Guinea pigs are sensitive creatures and, due to their very specific dietary requirements, can commonly suffer from skin disorders or other problems. Here's a few things to look out for during your daily health checks, but if you have any concerns you should see your vet immediately.
Guinea pig claws
If claws become overgrown they should be carefully trimmed back, being careful not to cut the 'quick'. Owners should be very careful when trimming claws and unless you are sure of what you are doing, seek veterinary assistance. Extreme caution should be taken when trimming dark or black claws as the quick will be harder to see.
Guinea pig teeth
The four front teeth (the upper and lower incisors) should be checked regularly to ensure they are equal and not too long. Providing lots of hay and chew toys should ensure teeth are kept at an ideal length. Signs of teeth problems include wearing and breaks, mouth hanging awkwardly, eating at a slow rate etc.
Cuts, lumps and bumps on your guinea pig
When handling your guinea pig, make a mental note of any lumps and bumps about his body; that way if any abscesses form you will be able to spot them quickly. Check regularly for any cuts, especially if you have a pair of guinea pigs that could fight. Also, check their eyes regularly — they should be large, bright and shiny — any sign of redness or soreness could suggest there is a problem.
Fleas on your guinea pig
Symptoms of fleas include hair loss, itching, small scab formations on particularly irritated parts of the skin and anaemia in extreme cases. Infestations usually occur from contraction from another animal either a pet or a wild animal. There are treatments available to treat infestations, once they have been diagnosed. To avoid another bout of fleas ensure that other animals are kept a safe distance from your guinea pig (their presence close by is likely to be a stressor anyway). Ensure that other family pets follow a thorough flea prevention routine and try to keep their contact with your pigs to a minimum. Regular flea treatment of your house is also recommended. Do not use flea treatments for other species on your guinea pigs as they could be harmful.
Lice on your guinea pig
By conducting daily checks of your guinea pig you will be able to spot any changes in their skin. Lice are mainly found near the head, neck and rump and will be visible to the naked eye. Itching and hair loss will normally only occur in severe cases. If you suspect that your guinea pig has lice visit your vet for treatment immediately. Your guinea pig will need treating with anti-parasitic injections from your vet. His living environment will also need treating as will all other pets that you have.
Mites on your guinea pig
Mites cause extreme itching, causing guinea pigs to chew and scratch excessively, which in turn makes the itching worse. The skin will be raised with red bumps. Mites are normally found on the back, flanks and shoulders of the guinea pig. It is generally caused by direct or indirect contact with infected animals. Your guinea pig will need treating with anti-parasitic injections from your vet. His living environment will also need treating as will all other pets that you have.
This is an upper or lower respiratory noise occasionally made by guinea pigs. It may just be a nervous reaction or it could be the first sign of an acute lung infection or an allergy, which may be more serious.
Compactions around the tail or rectum are most commonly seen in males and are generally hormone related. Provided that their back ends are regularly cleaned this should not cause too much of a problem.
Cases of diarrhoea are most commonly food related and generally settle down within a day or so. If symptoms persist, consult your vet immediately.
Signs of a healthy guinea pig
It is important that you visually monitor your guinea pigs health every day and perform a more thorough hands-on health check every week. Guinea pigs don't tend to show physical signs of illness until they are really unwell so it's important to pay close attention to this. The smallest sign of illness could indicate a huge problem. Check every day that your guinea pig is:
- Not sitting hunched and uncomfortably.
- Ensure that they are eating the same amount of food as they would do normally.
- Make sure that they are not playing with their food, this could indicate a tooth, throat or digestive issue.
- Check that the faeces are a normal shape and consistency.
- That he is moving about freely
- That his coat is glossy and shiny.
- Check the coat for mites, fungal issues and lice as this issues are common in guinea pigs.
- Check the toenails and trim regularly, every four to six weeks.
- Check around the face for grass seeds in the eye.
- Check that eyes are clear.
- Teeth are in a good condition as these continually grow.
- Ensure that there are items in your guinea pigs environment to chew on to keep his teeth in shape.