Frequently asked questions
Below are some questions that we are asked on a frequent basis. Please check here to see if your question has already been answered, and you might also find our emergency medical guide useful if you are concerned that your guinea pig may be sick. We are happy to give advice either by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone on 07790 684888.
Is my guinea pig blind?
White haired, pink eyed guinea pigs are more susceptible to blindness, but it is not unknown for a dark haired, dark eyed guinea to be blind too. Guinea pigs generally do not have very good eyesight and are short sighted rather than long sighted.
However, we believe many a guinea pig has been misunderstood because of this disability, especially an adult male who is aggressive with another male; you might also be if couldn’t see very well! It is very difficult to detect how poor the sight is, but not having any reaction to bright light would indicate a problem. When you walk past the hutch, especially if there are two guinea pigs inside, you may notice a distinct difference in their behaviour as you pass.
Can my guinea pig go in his run/outside if the grass is wet?
There is much unnecessary distress about whether you should or shouldn’t put your guinea pig out in a grass run if the grass is wet.
Well of course it would be bad for the piggy to be left on wet grass all day, no one would deny that. Our philosophy is that if you can provide him with a cosy floored nest box, for example a chinchilla box, wouldn’t it be nice if he could be left to make this most important decision himself?
So in summary, this is our recommendation. Move your run onto fresh grass daily. Get on to BBC website to see which way the wind is blowing, or stand in the middle of your lawn with a hankie in the air, like a damsel in distress if you don’t know your north from your south. Put your nest box(es), complete with bedding, in the run, back to the wind, and let him make the decision.
If he lives indoors, this is a different matter. He will need floor time for exercise during the cold months and you can bring the grass in for him.
Is my guinea pig sick?
One of the biggest problems we see here are sick guinea pigs brought to us too late. Its all very well saying guinea pigs are very good at hiding illnesses but what does that mean exactly? It means that even though they are unwell, they may continue to act normally, squeaking when they see you, chuntering in their excitement at eating and running around. See our emergency medical guide for quick reference, but if you are in the slightest doubt, see a vet at the earliest opportunity.
If you suspect the slightest thing wrong, put him on the scales daily and see if there is a continuing weight loss. When there are no other visible symptoms this method usually confirms whether there is a problem.
Can you keep guinea pigs with rabbits?
No, for several reasons. Firstly, any rabbit can kill a guinea pig with one kick, even if it is playing. Guinea pigs also have different dietary needs from rabbits, who can synthesise their own vitamin C and do not need their diet supplemented to provide this. Rabbits can also pass on a fur mites to guinea pigs.
My guinea pig uses his food bowl as a toilet. What can I do?
If it is droppings in his feed, that is not problem providing the dish is cleaned regularly. If it is urine, giving him two smaller dishes should help as long as he cannot tip them up. You may like to use this opportunity to introduce him to a litter tray. Use some soiled bedding in the litter tray to encourage him to use it.
Why is my guinea pig scratching?
Here are three possible reasons:
Parasites: If your guinea pig is over 12 weeks, not pregnant or nursing, bath your guinea pig weekly for three weeks in anti parasite-shampoo.
Allergy: Do not use wood shavings or sawdust or it could be poor quality hay. If so replace with fresh, dry, dust-free hay.
Mange: He needs urgent treatment for this condition. Mange is usually fatal if left untreated or left for too long.
My guinea pig has developed bald patches. What are they and what can I do?
It could be a result of barbering (chewing off the coat) or scurvy (vitamin C deficiency). The condition known as scurvy is usually caused by a Vitamin C deficiency. A good diet of mixed vegetables is essential to a guinea pig’s well being. Give 0.1ml of Abidec baby Vitamin C drops daily until condition has cleared.
How should I hold my guinea pig?
Guinea pigs are naturally quite docile but will take time to get used to you. Spend time talking to and hand-feeding your piggy so that he gets to know you. When you pick him up, hold him with one hand under his belly, your thumb and forefinger behind his shoulders whilst supporting him under his bottom with the other. If you find this method unsuitable you could wrap him in a towel to be carried. If you have males and females living separately always handle the males first so they cannot smell the females on you.
My guinea pig has a cloudy eye. What is it and what can I do?
He probably has an ear of corn in his eye. Eventually you may see the end protruding from the eye. If you are able, a clean pair of tweezers will remove it. You must keep your guinea pig still while you are using the tweezers. If this is not possible, beware, as you may cause further damage with the tweezers. Following removal of a foreign object in the eye, we usually follow up with a course of antibiotic eye ointment (from the vet).
Other possibilities displayed as a “cloudy eye” could be an Entropian which is when the eyelashes are inverted causing corneal damage – a vet visit is recommended, or a cataract often appearing with age. In the past we have treated an Entropian by cutting back the eyelashes and pulling the lid away from the eye (very successful in babies). Using a good lubricant eye ointment like Visco Tears has also helped.
My guinea pig has stopped eating. Why is this and what can I do?
His teeth need to be checked (including the back ones). If he has been slobbering when eating, this is a sure sign that there is a dental problem. Seek medical advice if diarrhoea develops.
My guinea pig eats newspaper. Is this a problem?
No, the ink is not toxic.
My guinea pig has dry flaky skin/dandruff. What should I do?
Ensure that you do not use wood shavings or sawdust as bedding, as this can be irritating to the skin. If the problem persists, it could be a fungal infection or parasites. In this instance use a dermatological shampoo like Seleen. The key is to leave the shampoo on for 20 minutes with your guinea pig wrapped in a towel on your lap. Following a thorough rinsing and another towel wrap, let his coat dry naturally. Do this on a warm day and let his coat dry off in his hutch or keep him in overnight.
One of my guinea pigs has died. Should I get the other a companion?
See the Companions page for a comprehensive guide.
My guinea pig is a selective feeder and there is a lot of wasted dry feed. What can I do?
We would start off by giving him less, say about 20g, or a tablespoonful daily. The dish should be clean. Avoid putting fresh food on top of old food. See how that goes and he if he is less selective about what he eats you can build on that by giving him a little more. Fresh water, regular daily vegetables and an abundance of hay should be available at all times. Also, aim for a routine so he knows what’s happening and when.
My guinea pigs are female and trying to mate. Is this OK?
This is quite common when a sow is in season. They come into season around every 17 days for a few hours. Other symptoms would be hormonal aggression (P.M.T).
My two males are aggressive and trying to mate. Is this OK?
This is a fairly common problem which is why we do not recommend that males live in indoor cages where they are usually unable to get enough exercise. With boars, the bigger the space the better. More action, more activity, more exercise and a variety of food will help. Keeping the smell of females away helps, even on other peoples clothes when they are picked up.
My guinea pig is constantly wet underneath. Why is this and is it a problem?
Unless he has a urine infection it could be to do with his diet. If you give your guinea pig lettuce, stop right now. This is a diuretic and will make him urinate more. Cut down on dandelion leaves too as this has the same effect. If it is a urine infection, a course of antibiotics would be required. We would use 0.5ml Septrin P alongside 10mg of Rimadyl (from the vet) twice daily for 10-14 days if the guinea pig is an adult. After this period of time, the treatment would be reviewed.
My guinea pig sometimes hunches his back and whimpers. Why is this and what can I do?
This often indicates a renal problem. Our opinion would be to give 0.5ml Septrin P and 10mg of Rimadyl from the vets twice daily for 10 to 14 days. If there is no improvement an x-ray should confirm whether he has a stone which would need to be removed by a vet. Ongoing cystitis can be helped by doses of cranberry juice, doses of real boiled pearl barley water, a 0.2ml dose daily orally syringed daily of hydrangea root tincture, low calcium still bottled water and a change of diet.
Will castration stop my boars fighting?
No, sorry! Please see our companions page for a comprehensive guide.