Guest Post from Dr Michael Watts about Guinea Pigs

Recent post by Dr. Michael Watts who was asked this question: “Should I get my child a guinea pig for a pet?”

Answer: Guinea pigs have a lot of personality and live longer than smaller rodents.  They do require more space (eight square feet is recommended), but do not require an exercise wheel.  Larger cages, even multi-level cages with ramps, afford better opportunities for exercise and exploration.  A solid surface bottom and adequate ventilation are very important for guinea pigs.  Paper litter products are still the preferred bedding substrate.  Guinea pigs also require a hiding box, but will usually spend less time there than hamsters or gerbils.

Many pet guinea pigs are fed improper diets.  A timothy-based pelleted diet should be offered daily (usually about 1/8 cup or a little more).  Alfalfa-based pellets make guinea pigs prone to bladder stones, so check the ingredient list.  A constant supply of timothy hay should always be available for proper digestion and tooth wear.  Fresh greens can be provided, but do not use kale, collards, broccoli or other vegetables that are high in calcium.

Supplementation with adequate vitamin C is absolutely essential for guinea pigs.  Vitamin C is not light-stable and becomes inactive easily.

Thus, relying on the vitamin C in the pelleted diet alone is unwise.  Instead, supplement with a liquid vitamin C supplement to provide 40mg of vitamin C daily.  Mark the date you open the bottle and discard the unused portion after ninety days.

Do not place the supplement in the water bottle because it encourages bacterial growth and discourages precise dosing.  There are a few guinea pig “treats” that are formulated to provide enough vitamin C, but be very careful because many have inadequate levels.

Otherwise, the advice for hamsters and gerbils generally hold true for guinea pigs. Take the little piggy to the vet.  Supervise your children and teach them proper hygiene. Change food and water daily, bedding frequently, and wash bowls, bottles, and cages regularly. Most of all enjoy your pets and love them.

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