General Guinea Pig

** The following information has been compiled using
(the veterinary information network) and Lifelearn Inc. client information sheets**

Vital Statistics

Body Length: 12 inches
Body Weight: 750-1200 grams
Age of Sexual Maturity: Males: 3-4 months
Females: 2-3 months
Average Life Span: 5 years (8 yrs max)

Guinea pigs originated in South America where the Incas used them as a food source. Guinea pigs are also called cavies (or cavy for single use). They were first introduced as pets in the early 1900s, but were most likely introduced to Europe in the 1500s. There are actually about 13 different breeds of guinea pigs but the most common are the English (which are available in both long and short coat), Abyssinian, and the Peruvian. Guinea pigs come in very wide range of colors and patterns and also come hairless known as "skinny pigs". Guinea pigs make a variety of sounds to express themselves and communicate. Since guinea pigs are a prey item in the wild even domesticated pigs tend to be "jumpy" and scare easily so keeping a quiet stable environment is important for their health.


Guinea pigs are true herbivores; which means they only eat plant materials. Guinea pigs need a high quality pelleted diet that is specifically formulated for them so it contains the essential vitamins and minerals needed. Guinea pigs like primates, are unable to synthesize their own vitamin C; therefore they need to ingest a dietary supplement that contains vitamin C daily. Guinea pigs should also have access to quality hay daily such as: western timothy, oat hay, alfalfa, brome, orchard grass, or botanical. Guinea pigs can also be very "picky" eaters so offering them a variety of food and hay while they are young will help with keeping them on a balanced diet during their lives. We do not recommend feeding your pet any pellets that are mixed with corn or seed, they may look good but are not nutritionally balanced, the best pelleted diets for your pet on the market are "Oxbow Cavy Cuisine", "Mazuri Guinea Pig Diet", and "ZuPreem Nature's Promise Premium Guinea Pig Food". Since vitamin C oxidizes so fast you should only buy as many pellets as your pet can eat within 90 days from the date the food was manufactured, keeping unused pellets in refrigerator or freezer may stabilize the vitamins. You should also offer your guinea pig fresh vegetables daily especially those high in vitamin C. Fruits should be limited to an occasional snack since their high sugar content can cause an intestinal imbalance, leading to diarrhea which can be deadly to guinea pigs. Good choices of Vegetables
Red Peppers
Green Peppers
Carrot Tops
Beet Greens

Your Guinea pig should have access to clean water 24 hours a day. Since guinea pigs tend to be very messy a sipper bottle is recommended instead of a bowl. Be sure to check your pet's water bottle a few times daily since they tend to play with the sipper and get food and other thing stuck in it.

Feeding your guinea pig treats should be a once a day event. Treats are good way for you and your pet to bond, just remember that feeding too much of a sugary treat is bad for your pet's health. Good choices for Treats
Romaine Lettuce
Mesclun mix
Mustard Greens
Grass Clippings

**Make sure everything that is offered to your pet is washed throughlly and is pesticide and herbicide free**


Guinea pigs need a well ventilated indoor cage. Guinea pigs do not do well outside and need to be kept indoors to maintain an ambient temperature between 55°-90° F. A cage of 18" x 24" x 10" should be a good size for two guinea pigs, but always remember that in the cage world the bigger the better. Guinea pigs need a solid surface cage bottom because a wire bottom cage can easily damage the soft pads of their feet. Cages should be made of a plastic or metal bottom and a wire top to provide ventilation. The substrate of your pet's cage should be a soft surface such as wood shavings, like aspen or pine (not cedar), also hemp, shredded paper products, pellets or corncob material makes a good substrate for your pet's cage. Guinea pigs are very messy so keeping their cage as clean as possible is important; scooping their cage daily and a full cleaning once a week is recommended. Guinea pigs also like to chew and dig so it is important to provide them with "safe" chew toys so they do not start chewing their cage or water bottle. Your pet will also enjoy some supervised play time out of their cage, make sure whatever room you allow them to be loose in is "guinea pig proof", meaning no access to electrical wires, holes or small places you are not able to access, plants and heavy objects that could be pushed over.

Cage Supplies

  • Large cage with solid bottom
  • A dark place to sleep
  • Sipper water bottle
  • Heavy food bowl
  • Access to a quality pellet
  • Access to a quality hay
  • Soft bedding (pine or aspen shavings)
  • Safe chew toys


Similar to most "pocket" pets, most guinea pig health issues are due to poor nutrition. Guinea pigs are prone to conditions such as; respiratory infections, diarrhea, scurvy (vitamin C deficiency), tumors, abscesses, urinary issues, and infestations by parasites or fungus. An exam with our veterinarian is recommended at least once yearly, where a stool sample should be checked as well.

Respitory Infections
Guinea pigs are prone to pneumonia which can be caused by a number of bacteria, including Bordetella and Streptococcus. Guinea pigs can naturally harbor these bacteria and may be asymptomatic carriers until their immune system is stressed and the bacteria can take over.

A guinea pig's GI tract is very sensitive and not providing them with proper nutrition can cause a change in the balance of their natural bacteria flora leading to diarrhea which similar to rabbits can be deadly to guinea pigs

As mentioned earlier, guinea pigs do not produce their own vitamin C. If it is not properly supplemented in their diet they will develop scurvy. Vitamin C is essential in the normal development and maintenance of joints, skin, and mucosal surfaces such as gums.

Guinea pigs are prone to a variety of tumors but skin and mammary tumors tend to be the most common. Most of these tumors tend to be benign but any mass should be brought to the attention of our veterinarians to see if surgical intervention is needed.

Skin and Parasites
Like most small pets, guinea pigs are prone to parasites and fungal infections. Young pigs are prone to ringworm which is contagious both to other pets and people. Guinea pigs can also become infested with lice, fleas and mites, so keeping your pet and its environment clean are essential.


Ferrets are well known as "escape artists", so need to be housed securely in a cage that can be locked. Ferrets should be housed in the largest cage you can afford and accommodate in your home; a suggested minimum size cage recommended would be 24 x 24" x 18". The cage floor should be a solid surface or a wire bottom, wooden or porous floors should be avoided so it does not become saturated in feces and urine. Ferrets sleep 12-18 hours a day, and need a dark enclosed area. Some ferrets will chew bedding or any cloths so inspect your ferret's cage often for any rips or tears and removed any damaged material right away. Your ferret can be litter box trained and the litter box should be filled with a pelleted litter, ferrets prefer to back into a corner to eliminate so it is best to purchase a litter box that fits in the corner and clips onto your pet's cage. Ferrets are too active to be completely confined to their cage; they should have at least 2-3 hours of exercise daily. It is important to "ferret proof" any area where your ferret will have access to; meaning any hole should be blocked off with plywood or hardware cloth. Ferrets tend to chew anything they can so all foam, plastic, and rubber products should be kept away. Ferrets are also very sensitive to heat stroke and their environment should be kept at or below 80°F and their cage should be well ventilated.

Symptoms that should brought to Our Veterinarian's attention right away

  • Blood in urine
  • Loose stool or diarrhea
  • Overgrown teeth
  • Irregular eating or drinking
  • Bald patches of fur
  • Sores on feet
  • Lethargy
  • Irregular breathing
**Please call the staff at Otterkill animal hospital if you have any questions about your pet, we are always happy to help, or set up an appointment with one of Our Veterinarians**