All animals are prone to a variety of diseases and health problems and guinea pigs are no exception. If we all know that piggies are prey animals that will not allow you easily to see that something is wrong with them, you realize how important it is to take your pet to the vet from time to time for a regular check-up.
As a responsible guinea pig owner, you should take your pet to the vet for a regular check-up at least once a year ( if you can afford it, twice is even better). Although guinea pigs don’t need immunization, it’s very important to be consistent with your pet’s vet visits routine.
What Kind Of Vet Should Treat Your Guinea Pig?
The vet you need is an Exotic veterinarian who is focused on rodents in general and guinea pigs in particular ( if possible). Exotic vets usually treat birds, reptiles, and mammals. In this case, mammals include pets such as ferrets, rabbits, hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, rats…
Bear in mind that these vets are harder to find and their services might be more expensive than the regular vet.
You should find a good vet even before you bring your furry pal to your home. Always plan vet visit ahead but if something unplanned happens you need to have a reliable professional to call.
Here is a great list of reliable vets who can treat your guinea pig. Just find your area/state and search for the vet clinic/practice here is the list from Scotty Animals web site.
The vet you choose should be a reliable one and experienced in dealing with guinea pigs. You can ask your local guinea pigs shelter for advice as well.
You shouldn’t be embarrassed to call several vet clinics and ask for their experience in treating the piggies. If you can choose, pick the facility in which vets can perform regular check-ups, but also all kinds of diagnostic examinations, neutering procedures, operations, etc.
How Often Does Your Guinea Pig Need To Go To The Vet?
I have already mentioned that exotic vets who know to treat guinea pigs will charge services more than regular vets that deal usually with dogs and cats.
Therefore many piggies’ owners refuse to take their pets to regular vet check-ups. They rely on their own ”expertise” and weekly check-ups they perform in their homes.
The point is that you, as a guinea pig owner ( unless you are a vet ) are not an expert. No matter how detailed you are, you can still miss many things while you are checking your piggy’s shape and health every week.
That’s why it is important to take your guinea pig at least once a year or even better once every six months to the exotic vet for a routine check-up.
How Much Is a Check-Up For a Guinea Pig?
Regular check-ups for one guinea pig can cost around 50-60$. Take this cost as an indication only. The most precise information you will get only from your vet directly.
The price may vary due to many factors. This cost is for a scheduled appointment during normal working hours. In case you have some emergency or your pet’s condition requires ”out of hours” vet visit, expect to pay more than 100$.
If you go to the routine check-up but it turns out that a vet must run some extra tests or must use some special equipment in order to diagnose the problem, the final cost will be much higher ( for example only for x-rays you will be charged somewhere between 50-150$ depends on the location and the clinic)
The bottom line, if you perform a regular check-up at your home on a weekly basis and take your cavy to the vet for a routine check-up once or twice a year, you will prevent many problems.
Yes, you will pay for regular check-ups but think about the price you will need to pay in case your piggy gets seriously sick. And this is not only about money, you risk your piggy’s life and wellbeing by not providing the regular medical care he/she needs.
Do Guinea Pigs Need Any Vaccinations?
Unlike other pets such as dogs, cats, or even rabbits, guinea pigs don’t require any vaccination.
This doesn’t mean that your piggy cannot catch some infection and gets very sick but due to his /her isolated lifestyle there is no need for immunization.
Dogs and cats are spending a great deal of time outdoors, they mingle with other dogs and cats, come into contact with many viruses, bacteria outside.
Rabbits are prone to dangerous and potentially deadly conditions such as myxomatosis and Rabbit Hemorrhagic disease but fortunately, rabbits cannot transmit those to your guinea pigs.
Guinea pigs spend most of their time in their cage, with no interaction with other kinds of pets so the chance of catching something from other animals is very, very low.
Even if you travel abroad, nobody will ask for proof of immunization for your guinea pig. One less travel cost!
However, guinea pigs still can get very sick, can catch different infections so you need to take care of their health.
Weekly check-ups at your home, observing drinking/eating habits, as well as the energy level, providing high-quality food and lost of vitamin C will ensure your cavy stays healthy and happy.
How To Transport Your Guinea Pig To The Vet?
Guinea pigs are indoor pets, they don’t get out too often and travel is not their cup of tea. So you need to plan a transport of your cavy to his/her vet.
First of all, you need a good travel carrier. If your vet is a very short drive away from your home (15-20min) then the soft fabric carrier will do the work.
If you need to drive more than 20min then this type of carrier is not suitable as your cavy would sit in soiled fleece for quite some time, in a very small space. In that case, the classic plastic cat carrier is much better. It’s larger than the previous solution, you can put even two piggies if needed.
Travel carrier set up is the same as a cage set up. Put whatever bedding you use ( fleece or shavings ), a good pile of hay, some small amount of pellets ( depends on the real driving time).
If the weather is hot, you can also put some high water content vegetables such as cucumber ( don’t put water bottles to avoid leaking and making a mess) to keep your piggy hydrated.
You can also place some chewing toys to keep your pet busy and entertained. If your cavy is not used to car rides, put some stuffed toy or a soft towel where he can hide in case he feels frightened.
One more tip- make sure your car is already running when you place a carrier inside, that way your pet won’t be terrified by the ”start the engine” sound as the noise will be constant.
Another option is a classic guinea pig cage, like the one you can see in a pet shop. These cages are too small to be normal piggy habitat but ideal for car rides and transportation. Provide fairly large space and good airflow.
Make sure you place the carrier on the backseat and put the seat belt on to prevent the cage from flying during the ride. In case you don’t have a travel companion ( but even if you do, you can do it) on the front seat, lean the seat back to prevent the cage from rolling around.
How To Keep Your Guinea Pig Relaxed At The Vet?
Once you reach the animal clinic/vet practice and you need to wait in the waiting room, make sure you hold the travel carrier on your lap or at least on the chair that is right near you.
If there is a dog in the same waiting room, remember to sit as far as possible.
Once your vet calls you, they will ask you to take your Cavy out of the carrier. If your pet is very nervous, do say that to the vet. A vet who treats guinea pigs knows how to handle them but still if you have an exceptionally nervous pet share that info with your vet.
As soon as you get back home, return your cavy to his habitat as this is the place where he feels secure and safe.
How The Regular Guinea Pig Vet Check-Up Looks Like?
If you see the vet for the first time, he will require some info from you, such as what does your piggy eats, how much, how often, how many piggies you have at home, etc.
The vet will weigh your cavy and write down that information. You should also keep your own record on piggy’s weight writing down every week so if you notice any greater deviation you need to inform the vet ( average adult guinea pig should weigh between 900-1000 gr or 1,5-2,5 pounds). One ounce fluctuation is just fine but two ounces raise a red flag.
Most probably the vet will measure the body temperature, the normal one is between 37,2 -39,5 C or 99-103F.
The vet should check the eyes and ears, looking for some discharge, crusty changes, or similar signs of infection. He/she will look at the nose as well for the same reason.
Using a stethoscope, the vet will check your piggy’s lungs and heartbeat. The normal heartbeat range is between 220-250 beats per minute.
The next step of examination is palpation. The vet will look for any uncomfortable spots, growth, lumps, bumps all the way from head to toe.
Palpation also allows the vet to check if there is a possibility that your pet has kidney or bladder stones. Exessive gases or bloat will also be tracked by this kind of physical examination.
The vet will check the feet as well as the nails ( curly nails are a frequent problem in piggies), if they are long and if they need any clipping. He/ she will also look at the bottom of the feet, detecting possible bruises and cuts.
The part of the regular check-up is also the teeth examination. Not only front teeth ( incisors ) but also the cheek teeth called molars. Actually, you can only check your front teeth by yourself at your home, but for molars, you need professional help. Molars also can make problems so you need to keep an eye on them.
A good vet will also check the rear end, looking for signs of diarrhea or any other problem. Note that if your cavy needs to have scent glands cleaned, a surcharge will apply.
How To Check Your Guinea Pig’s Health At Your Home?
This is a very important thing if you want to keep your guinea pig healthy and happy.
Guinea pigs are prey animals and as such, they are not willing to show that something is wrong with them. In nature, weak animals are an easy target. So you need to get to know your pet very well, his eating/drinking habits, poop and pee amount and appearance, level of energy.
Besides this, along with grooming activities you perform every week, you can do a short health check just to make sure everything is ok.
If you want to know more about guinea pig grooming I can recommend you to read our article related to this topic ” Guinea Pig Grooming Tips”.
The health check you do on weekly basis should include:
- Weight check
- Ears, nose, and eyes check ( discharge, crusty changes, signs of infections)
- Breathing check ( should be very quietly and calmly without any crinkling sounds)
- Nails and teeth check (If they are too long)
- Skin and Coat ( search for any skin discoloration, rashes, redness, pale patches on the coat, etc )
- The rear end check ( look for signs of diarrhea, check the scent glands and if they are need cleaning)
Although guinea pigs don’t have obligatory vaccination, they still need a routine vet check-up. They should be scheduled once or twice a year, at a reliable exotic vet, experienced in guinea pigs.
Besides that routine vet check-up, a short health check-up at your home is an absolute must, especially because piggies don’t show any symptoms until it’s late. Better to prevent than cure!