Routine Health Checks

Guinea pigs must be checked regularly for anything ‘going on’. The easiest way to tell if a guinea pig is unwell is when differences in behaviour are noticed. Spending time with your guinea pigs and watching them in their cage/pen/hutch could save their life.

In addition these checks can be made at least weekly but try to get into the habit of making it a natural part of the daily routine.

  • Eyes: Eyes should be clean and fully open. Older guineas may get crystals or grit around the eyes but for the most part they are clean. Eyes that are watery (clear) indicate that something else is going on in the body; a dental problem or respiratory one is likely and a vet visit is needed.

Watery eyes can also indicate that a hay seed or similar has gotten under the eyelid, either top or bottom. If it is visible then it may be possible to ease it out. If the Cornea has been ulcerated then a vet visit is necessary. Viscous eye drops will prevent infection setting in, this is important as the Optic Nerve goes to the brain.

When eyes are closed or half closed it is often because guinea is in pain. Seek the advice of a guinea pig competent vet who will likely give a painkiller to establish that it is being caused by pain and then go on to find the source of the pain.

  • Ears: Ears should be free from crusting and white tide marks. The presence of these would suggest a fungal problem and immediate action should be taken. Gorgeous Guineas have a range of aromatherapy products specifically for guinea pig skincare. Their Melts are extremely effective on fungal conditions and gentle on the guinea pig’s skin.

Inside the ears should be clean. Ears can be washed with the lather from Gorgeous Guineas shampoo at their monthly bath. Dirty ears will attract mites. The presence of lines going from the ear to the corner of the eye indicate that mites are present. They make the ‘line’ when they are travelling from the ear to the eye.

  • Feet: Feet should be free from sores (unless there is a pressure related problem, this can be helped with Gorgeous Guineas Perfect Paws ointment). Dry patches can also be cleared up using the ointment but do ensure that the cause is found. Often shavings and sawdust are to blame, particularly when they are wet. Trim nails if necessary.
  • Nose: The nose should be free from any discharge, where there is discharge an early visit to the vet is best before the infection takes hold.
  • Mouth: The mouth should be free from sores or crusts. Some sores can be eliminated by changing the diet and giving less acidic food. Sometimes treatment will be needed as well. Gorgeous Guineas can often tell whether or not they have a product that can help if they are sent a good picture of the condition.
  • Teeth: A daily look at the Incisor teeth can indicate if something else is going on. Where Incisors are overgrown the guinea pig could have stopped eating (this in turn is likely to be caused by another issue such as pain coming from somewhere). Get to know what your guinea pig’s teeth look like; they are all different.

Generally speaking the top Insicors are shorter than the bottom ones. Incisors that are starting to curl inwards are overgrown and need immediate attention. When the teeth have been attended to it is important to find the root cause of the problem.

  • Chin and jawline: Get to know how your healthy guinea pig’s chin and jawline feel so that you will notice any lumps or bumps that appear. Abscesses often appear under the chin. Abscesses on the jawline may also be affecting the teeth.
  • Tummy: The tummy is very warm and sometimes mites will appear first on the tummy or in the trouser area where it is also warm. Rexoid guinea pigs do seem prone to losing their belly coat but check for other signs of mites.
  • Grease Gland: The grease gland is at the base of the spine. The activity varies from guinea pig to guinea pig, both boars and sows have grease glands and either can have an active one. Clean with Swarfega. Leave on for a few minutes and massage into the coat, the grease will break down and can be washed off. Swarfega is available from stores such as Halfords.
  • Bites/Scratch marks: Feel over the body for any bites from other guineas or any evidence of scratching. Scratching indicates irritation from either a fungal or parasitic skin problem. Treatment should be with Ivermectin on day 1 and day 10 for mites with a bath on day3, or a course of fungal treatment in the form of Gorgeous Guineas Melts started. See their website for more information.

Bites from another guinea pig will usually heal over but sometimes an abscess forms and will need attention.

  • Droppings: Should be firm, not runny and not too hard. Colour is a dark brown and big droppings indicate healthy guinea pigs. If the droppings are small is guinea getting enough fibre? Hay should be making up most of the diet. Runny droppings may mean a bacterial infection is present, never delay taking guinea pigs with diarrhoea to a vet.
  • Longer hair: Hair should be free from matts and cut so that it sits just above the ground. Check the trouser area for any small matts.
  • Skin: White guinea pigs should have pale pink skin, red skin is not healthy. The likely cause will be fungal or parasitic. Take care to investigate long haired guinea pigs skin, it is sometimes hard to see what is going on with those with particularly dense coats and a proper inspection must be made at their monthly bathtime. Check for Lice (visible to the eye, white and wriggly) and evidence of parasite or fungal problems.
  • Anal Sac: The anal sac need to cleaned regularly to prevent infection.
  • Genital area: The genital area should be clean. Visit a vet at any signs of blood, diarrhoea or calcium deposits.
  • Weight: Unless guinea is ill then weighing once a fortnight gives an overview of the general health. Sick guinea pigs may need weighing more often. Weigh at the same time of day for more accuracy.

Lilac Otter

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