Did you know that guinea pig grooming has many benefits for both short and long-haired breeds? It’s not just about detangling and de-matting those long locks! AllPets Vets’ Nurses have some advice on why you should, and how to groom your guinea pig.
We always love hearing from our clients and the wider guinea pig owning community. Head over to our Facebook page and ask us any grooming and small furry pet questions and we’ll be happy to help. Ask us questions on Facebook.
Why do guinea pigs need to be groomed?
Guinea pigs usually do a great job of grooming themselves to get clean. However, there are many benefits that come with regular grooming by their favourite human, such as:
- Keeping your guinea pig free from tangles and dirt
- Checking for skin lumps and bumps, hair loss, dental problems, and pests
- Bonding time with your tiny companion
- Help staying clean if they are elderly or unwell
How to groom your guinea pig
If you are wondering how often you need to groom your guinea pig and what’s involved, our Prestatyn and Rhyl nursing team have some helpful advice for you below.
- Short-haired guinea pig breeds like the American Cavy only need brushing once a week to minimise shedding and keep them clean. Any more could result in loss of hair density and quality.
- Long-haired guinea pig breeds such as Peruvians and Abyssinians generally need brushing 2-3 times a week to prevent matting and dirt build-up, which can lead to infection and parasitic ‘invasion’.
Depending on your pet’s breed and hair type, you can use the palm of your hand (add water if your guinea pig is shedding) or a metal narrow-toothed pet-flea comb. Be gentle, and brush in the same direction as your pet’s hair grows.
Not all guinea pigs will enjoy being brushed, however, it is an essential part of keeping them healthy. Try altering the frequency to avoid stressing them out. You could also gently stroke them from head to toe whilst brushing and feeling for anything unusual.
There is a little more to guinea pig grooming than just brushing – they will also need:
- Monthly or bi-monthly nail trims
- An occasional ‘butt’ bath
- Weekly dental check & ear clean
- Regular grease gland ‘clean-up’
Learn more about each of these tasks in our handy downloadable guide.
The New Year is typically a time for change, making now the perfect time to change your pet’s life for the better if they are overweight. The team at AllPets Vets love helping owners and have this advice about overweight guinea pigs.
Reasons for an overweight guinea pig
When it comes to guinea pigs and other small furry pets, weight gain is usually (and we hate to say this but…) because as owners, we haven’t provided them with the right type or amount of food, exercise and mental stimulation.
There are other reasons guinea pigs can gain and lose weight so it’s always wise to get your pet checked out by a vet as soon as you notice a change.
- Weight gain (or loss) over a few days or weeks could be a sign of a medical condition, most commonly a tumour or pregnancy.
- Weight gain over a few hours could be an emergency condition called ‘bloat’, which is a distension of the abdomen – contact us immediately if this is the case.
Head Vet, Richard Ryvar, at our practices in Prestatyn and Rhyl explains why carrying excess weight is a BIG problem for small pets.
Overweight guinea pigs are:
- less able to reach their rear-end to clean it, which amplifies the risk of flystrike (often fatal)
- putting more strain on joints leading to painful movement
- less mobile and agile, affecting their everyday quality of life and ability to exercise
- candidates for diabetes, typically if fed a high-carb diet with lots of fruit & sugary treats
- at increased risk of complications if pregnant
Assuming all is well, right now is the ideal time to help your small pet shift excess fat.
Helping your guinea pig lose weight
First, we recommend booking a weight check at our Prestatyn and Rhyl practices. Our nurses will assess your guinea pig’s weight, and tell you how much they need to lose.
Our team can then also give you advice on how to:
- review your guinea pig’s diet – provide the essentials and give healthier treats.
- experiment with different ways of feeding – bowl vs scatter feeding and foraging trays.
- provide sufficient mental stimulation & physical exercise through pet companionship, suitable housing, stimulating activities & items, and time outside their enclosure.
Let our nurses help you get your guinea pig on the right track and book a weight check at our Prestatyn and Rhyl veterinary practices – see our location and book.
We’re sure many small furry pet owners in Rhyl and Prestatyn can relate to this; how do you avoid having a bored guinea pig or a bored hamster?
This can be especially tricky when you’re burning the Christmas candle at both ends and struggling to dedicate as much time as usual to your little pal. Our head Vet Richard Ryvar, and their team have scoured the internet and come up with some interesting looking, highly rated toys for your small pets to try. We’d love to know what you think so share a photo or video on our Facebook page.
Most small pets (excluding Syrian hamsters) prefer to live in pairs, so it’s important to give them a companion to avoid loneliness. When they get bored, they can become depressed and some will even self-mutilate so mental stimulation is important too.
If you notice anything unusual about your pet, book a small pet Vet check.
To avoid boredom, small pets need toys and activities that allow them to mimic their natural wild behaviours like exploring, foraging, and gnawing. We hope you like the look of these too:
Eight boredom busting toys for small pets
Wooden Exercise Wheel – This might end up with some teeth marks in, but your pet will have enjoyed themselves.
Play Tunnel Giant Tube – Depending on where you hang it from, your pet can have lots of fun jumping in and out of it.
Natural Grass Hammock – Chewable, swingable… what’s not to love?
Boredom Breaking Chew Toys – Get 11 toys designed for hamsters, rats, guinea pigs, chinchillas, gerbils, rabbits, and Syrian hamsters – so much choice!
Floral Hanging Basket – This is ready to be chewed and delightfully destroyed.
Carrot Cottage – A cute cottage covered in hay with a real carrot roof? Yes, this is perfect for climbing on, sleeping under, and gnawing.
Peanut Gnawing Chew – These hamster chew toys will be good for boredom and filing down their teeth, plus they’ll work with most small pets.
Fruit Flavoured Nibble Cage Chew – Another tasty treat that’s ideal for oral health and preventing boredom.
If you’re on a tight budget this Christmas or just enjoy making things yourself, check out these videos on how to make DIY toys for guinea pigs, hamsters, and other small pets:
We’d love to see how your small pets get on with any of these toys, or if you have your own. Visit our Facebook page and share your photos and experiences!
Is it safe to breed guinea pigs? It’s not difficult to breed these charismatic pets, but it can be unsafe if you don’t time it right. Female guinea pigs (sows) need to be young and fit for their first pregnancy to avoid tragedy.
AllPets Veterinary Surgery’s nursing team has lots of advice on guinea pigs and breeding. Why not ask them questions on Facebook and help other owners at the same time?
Before breeding your guinea pig, head nurse Louise Taylor recommends asking yourself:
- Do you have suitable, loving homes lined up for the piglets?
- Do you have additional housing to separate male guinea pigs & piglets from females?
- Have you considered the potential health implications?
The risks of breeding guinea pigs for the first time
Delaying a female’s first pregnancy after 6 months of age will result in serious, even life-threatening birthing complications. Part of her pelvis must separate before giving birth and after about 8 months it fuses together, and a caesarean is needed. This is a risk to mum and her piglets.
Another serious risk is pregnancy toxaemia, with stress and obesity being major predisposing factors. Other factors include advancing age, lack of exercise, fasting during pregnancy, and having many babies. Signs may not show until two weeks before the birth, so prevention is key: reduce stress, keep your guinea pig fit & healthy, feed a nutritious diet, and always provide fresh water. Also, house her indoors/somewhere sheltered to avoid cold weather risks.
Louise’s guinea pig breeding ‘need to know’ list:
- Male guinea pigs (boars) are sexually mature and able to mate at around 2-3 months; it’s 2 months (55-70 days) for sows but can be earlier for both. Neutering males is necessary to avoid pregnancies in opposite sex pairs – contact us about neutering.
- Sows have estrous (fertile) cycles throughout the year, but mostly in spring. Cycles last 16 days and she is fertile for 6-11 hours, mostly at night.
- A new estrous cycle begins shortly after giving birth. Boars should be housed separately before she gives birth to avoid her being pregnant again while nursing piglets.
- Guinea pig pregnancies last around 63 days; a large litter will make the pregnancy longer. You can tell if your guinea pig is pregnant as she will gain a lot of abdominal weight in the latter stages, even doubling in size.
- Sows do not build nests so time of delivery can be hard to spot. About 1 week before delivery, part of her pelvis will start to slowly widen, just in front of the external genitalia. An hour before delivery this should be about 1 inch wide.
- Uncomplicated births last about 30 minutes with 5 minutes (average) delivery per piglet.
- Nursing should be allowed for 2 weeks; male piglets should be removed at 3 weeks.
- Breeding can sometimes shorten a female guinea pig’s life expectancy.
Do you have any questions, like “how many babies can a guinea pig have?” or “how do you introduce potential mates safely?” or perhaps “are they born with hair?” Pop over to our Facebook page and our Rhyl nurses will happily answer them.
Your accommodation is booked and you’re excitedly counting down the weeks until your summer holiday. Your guinea pig might not be quite as thrilled, however, about your upcoming trip…
Guinea pigs can become easily stressed by sudden changes to their environment or routine, which can present as irritability, aggression, depression, reduced activity, and self-mutilation. Our Grange Road nurses have come up with a list of things guinea pig owners should consider when planning time away.
How to prevent Guinea Pig Holiday Blues
You can minimise stress by asking someone you trust to provide daily care for your guinea pig at your home while you’re away. Live-in care would be ideal, or at least two daily visits.
It’s helpful to think about whether your chosen pet sitter knows how to take care of guinea pigs if they’ve not done so before. Our list below covers what care guinea pigs need and will help you create a personalised ‘how to guide’ for their holiday carer.
10 things guinea pigs need while you’re on holiday
- Routine – Consistency can reduce potential stress so write down your guinea pig’s routine, including feeding times, exercise, and grooming. Any changes should be introduced gradually.
- A meal plan – Stock up on your guinea pig’s food and create a meal plan for the time you’re away, including treats. Ask your pet sitter to stick to the plan to keep your pet happy & healthy.
- Fresh water – Your pet’s water bowl/bottle will need changing daily so they always have access to fresh water. Bottles should also be checked daily for blockages.
- Summer care – If it’s going to be hot in Prestatyn while you’re away, move the hutch somewhere cool, safe and well ventilated, away from direct sunlight. Guinea pigs need some carefully monitored time in natural sunlight (or under a UV lamp) to help them get the vitamin D they need. An outdoor playpen can be useful.
- Grooming – We can check if your pet’s teeth need filing and nails need clipping before you go, just ask our team. Long-haired guinea pigs especially need daily grooming to remove tangles, mats, and bedding from their hair – show your pet sitter how.
- Daily/weekly cleaning – To avoid harmful health conditions, your guinea pig and their hutch should be kept clean, dry, and free of excess dust. Replace soiled bedding daily. Gently clean & dry your pet’s bottom if needed with pet shampoo. Hutches should have a thorough clean weekly.
- Boredom busters – Boredom can affect your guinea pig’s health. Keep them occupied with enriching toys and challenges that enable them to mimic wild behaviours. Try hanging treat balls, tubes/tunnels, foraging trays, and digging boxes. Remember though, they’re not great climbers!
- Handle with care – Falls are a risk for small furry pets, particularly when being handled by someone new. Show your pet sitter how, keeping your pet close to the chest or lap for safety.
- Keep unneutered girls and boys apart – Ensure your sitter knows to keep ‘intact’ males and females apart unless you want to come home to expectant parents!
- Know the signs – Common guinea pig illnesses needing urgent veterinary care include:
- Flystrike – look for wet fur patches (incontinence), flies & maggots particularly on the rear.
- Not eating or drinking for 6+ hours – look for appetite/thirst loss, less stools/urination.
- Bacterial pneumonia – Look for respiratory distress, eye/nose discharge, sneezing, weight loss, depression.
We hope our list above helps your guinea pig have an enjoyable time when you go on holiday. Just in case there are any issues, see our contact and emergency pet care information here.
You could help other guinea pig owners by sharing your pet’s holiday preparation plans on our Facebook page.