Questions to ask your vet:

The Animal Welfare Act contains a new ‘Welfare Offence’ which means that owners of pets are legally obliged to provide for their pets. See the RSPCA website for more information.

‘Protection from and treatment of, illness and injury’, one of the new legal requirements.

Visits to the vet are costly especially with many practises joining together to form larger groups- resulting in a blanket consultancy charge despite the animal. However, we expect our guineas to receive the same good level of care as all other animals, maybe we should be prepared to pay for it?

In order to make sure that you do get that good level of care it is wise to seek out a vet before you need one. Often guinea pig rescues can help here. Many guineas coming into rescue require some kind of treatment. A good rodentologist will be working with a local vet in order to compliment both the veterinary knowledge and that of the rodentologist. This is of great importance, a rodentologist cannot prescribe you medicines nor has access to a theatre should an operation be needed, and you have an obligation as a pet owner to provide that care to the best of your ability.

Firstly find out where and who your local guinea pig rescue/rodentologist are, a guineapig specific one if possible.

Ask them which vet they use (the person, not the practise), and why. It is reasonable to expect the rodentologist to be working with a vet. If not, why not?

Also ask them what they use them for, what operations they have had done on guinea pigs and what their success rate is with the rescue.

You can expect a competent surgeon to have a good success rate with castrates and bladderstone operations.

Also ask if the rescue/rodentologist would trust their vet to diagnose fungal/parasitic/hormonal hairloss correctly.

Then go ahead and ask the vet these questions before making up your own mind.

1. How many guinea pigs do you treat a week?

Guineas are popular pets, expect a vet to see guinea pigs every week.

2. What have you treated guinea pigs for? How often? With what success?

Useful for future reference.

3. Do you use an anaesthetic to do dental work, including the molars (back teeth)?

Most vets do, though they will usually attend to Incisors without anaesthetic. Whilst a one off anaesthetic won’t usually harm a guinea, it is unnecessary and not recommended for guineas that need regular dental work.

4.Do you use anaesthetic when x raying guinea pigs?

Anaesthetic is not necessary when xraying guinea pigs.

5. Tell me about post op recovery care for guinea pigs at this practice?

Ideally guinea pigs will be able to recover in a room seperate from dogs and cats. There should be mention of syringe feeding Oxbow Critical Care and water to guineas that do not start to eat within 30-45 minutes of recovery. This may be longer depending on the last time guinea ate.

6.What foods do you recommend for guinea pigs (dry and fresh)? What do you consider to be the single most important component of the guinea pig diet?

Fresh foods should be leafy greens and a small amount of fruit and roots, dry food should at least, be any without colourings. The single most important component of a guinea pigs diet is hay, hay and more hay! Water is a very important factor in the guinea pig’s diet.

7. What is your success rate when castrating guinea pigs?

Ask for a number out of 10, 8-9/10 is a good answer. Castration is one of the less intrusive operations and a high success rate should be expected. An undetectable health issue (usually respiratory) makes all operations come with a risk factor. Ask how long the vet has been doing castrates and when they did their last one. Recent successes are what you are looking for.

Ask what the vet knows about Catgut being used in guinea pigs, it should not be used, ever.

8. How do you treat abscesses at this practise?

Generally abscesses will be lanced without anaesthetic, flushed and the ‘tools’ provided for guinea’s human to carry on flushing twice daily. Antibiotics will be needed with all those nasty toxins around too, and with antibiotics come probiotics.

9. What are the differences between fungal skin conditions and parasitic ones?

The hair of a fungal pig can be easily removed by gently tugging at it, no force needed. Tide marks on the ear, sores on the body where guinea has scratched, flaky skin all over the body (perhaps) and maybe on the inside of the ear. Depending on the stage it is at there may be bald patches too. The skin will be red as opposed to healthy pink on white coloured pigs.

Parasitic pigs may have: broken hairs, parasite poo (black specs in the hair), wriggly lice, sores from scratching, lines of ‘missing hair’ that go from the ear to the eye, they may have ‘goose pimples’ signfying mites under the skin are present…

You could go on to ask about how the practice would treat each condition… For more information on this see Gorgeous Guineas‘ Skincare website.

10. How long is the gestation period for a guinea pig? 9-10 wheeks.

What do the young look like? They are fully ‘furred’ and mobile, eating within 24 hours.

How long, on average, do guinea pigs live for? 5-8 years/4-7.

These questions give a general view of the depth of knowledge the vet has about guinea pigs.

11. Which anaesthetic do you use?

The best ones for use on guinea pigs are Isoflourane and Sevoflourane, not anaesthetic by injection. These anaesthetics are common now and should be the choice of vets.

While these questions won’t guarantee the quality of a vet they provide you with a starting point. Ask the vet these questions and give them time to get back to you (they are busy people!) e.g leave an email address that you can be contacted on or a phone number where you can be reached, or call back later at the vet’s convenience. It isn’t a test, and even if they go and research the answers you will have achieved something- a vet willing to learn is a good vet to visit.

12. What is your recommendation for treating sows with Ovarian Cysts?

It is no longer necessary to spay sows that have Ovarian Cysts, this is a very intrusive operation and is unnecessary. A course of Chorulon can be given (it is important that the course is completed!), with the injections on day one and day ten. Depending on the condition/state of the patient (all sows are different), another course may be needed or perhaps draining if the vet is confident enough. Vets should not be berated for not having the confidence to drain a cyst but commended for being honest. This practise has been widely used for some time now, but many vets have not heard of it. Would they be willing to try it?

13. What are your thoughts on antibiotics? How long is a course antibiotics (minimum)? What dose of Baytril do you give and how often?

There are different publications that recommend different doses of Baytril (the most commonly used antibiotic in guinea pigs). Doses found to be effective are 0.3ml and 0.4ml of the 2.5% Oral Baytril given twice daily. It is also common practise to give 0.8ml of 2.5% oral Baytril x1 daily, however, unless it is known how the guinea pig responds to Baytril this way of dosing is, in a lot of circumstances, unfavourable.

Septrin is the antibiotic of choice for upper respiratory tract problems. The dose is dependent on diagnosis of the condition.

The minimum course for antibiotics is generally 10 days. Often guinea pigs will need to on them for much longer; it is not uncommon to keep a guinea pig on 0.4ml x2 Baytril 2.5% Oral daily, for six weeks in some cases.

General practise shows that weight of the guinea pig does not seem to have a great bearing on differing ranges of doses of Baytril 2.5% Oral within guinea pigs- a guinea pig weighing 1kg (approximately 2 pounds) is able to safely have the same dose as a guinea pig weighing 1.5kg (just over 3 pounds).

14. Is your vet aware of the 5 Freedoms, The Animal Welfare Act and how they affect guinea pigs?

Owners are legally obliged to carry out these recommendations, how does your vet react when they come across a lone guinea pig for instance?

These questions are just the start of finding a suitable vet. Keeping an open mind is of great importance too, all vets  have their strong points, but also their weak or weaker points. How will this affect you in an emergency, more importantly, how will it affect your guinea pig?

Copyright 2008-2010

One Response

  1. When It All Goes Horribly Wrong | - January 6, 2013

    […] Find a guinea-competent Vet before you need one. Please bear in mind that Vets get little training on guinea pigs, so you do need to find one that has additional qualifications or who is recommended to you.  Most guinea pig rescues work with Vets that see a lot of guineas, and are used to treating them and performing surgery on them.  Here are some useful questions that you can Ask Your Vet. […]

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