Guinea pigs doesn’t get their name both from its geographical origins and race. Guinea pig comes neither from the Guinea coast of West Africa nor from Papua-New Guinea, nor is it a pig. The domestic guinea pig was developed from the wild guinea pigs (called agouti) of South America, which the Indians used as food and as sacrifices in religious ceremonies. The guinea pig is a rodent belong in a to the same group of animals as the squirrels, mice, hamsters, beavers and rats. It probably acquired the name ‘pig’ in reference to the grunting pig-like sounds it makes. Or perhaps, because it was used for food, it was referred to as a little pig.
There are several varieties of guinea pigs. Unlike the domestic guinea pig, the wild guinea pig has short hair and generally comes in only one color, ‘agouti’, which gives it a grey, grizzled appearance.
The domestic guinea pig, or `cavy’ as it is often called, comes in three basic fur types. The short-haired or English variety has a short, smooth coat like its wild ancestors. The rough-haired or Abyssinian variety has its coat formed into a number of distinct whorls or rosettes. The long-haired or Peruvian variety has a long, full coat. A wide assortment of colors is seen in the domestic guinea pig.
Handling Guinea pigs very rarely bite, although some may nibble curiously at a finger nail. Handling the guinea pig is the best way to make it familiar with people and one of the tamest of all pets. To pick up a guinea pig, hold it firmly behind its shoulders with one hand. while allowing it to rest on the palm of your other hand.
Guinea pigs can be groomed just like a dog or cat. Brush the short-haired English variety with a soft hairbrush and smooth the hair afterwards to add extra luster. A toothbrush makes an ideal grooming tool for the rough haired Abyssinian, while the long-haired Peruvian requires a long-bristled brush. Unless you are going to show the long-haired Peruvian guinea pig, it is best to clip the hair away from its eyes to allow the animal to see without difficulty. If long-haired guinea pigs develop knots in their coats use scissors to cut the knots into strips in the direction of the hair and then pull out as much of the matting as you can.
Bathing Guinea pigs usually don’t require bathing and it is best not to do it. If a bath becomes essential, do it on a warm day with warm water. Wash all soap off thoroughly and towel the animal down. Keep the animal warm and out of draughts until it is completely dry.
Successful breeding and rearing depend on correct feeding, as guinea pigs are very susceptible to vitamin C deficiency (scurvy). Guinea pigs should fed the following foods:
Rabbit and guinea pig pellets should be available all the time and are best kept in pellet dispensers to prevent soiling and spoilage. Good pellets contain various grains, such as oats and wheat, minerals (particularly calcium) and vitamins (especially vitamin C). Pellets should be fed to guinea pigs even if they are getting green feed
Cereal Straw or Hay (Oats or Wheats)
This is fed to breeding sows and is essential to prevent teeth problems in lactating sows.
Kikuyu grass is recommend not recommended as it can cause Good-quality lucerne hay reduces the amount of green food required to sudden death. provide roughage and bulk in the diet. It also reduces boredom and prevents barbering (stripping of hair). Supply the hay in a rack also—this prevents the food being trampled over and thus wasted
This must be of good quality and can include lucerne, lettuce, carrots. apples, cabbages, clover and corn. Green feed should be fed in racks, leafy 40 greens should be given once a day, even when a pelletized diet is fed. Kikuyu , grass is not recommended, as it can cause sudden death.
Supplying water to guinea pigs using water dishes is not satisfactory because of the labour involved in cleaning and filling the dishes, contamination by feed, faeces, litter and urine, and the frequency with which the dishes get tipped over. The best system in a small pen is the tube-and-bottle arrangement used for mice, rats and other rodents. Clean, fresh water should always be available.
Housing the guinea pig is quite simple as long as its exacting temperature requirements are met. A location where the temperature will not drop below 70°F (21°C) is essential. At lower temperatures, especially below 65°F (18°C), guinea pigs develop colds and other respiratory diseases, and the young are either born dead or die soon after birth. Draughts and damp are not tolerated well by guinea pigs. Although they cannot tolerate cold, neither can they tolerate temperatures above 90°F (32°C). It is particularly important in very cold and very hot weather to make sure that the guinea pig is comfortable.
Ideally the cage should be made of metal so it cannot be chewed, but suitable cages can also be made of wood and netting. At least three sides of the cage (the two ends and the back) should be solid, to block out draughts — although a small box in one end of the cage can be used for the same purpose.
The floor of the cage is best made solid, although a bare wire or mesh base may be convenient for keeping the cage clean, since urine will pass through it. A wire-floored cage can also be moved around the lawn, allowing the guinea pig to graze different areas. This kind of cage must be kept properly cleaned, as droppings get squashed around the intersections of the wire mesh and are difficult to remove. Bare mesh presents a hazard; guinea pigs may injure their legs or feet, particularly if disturbed by a sudden movement or loud noise. A solid floor may be covered with six to ten sheets of newspaper or with wood shavings, which allow a good degree of drainage for urine.
Where guinea pigs are raised in large numbers, deep litter systems are successful. Hay also makes a good combination of bedding and food supply Hay is not particularly absorbent, but it does form a thick layer which keeps the guinea pigs above the wet cage bottom. If you do use hay, check that it is free from poisonous insecticides which may be eaten by your pet pelletized, absorbent, commercial litters are available from pet shop
Guinea pigs are sociable animals and a number of females (sows) and one male (boar) can be kept together without fear of fighting. Two boars, however, will generally fight, particularly if there are sows present. The size an AC quality of the cages depend on the number of guinea pigs you plan to keep ideally, the guinea pigs should be kept in a cage no smaller than 1 me:7e in length, by 50 centimeters in width, by 30 centimeters in height. A this size is also suitable for breeding, where the ratio is usually one boar two to four sows, or will accommodate a sow with a litter of young.
Each week all old bedding should be removed and replaced with fresh material. One of the advantages of an open mesh bottom is that less frequent cleaning is necessary.
Lysol is a satisfactory cleaning solution, though it can cause damage to feet of guinea pigs if not properly rinsed off.
Caring for the Sick Guinea Pig
Guinea pigs are generally subject to few ailments but almost all of these should be treated by a veterinarian rather than at home. A sick guinea pig will refuse food or eat very little. Sometimes it may drink excessively and seem listless and lethargic. It may cough. have watery eyes and nose and its respiration may be laboured. It may have diarrhoea, a bloated appearance or a dry rough coat.
Diarrhoea can be caused by overeating greens, in which case the guinea pig should have its diet reduced for a few days. Most other conditions will require veterinary treatment.
Nursing for the Sick Guinea Pig
Guinea pigs are difficult patients because man y medications cause more problems than the original disease. Putting medication in their food, for instance, is not recommended as it causes alteration of the gut flora. leading to interference with the digestion and absorption of food. Many of the common antibiotics are toxic to guinea pigs. Oral or injectable penicillin usually causes death within seven days. Always leave veterinary treatment to a qualified veterinarian.
The sick guinea pig should be provided with a ‘warm, dry and draught free cage. It is best to keep it indoors to prevent sudden changes in temperature. The ideal environmental temperature is in the range 73-80°F (23-27°C). Because they have such a small body they are affected by sudden environmental temperature changes. Isolate the guinea pig if possible.
The bedding should be changed daily and the sick guinea pig should always have available fresh food and water. Plenty of tempting greens are important. Regular grooming (daily) is a good pick-me-up.
The health guinea pig
Rectal temperature: 102-104°F (39-40°C)
Respiration rate: 110-150 per minute
Pulse rate: 115-160 per minute
Short-haired guinea pigs are normally smooth-coated. Sick animals can he detected by their rough coat, hunched appearance or poor condition.