Performing a quick yet effective guinea pig health check should be a priority for all owners. Guinea pigs although shy and timid are actually fairly hardy when it comes to health. Give them a clean cage, grooming, social interactions and plenty of the correct food then they will rarely become sick.
Guinea pigs can get ill of course but it very rarely happens without warning signs and we mean A LOT of warning signs. If you have a sick guinea pig, you should be able to tell through your numerous interactions throughout the day. The best way to ensure your guinea pigs health is to do a quick health check at least once a week.
We check our guinea pigs daily for signs of ill health more out of habit than necessity. It’s not just cuddling for our Chocolate and Orange. We constantly give them a quick check over to ensure they are happy and healthy.
Why you should perform a health check on your guinea pigs
Many people believe that the smaller the animal then the less amount of care it requires but this isn’t the case. A guinea pig can get illness and diseases just like other animals.
If these are spotted in the early stages then it minimises not only your animal’s discomfort but also cuts down the vets bill! Be warned though, guinea pigs will hide injury and illness fairly well since they are predator targets.
In the wild, a sick or injured guinea pig is easier prey! It isn’t too hard to spot a limp, loss of appetite or discomfort if you have a great bond with your guinea pigs. The main thing to watch out for is if a guinea pig refuses a treat – something is definitely wrong.
It can be really upsetting if your guinea pig is unwell but there are many things you can do to keep your guinea pig happy and healthy. Below we will detail how to perform a quick and easy health check along with recommendations on how you can help keep your guinea pig healthy.
Signs to watch out for
If your guinea pig is already experiencing any of the list below then please take them to the vet IMMEDIATELY!
- Runny eyes or nose
- Skin conditions such as rashes, lumps, bumps or swellings
- Unusual bleeding
- Drinking much more or less than normal
- Big weight loss or weight gain over a short time
- Not eating
- Overgrown teeth
- Lack of energy/sleeping more than usual
- Signs of pain, like not wanting to be touched
- A change in their usual behaviour, as this could be because they’re feeling poorly.
The health check up list
All these checks are quick and easy to do – just add it into your normal lap time!
Take a look at your guinea pigs eyes – they should be clear, bright and fully open. There shouldn’t be any clear discharge, watering or crustiness. If you spot a white milky subsistence (usually in the corner) don’t panic. This is normal and is used for your little piggie to clean their face and body.
To prevent eye problems ensure you use hay and not straw as straw can poke your piggy in the eye.
Guinea pigs have ear wax just like their human owners! This means that they do require a little clean once every two weeks.
In our experience long-haired guinea pigs do tend to have a greater build-up of ear wax but if you start with once every two weeks and adjust as needed. It’s really easy to clean your piggies easy, although a little scary the first time.
Take regular cotton buds (Q tips) and ensure the end is moistened but not wet. You can buy Mineral oil and add just one or two drops if you wish. The gently clean the outer ear to remove any visible dirt or wax. DO NOT INSERT ANYTHING INTO THE OUTER EAR. You could seriously hurt your little guinea pigs if you do. If you think there is a large build-up of wax please take your piggie to the vet.
The outer ear should also be clean, free from crusting and smooth. They should also be free from unusual markings or black dots as these are signs of infection. Ensure you check behind their little ears as well. Remember dirty ears attract mites.
To prevent ear problems ensure you clean the outer ear once every two weeks.
The nose should be clean and free from discharge. Guinea pigs do the cutest little sneezes! If your guinea pig is sneezing excessively (more than normal) this could be a sign of a cold or worse pneumonia so please consult your vet.
To prevent cold and pneumonia ensure your guinea pigs are warm, have plenty of bedding such as hay and are away from drafts.
Your guinea pigs breathing should be smooth, regular and quiet. There shouldn’t be any wheezing or laboured breathing.
Teeth and mouth
There should be no sores, cuts or blood on your guinea pigs mouth. The teeth should be neat, and not overgrown. If their teeth are overgrown it could be a sign that you aren’t provided with enough items to wear down the teeth and need to be taken to a vet straight away. Guinea pig chew sticks, edible huts and even empty toilet rolls are all perfect for wearing down your guinea pigs teeth, plus it also stops them from getting bored.
All guinea pigs teeth constantly grow throughout their lives and all their teeth look different. It’s worth getting familiar with the look of your guinea pigs teeth so it’s easy to spot any changes or warning signs. We tickle our guinea pigs chins so they smile and we can sneak a quick look at their teeth! The chin and jaw of your guinea pig should be free from bumps and lumps.
Your guinea pigs fur should be shiny and look healthy. There shouldn’t be any bald patches or signs of thinning fur. There shouldn’t be any red patches or bleeding skin.
The tummy should be soft and very warm. It shouldn’t be hard or swollen. The body should be free from bites and scratch marks. The fur should be smooth and free from tangles and matted parts.
To prevent mites ensure you use the correct type of bedding and act immediately by taking your guinea pig to the vet if you think something is wrong.
Yes, unfortunately, this area needs checking too! It’s worth mentioning that guinea pigs have a grease gland at the base of the spine. It’s hard to find at first but once you’ve located it you’ll always be able to find it. Some guinea pigs have a very active grease gland whilst others don’t.
The gland is used for scenting and marking their cages or hutches. It’s easy to tell if your guinea pig has an active grease gland as the fur covering it will be slightly greasy and tacky. If you do not clear this residue then it will build up and create an infection. To clean the grease gland simply rub coconut oil over the gland and wipe off with a wet washcloth. Allow your guinea pig to dry thoroughly and place back into a clean cage or hutch.
Their bottom region should be clean and dry. Wetness can indicate something as simple as having long hair or something more serious such as a bladder infection. Ensure there are no droppings tangled up in fur around the bottom.
Guinea pigs are similar to humans in the sense that they don’t have hair on the soles of their feet! Your guinea pigs feet should be soft and free from cuts or sores.
Red or sore feet can be a sign that your guinea pigs cage needs cleaning out more often or more thoroughly. If your guinea pig has sores or cuts on their feet, take them to the vet immediately.
Do not try to clean them or treat them yourselves. Guinea pigs that walk on wire cages (please don’t buy these types of cages!) or have untreated cuts and sores are liable to get a bacterial infection known as Bumblefoot.
The nails shouldn’t be overgrown or excessively pointy. Check out our guide to caring for your guinea pigs nails.
It’s a good idea to weight your guinea pigs weekly so you can easily spot when something is wrong.
The healthy weight range for a guinea pig is as follows:
Males between 2 – 3 lb.
Females between 1.5 – 2.6 lb
As always watch your guinea pigs and take note if they seem a little down or bored. Remember to change their cage and floor area daily to stop them from getting bored!
Healthy, happy guinea pigs!
We love how different all guinea pigs are! Share your funny guinea pig stories with us below and we may just feature them on our site!