Guinea Pig Quick Care Guide

Do guinea pigs need veterinary care?

Yes, they (guinea pigs) definitely need veterinary care, just like any other animal.

Dr. Molly Kase
Brook-falls Veterinary Hospital and Exotic Care Inc

How many breeds of guinea pigs are there?

Depending on who you talk to and what you consider a breed, there are 10 to 20, based on the satin coat kind of guinea pigs.

Is there such a thing as short hair or Teddy Guinea Pigs?

Yes. Those ones have really short hair. They're really cute and feel like a Brillo pad.

How long do guinea pigs live?

Six to eight years if you're lucky, and you keep up on everything.

How big exactly do guinea pigs get?

Weight-wise, they get one and a half to three pounds, and they can be anywhere from a big potato to a little baguette or a loaf of bread.

Do guinea pigs make good pets?

Yes, I would say that they make great pets. They have great personalities, you can create a bond, and they're super cute.

Are guinea pigs good for kids?

Yes, with proper adult supervision, they can be great for kids. They're less fragile than some of the other animals, and if the child is old enough to understand the responsibility of taking care of the guinea pig, they're great for kids.

What are the best cages or enclosures for guinea pigs?

The bigger, the better. Even though they are tiny, they still need room to roam around, so make sure you have a kind of fleece on the ground as a lining and a bunch of little hideaways for them. The fleece also helps with their feet because it's soft, so it serves as a little padding to keep their tootsies nice and soft.

Is it possible to make your own guinea pig cage at home?

Yes, I would definitely say so. Even if you get little X-Pen wire cages, or C and C is another brand, you can adjust it to how big you want it and create different levels and things like that. So, yes, I think that would definitely be possible.

Can I potty train guinea pigs?

I would say yes. A lot of them have a preferential corner that they go to in their enclosure, so I think with enough food motivation, you could definitely train a guinea pig to be potty trained.

Is it okay to put my guinea pig in an exercise ball?

I wouldn't do that. Guinea pigs just have different anatomy. They have longer backs than little hamsters, so you could potentially injure them if you put them in an exercise ball, even if it is a bigger one. I would avoid them.

What do guinea pigs eat?

They mainly eat different types of hay and veggies. A little bit of fruit is okay. Commercial guinea pig pellets are great. Just make sure that you're always supplementing vitamin C because they can't their bodies can't make it.

Do guinea pigs smell?

No, as long as you are taking care of them properly and cleaning the enclosures, they don't smell unless you're very close and personal with their set glands.

Can guinea pigs live alone?

They can technically survive alone, but they are a very social species. So if you are able to bond with them, that would be great. Otherwise, it is best to keep them in pairs because of their social nature, so they have a little friend at all times.

How many babies can a guinea pig have?

The typical litter is about two to four, and their gestation is only two to two and a half months. If you do have a male and female together and they are not spayed or neutered, you have the potential to create a lot of babies.

How do wellnesses and preventative care impact the overall health and wellbeing of my guinea pig?

I'd say it's a staple. Having them checked out can prevent a lot of diseases, or you can catch them early. Just like with any other animal and us, preventative care is key.

How soon should I bring my guinea pig to the veterinarian if they're not eating or drinking or if I notice that any of their normal behaviors or habits have changed or are off?

As soon as you notice any differences in your guinea pig, you should call your veterinarian. They can change really quickly, and a lot of times, they hide their illnesses until their body is unable to hide them. So as soon as you notice anything different, you should call your veterinarian.

What are some of the common conditions that guinea pigs can experience?

They can get similar things to other animals. They can have respiratory issues because they have such tiny lung fields. They can have diarrhea, dental disease, urinary diseases, and parasites. So they can experience very similar issues to a dog or a cat.

How will a veterinarian be able to know if something's wrong with my guinea pig?

We always start with just a physical exam, where we look at everything: eyes, ears, teeth, listen to heart and lungs, feel the belly, and see how much weight they've put on or lost. Based on that, if we see some abnormalities, we can go from there and see if we want to do some specific diagnostic tests.

What are some of the signs and symptoms that something is wrong with my guinea pig that I should be on alert and looking out for?

Like before, any changes in their habits will be important to watch out for. Some of the specifics you could look for would be drooling, decreased appetite, any weird smells coming from them, if they're lethargic, if their breathing changes, or if they are losing a lot of weight. Anything like that would definitely be concerning.

Why is it important to avoid self-diagnosing my guinea pig?

All the things that I just mentioned can indicate a variety of diseases. If your guinea pig stops eating, it could be something like dental disease, they're painful in their abdomen, or maybe they have a respiratory infection that causes it. Jumping the gun is not a great thing to do because it could be something else going wrong. Letting the veterinarian decide what's wrong is important.

Why is early detection and diagnosis of illnesses in a guinea pig so important?

It's so important because they hide their illnesses because they are a prey species, so evolution is telling them not to show any signs of illness. By the time they do show signs of illness, a lot of times, they are very sick. The same goes for preventative care. We can catch things earlier and hopefully treat them a lot better for the longevity of the little guys.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (262) 781-5277, you can email us, or you can reach out on social media. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

Guinea Pigs General Care - FAQs

Dr. Molly Kase
Brooks-Falls Veterinary Hospital

Are guinea pigs easy to take care of?

They're relatively easy to take care of. I would say that they're easier than a dog or a cat, but they're still a little bit of work.

How do I care for my guinea pig?

We've got a lot of good husbandry information that we provide to a lot of our clients when we see them, but they'll need an enclosure with proper bedding, proper food, like hay and pellets, and proper cleaning just to make sure that everything goes well.

How do I find a guinea pig vet near me?

We see Guinea pigs here. But otherwise, you can look online. If you search for a guinea pig veterinarian, you should find someone that feels comfortable seeing guinea pigs. They'll advertise it on their website.

How do I care for my guinea pig's teeth?

Some Guinea pigs have some teeth issues that require veterinary attention, but otherwise, ensuring they have unlimited access to hay will help grind down their teeth naturally.

Can I give my guinea pig a bath?

You can. You don't necessarily need to, but you can use some baby shampoo with nice warm water, ensuring that you dry them completely when they're done to ensure they don't get too cold.

Where can I find the guinea pig care guide?

We are uploading one on our website shortly. So you can check for that. Otherwise, we do have lots of handouts that we give to people when they go to their guinea pig's first veterinarian visit. So the first time they see us, we'll have some good informational guidelines. We've got folders that we'll give out with a bunch of information, but we hope to have it available on the website for you guys soon.

How do I clean my guinea pig's cage?

You can do spot cleaning of where they go to the bathroom. When doing a deep clean, you can use a very dilute bleach solution to clean out everything. Make sure you change out the bedding regularly.

Do guinea pigs need hay feeders?

They don't need hay feeders. You can just put the hay down on the bottom of the cage, and they can access it just fine. They don't need it to be up in a fancy holder. I tried a fancy holder, and my guinea pig just snapped it right on the side of the cage, and then I spent the majority of the time picking it out of the carpet.

Can guinea pigs get fleas?

They can. If you have another animal in the house that has fleas, they can jump on them. But otherwise, they shouldn't have fleas if it's not introduced from somewhere else.

Can guinea pigs get a cold?

They can get their own version of a cold. They can get some upper respiratory infections and symptoms. It's not necessarily the same cold that we have, but they can get their own version of a cold.

How do I care for baby guinea pigs?

They are born ready to go, evolutionarily. So they should be good to go on their own, but as soon as you have those baby guinea pigs, bring the mom and babies to the veterinarian to get them checked and make sure that everything looks good. Then we can instruct you on various ages, what to prevent, and what to expect as they grow.

What do I do if my guinea pig is not moving?

Not moving is a big emergency, so definitely get that guinea pig to a veterinarian as fast as possible. They are prey species, so they hide their illnesses until it's very serious. So if it's not moving, you have a very sick guinea pig. Get them to an ER facility if we're not open. There are a couple of different ones that will see guinea pigs. Otherwise, give us a call.

Why does my guinea pig have dry feet, and what can I do about that?

Sometimes they can get dry feet as they get older or if their bedding or the floor of their enclosure is too rough. So make sure it's nice and soft. We love using fleece lining and blankets. Patting them together makes it nice and soft. Otherwise, if they are getting flaky and you have their enclosure nice and soft, get that guinea pig seen because there might be a little infection going on down there. But just make sure everything is nice and soft and clean.

How do I clean my guinea pig's ears out?

You shouldn't need to. Guinea pigs do have some waxy stuff in their ears, so you probably wouldn't need to clean their ears out unless you notice that it's smelly or they're really going at them, in which case you should bring them to the veterinarian anyway, and then we'll do it for you. There could be a lot going on. There could be an infection or something like that. So make sure to have them seen by a veterinarian and not take it over yourself because there could be a couple of different things going on. We'll need a special scope to see down into the ear canals.

How do I clip my guinea pig's nails?

It can be tough if they have darker nails, but having little trimmers may help. If they're white nails, you want to take the white part and not touch the pink part at all. If they are darker, then you start with tiny bits to make sure that you're not going to hit their skin and make them bleed. If you're uncomfortable or don't have someone to help you hold them, we can do it for you. Otherwise, I think some of the local humane societies have $5 events every couple of weekends, where you can bring in your guinea pig, and they'll trim the nails for you.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (262) 781-5277, you can email us, or you can reach out on social media. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can

Guinea Pigs Nutrition - FAQs

Dr. Molly Kase
Brooks-Falls Veterinary Hospital

What exactly do guinea pigs eat?

Guinea pigs eat hay, a lot of hay. They can eat pellets and certain veggies as well.

Where do I find guinea pig food?

One of the brands, Oxbow, has a website you can order from. Otherwise, we have some at our clinic. Some pet stores have a variety of brands, so just ask your veterinarian which brands you should go for and which you should avoid.

What are some good treats for guinea pigs?

Oxbow makes little hay biscuits. Otherwise, certain veggies, like peppers, are good for occasional treats.

Can they get too many treats?

Yes, definitely. Just like any animal, they can definitely get too many treats. Focusing on the occasions and limiting the amounts is important.

Can they overeat their hay and their pellets?

Hay all the time is good, but they can overeat pellets, fruits, veggies, biscuits, and things like that. So moderate that, but leave the hay all the time.

Can guinea pigs eat any of the following foods: apples and grapes?

Very small amounts of apples are fine, but in general, fruits have a lot of sugar, which can upset their GI system. So tiny amounts infrequently are okay.

Bananas and strawberries?

Very tiny amounts.

Oranges and watermelon?

Probably not. There's a lot of water in it, but a lot of sugar too. I would avoid that. When they have too much sugar, it throws off the bacteria in their GI systems that are in there, and they need the bacteria as their fermentation vat in what's called their cecum. That helps them absorb the nutrients they need and eliminate the ones they don't. So the sugar gets that all out of whack, and it can cause them to have looser stool, diarrhea, and things like that, which can be pretty dangerous when they get dehydrated. Some guinea pigs are okay with a whole slice, and some can only have a little corner piece. So it depends on the pig.

How about vegetables, like celery, tomatoes, and broccoli?

Broccoli's okay. Celery has a lot of water, so they can have it in moderation. The veggies are better because they're lower in sugar. Some of the veggies are good because the guinea pigs do need vitamin C. In general, focus more on peppers and things like that. Broccoli leaves are really good too. Green, yellow, and red peppers are good. Focus on the green and red ones more. Chopping those up and giving like a quarter cup of that a day will be good for their vitamin C levels. Morning or evening are good times to give a little tidbit of veggies and pellets at night. Alternate those so that you can see if your guinea pig is still eating and they're excited about eating. You'll be able to monitor it better that way.

Does my guinea pig need hay or alfalfa?

Definitely hay. Timothy and Medowgrass hay are great when they're an adult. Alfalfa is good for youngsters. Alfalfa hay is the best when they're under six months of age. But after that, we don't want to offer it anymore because it's really high in calcium, so it can cause them to have bladder stones or just become obese because of the extra nutrients in it.

How about some nuts and grains or rabbit food?

Stay away from that. Rabbit food doesn't have the vitamin C in it that the guinea pigs need, so it's not adequate for them, nutritionally of value to them.

How do I know if my guinea pig is getting enough vitamin C?

Give them a little biscuit supplement, and make sure they're getting enough of the peppers. We have care guides we give out when you first get your guinea pig, and you should bring them to the veterinarian for evaluation so we can give you more specifics of how much they should be getting based on their body weight.

Does my guinea pig need the supplements?

Vitamin C supplementation is absolute, but they should be getting everything else from their hay.

What foods should my guinea pig absolutely avoid?

I would avoid most fruits, meats, and simple carbs. Stay away from human foods aside from certain veggies and rare foods.

What should I do if my guinea pig eats something toxic?

I would call your veterinarian immediately if they do eat that and let them know what they ate, when they ate it, and how much they ate. Depending on what it is, we can go from there.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (262) 781-5277, you can email us, or you can reach out on social media. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can

Guinea Pigs Behavior - FAQs

Dr. Molly Kase
Brooks-Falls Veterinary Hospital

Are guinea pigs friendly?

They can be. Many guinea pigs are friendly and enjoy scratches, but it depends on how well socialized they are.

Do guinea pigs bite?

They can bite. Hopefully, if you socialize them well enough, they won't, but if you startle them or they're not well socialized and not used to something, they can bite.

What does it mean if my guinea pig bites me?

Sometimes they mistake you for food if you cut up some veggies, things like that, but in general, it means that they don't like whatever you're doing, so stop.

My guinea pig makes sounds and squeaks. Is that normal?

It is super normal. A lot of Guinea pigs are very vocal, and they have a wide variety of sounds they make depending on if they're happy or sad.

What do guinea pigs like?

Guinea pigs like food. They like their hay and their pellets. If you give them veggies from the fridge, that will be a pig trigger for them. Some of them like attention, pets, screeches, and a wide variety of things. I had one guinea pig that loved to cuddle and would make that little chirping noise when I cuddled and rubbed behind her ears, and then I couldn't even pick up the other one. She'd run away from me. So they have very different personalities across the board.

What kind of toys do guinea pigs like to play with?

They like tunnels and hay products. They like to be hidden. A lot of times, they make molded hay into like rings or into little bales and stuff like that. Those are nice because they can play with them and eat them simultaneously.

How do I get my guinea pig to lose weight?

Decrease the treats. Some people will give their guinea pigs too many fruits. Fruits are high in sugar, which can lead to weight gain, and too many pellets can lead to weight gain. So cutting down and making sure you're not giving more than a quarter cup of pellets per day can help cut down on obesity. I heard that pellets are kind of like the French fries of their life. They like them, but it's not really good for them in mass, so you have to limit it.

How do I find a guinea pig veterinarian near me?

On the internet. If you search for a guinea pig veterinarian, many veterinarians who feel comfortable with guinea pigs will say so on their website. We are obviously very comfortable with guinea pigs here, and we serve the greater Milwaukee area. We have people that come from quite a while away to see us.

Do guinea pigs sleep?

They do sleep. Just like anything else, they need their sleep.

Do guinea pigs swim?

No, they shouldn't swim. That's not something that we should test out. I put mine in the bathtub with just a tiny bit of water, so they can walk in there, but I can't say I put enough in the tub to like have them try to swim. It's not one of their natural behaviors. I felt like I was torturing her because she screamed the whole time. She had some poo on her feet, so I figured I'd have her walk it off in the water, and I don't think she liked it very much.

Do guinea pigs sleep with their eyes open?

They don't. I guess sometimes their eyes can be a little bit open, but generally, they sleep with their eyes closed.

Why do guinea pigs poop so much?

They're eating all the time. They should eat hay throughout the day, and their GI systems are always working. They have to be pooping all the time because their intestines have to be going in order for them to absorb the nutrients. So constant eating, constant pooping, and constant moving are the way that their GI systems work and the way that it keeps them healthy. What goes in has to come out.

What can guinea pigs see? Can they see colors, and can they see at night?

They can see colors, which is one of their unique features compared to the rest of the rodent family. They can see at night, but not super well. So it's not like our night vision, but they can see a little bit at night.

Why do guinea pigs grind their teeth?

Sometimes they grind their teeth when they're uncomfortable. It can be a sign of pain or discomfort. But sometimes they can do it when they're happy too. If you're scratching their chin and they grind it, they can do more like a teeth chattering thing- a tooth purr. It sounds like they're purring, but really it's their teeth. Otherwise, when they grind their teeth, they can be uncomfortable too. So it depends on the context of what's happening and if it's normal for them to purr.

Why do guinea pigs bite their cages?

That can be a sign of boredom, just a stereotypical behavior. Make sure that they are getting out, getting their exercises, that they're stimulated enough, and they have enough enrichment. You want to be careful if they're biting their cage because, many times, cages are metal, and they can chip their teeth, so eliminate that as much as possible. Find toys or something else to distract them. You can hide their pellets around their enclosure, so they have to hunt for them.

How do I know if my guinea pig is lonely?

Guinea pigs are social creatures. So having them kind of in pairs is best if they're bonded. Otherwise, if you can be their bonded pair, they can get lonely because they are social creatures, so ensure they have enough interaction with you or their little buddies.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (262) 781-5277, you can email us, or you can reach out on social media. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can