March 22-28 is the first ever Guinea Pig Awareness Week. Organised by Burgess Pet Care, the week-long event aims to raise awareness about improving the health and welfare of guinea pigs.
We’re joining in this GPAW as we look at the welfare needs of guinea pigs in this article, covering everything you need to know to keep your guinea pigs happy and healthy!
How to keep guinea pigs healthy
Happy guinea pigs are playful and active with a shiny coat, bright eyes and a clean nose and mouth. Signs of a healthy guinea pig include:
- Active and playful
- Clean nose and mouth
- Yellow teeth
- Good appetite
- Clean and dry bottom
- Shiny coat
If your guinea pig appears lethargic, has trouble moving or has matted fur, it could be a sign that your guinea pig needs a trip to the vet.
Your guinea pig’s teeth will grow constantly through their life, so to help keep their teeth in check it’s vital to feed them a high fibre diet. Good quality hay such as timothy or meadow hay works well for maintaining healthy teeth and digestion.
Checking your guinea pig once a day for any issues will help to keep them healthy. If you spot any in changes the behaviour of your guinea pig, contact your vet.
What do guinea pigs eat?
Guinea pigs are herbivores, which means they will only eat plants. To keep them healthy their ideal diet should contain:
- Plenty of feeding hay or grass, this will make up the bulk of their diet and it helps their digestive system as well as helping to maintain healthy teeth.
- Fresh green vegetables such as spinach, cabbage or broccoli. Green vegetables are rich in Vitamin C which helps to keep your guinea pigs healthy.
- Dried guinea pig pellets & nuggets. These tasty morsels make sure your pigs are getting the vitamins and minerals they need.
- Access to clean drinking water. A constant supply of fresh water from a bowl or spout will ensure your pigs are happy and hydrated
Guinea pigs are prone to developing vitamin C deficiency, which can cause swollen joints and internal bleeding. By feeding your guinea pig lots of leafy greens you can keep them healthy. Avoid citrus fruits and vitamin C supplements, as these aren’t absorbed by the body in the same way.
Where should I keep my guinea pigs?
Guinea pigs can live inside or outside. They need a large hutch and exercise pen so that they can stretch their legs and explore their surroundings, whilst having a cosy corner where they can curl up and sleep. Their hutch should be lined with clean sawdust or shavings. Straw, hay or dry newspaper make for comfy bedding.
If you decide to keep your guinea pigs outside, you’ll have to keep an eye on the weather. Make sure that your pigs don’t get too cold and muddy. You may need to move their hutch around periodically to ensure they’ve got access to clean, dry grass. It’s best to avoid keeping your guinea pigs on cold, hard surfaces such as concrete, as this can hurt their feet and lead to further problems.
To keep your guinea pigs stimulated, you can give them toys as well as tubes and tunnels to run through. This will keep them occupied and give them different spaces to play and nap in.
Should I get more than one guinea pig?
Guinea pigs make for great first-time pets. They are relatively easy to care for and can be looked after by younger members of the family.
They are social animals and should be kept in pairs or same-sex groups. It is not advised that guinea pigs are kept together with rabbits, as they can be bullied and are vulnerable to catching diseases.
Guinea pigs: likes and dislikes
There are lots of different things to keep your guinea pig happy and comfortable. Here’s a list of things that guinea pigs enjoy, and some things to avoid.
- Clean, dry bedding
- Lots of space to exercise in
- Squeaking or ‘Wheeking’ when they’re happy
- Toys and tunnels to keep them entertained
- Being handled roughly
- Cold, hard surfaces
- Being lonely
- Avocados, Iceberg lettuce & rhubarb
Need more info?
For expert advice on choosing and caring for small animal pets, contact us for more advice.