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.

Jeepers Squeakers! September 2017

Dear Readers,

We have no idea how it’s already September! Time has probably flown by because we’ve had so much on here at April Lodge. We had a hugely successful Open Day and Fun Show in August, raising over £3,000, and we have had our very own baby guinea pigs born here in the lodge. We’ll tell you more about both the Open Day and the babies below (warning: cute pictures alert!). We have also had our busiest time of the year – at one point in August we had over 100 piggies in the charity, and many more out on foster with our volunteers.

This month, we’ll also tell you about what it’s like to be a volunteer here at April Lodge, we’ll talk about the benefits of a balanced routine, and you’ll read our lonely hearts column and about the importance of introducing new guinea pigs to each other carefully. All this and more below…


April Lodge has babies!

pinky-and-babiesWhile we don’t ever breed guinea pigs, we do sometimes have pregnant sows come in. This happened earlier this year when Pinky came in. Pinky was one of our railway babies, who had been left in a carrier bag in Hove train station. On arrival, we paired her with Puzzle, a neutered boar, so she had a companion. Puzzle had been found in a park, being used as dog bait! So Pinky and Puzzle really needed some tlc! But the drama wasn’t going to end there. It soon became clear that Pinky was pregnant, as she suddenly piled on loads of weight. Usually, weight gain is a sign of good care, food and lovely hay, but hers just kept going up and up. At only around eight weeks herself, Pinky was very young to be pregnant, but she gave birth just fine, and on the afternoon of June 29th her two babies joined us. Named Cinnamon and Parsley, both mum and babies went on short‐term foster with our volunteer Flo so that they could be handled daily. We have now paired Cinnamon (a boar) with an older boar called Danny, and they’re ready and waiting for adoption. And Parsley (a sow) has been paired as well and has already found a loving home.


Volunteering

Things are always very busy here and we couldn’t do what we do without the support of our wonderful volunteers. We have a huge range of people, from all walks of life and of all ages. Flo is our youngest volunteer (at 15) and we won’t tell you how old our oldest is!

If you’d be interested in volunteering, we’d love to hear from you. It’s hard work, but you get to meet some wonderful people and cuddle some lovely piggies. Jo Lockett, one of our most regular volunteers, has written up this on the morning in the life of a volunteer. We hope you enjoy it.

A morning in the life of a volunteer

9am: Volunteers arrive and Val decides who’s going where. There are two main areas: the main part, which houses healthy guinea pigs ready for new homes and perhaps some that are on holiday; then there’s the quarantine area next door, which houses newly admitted pigs that need health monitoring, calming down or to recover from operations (usually castrated boars). In addition, there’s the clinic, the reception area and a small shop. We usually need one person in the quarantine section and at least two people in the main part, especially if there’s a full morning of clinic appointments.

volunteer topping up hay9–9.45: We move the outside runs to a fresh patch of grass and check there are no gaps or broken lids. Guinea pigs do a good job of keeping grass short, so runs can’t simply be left in one spot every day. We also don’t like the boys to get the smell of girls if they have been in that run the day before (as it can make them aggressive and excitable).

We check the boards in each building, as these tell us which pigs are going out, which need medicating and give us any other particular instructions for the day. Unfortunately, with so many pigs in the shelter and only limited runs, we have to put them on a rota for outside time, which works out at them going out once every three days.

Carriers are lined with newspaper and we use these in the runs as a shelter for the pigs to hop in and out of. Those lucky ones going out are given a check to make sure there are no health concerns that might otherwise go unnoticed. They get a brush through so we can check for skin problems or even if they need a haircut or bath. Any medicine required is given before they go out.

9.45–10.45: Once out grazing, their cages are completely emptied, sprayed with disinfectant and left to air dry for as long as possible. Their water bottles are removed and thoroughly cleaned out, as are their food bowls. While two volunteers are doing this mucky task, the third will chop the veg for the day for all piggies into a giant bowl – usually enough for 50 or 60 pigs. At maximum capacity, we have been known to chop for over 100! Everything is kept separate in the bowl, rather than tossed together. This makes picking out the correct rations easier, rather than simply grabbing a handful.

It’s feeding time!

As we feed all the others, we ensure that the pigs are all alive and well. Dried food is topped up or replaced and we check for signs of diarrhoea (mucky poo marks on the side of the dish are an indication of this). Each pig gets four items of veg a day, and we’re careful to check specific instructions on their hutches in case we need to give less veg or avoid certain foods. Finally, their water bottles are emptied and refilled with fresh water.

10.45–11.15: Some may need their cages tidying or beds replacing every day, especially if they are recovering from operations or have medical problems. And we usually have several that need a cuddle every day to get them used to being handled. These are the terrified ones that have hardly ever been held for one reason or another. It’s amazing how a frequent and regular touch can turn these animals round until they no longer run desperately to escape from humans.

We usually have a list of pigs needing baths so aim to squeeze these in between greeting people for clinic appointments, answering the phone, selling goods from our small shop and endlessly sweeping up.

volunteers drinking tea11.15–11.45: All cleaned out hutches are wiped dry of any remaining disinfectant and re‐made with a good layer of newspaper and lots of hay. Their freshly scrubbed water bottles and dried food dishes are replaced and their daily veg ration put in ready for them. At 11.45, they are brought back inside for breakfast in their nice clean hutches, usually followed by a good sleep.

We then do final tidying, sweeping, clearing the kitchen and disinfecting surfaces. At some stage in the morning, we may try and squeeze a cuppa in, but flicking the kettle on is usually the signal for several visitors to all turn up at once! So drinking on the go is usually the order of the day.


The advantages of a balanced routine

There are no hard and fast rules, but there is no doubt that a balanced routine will lead to satisfied guinea pigs that know roughly what’s happening and when, therefore avoiding disappointment, frustration and possibly aggression.

If every time the guinea pigs hear you come down the stairs or open the fridge door they follow this with loud squeaking to which you respond immediately by giving them veg, you really are playing into their paws. You will soon see that you have, in fact, created this scenario, because the guinea pigs know that these familiar morning sounds and actions, followed by their demanding shrieks, always equal a heap of veggies from you – and now they expect it on demand… every time they shout for it. You can’t blame them as it’s all about association.

To get them into your way of thinking, for a start stop feeding them every time you come down the stairs or open the fridge door. First thing in the morning, I can go to my fridge as many times as I like, but my pigs Bagel and Chuckles who live next to the fridge don’t associate these sounds with getting veggies. I feed them when I’m ready and I make sure my first few visits to the fridge are nothing to do with them.

When I’m ready, I use the same tone of voice each time, saying “breakfast boys” two or three times. I want them to know it’s my idea and not theirs. Bagel and Chuckles then scuttle over to me to see what’s on the menu, which is far nicer than being bullied into doing the job! My pigs now know just what’s happening and roughly when… and, more importantly, what’s not happening and when!

Using your voice is key. My pigs know that when a front‐opening carry box arrives in their c&c cage with the door open, with me chanting “You’re going in the run, get in”, this means that a splendid time stuffing their faces in a grass run is imminent and they therefore happily hop into their carry box. It can work the other way too, as in: “In you get, we’re going in”. By this time, they are usually tired and want to get into the box and back into their cage anyway, knowing there is a fresh heap of lush hay waiting for them.

This is an impossible situation when in the shelter, where 60 guinea pigs are simulating the dawn chorus as they hear the veg trolley coming their way. So, ok, they lack breakfast etiquette somewhat, but they still have the potential to be less demanding once they have one‐to‐one care. Bagel and Chuckles are ex‐rescue pigs prior to me having them on long‐term foster, so there’s hope for all of them!


Lonely hearts

Indulge us here…
Here is the ad that Nigel would write in the newspaper:

nigelAn eligible gentleman, Nigel, seeks a guinea pig friend. A guinea of certain years, Nigel is very shy, somewhat lonely, and has lovely luscious locks. He enjoys fine vegetarian dining, cuddles on occasion, and trips to the lawn (as long as he has a tunnel to hide in). Would like to meet a fellow piggy, preferably female, to share his hutch with. Nigel comes to life when near other piggies, and just wants one to call his own. Can offer strolls on the lawn and cuddles in hay. Apply at April Lodge.

Luckily, we have just the piggy to match his needs! Lovely little Poppy has come in recently and is soon to be paired with Nigel (who, by the way, has been neutered). Guinea pigs are social animals and don’t like to live alone. In Switzerland, it’s even illegal to own just one guinea pig! This leads us on very nicely to our guinea pig matching service, MatchPig, which Nigel and Poppy will soon be using.

MatchPig

Our MatchPig service does pretty much what it says on the tin – but you would be surprised at how complex matching guinea pigs can be! It certainly shouldn’t be tried at home. MatchPig was set up alongside April Lodge Guinea Pig Rescue because of the sheer volume of enquiries asking for help to find a guinea pig companion and pair them successfully. This is not viable for a charity that relies on volunteers to care for up to 80 guinea pigs a day. Hence, MatchPig became a dedicated introduction service to help concerned owners, their bereaved pigs and the singles in the charity.

Guinea pig behaviour is often misinterpreted anyway, but, during an introduction, this behaviour and the accompanying noises can seem even more odd and sometimes look pretty rough. This is often when owners attempting an introduction themselves misread the signs or lose their nerve and intervene. A number of times, we have had to pick up the pieces and start the process all over again. Yet there are only so many times an introduction can be attempted before it’s game over. Alternatively, there is the time to know when it will never work and the fine line to tread between possible and never is why introductions on neutral territory with a behavioural expert make all the difference.

Guinea pig matching is a huge topic, and we hardly have time to delve into it here, but if you want to know more about it, then contact jo.lockett.matchpig@gmail.com or visit the MatchPig Facebook page for latest updates. Here, we will satisfy ourselves with telling you about two of our successful cases.

Munch and Joey

munch and joeyMunch, a bereaved boar of around five years, was looking for a companion. Luckily, Joey, another older and bereaved boar, was also looking for one! Munch was a little difficult to start with, but Joey took him under his wing and told him it was all going to be ok. Here they are a week after getting home. Munch is the white one and Joey the longer‐haired one.

TIP: We start off by putting them in the same run, but with a divider in. So, this way, they can see each other but they cannot get to each other.

Benji and Mackie

benji and mackieMackie was one of three guinea pigs found in a biscuit tin, and came into the charity when he was just a tiny baby. Benji came into the charity with another boar, but they’d been separated due to fighting with each other. Things went well when we introduced the two, so it was only three days before the divider was removed and they went in together. Their owner, Di, tells us that they adore each other and that it’s a match made in heaven.


Open Day

  

On Sunday 6 August, we held our annual Open Day and Fun Show, and we’re pleased to say that it was the best yet! Loads of visitors and their guinea pigs came along, and a great day was had by all. We took £3,160 in total and, after costs, made £2,689. This is an amazing amount, and so vital for the continued running of the charity. We have many expenses to accommodate, and this will go towards covering vet bills, food and hay, not to mention the two giant industrial bins of soiled bedding, poo and muck that have to be taken away at a cost of £184 a month.


Race night

Our popular Guinea Pig Race Night is happening again on Saturday 7 October at 7pm. Of course, we don’t use real guinea pigs! Tickets are £5 each, you can bring your own food and drink, and we will, of course, bet! The event is held at Manston Village Hall: CT12 5BA.

It’s 50p per bet and guinea pigs are auctioned at the beginning of each race. Bets placed on the winning guinea pig get cash prizes, with the amount depending on the tote. The owner of the winning guinea pig usually gets a win of £25–£60.
Tickets are available from April Lodge. 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 Jo Lockett and Val Savage. The next edition of Jeepers Squeakers is due out in December. Please contact us if you have anything to say, would like any issues addressed, or would like an article placed.

The December 2016 issue of Jeepers Squeakers is out now!

Merry Christmas, from all at April Lodge!

Merry Christmas, from all at April Lodge!

Jeepers Squeakers! December edition

In our final newsletter of the year, read about our new extension – from a pile of rubble to the final coat of paint. Thank you to everyone who helped turn this into a reality!

Find out more about the benefits of being a long-term fostercarer for some of the older piggies in our care:

  1. The guinea pigs are FREE
  2. There are NO VET BILLS – ever. BUT….any treatment must be done with our vet. The charity pays for this
  3. Any medication required is FREE and provided by the charity
  4. FREE welfare checks every quarter or whenever there is a problem – for life
  5. You are entitled to HALF PRICE boarding fees
  6. You get 10% DISCOUNT on anything bought in our shop

Read the December issue of Jeepers Squeakers! online.

Make a donation, take part in one of our fundraising events, or organise your own! If you would like to help, email us at aprillodgeguinea@aol.com.

The September issue of ‘Jeepers Squeakers!’ is out now!

September 2016

The September edition of our newsletter, Jeepers Squeakers! is out now. Read the September issue of Jeepers Squeakers! online.

Hug?Highlights in this issue include:

New building: After many months working with architects and planning, in July we got the go ahead and knock down the small, drafty and rather shabby part of the shelter which was originally a concrete panel garage. We plan to replace this 50 year old structure with a larger, better insulated (against summer heat as well as winter cold) building with more organised storage and altogether better facilities for the piggies in need.

Open Day and Fun Show: The sun shone, the crowds came, guinea pigs competed in the Fun Show and the Agility Arena and at last count you helped us raise over £3,000!

Volunteer profiles: Meet two of our amazing volunteers, Lorraine and Audra, and find out why they give up their time to help piggies in need.

Handling: Find out how to turn a furry ball of squeaking fury into a compliant, cuddly piggy, in just a few easy steps!

Find out more about our fundraising events coming up, including our Hallowe’en Race Night Saturday 29 October at www.aprilllodge.co.uk/events

For more news and updates, follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/aprillodgeguinea and we are now on Twitter @GuineaCharity!

The June issue of Jeepers Squeakers is out now!

Jeepers Squeakers!

The June issue of our newsletter, Jeepers Squeakers, is out now! Read Jeepers Squeakers June 2016 online.

Highlights in this issue include:

Introducing MatchPig –  a sister service to the charity, set up because of the increasing number of enquiries from people asking for help in pairing their lone guinea pigs with a new companion.

Ensuring our future – what’s next for April Lodge? We’re dreaming of a new shed!

Medical feature – preventing flystrike