Welcome to the first newsletter of 2018! Given that all our readers are guinea pig lovers, we bet you’re pleased to see the back of the snow and the start of the lush spring grass! It’s definitely good news for all the piggies out there, who are looking forward to more time outside and all the guinea pig frolicking that spring can bring. There are things to remember, though, as we come into the warmer months. So we’ll start off with an article from Jo Lockett on spring grass, which can lead to problems if they eat too much too soon. We’ll then move to look at the short-term fostering carried out by our volunteers, and we will be throwing some fun facts at you in Val’s ‘Did you know?’ article. So, for all this and more (including info on upcoming events), read on and enjoy.
Spring grass, by Jo Lockett
Now the weather has improved and the lawn will soon be growing, please be aware that nutrient-rich spring grass can cause problems initially if your piggies aren’t used to it.
Many people won’t put them out during autumn and winter. At April Lodge, we let ours choose and we give them the option to graze most of the year round – unless it’s freezing, snowing, frosty or pouring with rain, which it has been for the last few months! Nine times out of ten, they can be seen skipping for joy, but if they don’t come out of their carriers, then we know they aren’t interested and we bring them back into the warm.
But when the weather warms up and you start thinking about putting your little treasures outside for some grazing time, bear in mind that they won’t be used to it if you’ve kept them inside for several months.
Spring grass is very rich once it starts growing prolifically. You could start early by bringing in some snipped grass for a few weeks before you plan to put them out. Just a small handful a day will get them used to it again. Then restrict them to some scrubby/sparse grass to start off with and just for half an hour, gradually increasing time and lushness as they become re-accustomed.
Short-term fostering, by Jo Lockett
Short-term fostering is only ever done by regular, local volunteers with lots of experience. As long as we refuse to fall in love with any(!) and hand them back when asked to, the rewards are great.
I’ve been short-term fostering for two years and approximately 60 guinea pigs have come to me to be cared for, nurtured and handled in that time. Some for a few weeks, some for several months, of all ages, shapes, hair types and temperaments, but they can usually be categorised under one of five headings:
- Difficult and require ‘finishing’: Cocoa and Bubbles; Rio and Sweetie; Carla; Perry.
- Boot camp, need to lose weight: Pepper and Saucy; Chompy and Luna.
- Lonely and scared singles: Poppet; Marmalade; Marnie; Nigel; Poppy.
- No room at the inn: Sable, Pogle and Mouse; Butter; Daisy and (yet another) Poppy.
- Babies (for early handling): Tiffany and Tallulah; Meryl; Gracie; Darwin, Rufus and Gabriel (and Angel, their mum)
Many people ask – but how can you not want to keep them? Sometimes it’s difficult, especially when you fall in love with one or two, but we do our utmost to ensure they go to great new homes and I always think of the next deserving ones waiting round the corner.
Weight: Remember the 30/60/90 rule, by Jo Lockett
It’s vital you weigh your piggies regularly. Make it a weekly ritual and keep a log. Like many animals, guinea pigs hide illness very well, but weight loss can be an indication of an underlying health problem that could require veterinary attention.
Often it’s diet. Too much veg and not enough hay – 80% of their diet should be hay. You may think they are surrounded by the stuff, but they sleep in it, wee/poop in it and eat it. All our piggies get a daily handful of fresh hay, whether they are due to be cleaned out or not.
Always weigh them at the same time of day for as much consistency as possible, and, as a rough guide, use the 30/60/90 rule:
- A 30g fluctuation is nothing to worry about and can be normal (emptying of a full bladder for example).
- A 60g loss needs to be monitored closely; begin daily weighing and monitor diet and health.
- A 90g loss is significant and requires investigation by a vet. It could be a dental problem that needs treatment or a sign of something else more sinister.
A continuing downwards trend in weight should always be investigated by a vet.
Did you know? By Val Savage
Water bottles – Filling the bottle to the top creates a vacuum and therefore prevents it dripping.
Bald patch behind ears – This is normal. It is more pronounced in certain breeds.
Teeth – They grow throughout their life, so loads of quality hay (which is abrasive) is essential to keeping the teeth levelled down.
Hay – They can eat their own bodyweight in hay daily, so good quality, clean hay is
Nose strip – Often caused by fungal spores. Daktarin cream, washing and drying can be
used 2–3 times daily. If the strip is thin and not getting any bigger, it can be left alone.
Hayseed or a poke in the eye – This usually results in an eye that looks like a bulging bluish/white cataract. Any foreign body should be removed, followed by a course of antibiotic eye drops.
Bathing – In a calm situation, this is a good bonding process, talking gently as you get the job done!
The bonding process – Feed your piggy titbits but don’t always pick him up. Make a fuss of him by scratching his nose, around his ears and/or under his chin. If you want to go all the way, wet your index finger and imitate his mum washing just inside his ears for a direct trip back to the litter.
V-shape on the back – This often indicates mange. When he turns around to scratch his back, his teeth create the V-shape. Ivermectin and, in some cases, a course of antiparasitic bathing will rectify this problem, if caught in time.
Grease gland – This is where the tail used to be, and it sometimes oozes thick dark grease that sticks to the hair and skin, sometimes forming a large hard patch. The only way to remove it is to rub in a teaspoonful of Swarfega (mechanics use it to clean their hands), leave it on for five minutes, then gently lift the grease off with a flea comb. Then shampoo, and rinse and dry.
Open foot sores – Pododermatitis, otherwise known as Bumblefoot, is caused by the Staph bacteria and is one of the most difficult conditions to remedy. A guinea pig-savvy vet may be able to help. You could try washing the affected foot in Epsom salts but the foot needs to be rinsed with water and dried after to avoid salt in the eye from a scratching rear claw, using towels and/or vetbed and Gorgeous Guineas F & M ointment. There are times when the only way to prevent the bacteria travelling further up the leg is by amputation.
Outside nails – These are usually on the front where they can curl under. It is essential they are regularly trimmed to prevent the nail from piercing the footpad.
Boar genitals – There is sometimes a build-up of smegma on the penis. If so, it can be cleaned with a cotton bud and mineral oil. In extreme cases, the penis is unable to retract and is therefore open to infection as guinea pigs are so close to the ground.
Boar impaction – In between the penis and the rectum, there is a cavity known as the perineal sac. A buildup of pellets can cause an impaction, which is sometimes seen in older boars. If it is not attended to, it will grow to the size of a tennis ball and cause discomfort and stress. An impaction can be regularly removed using a cotton bud and mineral oil.
Sows – Unless neutered (which is a fairly invasive op consisting of a full hysterectomy), ovarian cysts can develop. Other symptoms are bi-lateral hair loss, feeling hot, and crusty nipples. An alternative is a course of HCG hormone injections, which can address all symptoms, including reducing the size of the ovarian cysts. Large cysts can be problematic as they can push against the bladder, causing further issues.
Long-haired guinea pigs – All guinea pigs should be groomed and kept knot and matt-free. Cut or gently tease out the knots and matts. Use a wide-toothed comb and keep him trimmed and clean around the rear end. Knots in the groin area are often overlooked.
Clicky breathing – This could be caused by a number of problems but environmental issues should be addressed first. Often the remedy is better airflow. Other causes may be the use of room sprays, scented candles, Shake n Vac or fumes of any description, including the smell of crop sprays on adjoining farmland, dusty hay and the use of wood-shavings or, even worse, sawdust.
Dry ears – Some piggies are prone to dry ears. A wipe round with mineral oil on a makeup pad will make him feel a lot more comfortable.
Exercise time – We see many guinea pigs with health issues due to lack of exercise. We cannot stress strongly enough how important it is to provide your guinea pigs with physical and mental stimulation, which can be achieved by putting them into a SECURE grass run (as big as possible) with a floored nest box or transport box with the door off.
Sitting around in a cage can cause perineal impactions in boars (a compacted collection of poops in the perineal sac, which can grow to the size of a tennis ball!); heart, respiratory and circulation abnormalities; and pododermitits (bumblefoot, see above), which is often due to poor circulation.
Guinea pigs are essentially a wild animal that rely on you to provide this essential part of care as long as he is SAFE from predators. Even if he is out for an hour, it’s better than nothing. If he’s not interested, he will stay in his box, but give him time to make a decision. It may be that it’s been so long since he’s been out that he’s forgotten what it’s like! The chances are he will be delighted to do what is natural.
The addition of toys, arches, tunnels AND a companion will add to his mental stimulation. Putting him out before you feed him his veg will encourage him to move
around more. The grass can be wet if he has a nest box. It can be a little windy, as you will find that, the closer to the ground you get, the less windy it is. What they seem to hate is squally rain and, of course, snow and ice.
Our guinea pig clinic, chemist and grooming facility offers routine procedures, non-prescription medications, de-matting, trimming, bathing and spa treatments.
Tash King, one of our supporters and volunteers, will be raising money for us and our piggies by abseiling down the ArcelorMittal Orbit in Stratford. It’s the UK’s tallest sculpture at 80 metres high!
We’re really thrilled that Tash is taking on this challenge in aid of April Lodge. If you’d like to support her, please visit her JustGiving page:
CANCELLED – Chilli and Quiz Night at Woodnesborough Football Club
Unfortunately our quiz night that was due to take place on 28th April at Woodnesborough Football Club has been cancelled.
April Lodge Open Day
Sunday 5th August from 10am. Not to be missed! More details to follow.
Can you help?
Just before we go, we’d like to ask for your assistance. We really need newspapers to line our hutches. As the freebies have gone, our supplies have gone too. We use about 300 newspapers a week to keep our piggies fresh at cleaning out times.
Eastry neighbours are doing their best to drop off old papers and we have a volunteer who brings as many as possible from a local hospital, but we are still short. If you have newspapers to spare, please do bring them in. Thank you!
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 June. Please contact us if you have anything to say, would like any issues addressed, or would like an article placed.