Friday, March 8, 2013

Guinea Pig Care in Honor of Adopt a Rescued Guinea Pig Month

I figured it was time to write something about guinea pigs since March is Adopt a Rescued Guinea Pig Month. Guinea pigs are popular pets for children as well as adults. Did you know that there are rescue groups that are dedicated to helping out little piggies in need? Instead of purchasing a guinea pig from a pet store, you can adopt one from a local shelter or rescue group.

First, you are going to need to know how to care for one. Just because they are small does not mean that they require any less care or attention than other pets. Here are some key things you need to know about caring for your guinea pig.


I'll start off with diet first because it has to be one of the most crucial parts of a guinea pig's life. Without a proper diet, a guinea pig's health can suffer severely in more than one way. So what do guinea pigs eat anyways? The answer is simple - hay! I have written an article about the importance of hay in a small mammal's diet before, but I'll touch over the basics again because they are so important and can't be stressed enough.

Guinea pigs need to eat a diet of timothy hay. They should have hay available to them for munching on at all times. Hay provides your guinea pig with healthy teeth and a healthy GI tract. A guinea pig's teeth never stop growing and need to be worn down by chewing on hay all day long. Oxbow Western Timothy Hayis an excellent choice if you're not sure what brand to chose. Oxbow is the brand we used at the hospital for several of our small mammal patients.

Photo via darren-johnson

You can feed your guinea pig a timothy hay based pelleted food as well, but this should make up a very small portion of their diet. 1/4 cup of pellets per day is usually enough in most cases. Too many pellets can cause your guinea pig to become fat and they may not want to eat their hay as much as they should. I would also like to add that guinea pigs do not need seeds in their diet, so a seed mix should not be offered to them.

Fresh veggies, leafy greens, and some fruits are also good for your guinea pig. Vegetables that are rich in vitamin C like bell peppers are good for guinea pigs since they are prone to scurvy or vitamin C deficiency. Too many veggies and fruits can cause diarrhea, however, and should be fed in limited quantities. Fresh leafy greens can be fed more often. Feed dark leafy greens like kale, parsley, dandelion greens, and collared greens. Unfortunately, romaine and iceberg lettuce have no real nutritional value so avoid feeding it. 

Since guinea pigs are prone to vitamin C deficiency, a vitamin C supplement is a good idea. The best method of supplementing your guinea pig's vitamin C is to put it straight into their mouth. Adding things to their water could cause them to not want to drink it, and that is something you don't want to happen. Before giving vitamin C to your guinea pig, you should consult with your veterinarian about how much to give and how often. Never guess if you are going to give your pet a supplement! 

And of course, provide your guinea pig with plenty of fresh water to drink!


Guinea pigs should be kept in a nice and roomy cage with plenty of room for them to move around in. They can be shy animals and should be provided with a nice house to hide and sleep in. After all, a guinea pig does need its privacy once in a while. 

Photo via kitkatherine

I would recommend using CareFresh Ultra Small Pet Bedding and not wood shavings. Most beddings that are made from wood shavings are not recommended because they can cause upper respiratory problems for your guinea pigs. 

Keep your guinea pig happy and entertained with plenty of toys and safe things to chew on. There are many things you can make at home that cost no money. 

Even with all of these things, your guinea pig should have some supervised time outside of their cage for exercise and socialization. 


Just like other pets, guinea pigs should see a veterinarian regularly. It's important for a doctor to check them out in order to detect early health problems. They can live to be anywhere from 5-8 years old. Guinea pigs are prone to a few health problems that you might want to be aware of. Here's a list of the most common health problems found in guinea pigs.

  • Vitamin C deficiency (scurvy)
  • Pododermatitis (swollen foot pads)
  • Bladder stones
  • Mites and lice
  • Dental problems
  • Upper respiratory infections
  • Gastrointestinal upset (GI stasis)
  • Cataracts

One of the most common reasons that guinea pigs are seen in animal hospitals is due to GI stasis. This is when the guinea pig's gut stops working normally, usually because the pet isn't eating properly. If you notice that your guinea pig isn't eating, isn't pooping, or is lethargic contact a veterinarian immediately! They are very good at hiding their illness and it can sometimes be hard to detect signs of sickness. GI stasis is very serious and life threatening. 

Photo via cranberryjacket

Hopefully, these tips are helpful in caring for your guinea pig. And remember, don't shop - ADOPT! Celebrate Adopt a Rescued Guinea Pig during March and help a G. Pig in need! 


  1. Too right, we agree don't shop adopt! Great comprehensive post on having a Guinea Pig. We couldn't as I would not be trusted. Have a fabulous Friday.
    Best wishes Molly

    1. Understandable Miss Molly... we wouldn't want you to confuse one for a squirrel :)

  2. Oh I would fink that was a Squirrel or a squeeky toy..BOL Have a fantastic Furiday xx00xx

    Mollie and Alfie

  3. What great information. We have never has a Guinea Pig but they sure look like great pets. We couldn't fit one in here and the cats might think it was their dinner. Have a great day.

  4. That was good stuff and they are so cute and deserving of loving homes.

  5. We love to hear about different kinds of piggies. Hope lots of guinea pigs find forever homes!

    Oink oink,
    Katie and Coccolino the mini pig

  6. Our friends had guinea pigs and though I would probably like to chase them, I learned that they were "part of the family" and thus off limits for chasing. I would cry at them though...they thought I was one nutty terrier.

  7. Subject near and dear to my heart. Thank you for the information about taking care of a guinea pig. We seem to be doing everything right with the one that we rescued from a shelter. Really it was a foster failure but I know you know this. BOL.
    Only question I have is about the Vitamin C. Piggy won't eat the fruit or the treats that have vitamin C in it nor will she drink the water with the vitamin.
    Do you have any suggestions?

    1. Carma - we used to tell clients that the best method is to put it directly into their mouths with a syringe. Of course the amount would differ by product so you'd have to talk to a vet about it.

  8. may we say furst...pleez rememburr we iz catz....

    and......him kinda looks like a snak :)

    hope everee one haza awesum week oh end !

  9. I love guinea pigs, I kept them when I was younger and they make great pets. I especially like their vocalizations, they squeak and squawk and purr. I'm afraid to get one now, though, I think Brooks might want to eat it.

    1. Their vocalizations just might be one of my favorite things about them!

  10. I had a guinea pig called Mr. Pig. I know original hahaha. He was the first pet that I remember losing. It was really hard on me, but knowing we gave him a good home after his first home almost starved him to death reassured me.

  11. My brother had two female guinea pigs when we were kids. He "borrowed" a male from a friend and before we knew it there were 15!!! Then he had gerbils …… tropical fish ….. hamsters .. . . !! Loved them all :)

  12. Those little guys are so adorable! Unfortunately, I am pretty sure Scooter would have other ideas.

  13. A furry amazing post. Whee actually forgot it was this month!

    Going to have to put something together now though whee doubt whee can do anything better than you have managed!

    Nibbles, Nutty, Buddy & Basil


    1. Please - you guys are guinea pig professionals! Will look forward to your post.

  14. These little guys are so cute, but mom has been traumatized about them. When she was in fourth grade her class had a guinea pig named Granite and kids took him home every weekend. Mom was so excited for her turn. It finally came and she had a lot of fun taking care of Granite, but when she woke up on Sunday morning Granite had gone over the bridge! That Monday was a very bad day at school...

    1. Remy - that is a horrible story! Your poor mom... That happened to me once at the clinic. It was my turn to care for the pets one weekend and there was a sick bunny my doctor adopted. I was worried about her all Saturday night and when I went in on Sunday she has passed away :/ Never fun...

    2. Oh dear! I am sorry you had this bad experience too! :(


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