guinea pig posed by flowers
Guinea pigs require some specific care in order to thrive. Pezibear/Pixabay.com

Your guinea pigs are family, so you want them to be happy and healthy. Sometimes, simple care mistakes lead to disaster. A review of these common guinea pig care no-nos helps you avoid them so your guinea pig buddies live the good life.

Guinea Pig Feeding Mistakes To Avoid

1. No skimping on plentiful grass hay, fresh water, and vitamin C. The guinea pig diet is mainly hay; we’re talking about 80% hay. Hay is necessary because of its high-fiber content, which helps maintain the guinea pig digestive tract and also wears down constantly growing teeth. Water is vital for life. It must be fresh and clean daily. Guinea pigs need vitamin C from their food because they can’t make it themselves. Many guinea pig pellets include added vitamin C, and you can also offer guinea pig-safe fresh veggies and small amounts of fruits rich in vitamin C. Without this vitamin, guinea pigs develop scurvy and could die.

2. No bad foods or overfeeding of good foods. What are bad foods? Processed, sugary, salty, and fatty foods top the list. Other no-nos include meat, alcohol, caffeine, dairy, or foods that cause gas. When in doubt about a food, ask your guinea-pig savvy veterinarian. Keep in mind that guinea pigs are herbivores. Guinea pigs can eat as much grass hay as they wish, but portion control is needed for pellets, and even healthy treats likes veggies, fruits, and Hey!Berries. Fruit should be offered most sparingly because of its sugar content.

Guinea Pig Housing Or Environment Mistakes To Avoid

3. No free-roaming in unsafe areas. An unsafe area is any space you haven’t guinea pig-proofed. This means any area with toxins, accessible power cords, bite-sized items on the floor, sharp objects, other free-roaming pets, unsupervised small children, and more. Use common sense before allowing your guinea pigs to roam a room. Some rooms should always be off-limits, such as kitchens, garages, and laundry rooms. The outdoors presents new problems, including birds of prey swooping down, disease from scat, insect bites, or standing water, and unknown pesticides.

guinea pig standing
Make sure an area is guinea pig-safe before you allow your pets to roam freely in it. summa/Pixabay.com

4. No warm environment. Heatstroke is a major concern for guinea pigs. Temperatures above 80 degrees Fahrenheit bring the possibility of heatstroke; with high humidity, it could happen at lower temperatures. If you’re uncomfortable, so is your guinea pig. Provide cooling options in the cage, such as frozen bottles of water or a guinea pig-safe pet cool plate. And don’t aim a fan directly at your guinea pigs.

5. No exercise balls. The safety of exercise balls for guinea pigs is under debate. Manufacturers of such products believe in their safety, but some guinea pig owners speak against them. The Guinea Lynx website, which focuses on guinea pig health, and visitors to guinea pig forums recommend against them. Avoid them until you discuss with your guinea pigs’ veterinarian about what is best for your pets.

6. No sharing a habitat with other species, even rabbits. Guinea pigs need a fairly large habitat/cage that has space to run around after accessories like food dishes, water bottles, toys, hideaways, and litter boxes are added. For people with more than one pet, the temptation might be to have guinea pigs share their living space with other nonpredator pets. Don’t do it. While different species often can share the same home, they can’t share the same living space. Guinea pigs should only live with other guinea pigs. In addition to possible inter-species aggression, diseases like Bordetella bronchiseptica can be passed between species. This most often occurs with carrier rabbits who look healthy but infect guinea pigs.

7. No poorly ventilated, small, or all wire-floored housing. Guinea pigs need well-ventilated habitats; this means no aquarium-types. The enclosure should allow guinea pigs to move around freely with all cage accessories in place. Hard or all wire-floors might cause painful bumblefoot, so provide an enclosure that has solid sections and bedding or blankets in sections so guinea pigs can rest on solid or soft areas as they wish.

8. No skimping on cleaning. A clean habitat promotes better health and minimizes any odors. If the enclosure has an odor, this means it’s time to increase the frequency of cleaning. Ammonia buildup from urine could cause respiratory disease.

Guinea Pig Interaction Mistakes To Avoid

9. No poor handling. This includes chasing a guinea pig around the habitat with your hands, not supporting a guinea pig’s abdomen and feet while holding, and allowing young children unsupervised playtime with guinea pigs. It’s best if guinea pigs come to you to be lifted out of their habitat; excessive chasing with your hands causes stress. Get your guinea pigs used to your hands by laying them in the habitat for several minutes without doing anything and offering treats on your hand. Guinea pigs always need to be supported when held to prevent injury and to prevent squirming that could lead to being dropped. Young children of about 7 years old or less won’t know how to interact with guinea pigs or have the coordination or ability to know their own strength.

10. No ignoring. Guinea pigs are social and want to be in on your family action. A guinea pig pair or group that has a clean habitat, great food, plentiful water, and lots of toys still won’t enjoy the best life if they spend all their time alone in their habitat. They need the enrichment of time interacting with you and exploring areas other than their habitat.

Guinea Pig Health Mistakes To Avoid

11. No waiting if you suspect illness. Guinea pigs are prey animals who hide any illness as long as possible. This means that by the time you might notice something is “off” with your guinea pig, your furry friend might be hours, days, or weeks into suffering. Outside of obvious signs of illness, changes to the norm are your first clues of possible guinea pig health problems.

12. No under grooming. For guinea pigs, this mainly means keeping current on nail trims and fur brushing. If nails grow too long, they can split, break, get ripped out, or make walking painful. Save your guinea pig from such agonies. Baths are only needed if guinea pigs get into something dirty or are heading for the show ring.

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