Reputable Sources

It is important to support a reputable source when buying your guinea pig. Whilst taking in ill guinea pigs out of sympathy might seem the honourable thing to do how will it affect the ones that are left? Looking at the bigger picture and reporting the source (or simply ignoring it and therefore not supporting it) is likely to have far more of an impact.

Guinea pigs should be selected from pro guinea pig sources, be they breeder, rescue or pet shop. Whilst there is no need for guinea pigs to be bred for pet shops there is a need for legal outlets to sell guinea pigs as pets- support the shops that use small breeders (as opposed to the mass wholesale ones and large pet store chains where despite everything looking proper and correct on the shop floor much is left to be desired of their suppliers). Guinea pigs may be stressed by early weaning which in turn can lead to mites kicking in and often pregnant guinea pigs are unknowlingly sold by some sources.

After taking this Quick Quiz to find out if guinea pigs are a suitable pet for you take time to find a reputable source.

  • Any source rehoming guinea pigs should be expecting the new home to be at least Animal Welfare Act compliant. Technically any home that is not will be breaking the law.
  • Expect a reputable source to ask extensive questions about the home you will be able to provide.
  • The guinea pig should be healthy, unless otherwise stated (rescues will often have impacted/senior etc guinea pigs that have minor health problems but these should be declared). Look for the following points:
  1. Clear, bright eyes that are free from crystals. The exception to this would be a senior guinea pig that may have crystals which will need washing away daily. Fatty eye/Pea eye are not usually a cause for concern unless they are causing the guinea pig pain. Fatty eye/Pea eye should not be ‘overly red’.
  2. The nose should be free from moisture i.e. dry. Similarly breathing should be quiet as opposed to raspy/clicky/noisy. Exceptions to this would be short nosed guinea pigs (purebred Shelties and Self Blacks are good examples) or, for example, a guinea pig with Mycoplasmic Pneumonia. Other types of Pneumonia should be treated before the guinea pig is rehomed.
  3. The chin should be dry, i.e. no drooling, a guinea pig with a wet chin may have dental problems or similar. Or they may have just eaten cucumber! Find out which.
  4. Pellets should be solid, dark brown (not black) and jellybean shape, the bigger the better really. Big pellets mean that the guinea pig is likely to be a good hay eater.
  5. Look in the coat and blow it so that it parts. If you see anything moving it will possibly be Lice and will need treating with Gorgeous Guineas Lice N’ Easy.
  6. Look for scabby areas, this is possibly mites which will need Ivermectin treatment from a vet and bathing in Manuka and Neem shampoo from Gorgeous Guineas. The alternative is a fungal infection (hair can be pulled out easily and has layers of skin on the end), this also needs treating with a Gorgeous Guineas’ Melt and shampoo.
  7. Ideally the guinea pig will have some muscle tone and not be soft and floppy. Sometimes rescue guineas that have been bred from a lot do not regain their muscle tone and others never seem to have tone in the first place.
  8. Check that the guinea pig is not sore and wet around the genitals, this could indicate a urinary problem.
  9. Check the Incisors are not broken, whilst they often grow back without a problem it is possible that a problem can develop, worst case scenario would be a problem with the Molars. If a guinea pig has slanted Incisors then it is quite probable that there is also a problem with the Molars that will soon need addressing.
  10. Is the guinea pig alert and aware of its surroundings? Guinea pigs have differing personalities, some being quite laid back but all should be responsive, ask your ’source’ to tell you about the personality of the guinea pig.
  11. Look at the health of the other guinea pigs there (though take into account that there will be senior guinea pigs that will not be in the full bloom of health etc). No matter how cute the guinea pigs are if you are not happy with what you see leave them there.
  12. New guinea pigs should be quarantined ideally, particularly if they are being rehomed, for example, just 2 weeks after coming into rescue etc.

Feel free to ask any questions, a reputable source will not mind at all and should welcome these and offer you answers based on experience. It would be hoped that a reputable source will be able to recommend a reliable local vet. Some sources even see it as their purpose to develop a better understanding of the treatment of guinea pigs with vets. The more guinea pigs that vets see the better their knowledge of them becomes. The benefits of getting a guinea pig locally is that you can ask your source for local recommended suppliers and about veterinary care, it is very important to find a vet before you need one.

Rescue Guinea Pigs:

Guinea pigs bought from rescues are just as deserving of homes as any other guinea pig. However, it should never be assumed that just because a source is a rescue it is reputable. The internet has enabled many people to set themselves up as rescues complete with website. Often these are set up to take in guinea pigs that are advertised as free to good home on the internet, a source that the RSPCA and many reputable sources are against. Whilst these guinea pigs are genuinely looking for homes they are often rehomed without information and are taken in out of sympathy or purely impulse- perhaps the new pet shop? Supporting this resource means fewer guinea pigs are rehomed from the rescues that do home check people and do give out information, eventually causing them to close down.

Conversely there are rescues that support the local community by taking in from their local area and rehoming in their local area (as opposed to ’shipping’ guinea pigs across the country when there are local rescues with guinea pigs needing homes).

Guinea pigs from rescues should always be in good health and any behaviour problems must be addressed by the rescue before thay are rehomed, the prime example of a ‘behaviour problem’ being the ‘guinea pig that can only live on its own’, whilst that is probably true at the time the problem should be addressed and dealt with. Guinea pigs are sociable animals, something is wrong if a guinea pig can’t or won’t socialise and it is the rescue’s responsibility to find out what, just as they would treat mites or any other condition for example.

A reputable source must:

  • Insist on rehoming to Animal Welfare Act compliant homes at least.
  • Observe the 5 Freedoms as recommended to DEFRA by the RSPCA as part of the Animal Welfare Act.
  • Use and recommend veterinary treatment when necessary.
  • Be aware of specialist needs of guinea pigs or be willing to seek out and take good advice.

They should:

  • Send someone to do a home visit when they are rehoming one of their guinea pigs or satisfy themselves via email etc that the potential home is satisfactory.
  • Be prepared to take back any guinea pigs they have rehomed.
  • Be able to recommend a vet and suppliers in the local area.
  • Be sure of any advice they give regarding the husbandry of guinea pigs and be aware of the law regarding giving medical advice.
  • Keep sensible/manageable numbers of guinea pigs; what is ’sensible’ for one person may not be for another therefore different numbers apply. Many sources have large numbers of guinea pigs (around 100) while others can only manage 10 or 20 or maybe less.

They could:

  • Offer to clip nails and/or bath your guinea pig for you after adoption.
  • Provide holiday boarding.
  • Arrange for you to purchase small amounts of hay etc from them.
  • Add you to their E Newsletter so that you can keep up to date with them.

December 22, 2009   Posted in: Rescue