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A Potomac, MD Veterinarian Answers Some FAQS About Adopting Rescued Guinea Pigs
March 1, 2024

It’s Adopt A Rescued Guinea Pig Month! These adorable little furballs may be more popular than many people realize.  About 1.5 million households include Guinea pigs. In fact, they are also the third most searched for pet in many American states, including Massachusetts, California, New York, and right here in Maryland! If you’re looking for a pet that is small, sweet, super cute, and easy to care for, these guys could be a great fit for you. A local Potomac, MD vet answers some questions about adopting a Guinea pig in this article.

Are Guinea Pigs Very Expensive? 

Guinea pigs are definitely on the lower end of the cost spectrum. However, that doesn’t mean they are free. A good cage is an absolute must. That cage may be a one-time expense, but you will have ongoing costs of food, hay, bedding, toys, and veterinary care. 

Do Guinea Pigs Make Good Kids’ Pets?

Cavies can be great companions for children. However, we don’t recommend getting them for children that are younger than about five or six, unless you’ll be taking care of the animal yourself. Be sure to supervise all interactions! 

What Are Some Interesting Facts About Guinea Pigs?

We have a good one to start with: Guinea pigs are not from Guinea, and they are not pigs. They are relatives of wild cavies in South America. Traders brought them over to North America and Europe back in the 16th century. They soon became favored pets of the nobility. In fact, Queen Elizabeth even had one!

What Are Warning Signs of Sickness In Guinea Pigs? 

As with any other pet, it’s important to keep an eye out for signs of sickness. Contact your veterinarian immediately if you notice anything off. 

Here are some things to look for: 

  • Unkempt Fur 
  • Drooling
  • Diarrhea
  • Dull, red, sunken or watery eyes
  • Lethargy
  • Sitting in stiff or hunched positions
  • Withdrawal
  • Lack Of Appetite
  • Refusing Water
  • Crust on eyes
  • Limping
  • Stumbling
  • Lumps, bumps, or lesions
  • Erratic/Unusual behavior 
  • Weight loss 
  • Bloody urine
  • Hair loss
  • Skin irritation

You’ll need to find a vet that is experienced with Guinea pigs. Many medications, such as amoxicillin, can be deadly to them. 

Do Guinea Pigs Need A Lot Of Care? 

Cavies certainly aren’t the most high-maintenance pet, but they do need daily attention. Every day, you’ll need to provide fresh food and water and spot clean your pet’s cage to remove waste and uneaten food. 

As far as food, your tiny pal will need plenty of grass hay, commercial pellets, and about a cup of safe fruits and veggies every day. 

These little guys also need free time every day. Your pet will need a safe area for some supervised play time.

Grooming is also important. Some cavies only require brushing:  others may benefit from baths. Ear cleanings and nail care are definitely on the agenda, though. Ask your veterinarian for specific advice. 

Do Guinea Pigs Need Toys? 

Your adorable pets will need plenty of chew toys. Like many smaller animals, Guinea pigs have open-rooted teeth, which never stop growing. 

This doesn’t have to be expensive. Actually, you can make many toys yourself out of things like paper, cardboard, and even many wooden items. Just stick with safe options. Avoid anything small or sharp, as well as items covered in decorative coatings, such as paint, varnish, glitter, or dye, are also unsafe. 

You can also provide mazes and solid exercise wheels. Ask your vet for more information. 

Why Is March Officially Adopt A Rescued Guinea Pig Month? 

March was chosen by Julie Morris, ASPCA senior vice president for National Shelter Outreach back in 2002. The intent is to raise awareness about the plight of Guinea pigs that need good homes, and to hopefully inspire people to go through shelters and rescues when adopting one. 

Should I Handle My Guinea Pig Every Day?

All of our animal companions have unique personalities. It’s important to understand that some pets are naturally more cuddly than others are. Guinea pigs tend to be a bit more friendly and sociable than other pocket pets, such as hamsters, mice, and gerbils. Some even like to cuddle up in their owners’ laps! 

Taking time to pet, hold, and play with your little buddies is very important. This will help with bonding. This can also help your pint-sized pals feel loved and safe. 

Just don’t force it! That may end up doing more harm than good, and could even make your cavies afraid of you. Be sure to give your little friends time to settle in before you handle them! 

What Are Some Common Guinea Pig Care Mistakes? 

We could (and may) write a blog just about this, but for now we’ll just touch on the basics. 

Here are some of the most common mistakes: 

  1. Not Petproofing: These guys need daily play time. However, it’s crucial to make sure the area they are allowed in is safe. 
  2. Letting Them Interact With Other Pets: You can certainly have Guinea pigs, cats, and dogs, but you should never let them play together. 
  3. Getting Just One: Guinea pigs are very sociable, and need buddies! In fact, they’re so friendly that it’s illegal to have just one in Sweden: it’s considered abusive.
  4. Wire Housing: While you may find cages with wire floors that are advertised as being for Guinea pigs, wire floors are actually a horrible choice. They don’t hold bedding, and can even cause paw injuries. 
  5. Lack Of Vitamin C: Cavies need Vitamin C to stay healthy. If they don’t get enough, they could develop scurvy. 
  6. Unsafe Foods: It’s important to make sure you are only offering safe items. Some dangerous foods include chocolate, avocado, cereals, grains, nuts, seeds, dried beans, corn, and peas, buttercups, garden shrubs or flowers, lilies, sweet peas, nightshade, oak, onions, potato tops, and mushrooms, to name a few.

Do plenty of research, and ask your vet for specific care advice.

What Do Guinea Pigs DisLike?

All of our animal companions have their own pet peeves. Even tiny furballs, like cavies, have things that rub them the wrong way. At the top of that list? Being rubbed the wrong way. You may find that your pet doesn’t like to be touched or petted in certain areas. Basically, anything outside the head, back, and shoulders is probably off limits. 

Other things these little guys don’t much care for? Being picked up or held against their will is a big one. Your pet may go stiff, or they may start making unhappy noises. Guinea pigs are also not particularly fond of loud noises, car rides, and strong smells. They aren’t exactly big fans of nail trims or baths, either, though these may fall under the umbrella of necessary evils. Ask your Potomac, MD veterinarians for recommendations on grooming. 

How Often Should I Take My Guinea Pig To My  Potomac, MD Animal Clinic? 

Most pocket pets should come in at least once a year. Ask your vet for specific advice on this. Of course, you’ll also need to bring the little guys in if you notice any signs of illness that we mentioned above. While you’re here, don’t be afraid to ask questions. We are always happy to help! 

Do you have questions about Guinea pig care? Contact us, your Potomac, MD pet hospital, today!