Behavior Essentials: Clinical Approach to the Guinea Pig

Key Points

  • Guinea pigs are docile, prey species.
  • Like most prey species, the guinea pig can hide signs of pain and illness extremely well.
  • The guinea pig’s tendency to freeze when frightened or stressed, compounds the difficulty of observing valuable clues during the visual exam.
  • In an effort to minimize stress and increase clinical success, transfer the guinea pig to a quiet exam room as needed and approach the patient slowly and speak softly.
  • The hospitalized guinea pig can benefit greatly from the presence of a bonded cage mate.
  • Guinea pigs establish food preferences early in life, therefore offer hospitalized guinea pig patients their regular diet whenever possible.
  • Monitor appetite and eliminations carefully as this rodent tends to stop eating in stressful situations.
  • Provide vitamin C daily to ill, hospitalized guinea pigs to prevent scurvy, which can develop quickly.

Guinea pigs are small, docile rodents, that must be approached with great care. Accurate evaluation of patient health status requires a thorough history, careful visual examination, and a detailed physical examination. Like most prey species, the guinea pig frequently hides signs of pain and illness. To improve clinical success, take measures to minimize stress by maintaining the animal in a quiet exam room and approaching the patient in a slow, quiet manner. The hospitalized guinea pig can also benefit greatly from the presence of a bonded cage mate. Monitor appetite and eliminations carefully in the guinea pig, and offer the . . .

To continue you need to be a member. (Français), (Español)

Pour continuer, vous devez être un membre

Para continuar, debe ser miembro de

Already a LafeberVet Member?

Please Login


1. Bradley Bays T. 2006. Guinea pig behavior. In: Bradley Bays T, Lightfoot T, Mayer J (eds). Exotic Pet Behavior: Birds, Reptiles, and Small Animals. St Louis (MO): Saunders Elsevier; 2006: 207–238.

2. Darbo-McClellan H. Restraint and handling of small exotic companion mammals webinar. LafeberVet Website. Nov 13, 2014. Available at

3. Donnelly TM, Brown CJ. Guinea pig and chinchilla care and husbandry. Vet Clin North Am Exot Anim Pract 7(2):351-73, 2004.

4. Dunbar ML, David EM, Aline MR, Lofgren JL. Validation of a behavioural ethogram for assessing postoperative pain in the guinea pig. J Am Assoc Lab Anim Sci 55(1):29–34, 2016.

5. Harkness JE, Turner PV, VandeWoude S, Wheler CL. Biology and husbandry. Harkness and Wagner’s Biology and Medicine of Rabbits and Rodents, 5th edition. Ames, Iowa: Wiley-Blackwell; 2010: 316-319.

6. Hennessy MB, Reed J, Wilson SE, Pitstick L. Sexual interactions of maturing male guinea pigs with their mothers, sisters, and unfamiliar adult females in the home cage. Dev. Psychobiol 42(1): 91–96, 2003.

7. Horton BJ, West Ce, Turley SD. Diurnal variation in the feeding pattern of guinea pigs. Nutr Metab 18(5-6):294-301, 1975.

8. Manning PJ, Wagner JE. The Biology of the Guinea Pig. New York: Academic Press; 1976.

9. Mayer J, Donnelly TM (eds). Clinical Veterinary Advisor: Birds and Exotic Pets. St. Louis, MO: Saunders; 2012: 253-284.

10. Morton DB, Griffiths PH. Guidelines on the recognition of pain, distress and discomfort in experimental animals and an hypothesis for assessment. Vet Rec 116 (16):431-436, 1985.

11. Oglesbee BL. Blackwell’s Five-Minute Veterinary Consult: Small Mammal, 2nd ed. Ames, Iowa: Wiley-Blackwell; 2011: 226-343.

12. Quesenberry KE, Donnelly TM, Mans C. Biology, husbandry, and clinical techniques of guinea pigs and chinchillas. In: Quesenberry KE, Carpenter JW (eds). Ferrets, Rabbits, and Rodents: Clinical Medicine and Surgery, 3rd ed. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Saunders; 2012: 279-283, 289-290, 292, 305-306.

To cite this page:

Bradley Bays T, Pollock C, Arbona N. Behavior basics: clinical approach to the guinea pig. Nov 8, 2017. LafeberVet Web site. Available at