How long do guinea pigs live? What should I feed my guinea pig? What kind of enclosure should my guinea pig live in? If you have ever considered adding a guinea pig to your home, you have probably found yourself asking these questions, and many others. Take the time to learn more about these fun little companions to determine whether a guinea pig is the right pet for you.
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1. How long do guinea pigs live, if cared for appropriately?
The average lifespan of a guinea pig ranges from five to seven years. Just like humans, however, the lifespan of guinea pigs may vary due to a number of factors, including genetics, diet, and environment. For example, guinea pigs that are not provided with adequate Vitamin C are prone to develop scurvy, which can be fatal, even in young guinea pigs, while guinea pigs that are fed a nutritious diet will live longer, healthier lives.
As guinea pigs reach four to five years of age, owners often notice that they begin ‘slowing down’ and health problems may begin to develop.
2. What type of food, supplements, and treats should a guinea pig eat?
There are several components to a healthy diet for guinea pigs. First, guinea pigs require a grass-based, commercial diet that is specifically formulated to meet the nutritional needs of guinea pigs. Next, guinea pigs need a Vitamin C supplement, because they cannot make their own Vitamin C. This can be provided as a water additive (which must be replaced every day) or in the form of vegetables that are high in Vitamin C.
Guinea pigs also need constant access to grass hay, which serves as a source of fiber that aids their digestion. Finally, guinea pigs should be offered a variety of vegetables, which provide both additional fiber and nutrients. Fruits can be offered occasionally as treats, but should not be a daily component of a guinea pig’s diet due to their high sugar content.
3. What is the best housing option for a pet guinea pig?
Guinea pigs do best when housed in a quiet area, away from a lot of activity. Their enclosure should be in a location that is free of drafts and away from direct sunlight. Aquariums do not allow for appropriate ventilation. Instead, an enclosure with open wire or plastic sides should be used. The enclosure should be approximately 30 x 36 inches in size for a single guinea pig, although a larger enclosure is always better.
Also, it is best to provide an enclosure with a solid floor that is covered in soft bedding or shavings. Grates or wire floors can lead to a number of skin and foot issues in guinea pigs. Provide at least one small box or hideaway hut within the enclosure to ensure that your guinea pig has a secure, hidden place to rest.
4. Does my guinea pig need to see a veterinarian for regular checkups?
Regular veterinary visits are an important component of keeping your guinea pig healthy. Just like dogs and cats, guinea pigs should see the veterinarian every six to 12 months for a routine checkup. At this visit, the veterinarian will ask about housing, nutrition, and other issues to ensure that a guinea pig is receiving the best possible care at home. The veterinarian will also perform a thorough physical exam, assessing overall body condition, teeth, eyes, and ears.
In addition to these routine wellness visits, guinea pigs should be taken to a veterinarian any time that they are showing signs of illness.
5. Should guinea pigs be kept alone or with other guinea pigs?
Guinea pigs are very social animals. For this reason, it is often best to have two guinea pigs, if you have the space, time, and financial resources to do so. If you purchase your guinea pig from a breeder or pet store, you may be able to purchase two guinea pigs that have been housed together since a young age. If you decide to add a second guinea pig later, it’s important to introduce the two animals gradually and under close supervision, to ensure that they get along.
Also, be sure that both animals are of the same sex so that you don’t find yourself with an entire litter of newborn guinea pigs that require care!
6. Is it true that guinea pigs are incapable of vomiting?
You may have heard that guinea pigs cannot vomit. That’s true! Unlike dogs, cats, and humans, guinea pigs lack a vomiting reflex. Instead, guinea pigs are like rabbits and horses: they have a gastrointestinal tract that simply isn’t wired to move food upstream from the stomach to the mouth.
This has several implications. First, you can’t induce vomiting in a guinea pig that may have eaten something toxic. If you’re worried about something that your guinea pig ate, you should contact your veterinarian immediately. More important, however, is the fact that a guinea pig that appears to be vomiting is likely doing something different. Some guinea pigs drop small amounts of chewed food if they are having a dental issue. If you ever suspect that your guinea pig is vomiting, understand that there is likely something different going on, and contact your veterinarian.
Guinea pigs are unique pets
While guinea pigs are a relatively common pet that is often seen in pet stores and recommended for children, it’s important to understand that these animals are not necessarily low maintenance! For a guinea pig to thrive, it is important to meet their nutritional, medical, and social requirements by providing appropriate care and being aware of the requirements of these unique pets.
Dr. Barnette received both her Bachelor of Science degree in zoology and her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Florida. She’s an experienced writer, educator, and veterinarian, with a passion for making scientific and medical information accessible to public and professional audiences.
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