Just about the best way to keep a good eye on your GPs long-term health is to weigh them. Simple as that. Weigh your GPs every month or more frequently. If there are health concerns or treatment under progress, weigh daily. Keep a log (either on paper or in a spreadsheet).
Measurements: Remember! 1oz = 28.4g
You can weigh them with a low-tech, low-cost scale such as this Polder one. We use a similar one, bought at Walmart called a Pyrex Accessories Food Scale, model number 36037 and made by Robinson Knife Co. under the Pyrex name. This is impossible to find on the internet now. We don't normally recommend using digital scales, as they don't make you focus on what the number really means, you need to put batteries in and zeroing is not immediately obvious. Others you might find are Terraillon, Polder and Salter. Here's another site to try (bit more pricey). Make sure you get a scale with both Imperial (pounds/ounces) and Metric (grams) scales.
Don't buy a scale that goes up to more than 7 pounds (3.25kg), as the accuracy at the bottom end (up to 2 lbs/1kg for cavies) won't be good. Always make sure you zero the scale correctly and give the loaded platform (with the bowl on) a couple of small pushes to make sure the zero is right. Don't buy too small either, or the cavy won't stay in the smaller top jar (5-7 lbs [2.25-3.25kg] = good).
A note on digital scales. These vary tremendously in ease of use. Some even forget the Imperial vs Metric setting when turned off and back on again. Some use mechanical springs and some use strain guages (almost certainly using a Motorola sensor). Buy the type that don't appear to move when you put a load on the platform. These are the ones without springs. These will measure accurately from a few grams to their full rating and their zeroing stays very accurate. As these can vary so much in design, we can only recommend the Taylor Glass Digital Food Scale Model No. 3842 and maybe available more cheaply elsewhere (but be sure it's exactly the same scale). Note that with all of these flat-topped scales you''ll need a good safe container to weigh your guinea pig in. Nearly all of the mechanical type come with their own measurement bowl.
Urinary Tract Infections Cystitis is inflammation of the urinary bladder caused by an infection and/or renal calculi also known as kidney stones. There are over the counter remedies to treat cystitis also known as urinary tract infections, UTIs. The products that I use come from the UK. In the UK the over the counter human cystitis product Cymalon is used sometimes by itself or in conjunction with antibiotics. Cymalon, Cystopurin and Canesten Oasis sachets can be bought from Amazon.com. See Protocol below. If your cavy is showing signs of distress while peeing, has blood in the urine, is always wet around the genitals, has chalky deposits around the urethra or has foul smelling urine there is a good chance she has cystitis which is an infection that requires antibiotics and a non steroidal anti inflammatory drug, NSAID. Male cavies will have the same signs but often have a gritty paste around the base of the penis.
In females with kidney stones, the stones almost always present themselves as a swelling in the urethra. This is the hairless area just above the opening to the urethra. But sludge in the urethra can also cause pain. Cystitis is an infection that left untreated can lead to stones. Cystitis in male cavies is far more likely to be due to renal calculi. To diagnose an infection you will need one of these items. AZO Urinary Tract Infection Test Strips. These can be bought at a pharmacy or Amazon.com, but I prefer to use Urinalysis Reagent Test Strips. I use Rapid Response 10 Parameter (10SG) Urinalysis Reagent Test Strips, 100 Strips/Bottle from Amazon.com for $16.66. This is to test urine for blood, Leukocytes, Nitrite, pH and other tests.
If the urine is positive for blood or leukocytes or protein your cavy either has a stone or a UTI or both. If the urine is positive for any of these then you can first treat for UTI. This will require you to get Pediatric Sulfatrim from your vet, also called Sulfamethoxazole TMP in the USA. This drug is called Septrin Pediatric in the UK. It is an oral suspension. In 5 ml of the suspension there is 40 mg Trimethoprim and 200 mg Sulfamethoxazole. Your cavy will need to be on the antibiotic for 10 to 14 days. See protocol below. Treatment must also include the anti inflammatory Rimadyl, an NSAID. Cavies are very Rimadyl (= carprofen) tolerant. Children's Ibuprofen 'Dye-Free' can be used instead of Rimadyl. The bottle will say that 5 ml contains 100 mg of ibuprofen. The dose is 0.4 ml orally twice a day for 3 days then reduce to 0.2 ml twice a day for at least 7 to 10 days after the last dose of antibiotic. If you have hard water make sure to give all your cavies water that has been treated by reverse osmosis. You can buy this water at the grocery store by the gallon for less than a dollar. The water should contain 4.0 mg/l of calcium or less. You can go to our Food page for a water hardness map of the USA and England. The Cambridge Cavy Trust recommends Deeside water be used in areas of the UK that have hard water. [Ibuprofen may also be called Brufen, Motrin, Nurofen, Advil and Nuprin]
Below is the treatment protocol for UTIs. It contains the use of Cymalon, which can only be bought in the UK or online. Take one Cymalon sachet and add 2 cups of low calcium or reverse osmosis water. Then syringe a quarter to a half of a cup per day in 3 to 4 sittings. Do this for 8 days, thus you will use use 4 sachets of Cymalon. Many UK cavy owners have told me that just the use of Cymalon has cleared up UTI''s. Make sure your cavy is getting 40 ml, 1.4 fluid ounces of water/day.
Protocol: Cystitis also known as urinary tract infections (UTI) is very common in cavies and the causes are many and varied. The key to preventing future infections is to treat the existing infection correctly. The normal treatment for cavies of either sex with cystitis is to treat with Pediatric Septrin orally 0.5 ml twice daily for 10 to 14 days. Most Importantly treatment must also include the anti inflammatory Rimadyl. For the first 3 days give orally 10 mg twice a day then reduce the dose to 5 mg twice a day. It is essential to continue the anti inflammatory treatment for at least 7 to 10 days after the last dose of antibiotic. While the cavy is on treatment give frequent drinks of the over the counter human cystitis treatment Cymalon mixed according to the human instructions using water that is low in calcium. Any time a cavy is ill I give extra vitamin C, 50 mg twice a day. All of my cavies get 50 mg vitamin C chewable tablets per day. The vitamin C also helps to acidify the urine, which help prevent UTIs and bladder stones. For the USA audience Pediatric Septrin is Pediatric Sulfatrim also called Pediatric Bactrim used as above. Rimadyl is called the same in both the UK and the USA. Cymalon is a British product that comes in sachets and is primarily sodium citrate. It also comes as a cranberry flavoured liquid made with potassium citrate. It is for the relief from the burning pain of Cystitis. Bepathan is diaper rash cream similar to Destin. Diaper rash cream can be applied twice a day to prevent urine scald. Water that has been treated by reverse osmosis is low in calcium. I buy one gallon jugs at the grocery store for 68 cents. This is the only water I give to my cavies.
I buy 100 mg chewable vitamin C tablets. I just break the tablets in half. Puritans Pride also has liquid vitamin C product number 002740. If using the liquid syringe 0.3 ml into your cavies mouth. Where did I learn how to treat UTIs and bladder stones? The British Association of Rodentologists (BAR) Care Sheet number 11 titled Bladder Problems. You can order it from BAR regardless of if you are a member or not. They accept credit cards and PayPal. The PayPal address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
I had two sows that were stone pigs. This means they both developed huge calcium stones in their urethras. The stones were surgically removed and within 3 months they developed huge calcium stones in their urethras again. The second stones were also removed surgically. It turns out both were real 'characters' and of Abbysinian stock. Vedra Stanley-Spatcher of the British Association of Rodentologists (BAR) gave me a treatment plan to prevent further stones. This plan has worked great because the sows were about 5 years old at the time the stones were removed. They both lived to be about 8.5 years old and never had any more health problems. Protocol. All cavies should be given water that has been treated by reverse osmosis or has less than 4 mg/l of calcium. Everyday give 50 mg vitamin C tablets or liquid. Give orally once a day 0.2 ml hydrangea root extract or tincture for the rest of the life of the piggy. Hydrangea root extract/tincture should have an herb strength ratio of 1:2 or 1:3. For people in the UK, hydrangea root tincture can be bought from Bristol Botanicals. I buy Teeter Creek hydrangea root tincture, herb strength ratio 1:2 from Spring Valley Herbs. They sell Teeter Creek extract of Hydrangea also on Amazon. Also, give one Rowatinex capsule/day to stone piggy for life. I buy mine from Smallflower.
Vedra says you can just give the gel cap to your piggy but mine spit it out. Since the contents of the Rowatinex gel caps is an oily liquid, which will dissolve plastic syringes I bought a 1.0ml glass syringe and needles from eBay. I extract the oil from the gel cap then take the needle off of the syringe and give it orally to my piggy
You can buy liquid Rowatinex at Amazon. Amazon seldom has the Rowatinex drops. Rowatinex drops can also be bought from a German site but they only deliver within Germany. Rowatinex drops come with its own dropper. Give 0.1ml orally twice a day for the life of the piggy. Two drops is equivalent to 0.1ml. Vedra also advised to put stone pigs on a Niagara Cyclo Massage Pad. I bought a used one for $100 on eBay. I have a client that also bought one recently on eBay for $85. For a year I would put each of my piggys on the massage pad for 20 minutes/day. Start out at speed 5 and slowly work up to speed 10 and down to speed 5 over the 20 minutes. The massage pad is also good for treating piggys with gas and arthritis. I only treated my stone pigs with the Rowatinex and the daily massages for a year. I have continued all other aspects of the protocol. Neither piggy ever developed another stone or had any urinary or health problems.
(Guinea Pigs, not kids) Guinea pigs carry pups for about 69-72 days. The number born can vary from 1 to 5! Mothers have two uterine horns, one up each side of the abdomen, with the "bumps" developing in front of the rear legs.
The youngsters are normally born with a spacing of 3-4 minutes between them. Usually the mother appears to empty out one side and then the other, but in the heat of the moment you cannot be sure. The mother will reach down as though she is eating a fectal pellet. She uses her teeth to engage the teeth of the baby, pulling it out and breaking the sack all at the same time. Each placanta will dislodge. The mother will very quickly lick and clean her newborne, before moving on to the next birth. When finished, the mother will clean up all signs of the birth, except a few small blood stains. At the only time in the guinea pig''s life - the mother will eat non-vegetable and will swallow the placentas. Frequently, by the time the mother has given birth to all pups, the newborns will start to dry out and their fur will start to rise. Yes, guinea pigs are born with their eyes open, can hear and are fully furred and ready to go. The pups will feed on mother''s milk for 3 weeks or more, normally until their mother starts to get disinterested in them.
NEVER LET the father of the brood in at the time of birth. The female can get pregnant almost right away and this is naturally very stressful, especially if she is a young mother. At 4 weeks, the male offspring should be removed as they are potentially approaching maturity.
The babies need mother's milk to grow but especially to malinate their nerves (one of the few things that isn't fully developed at birth). Youngsters will "popcorn" frequently - suddenly jumping into the air. These are as a result of the nervous system "sorting itself out" - as well as helping develop muscle tone, etc. Within about a week youngsters will eat solids regularly. It is very important that the mother is given her normal diet at this time - only by watching what she eats will they learn what is safe to eat themselves. Babies that see a limited diet will be fussy eaters later.
In the worst case
If the mother should die, delivered babies may well survive with syringe feeding. However, because their nervous system cannot develop as quickly, they can be very susceptible to having seizures (which are very life threatening) until the age of 4-6 months. Don''t confuse energetic popcorning with seizures. As long as the young have been with the mother seizures are rare.
Guinea pigs are very social animals and can be pretty indifferent about playing with toys. Really, simpler is better. Ours play with toilet roll cardboard tubes and with brown paper bags (the small ones which most guinea pigs could just fit in). Our latest piggies run so fast into the bags they burst their way through the ends!
Taking a shipping box, cutting off the flaps of the top and making a doorway each end takes a few seconds. Guinea pigs playing chase through it will keep you (and them) occupied for hours!
Anything which promotes running and playing (and the occasional "popcorn", even in an older guinea pig!) is just plain good.
DON''T EVER, EVER BUY A HAMSTER WHEEL OR PLACE YOUR GUINEA PIG IN ONE. Mice, gerbils and hamsters will run and run in one. Guinea pigs will seriously hurt their backs.
Breeding and Pregnancy Related Toxaemia - Female cavies should not be bred before they are 5 months old. The father should be removed from the pregnant sows cage to avoid post partum mating. Cavies become sexually mature between 4 to 6 weeks of age. However, it is very important to remove any male babies by the time they are weaned at 3 weeks of age. Cavy Spirit has detailed photographs on how to sex guinea pigs. Only two males can live together in a cage. Before you decide to breed a pair of your cavies please think long and hard about the consequences of your actions. Rescues are filled with unwanted cavies. What are you going to do if your sow has a prolapsed uterus or rectum? How do you handle an umbilical hernia? Do you know that you only have a few hours to save a sow and her pups if she has dystocia and inertia? You only have a few minutes to save a pup that is born not breathing. These are just a few of the problems that can occur. I am going to address the single most important factor that causes the death of a pregnant sow; toxaemia.
Most pregnancies proceed to full term without complications if the following procedures are undertaken.
Ensure the boar and sow are free of dental malocclusions. The sow must be well fed before, during and after pregnancy. Extra dark green vegetables, lots of clean green grass, calcium and vitamin C are needed. The sow requires plenty of room for regular exercise. Optimal temperatures are 18C to 27C, 65F to 81F and humidity between 40% to 70%. Test the sow's urine every day during the last three weeks of pregnancy for ketone, which is an indicator of toxaemia.
Dietary and vitamin requirement
Throughout the pregnancy but especially during the last three weeks and while nursing the sow will need to be fed daily lots of foods that are high in calcium and vitamin C. She should be fed an alfalfa based complete pelleted diet along with fresh clean grass, parsley, cilantro, sweet green and red peppers, cucumber, celery, Swiss chard, kale, spinach, dandelion greens, apples with skin, banana with skin, oranges, carrots, watermelon, honeydew melon, tomatoes, strawberries and kiwi fruit. Fresh clean chemical free grass is the perfect food to feed cavies at all stages of life but especially when pregnant.
Whole wheat bread that has been soaked in milk made from one part whole evaporated milk and three parts previously boiled water will provide extra calcium and B vitamins. Some sows prefer the milk to be slightly warm when this soaked brown bread is served. Other sows prefer whole wheat bread that has been soaked in warmed whole milk.
If you are unable to obtain lots of fresh greens and fruits that are high in calcium and vitamin C and your sow will not eat the milk soaked bread then especially during the last 3 weeks of pregnancy and while nursing syringe daily a 300 to 600 mg tablet of calcium with vitamin D. Also liquid preparations of calcium and vitamin D such as Osteocare can be given at a daily dose of 1.0 ml. Chewable or liquid vitamin C should also be given at a daily dose of 50 mg. After the pups are born keep the sow well hydrated with cucumber and celery and red lettuce along with the milk soaked bread served on a platter. The bread should not be floating in milk. The sow should continue to eat an alfalfa based pelleted diet. The babies should eat the same alfalfa pellets until they are six months old.
During the last three weeks of pregnancy a healthy sow will want to be eating all the time. Every effort should be made to provide her with plenty of fresh food, pellets, timothy hay and cool water. Be aware that wetness and soreness around the mouth are often the first signs of pregnancy toxaemia, which is a life-threatening situation. Calcium must be administered immediately as detailed above and repeated in 12 hours and continued on a once a day basis. In addition to the calcium, Daktarin Oral Gel, which is a UK product, should be administered twice daily at a dose of 0.5 ml placed directly into the sow’s mouth. Continue the Daktarin oral gel for a week or longer if needed. In the USA, Nystatin oral suspension 100,000 U.S.P. units can be used. The dose is 0.3 ml orally twice a day for 7 to 14 days. The purpose of the Daktarin oral gel or the Nystatin is to combat oral thrush.
To conduct urine test first syringe the sow at least 5.0 ml of water. Put her in an empty plastic container and cover it partially with a towel. After she urinates pour the urine into a clean tall container or test tube. I use the plastic sleeve from a 1.0 ml sterile syringe as a test tube. Test the urine according to the directions on the urinalysis test strip bottle. I use Rapid Response 10 Parameter (10SG) Urinalysis Reagent Test Strips, 100 Strips/Bottle from Amazon.com. Alternatively, you can place a test strip onto a paper towel. Collect 1.0 ml of urine with a clean syringe and place a drop of urine on each of the coloured squares. With the reagent strip still on the paper towel turn it so the coloured squares are facing you so that the paper can absorb the excess urine. Read the results against the shade chart on the outside of the bottle. All of the values should be negative except that specific gravity should be mid scale and normal pH is between 8.0-9.0. The most important test patch is Ketone. Anything that deviates from negative is a High Alert indication for pregnancy toxaemia. If caught at a very early stage when the ketone test patch is only one or two squares further along the scale from the negative square immediate treatment with Propylene Glycol 100% U.S.P. should be started. Propylene Glycol can be bought online, at pharmacies, feed stores or from a veterinarian. In the UK propylene glycol B.P. is sold as Ketosaid or Beechman's Twin Lamb Remedy.
Dose: Dilute propylene glycol 50/50 with previously boiled warm water and syringe feed 10 ml every 2 hours, day and night, until the ketone test reverts to negative. In most cases this will reverse the pregnancy toxaemia. However, you must continue to test the urine daily. If the ketone test results have moved onto the third square the propylene glycol MUST be given UNDILUTED every 2 hours, day and night, until the ketone test reverts to negative. Ketone results any further than the third square will almost always result in the death of the sow no matter how good the nursing care. If she has not yet given birth the pups are most likely to die in the uterus. If the mother has given birth to live pups while still toxaemic, you will need to hand rear the babies to give the mother a chance at surviving.
The Cambridge Cavy Trust and Guinea Pig Hospital developed this protocol. They have over 30 years experience in doing surgeries on rodents but especially cavies.
Very Important! Rodents only need the two drug combination of Rimadyl and isoflurane or sevoflurane for surgical procedures. This includes but is not limited to bladder surgery, urethral surgery and eye removal. The use of any other anesthetics, muscle relaxant or pain medication is unnecessary and may compromise the animal's recovery.
There is no need to remove food or water prior to surgery. Cavies cannot vomit nor are they intubated. If patient has not been drinking on its own, give 10 ml lactated Ringer's solution subcutaneously. Syringe feed with 3 ml water to rinse food particles from mouth prior to induction. Pre-anaesthetic: 10 mg Rimadyl subcutaneous injection 30 minutes before induction. Induction 3.0% Isoflurane. After induction remove any fluids from mouth with 1ml syringe or cotton swabs. Keep patient warm. Cavies become hypothermic under anesthesia. Place cavy on microwaveable heating pad or a heated surgical table where the heat can be controlled to 40C. * Maintenance: 2.0-2.5% Isoflurane.
Perform Surgery (if it MUST occur)
If breathing becomes noisy during surgery 5.0mg of Lasix can be injected subcutaneously under the loose skin on the side of the cavy. Use resorbable sutures only such as Vicryl 3-0. No chromic or cat gut. At end of surgery turn off Isoflurane, purge with oxygen, apply a dab of Vicks to the nose. Patient should be wide awake and eating within 10-15 minutes. Keep patient warm after surgery. Post-op pain med: Rimadyl 10 mg PO BID for first 3 days. Reduce Rimadyl to 5.0 mg PO BID days 4-10. Post-op antibiotic: Baytril 10mg PO BID for 7 days.
Do not use a ''domestic/consumer'' electrical heating pad (such as those available from Chemists/Drug Stores/Pharmacies).
Veteranarian Instructions only
All injections are given subcutaneous apart from Oxytocin (obstetric use mainly for dystocia or inertia) cardiac or breathing stimulants. Most injections are given at the shoulder, but if operating with pig on his/her back, give it subcutaneous in the skin at the side of the abdomen.