Jeepers Squeakers! December 2017

Dear Readers,

We can’t believe it has been three whole months since we updated you – and that this is the last newsletter of 2017! Winter has thoroughly set in and we have loads to update you on. We’re pleased to report that we raised a whopping £1,200 at our annual race night, which we held in October. Thanks to all of you that attended. The money raised from events like this is so vital to the ongoing running of the charity and the care we give the guinea pigs that come to us. Next up, we have a December raffle, which we will give you information on at the end of this newsletter. Please do pop in and buy some tickets!

Before we get into full swing, we’d like to say a huge thank you to The Debs Foundation, who gave us a wonderful early Christmas surprise by donating £1,000 for a much-needed, sturdy washer dryer for our shelter, so that we can cope with all the washing (mainly of towels and vetbed) that we constantly have to do. This was desperately needed and we’re extremely grateful.

So, coming up, we’re going to tell you about the global guinea pig Secret Santa, we’re going to give you hints and tips on how to collect piggy urine samples, and we’ll tell you how to keep your guineas safe and warm this winter. All this and more to follow!


Guinea pig Secret Santa!

guinea pig with santa hatguinea pig secret santa project logoWe are very excited to be part of the great guinea pig Secret Santa project again this year. This is a global initiative whereby complete strangers (yes, really!) put together parcels of Secret Santa presents for deserving piggies in shelters across the world. It’s a truly lovely idea at Christmas, especially for older or sick piggies that may not get rehomed.

April Lodge Guinea Pig Rescue has been asked to put forward deserving piggies for several years, and so we have done so again for 2017. In fact, all 15 of the residents in our Guinea Pig Retirement Home in Herne Bay will be getting gifts, along with some of the piggies here in the shelter. They will be receiving their gifts soon! If you would like more information, you can check out the initiative’s Facebook page.


Urinary Tract Infections: Information from Val Savage, Founder of April Lodge

hunched-up guinea pigGuinea pigs are fairly prone to this condition, seeing as they are so close to the ground. You can help by ensuring they are kept in clean conditions and by looking out for a guinea pig that hunches his back when he urinates (see picture below) and listening out for the accompanying, sometimes loud, squeaks of pain.

Getting the guinea pig on clean towels or vetbed will help to keep him dry underneath and will also tell you if he has a more advanced case, with blood in his urine; this often indicates cystitis. To give your guinea pig instant (although temporary) relief, you can syringe in human cystitis powders, mixed as they would be for a human being.

You may then wish to take a urine sample to the vet for analysis/dipping. This will save you money, as if the vet has to take the sample then it will cost extra. The test may tell you if the sample contains a named bacteria, blood, crystals, bladder sludge, etc. A competent vet can adequately deal with this, although he or she may wish to obtain a definitive diagnosis via an x-ray. We can give the names and contact details of guinea pig-savvy vets, should you need them.

Initially, your guinea pig will need to be registered at your chosen veterinary surgery. You also need to check if they are ok for you to bring in a urine sample and at what time. This brings us to getting the sample itself. You will need to place the piggy in a super-cIean small plastic crate, with the end propped up on a book or two. We advise scalding the crate with almost boiling water to clean it, but being careful not to melt the plastic!

So, place the guinea pig in the crate with nothing else in situ (not even food or hay). You will need a sterile (unused) 1ml syringe to draw up the urine once it has pooled at one end of the box. The gradient must not be too steep, or you are sure to get poops mixed in with the urine, which is not the desired effect.

Once the urine is drawn up into the syringe, wind some selotape around the open end to prevent it from leaking out, or you can stay one step ahead by purchasing 1ml syringe stoppers online.

The initial treatment would usually consist of 0.5mls of Co-Trimoxazole twice daily, along with 0.2mls of Metacam once daily for 14 days. These are prescription-only medications, so you will need to see the vet.

Do note that keeping your guinea pig indoors and near you will lead to more prompt diagnosis and treatment.


More railway babies!

railway baby Tallulah railway baby TiffanyYet again, we have rescued some guinea pigs found down on the train tracks. Why people think that throwing unwanted pets off a moving train or dumping them on the tracks is acceptable is beyond us. But we’re pleased to say that we were able to rescue these two, thanks to our regular rescuer in the railway network who spent his birthday catching them. Thank you!

Both are girls, and have been named Tiffany and Tallulah. We guess that they were 8 to 10 weeks when they came in – both were underweight. They have settled in fast though and, with regular handling and a good diet, they’re getting used to humans and putting on weight. We will find them a lovely home soon I am sure.


Winter! Cold weather and predators…

We may have got past the perils of fireworks night for guinea pigs, but winter has more hurdles in store for us yet when it comes to guinea pig care. Here, our lovely volunteer Jo gives us some winter care tips and fills us in on the predators we need to keep in mind at this time of the year… Thanks Jo!

Keeping your piggies safe from winter predators, by Jo Lockett

We always ask that our adopters bring guinea pigs inside or into a sheltered building in winter. They’ll be safer and warmer if inside and you’ll be able to interact with them more, rather than trekking outside in the cold and rain to see and feed them. Being inside also means you can pick up on any strange noises, which may indicate a health problem.

But, IF you keep your piggies outside, be aware of predators. They’ll get hungrier in winter and guinea pigs make tasty snacks!

fox in broad daylightFoxes: Guinea pigs are very vulnerable to attacks by foxes, especially overnight. Once Mr Fox knows there is a guinea pig or two to be had, he will be back night after night. He is normally relentless in his quest to capture and kill. We often get unwanted hutches donated to us that show the teeth and claw marks of foxes as they have tried repeatedly to get to the guinea pigs. Cheaply made hutches are easily broken into. Even if he has visited but not managed to get to his prey, the guinea pigs will often die of a trauma-related heart attack.

A fox will dig, scratch, jump on top of the hutch, try to chew his way in, push the hutch over (especially two-tier hutches with an open base) and, in fact, do anything he can to get to his prey. If you leave your hutch on grass, he will either knock it over or dig underneath or through the wood to gain access. The hungrier he is, the worse it gets. He is quite adept in sliding open latches and, if he fails, he will be back night after night. This is the same for a pregnant vixen in winter, who will take any measures to get to a source of food. The fox pictured here was seen out in broad daylight by one of our volunteers!

Rats: Rats are experts at gaining access; they can chew through wooden floors and slip into the smallest gaps. They often attack adult guinea pigs, sometimes killing them. They always attack and kill baby guinea pigs.

Mice: Mice can easily squeeze through the smallest holes to get to the food and warmth. But, be warned – mouse urine is toxic to guinea pigs.

Birds: We know of a lady that kept her guinea pigs in hutches in an aviary with no roof. One morning, she let them out into the aviary and popped indoors, and, when she came back, one was missing. It then transpired that a hawk had been around for a few days prior to the attack. Other birds with an interest are magpies and seagulls.

Cats: Most cats will get bored after the initial arrival of guinea pigs brings out the ‘hunter’ in them. The wire mesh on the run should not be big enough for the cats to get their paws through. However, if access is made, the guinea pigs will be in trouble. A cat with the capacity to do it can capture and kill a rabbit, so a guinea pig will be easy pickings!

Dogs: The default reaction in many breeds of dog is to kill guinea pigs, especially in terrier-type breeds. Dogs should be supervised around guinea pigs at all times and not given the option of doing any harm.


Why adopt from us? A piece by Jo Lockett

Most of our pigs were bought from pet stores and became unwanted because the kids lost interest, they can’t handle them, or the owners realised that guinea pigs need more looking after than they had anticipated. So we have a duty of care to give these little ones the best second chance they can get.

Adopting from us may not be as simple as just popping into your local pet store one afternoon and coming home with some piggies. But we do offer much more…

  • We offer advice at every step of the way and, if you need to buy equipment, we can usually advise on better and cheaper options than pet stores.
  • We offer FREE hands-on sessions for all adopters, where we advise on diet, health concerns and handling, and can answer any questions you may have.
  • All our unwanted piggies have spent time in our quarantine section to be bathed, fattened up (usually required!), health-checked, wormed, handled and made ready for adoption.
  • We provide a FREE quarterly welfare check for all guinea pigs adopted from us, which includes worming, nail clipping, microscopic slides to check for parasites, ears/eyes checks, boy/girl bits cleaned and a weigh-in, along with any other advice you may need. We usually spend 10–15 minutes on each pig and give them a thorough check – and we do this across the rest of their lives.
  • We will always be available to answer queries or concerns you may have once you have taken the piggies home.

Take a look at our guinea pigs available for adoption.


Enter our raffle!

Our massive Christmas raffle is in full swing! It’s just £1 for a strip of five tickets, and there are truly fabulous prizes to be won.

first prize christmas hamper1st prize (pictured) is a HUGE hamper of goodies – biscuits, chutneys, sweets, nuts and more.

2nd prize is a smaller hamper of similar treats.

3rd prize is a selection of piggy presents.

There are also some runner-up prizes to choose from.

We’d like to say a huge thank you to our wonderful supporter, Angela Lane, for putting these prizes together and donating them to us. It’s all in a good cause, so pop in to get your tickets! Or, if you can’t make it into the shelter, just post us a cheque or cash for the tickets, along with a stamped and addressed envelope, and we will send your tickets back to you. We will draw the winning ones on December 17th, and we are able to deliver prizes in Herne Bay, Maidstone, Gravesend, Deal, Dover, Wingham and Canterbury.


Our shelves are stocked!

guinea pig items in our shopOur shop is full to bursting at the moment with new stock and, in particular, stuff to keep your piggies warm this winter. We have foodie treats, microwaveable heat pads, shampoos, aromatherapy oil soaks, medicines and a great selection of washable cuddle mats, caves, sofas and igloos. All piggies love curling up in these to keep cosy in winter!

Also, we have just had a delivery of cosy nests, waterproof cuddle mats, large sofas and large cosy tunnels. So why not pop in and treat your piggy this Christmas?


2018 fundraising!

That’s right, we already have events in the offing for 2018! First up is our Chilli Quiz Night, which will be held on Saturday 28th April at Woodensborough Football Club. There is easy parking, a bar, a raffle and quiz prizes, as well as a scrumptious meal. Tickets are £10 each, and teams can be made of up to 10 people. We will bring you more information in the next newsletter and on Facebook, but do save the date now!

Then there’s our famous Annual Open Day and Fun Show on Sunday 5th August, from 10am until 3pm. Again, we will give you more information in due course, but get that date in your diary now! We look forward to seeing you there.


Until next time…

Thanks for reading! This edition of Jeepers Squeakers was put together by Lizzie Sabin with contributions from Val Savage and Jo Lockett. The next edition of Jeepers Squeakers is due out in March. Please contact us if you have anything to say, would like any issues addressed, or would like an article placed.