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6 guinea pig care tips for a safe winter

As winter marches on and temperatures nose-dive, you need to think about guinea pig care during these cold months.  Take extra steps to make sure that your beloved guinea pigs get through the winter safe and comfortable.  This is especially the case if you have a hairless guinea pigs!

Guinea pig care tip #1: Bring your outdoor guinea pigs inside

Care for your guinea pig by protecting them from extreme and fluctuating winter temperatures.  Bring any outdoor guinea pigs inside where they are safer from the cold. By bringing your guinea pigs inside, you’re also better able to keep an eye on how active they are, if they need more food or water and how their health is doing.

If for some reason you’re not able to welcome them into your home, make sure they are moved into an enclosed area such as a shed or porch. It should be a room that can have its temperature controlled either with a space heater or a built-in heater.  If your guinea pig is kept in a shed or porch, you should also consider adding extra installation over the hutch.  A sheet of reflector foil or even a heavy blanket are some good options. Make sure the hutch has good ventilation and that you are checking regularly to make sure they are fine and in good health.

Guinea pig care tip #2: Protect your guinea pig from winter drafts

Your guinea pig cage or habitat should be in an area of your home that is draft-free. We don’t like cold winter drafts and neither do guinea pigs!  Hairless guinea pigs, for example, should be kept in a non-drafty environment with the temperature kept between 68 ºF to 79 ºF.
guinea pig care

Guinea pig care tip #3: Give your guinea pigs extra bedding

Guinea pig care isn’t just about the shelter you give your guinea pig but also about how it’s insulated. Make sure your guinea pigs get extra bedding so they can create a warmer burrow if they’d like.  Recycled bedding like Carefresh Bedding is a good choice as its extra comfortable and absorbant.

Also add extra hay, which can also help your guinea pig retain its body heat. The extra hay is also a good source of food for them. Important since it takes a lot of energy to stay warm.
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Guinea pig care tip #4: Be wary of rodent poison or traps

When the temperature drops, you’re not the only one spending more time at home.  Mice and other rodents are also more likely to move indoors to seek shelter from the cold and find new sources of food.  And, they may pick your home as their new space!  You or your family may be tempted to get rid of the mice with either traps or rodent poison.  But, unfortunately, pets like guinea pigs sometimes end up eating the poison or getting caught in the traps.  For this reason, take extra precaution to not place any poisons or traps anywhere near your cavies.  Make sure to seal any holes in walls that might serve as passageways for mice.  And keep your home clean without food and crumbs lying around so not to attract any hungry mice.

Guinea pig care tip #5: Prevent joint pain in older guinea pigs

Do you have an older or elderly guinea pig?  Does your guinea pig have arthritis? If so, their joints may bother them a little more during the winter, just as they do among humans.

One way to make your guinea pig more comfortable is to give them a dietary supplement with glucosamine and chondroitin.  Glucosamine and chondroitin are natural substances that are part of normal cartilage in both guinea pigs and humans. As you know, cartilage acts as a cushion between the bones in a joint. Glucosamine and chondroitin are both safe and have few if any side effects.

Products like Oxbow Natural Science Joint Support Hay Tabs contain Glucosamine and chondroitin in a tasty tablet that is Timothy-hay based.  you might find that it puts some spring in your guinea pig’s step!
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Guinea pig care tip #6: Keep your guinea pigs dry and warm after bath time

Guinea pigs are susceptible to colds – especially after a bath when they’re nice and wet.  So make sure to dry them well.  You can even use a hair dry on the warm setting to help dry them.  You can aim the warm air around them quickly so as not to disturb them too much.  Absolutely do not use the dryer on the hot setting!

 

Image credit: timoroustimbit
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Guinea pig teeth: a cavy owner’s guide

Guinea pig teeth: the front teeth

These four teeth at the front (two top, two bottom) are called the incisors. The teeth of a guinea pig are constantly growing. So your cavy needs to be able to chew almost constantly to keep their guinea pig teeth worn down or it won’t be able to eat properly. Feed them hay or anything chewy like an untreated apple branch or a thick stalk of celery. Often when the front teeth overgrow, it is because of a problem with the back teeth making it difficult or painful for them to chew at all, so make sure you have both sets checked if there are any problems.

Do guinea pigs bite - guinea pig teeth
Do guinea pigs bite – guinea pig teeth

Guinea pig teeth: the back teeth

Just like the front teeth, guinea pig teeth in the back are constantly growing. Therefore, it important that your cavy have access to hay all day, every day.  They constant chewing of the hay keeps their teeth worn down. Make sure to keep their guinea pig cage full of hay and safe toys for them on which to chew.

The two main types of guinea pig teeth problems: Overgrowth and Malocclusion

Dental problems are one of the most common disorders among guinea pigs. Among them is the dental overgrowth: when a cavy’s teeth grow to long beca to an ineffective or inadequate wear. Another problem that can happen with guinea pig teeth is malocclusion. This happens when your guinea pig’s teeth aren’t aligned properly, for example, if the top teeth are long and the bottom teeth are short.

How can I tell if my guinea pig has a dental problem?

One of the good things about getting your guinea pig from a breeder is that you can find out their parent’s health history. If they had dental problems, it is likely that their offspring also, since this is a disorder with a strong genetic component.

For early detection, you must remember to review your cavy’s teeth regularly. The incisors (the front guinea pig teeth) should never close completely on the lips. Back teeth in guinea pigs must always be short and smooth. It they are pointy, this is a first symptom of a bad wear.

In really advanced cases, the lower back teeth are bent inwards trapping the tongue, preventing swallowing. The upper back teeth, meanwhile, are bent outward, digging into the skin causing injury. This makes it impossible for a guinea pig to eat and drink, and death can happen within days of starvation or dehydration.

Without looking at the teeth, the first symptoms that indicate that there is a problem are:

  • weight loss (you can weigh your cavy daily to see if they are losing weight)
  • they stop eating hay and woody food
  • exagerrated chewing
  • drooling
  • a wet chin (due to drooling)
  • the front teeth are wearing out at an angle
  • they only chewing on one side as they eat

If their guinea pig teeth aren’t the right size, it will be too difficult to properly chew food. The first foods they will stop eating are those that are more work on your cavy’s teeth: timothy hay and other plants with hard stems. Sorry to say this but, if you don’t have your cavy treated, they will gradually stop eating all food and eventually die.

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My guinea pig has a dental problem – what can I do?

If there are symptoms that your cavy’s teeth are a problem, you will need to get him to a vet to have them checked out as soon as possible. You may need to feed your guinea pig with a syringe before and after treatment if necessary.

Unfortunately most of the dental problems have only surgical solution, filing or removal of parts involved. This is why it’s so important for guinea pig teeth to be checked regularly and to feed your cavy plenty of hay to keep their growing teeth from getting too long.

If the teeth of your guinea pig is too long because of a poor diet, the veterinarian may file their teeth to their normal size and changing the diet so that the problem does not happen again. They afflicted cavy will also get more hay to get them to chew and wear down their teeth.

In contrast, if the problem is caused by malocclusion, this may require repeated surgical treatment throughout the life of your guinea pig. If the malocclusion only affects one or a few teeth, these can be removed and the rest can be filed.

Can I prevent this from happening to my pet’s guinea pig teeth?

The best way to prevent them is to keep hay available 24 hours a day. Don’t offer them extra food. Force them to eat hay. You can also offer them thick stalk vegetables like celery or leeks and cut the vegetables as little as possible to force them to use more of their teeth.

However, if the problem is caused by malocclusion, this will only delay the onset of symptoms.

A guinea pig with dental problems requires special care and continuous supervision.