Immediate action is necessary and it is drastic. Get a towel and soak it in cold water and wrap the guinea in it for it is essential that the temperature is brought down as quickly as possible. As soon as the guinea pig begins to stir itself leave it for about half a minute longer, then take it out, for there could be a danger of going the other way and chilling it.
Under no circumstances try to syringe it water or offer it until it is up on its feet and the breathing is back to normal. When it is offered water, either hold a drip feed bottle to it, or if it is used to a water bowl, put a bowl of fresh water down for it. If it has been caught in time, recovery is usually very rapid.
In one of my books I referred to this as heaving hiccups and it can be very alarming when it is first seen. The animal looks as though it is trying to vomit, its whole body being thrown forward with the violence of it. As this invariably occurs when the animal is eating, I am convinced that it is nothing more serious than the same kind of thing human beings can suffer from and we refer to as ‘something going down the wrong way’.
In point of fact, guinea pigs cannot vomit and this is why I think it is a more violent reaction in them. What usually happens, though not always, is that after a few of these heaving hiccups, it will cough and the heaving will immediately end. The good news is that though I have seen this occur in many guinea pigs I have never been aware of a single one of them have any ill effects from it.
This breed has similar markings to those of a Himalayan cat, which is called pointing. The coat colour is white but the feet, ears and nose can be either chocolate or black.
This is the number one aid to health in guinea pigs. Get it right and the overall health of your stock will be greatly improved. Get it wrong and it can be the cause of all manner of ailments.
As I have stated many times, I much prefer indoor housing, for not only are the conditions that are good for human well-being identical to the requirements of guinea pigs, but when you are living with guinea pigs, awareness of developing problems, which is always the case when they are in your home, can be vital in making an early diagnosis and giving treatment. The golden rule is, the earlier the diagnosis the better the prognosis in most guinea pig problems.
The range of accommodation for indoor housing is limited only by the imagination and D.I.Y skills of owners. They can range from a simple wooden box with sides that are high enough to prevent the occupants from escaping to the kind of purpose-built pens that I house my stock of eighty in. In essence, I have done no more than run a glass front, two and a half feet from the wall down the whole length of my living room, then at right angles run another glass front from the adjoining wall to make an L-shaped enclosure. In here I house about forty sows. This shorter part of the L is made up of a pine bunk bed frame, which has given me a second floor!
The boars, which have to be kept in pairs of course, live in three foot by eighteen-inch pens. I have three of these tiered in a flat-pack kind of high cabinet of the type that can be purchased very cheaply from any D.I.Y. store. The other four pairs of boars live in the upper part of the bunk bed frame, across which I made a base, which was partitioned into four pens.
Friends of mine have used space between the fireplace breast and a right-angled wall. Many people fit shelves in these alcoves but by bringing the ‘shelf’ to the level of the chimney breast, about eighteen inches from the wall, and fitting a glass front across it, they were perfectly big enough for boar pens. Like me they fit subdued lighting, which makes it an even more attractive feature to a room.
I always say that if you can smell a guinea pig then it is probably a sick guinea pig, so being odourless they are ideal indoor companions.
If guinea pigs are to be kept outdoors then there are many precautions that have to be taken to avoid risks to health and general welfare. One of the biggest problems now is the danger of them being taken by the ever-growing urban fox population so this means that hutches must be firmly secured, as high as possible against a wall with nothing beneath them which a fox can climb up on.
Hutches must be sited in areas that are not damp but shaded from the heat of the sun in the summer time. In the winter time either the hutches should have extra insulation in the shape of covers or the hutches should be moved into a shed.
Recently, manufacturers of hutches have been far more imaginative and there are now hutches being made that are like children’s Wendy houses, many of them with two or three floors. As the occupants of these hutches seem to use all floors I think they prefer them to the older style hutches. At first I thought they would be more difficult to clean out, but in point of fact they are easier for the whole of the fronts of them are hinged and open up, giving great ease of access.
I cannot understate the value of this as an aid to various problems that guinea pigs can suffer from. On one occasion I demonstrated the technique, on a TV programme, upon Saskia, a lovely sow who had to have my assistance in delivering a large baby, which left her very weak in the rear end.
It is also invaluable in recovering stroke cases and for guinea pigs that have suffered from strains. The one time it should not be used is in elderly arthritic guinea pigs for it could make their condition even worse.
What it amounts to is nothing more than getting the guinea pig to exercise with a little bit of swimming. The two golden rules are to wait until the guinea pig is beginning to try and move around a bit more and always keep the hands under it when it is first put into the water to support its body and give it confidence.
Initially I use the kitchen sink and then graduate to a bath of tepid water. Guinea pigs, like all animals, can swim and as you lower them into the water they will immediately begin to kick out with their back legs and do a doggy paddle. Restrict the first session to a couple of minutes but as they grow stronger the time can be extended. Quite a few of the guinea pigs I have treated this way seem to get a taste for this therapy and swim up and down the bath quite happily providing there is a hand they can climb onto. They will invariably get panicky if they only have the slippery side of the bath to gain a purchase on so put something in the bath. I use a large up turned ceramic dog bowl for them to rest on.