Guinea pig Basics
This should comprise of a living area and a separate sleeping area. Depending on how many guinea pigs you want will depend on the size of the hutch. For one guinea pig your hutch size should be around 7.5 square feet, so the more you have the bigger it should be.
Bigger is always better.
Either hay or straw are suitable as bedding, and don't forget to put extra hay in a clean area for eating. The hutch should be cleaned out on a regular basis, especially during the warmer weather to avoid the attraction of flies.
Make sure the hutch is well weather proofed and has shelter from draughts, rain, direct sunlight and the wind. Damp can also be a problem so make sure the hutch is raised on legs.
Exercise pens need to be big enough to house the number of guinea pigs you have, and again the bigger the better. Make sure it is escape proof and predator proof.
Guinea pigs should be fed unlimited amounts of hay, good quality pellets and a variety of vegetables, with limited fruit.
The hay should be of a good quality grass such as timothy hay. This is good for wearing their teeth down and therefore preventing dental problems, as well as keeping their digestive system moving.
Check that any food you use is designed for guinea pigs. Because they cannot manufacture their own vitamin C you need to make sure that you supply this in the food that you feed them. Other foods like rabbit mix or pellets lack vitamin C, which in the long run will cause health problems for the guinea pig. They need 10 to 30mg per kilogram body weight daily to prevent scurvy.
Small amounts of fresh vegetables can be used as an additional supply of vitamin C. You should mainly feed leafy greens with a small amount of fruit. Examples of vegetables and fruits are kale, spinach, turnip greens, parsley, red or green bell peppers, romaine lettuce (NOT iceberg), carrots and carrot tops, tomatoes, apple, apricots, bananas, cantaloupe, seedless grapes, oranges, strawberries, watermelon, and blueberries. Avoid or limit cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, collards, and bok choy as they can lead to gas production in the digestive tract. It is better to offer a variety of things than to feed the same thing all week, this then makes sure that the guinea pig receives its daily nutrient requirements and feeding too much of one thing may cause upsets in the digestive system. Don't forget about using what is in your garden, but check that it is safe to feed first. Dandelion greens, grass, clover and chickweed can all be fed. Remember to rinse all items before feeding and remove any thing uneaten to prevent spoiling. Any item must be introduced slowly to avoid digestive upsets, which can be seen 24 to 48 hours after eating.
Guinea pigs are a social herd animal so they do better in groups. Even if you have two guinea pigs that don't get along, they will almost always be happier being near to each other even in separate hutches.
You can have all female groups, all male groups or a mixture of both. If you were having a mixture it would be wise to get the males castrated to prevent unwanted pregnancies. In a group of all males there is no need for neutering as this does little to change any aggressive or sexual behaviour. If two boars don't get along, then they probably never will and you will have to separate them.
Take care if considering pairing with a rabbit, as rabbits will often show dominant behaviour towards them and this can lead to serious injuries for the guinea pig.
Dental Disease Because guinea pigs teeth continuously grow they need a high fibre diet (for example hay, grass) to keep them worn down. If they are not provided with this opportunity then their teeth will eventually become malaligned and start to grow into the cheek or tongue causing sores and lacerations. The guinea pig then may stop eating and eventually starve to death. Look out for reduced amounts of food eaten, which could be a problem if you have more than one. Also look for drooling and wet fur patches on the chin and down the neck. Weight loss can also be an indicator.
Mites These can be caught from the supply of hay or straw you use, they can also be past from one guinea pig to another. You'll need a good eye to see them; you'll need to part the fur and look for very small brown dots moving. Scratching and bald patches are also a sign of mites.
Scurvy (vitamin C deficiency) This is due to a lack of vitamin C in the guinea pigs diet. Signs to look out for are lethargy, weak and disfigured bones and teeth development, swollen joints, reluctance to move and spontaneous bleeding from the gums.
Heat stroke Guinea pigs are very susceptible to heat stroke, so remember to provide adequate shade and ventilation on the warmer to hot days, signs to watch out for include panting, slobbering, weakness, reluctance to move, convulsions and death.
Bordatella This is the most common bacterial respiratory infection in guinea pigs. It is commonly found in the respiratory tract of rabbits and yet it rarely causes them a problem. Because of this rabbits are able to infect guinea pigs even though they are not infected themselves. Symptoms include sneezing, runny nose, loss of appetite, depression and weight loss.
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