Guinea pigs are generally sturdy little creatures, they rarely fall ill, provided that you give them clean food, water, fresh vegetables and a hygienic living area.
Provide your piggy with plenty of space, time and opportunities for exercise, such as daily floor time or a great way to motivate your pigs to stretch is for them to work for their food. Veggies are always irresistible to a healthy pig:
click on this photo to see a video!
In their wild habitat, it is survival of the fittest; sick or weak piggies will soon be driven away or left behind by the pack. This means that when your piggy is feeling ill, its first instinct is to cover it up. Most of the time, they will simply sit in the corner quietly with little movement. This might be mistakened by you as simply bored. Piggies can deteriorate quickly when there is a red light, so you must be a responsible owner by looking out for your piggy and observing it closely. Some illnesses kill the pig very quickly, others are risky to recover from. Being small animals, any kind of surgery is risky and life threatening, so the best way is prevention!
If you are an attentive owner, you will know your pig's habits: how much it eats, what it likes to eat, its napping schedules, etc. This is all very important because when you spot something odd, you can take action right away.
Although they are usually healthy, when they do get sick, piggies can deteriorate quickly. This is why whenever I see something even remotely odd, I turn myself on super-alert-worry mode To make matters worse, it seems our furry friends know just what they are doing to us worried-sick mamas
Drawing by Nocableissafe
Every week, spend just 15 minutes to check over your pig, this can be invaluable in detecting any danger signs:
Is the eye clear and bright? Is there something stuck in the eye, clouding vision? Is the entire eye open, free of crusts or fluids? Are the eyes/eyelids inflamed or swollen?
Milky eye: You might notice a white fluid secreted from the eye that looks like milk; this is normal. It is simply a cleaning agent the eye produces.
Hay husk in eye: your piggy can easily get a piece of lose hay husk stuck in its eye while rooting around in its yummy greens. This is why you should always give your hay a good shake before placing it in the cage to get rid of the small flakey pieces. If it in on the surface of the eye, try to dab it out with a clean Q tip, or run water over it, or blow hard on it. If the husk is burrowed deeper into the eye flesh, do not poke and prod your pig's eye! The eye is a very delicate feature, so if you spot something that concerns you, try not to "fix it" yourself, contact your vet quickly.
Is the ear clean? is there a lot of ear wax? Is there a foul odor?
Head tilt: If your piggy has a constant head tilt, scratching his ears repeatedly or shaking his head a lot, it could mean an ear infection. Take him to the vet!
Clean the ears: You can buy ear cleansers in most pet stores, simply drip a few drops into the piggy's ears, wait a few minutes for it to soften the wax, and then wipe everything out with a Q tip. If you have more than one pig, you may notice that some of them have dirtier ears than others, just like how some human have more ear wax than others. You will need to check on them more frequently. A dirty/greasy ear can attract bacteria.
Hold your piggy in front of you and gently pull back his upper lips, revealing the incisor teeth. The bottom incisor teeth should be longer than the upper set, but they should be aligned neatly. Look at those pearly whites!
If teeth has broken off: once, I noticed that both top incisor teeth had broken off my pig! There was no bleeding but it was a freaky sight for a novice like me. If your piggy's front teeth has chipped off, whether partially or completely, do not panic yet. Piggy teeth grow rapidly and continuously. A trip to the vet may be very costly. First, do not give your piggy any hard pellets, it could wound the gums or break off the other incisor teeth, either feed just hay and veggies for a week, or soak pellets in water for a few minutes, mash it up and then syringe feed to your pig. Check his teeth everyday to see if has grown, make sure they are even and aligned. If teeth is jagged and uneven, you should take him to the vet to get it trimmed properly.
Prevent broken teeth: Broken front teeth either happens from lack of calcium, which means your piggies are not getting enough nutrients (give it extra VC for a boost and sufficient veggies), or it can happen from a fall. If you have multi-levels in your cage, make sure they are not too high in case the pig falls. Another way piggy front teeth break is when you are putting them back in the cage: piggies are eager to get back home and when they see the cage, they leap out of your hand and might land on their face! To prevent this, always put your piggy in BACKWARDS into the cage, so that his butt touches the ground first and gets a firm footing before you let go.
There should be no bald patches, clumps of hair falling out, or flakey dandruff. The skin should look peachy and hydrated. Separate the fur right down to its roots and look closely at it, are there any small brown dots? You can gently pull out 2 or 3 hairs with the brown dots, then look at it with a microscope, or just closely with your eyes, after a minute, if those dots have "shifted", you'll know it's not dirt! If one of your pigs have lice/mites, the others probably got it too. This is why it is better to use separate grooming brushes for them. If your piggy isn't badly infested, you might be able to avoid a trip to the vet, just give it a thorough bath with a bug-killing shampoo suitable for small animals. Rub the shampoo in and leave it on for at least 10 minutes before thoroughly rinsing your piggy off. please see BATH and GROOMING for instructions on bathing. If your piggy is scratching constantly and looks uncomfortable, you should definitely take him to the vet, who can subscribe medication that will kill off the bugs effectively.
There are 2 types of skin infestation on guinea pigs: Fungal and Parasitic.
Fungal problems is called mycosis, or ringworm. The coat will look greasy, hair will fall out, and the pig will look irritated and scratch a lot. Please take your pet to a competent vet for treatment.
Ringworm can be passed on to humans, so please wash your hands after handling your pigs.
Mange is caused by the sarcoptic mite, is slightly less serious than the fungal infestation. The guinea pig will still scratch and there will be hair loss. The skin may look flakey like dandruff. Ivermectin is an effective medicine, but you should take your pigs to the vet nonetheless first for a proper diagnosis.
If your pigs or one of our pigs have a skin condition, you have to clean out their living quarters thoroughly and wash all fleece/towels.
FEET AND TOENAILS:
Piggies have four toes on their front paws, and three on the back. check that nails are not too long or bent inwards. Make sure footpads are free of any spurs (growth) or wounds. For instructions on clipping piggy nails, go to BATH and GROOMING.
NOSE AND BREATHING:
piggy nose should be clean and dry, there should not be any discharge or "snot". Listen to your piggy's breathing, is it normal? It should not be labored or wheezing!
WEIGH YOUR PIG:
invest in a small scale (usually used for weighing ingredients for cooking) with a dish on top to place your piggy in. Record your piggy's weight. You can download weight records on the Guinealynx website: http://www.guinealynx.info/print.html#book
If your piggy has lost more than 80g, it is a cause for concern, it must have stopped eating or lost a lot of body fluid through diarrhea. Contact your vet right away.
This is my piggy monthly weight chart:
Please make a habit of weighing all your pigs at one month or one fortnight intervals. It is difficult for us to tell by holding them whether they lost any weight, and by the time we noticed they are lighter, they probably have lost a LOT of weight already! I weight my pigs every month, so I can monitor any weight loss or gain In the photo, Puffy weights 774g at one year old, which is on the small side for a male.
If your piggy is sick, make sure you weigh him on a DAILY basis. Piggy health can deteriorate quickly once the symptoms show up, it's hard for you to estimate it's weight, and usually by the time you've felt some kind of weight loss, it would have been a significant decrease, which can be life threatening. Weigh sick piggies on a daily basis.
NOT EATING: this is definitely a case of emergency. Lyn on Guinealynx.info has written:
"Not eating is extremely serious, as your pet's system will shut down with dire consequences. After as few as 16 to 20 hours of anorexia, liver cells begin to break down and from then on, your pig will only get worse. If your guinea pig is not eating, get to a vet immediately to determine the cause and begin treatment. "
if you come across any wounds, whether it is a scratch or a bite wound from a cage mate, you need to flush it with hydrogen peroxide to sterilize it, and then apply some kind of topical cream to help it recover. Try to get surrounding hair out of the way so it does not "stuff up" the wound, which can lead to infections.
Hydrogen Peroxide for cleansing wounds, and tea tree oil for healing.
If the wound appears to be swollen or infected, is warm to the touch or smells bad....you will need to take your pig to a vet. If there is a hard LUMP that has formed, it most likely means the wound has developed into some kind of abscess, which will need to be sutured and drained by your vet.
If there is any large amount of bleeding, maybe from a bite wound or from clipping fingernails, put some ice against the wound to stop the blood, or dip the fingernail in flour or corn starch. Below is an antibacterial powder I use to stop bleeding.
SORE FOOT PADS
Sometimes the soles of your piggy's feet may become sore or swollen, especially if they have been walking on mesh or wire floors! Remember that guinea pig's feet is very vulnerable to constantly walking on hard wiry surfaces. They are not like bunny feet which is covered in fur; they are naked!!
If you find a slightly inflamed foot pad, you can put on some aloe vera gel to soothe the redness. You can also get a whole series of pampering products from Gorgeous Guineas, who target specific health problems.
Our fat girl getting a foot massage followed by moisturizing ointment
A competent vet is VERY important:
I am not in a position to give professional veterinary advice, any other conditions that concerns you will require a visit to the vet.
Please find an exotic vet, or a vet who is experienced in treating small animals. There are plenty of cat and dog vets out there, but guinea pig anatomy and biology is very different from that of a dog. Many medications that are frequently subscribed to dogs or cats are deadly for guinea pigs. For instance, the common antibiotic penicillin will be toxic to your guinea pig's system. Many unfortunate pigs have died due to mis diagnosis from vets who have not treated guinea pigs, and this is traumatic for you, the owner. So please find a suitable, experienced vet for your guinea pig.
Have the emergency contact details of your clinic fixed somewhere obvious in your house, so that in the event of an emergency, there will be no wasted time searching for phone numbers.