Image Microchipping

Microchipping

A lost pet is very upsetting, but unfortunately this can happen no matter how careful we are. This simple, reliable and permanent means of identification can happily reunite a lost pet and their owner. A tiny chip is injected under your cat or dog’s skin holding an I.D. code unique to your pet. Stored along with your contact details on a central database, this information is accessible 24 hours a day. Rescue centres, dog wardens and veterinary practices hold special scanners, which read the code to identify the lost animal.

It is the law that all dogs, 8 weeks and over, must be microchipped and the current owners’ details registered. Although there is no law for cats it is equally important. Cats roam freely, and even a house cat may escape through that open window, so we highly recommend microchipping.

Image Pet Passport

Pet Passport

If you are considering taking your pet abroad for the first time, we are here to help you both through the process. For listed EU countries it takes a minimum of 21 days from rabies vaccination before a pet can return to the UK. For other destinations the timings may vary, so please take this into account when planning your trip.

Travelling abroad with your pet, whether it is for a holiday or as a permanent move, can be stressful. Fortunately, our vets have a wealth of experience and are here to help. We can provide Pet Passports, complete the more complex paperwork required for some countries and advise you on how to avoid the exotic diseases which your pet can contract while travelling, even within Europe.

https://www.gov.uk/take-pet-abroad

Image Veterinary Surgery & Treatment

Veterinary Surgery & Treatment

The veterinary surgeons at St Kitts, Crookham Park, Firgrove and Basingstoke Veterinary Centres provide a full range of surgeries from spays, castrations and dental procedures to more advanced procedures such as soft tissue and orthopaedic surgery. Our vets are trained in state-of-the-art surgical techniques, should your pet require a surgical procedure.
During the surgery our veterinary nurses are trained to monitor your pet’s vital signs and anaesthetic depth.
Our vets perform surgical procedures using the latest advances in anaesthesia providing increased comfort for your pet’s post-operative recuperation including comprehensive pain management and lots of TLC from our nursing staff.
All pets will require general anaesthesia for veterinary surgical treatment. These procedures are on a day-release basis. They will be admitted by a vet or nurse in the morning and the treatment is carried out during the day. Your pet is discharged by one of our veterinary surgeons or nurses in the late afternoon or evening.

Please contact your branch for more information.

Hartley Wintney: 01252 844044.

Firgrove: 01252 877799

Crookham Park: 01252 913990

Basingstoke: 01256 844944

Please see our Pre Op and Post Op pages for further information.

Image Appointments

Appointments

Across our 4 Surgeries we aim to be as accommodating as possible with appointments late into the evening and all weekend (from our Hartley Wintney branch.)

Registered clients do not get charged any extra for appointments on Sundays.

We emphasise preventive care to ensure a happy, healthy and long life for your pet.

We offer:

  • Physical examination
  • Vaccinations
  • Lungworm and parasite prevention for all small animals
  • New puppy and kitten checks
  • Dietary and nutritional clinics run by our qualified nurses
  • House visits

 

Image Pet Insurance

Pet Insurance

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We all know that having a pet can be costly. We therefore strongly advise pet insurance to enable veterinary fees to be claimed back (except for a small excess). Pet insurance can be used for most illnesses or injuries and gives great peace of mind if your pet is seriously ill–you know that the best treatment can be given.
We are happy to perform direct claims for treatment so that you only need to find the excess payment.

Petplan Insurance

Did you know 1 in 3 pets may require unexpected veterinary treatment each year?* Whilst advances in veterinary medicine mean we can do more for your pet, treatment costs can soon mount up. We recommend Petplan insurance to all our clients to help cover unexpected vet bills.
You may be surprised to hear that you are more likely to claim on your pet insurance than your car or household policies (Allianz Insurance plc). In fact, in our experience if you are one of the few people who don’t need to claim on your pet insurance you really are very lucky indeed!
It’s important to be aware that not all pet insurance is the same. Some policies limit the amount of time or money that you can claim for. Don’t just shop around on price alone.
At St Kitts Veterinary group we recommend Petplan insurance for the following reasons:

  • With Petplan’s Covered for Life guarantee your veterinary fees cover is renewed each year no matter how much you claim.
  • Petplan doesn’t place exclusions at renewal on their Covered for Life policies so on-going conditions such as eczema continue to be covered by the policy.
  • Petplan won’t increase your premium or excess just because you make a claim.
  • Petplan is a pet insurance specialist so they understand the animal market and work closely with vets, charities and breeders.

Find out more about the different types of pet insurance… download (1)

Why not try before you buy? Click here for 4 weeks free Petplan insurance and quote our practice reference number: 1100186152.
*Source Petplan

Image Chinchillas – A rough guide to owning Chinchillas

Chinchillas – A rough guide to owning Chinchillas

Chinchillas originated in the Andes Mountains of South America. They have been trapped to near extinction for their luxurious fur. They are now a popular pet in the UK.
They can live from 8 – 15 years and a normal adult bodyweight is between 450 – 800g, depending on the sex of the chinchilla. They are clean, active, quiet and slightly shy, meaning that they are more appropriate as pets for older children and adults. They are naturally nocturnal but adapt to owner schedules and are active during the day.

Companionship

Chinchillas are not solitary animals, so should be housed in pairs or groups, either single sex or mixed. If you are thinking of having a mixed group of chinchillas and do not want to breed from them, it is best to have them neutered.

Housing

Chinchillas are very active and require a large cage that is long, wide and high, and generally the bigger the better. Mesh cages are best, with the holes no larger than 15mm to prevent foot and limb injury. The cage should also have a tray beneath the wire mesh bottom to collect droppings. Keep newspaper in this tray to absorb any urine that may come through. Provide a wooden nest box, which may need to be replaced frequently due to gnawing – chinchillas love to chew!
Make sure you place wooden shelves for your chinchilla to sit on and chew, soft woods are best for this. Apple and pear tree branches are also good for them to chew on. Chinchillas are very clean animals so like to use dust baths for cleaning themselves in. You can buy special containers to put the dust in, but you could use a large metal pet food bowl. Put the dust bath into their cage for them to use a few times a week, but make sure it is removed after 30 minutes, or they may use it as a toilet!
Chinchillas are fine in normal household temperatures and should not be kept outside. They should be kept as constant as possible, so away from radiators and any draughts. They bear the cold well due to their thick fur coats, but be careful that the room does not exceed 28ºC as they may start to overheat. When they’re hot, they send blood to their ears, so having red ears is a sign that they are too hot.

Handling

Chinchillas can be easy to scare, so you will need to earn their trust before handling them. When you approach them, crouch down and speak very softly. Let them come to you – perhaps hold a treat in your hand for them to have, and be patient. They may not come to you the first time you try this. Then move on to gently stroking them, ensure you use slow hand movements so as not to scare them. Once they are happy for you to have your hands near them, gently place your hand under their bottom, and the other one supporting their back and hold them into your chest with their head facing you.  Their ribs are extremely fragile so take extra care to be gentle with them. If you handle them regularly then they will become more confident.
Chinchillas very rarely bite, but they’re sensitive to rough handling and show their distress in other ways. Keep an eye out for ‘fur slip’, when patches of fur are shed, which is a sure sign of fear or distress. Never pick your chinchilla up by the tail – it will cause pain and distress and may lead to fur slip.

Grooming

You don’t need to groom chinchillas – they do it themselves in the sand bath. Your chinchillas won’t like being brushed and it would damage their fur. It’s also important that you never get your chinchillas wet.

Neutering

Chinchillas can be neutered from 5-6 months of age. It is more common for the males to be neutered (castrated), as they can be aggressive towards other males in single sex groups, and to prevent unwanted litters when in mixed groups. The males are neutered more often than females, as they have a less invasive procedure than the females. However, female chinchillas can be neutered (spayed).

Feeding

You should be feeding your chinchilla a mixture of hay, pelleted food, and fresh greens.
Your chinchilla should have constant access to hay and grass foods, as this is important for their dental and gastrointestinal health. This should make up the majority of their diet. You also need to provide them with a commercial diet, providing them with the correct nutrients that they need. Ensure you choose a ‘nugget’ food, rather than muesli-style. With the muesli-style diets, they pick out the parts that they like and leave the parts that they don’t, which means that they may not get all of their required nutrients. Nugget-style pellets prevent this selective feeding, as each pellet has an equal amount of nutrients. Finally, you can also give your chinchillas some fresh greens, but not too many! About a teaspoon is recommended. Please see the list below for details of good greens to feed, and ones that are bad for them, or even poisonous.

Good Food:

Apples, blueberries, carrots, celery, grapes, oranges, cooked potato, pumpkin, squash and cooked sweet potato. A chinchillas favourite treat will always be raisins!

Bad/Poisonous Food:

Asparagus, peas, cabbage, corn, lettuce, broccoli, rhubarb & rhubarb leaves, spinach, foxglove, lily, rose, periwinkle, all nightshades, aloe vera, boxwood, amaryllis, apple leaf, cherry laurel, gaultheria, poppy, tulip, fern, all ivy, tomato plant, hyacinth, primrose, daffodil, autumn crocus, mistletoe, all olives, delphinium, gernanium, holly, chrysanthemum, clematis, forget-me-not, lavender and hydrangea macrophylla.

The above list of bad and poisonous greens is not exhaustive, so always be careful what you feed to your chinchilla.
Chinchillas can be fussy eaters, so take care when changing foods, and always ensure you change foods over gradually over a few days.

Common Health Problems

Dental Problems:

Your chinchilla’s teeth grow continuously for their entire life, so it is important to give them the correct diet to ensure their teeth do not become overgrown.  Typical symptoms of overgrown teeth are excessive drooling and loss of appetite

Respiratory Problems:

There are three signs to look out for:
•Wheezing or chest difficulties may be a sign of a chest infection or pneumonia
•A runny nose is linked to the common cold
•Ear discharges or imbalance might mean an ear infection
Chinchillas are also very sensitive to draughts and damp which can lead to colds, so make sure they’re protected.

Constipation:

Signs to look out for: your chinchillas will look bloated and there will be fewer droppings than usual – and the ones you do find will be smaller and thinner. This is usually caused by stress, pain or a lack of fibre and water, so access to plenty of fresh drinking water and lots of hay is important.

Diarrhoea:

This is quite a common problem with chinchillas and is usually a sign of over-eating – especially with treats or vegetables. Other causes might be stress, lack of fibre or a simple reaction to some bad food. Avoid feeding any treats if they have diarrhoea.

Bumblefoot:

This condition, also called ulcerative pododermatitis, can be identified by ulcers on the feet and can be extremely painful if the ulcers get infected. Make regular checks to make sure the soles of their feet aren’t flaky or cracked – if they are, see a vet straight away.

Health Checks

Every chinchilla is different, so it’s good to regularly check your chinchilla, so you know what is normal or abnormal for your pet. It is best to do these checks once a week, it is also a good chance to bond with your chinchilla, and offer them a treat afterwards to show it’s a good thing! If you spot anything out of the ordinary, phone your vet for advice.

Ears:

Gently look inside and make sure they’re clean and free from discharge, which can be a sign of infection. Mites and fleas can also find their way in here
Eyes: Make sure their eyes are clear and shiny, not dull or swollen. There shouldn’t be any excessive blinking or too much wetness around the eyes

Teeth:

Check to make sure there isn’t any excessive drooling which can be a sign of dental problems. Be careful with this health check: your pet might not be comfortable with having their mouth inspected and may bite – in which case, let your Vet do the check instead

Fur:

Gently feel and look to check that there are no bald patches, no signs of mites or fleas and no injuries

Feet:

Gently hold and feel the feet to make sure your pet hasn’t injured themselves. Signs of flaking or cracks mean a visit to the Vet straight away

Weight:

Weigh your pet on a regular basis to see that they are maintaining a constant weight that is healthy for their age. Regular visits to your vet will tell you what their weight should be. Watching the scales is important – obesity is a serious illness that can lead to other health problems

Image Degus – A rough guide to owning Degus

Degus – A rough guide to owning Degus

Degus make great pets for older children and adults.
They generally live for  7 – 10 years and a healthy adult should weigh between 176 – 315g depending on age and sex.

Companionship

Degus are very sociable and in the wild they live in colonies of up to 100 animals! They are best kept in single-sex pairs or groups of up to 6 as they love to play together and snuggle up to one another, and can become very depressed if kept on their own. However, do not introduce new Degus once your Degus are over 10 weeks of age, it is best to get them from the same litter.

Housing

Degus love to burrow and build tunnels, so you will need to have a deep layer of wood shavings for burrowing. Wire cages with solid bottoms (rather than mesh) are the best type of cage to get. They love to play, climb and explore, so large cages with several levels or shelves are ideal. Degus also love to gnaw, so provide lots of toys and tubes to gnaw on.
Degus are very clean animals so like to use dust baths for cleaning themselves in. You can buy special containers to put the dust in, but you could use a large metal pet food bowl. Put the dust bath into their cage for them to use a few times a week, but make sure it is removed after 30 minutes, or they may use it as a toilet!
They will tend to use one area of the cage for a toilet, so ensure this is cleaned regularly. Ensure you have a nest box with hay inside for them to nest in. Their cage will need to be cleaned once a week, but clean the toilet area more frequently. Keep the cage away from direct sunlight and draughts, and away from loud noises (e.g. TV, radio). They do not like high temperatures, so do not keep them in an overly warm room.

Handling

Give your degus a few days to themselves when you get home before trying to touch them. When you approach them, crouch down and speak very softly. Let them come to you – perhaps hold a treat in your hand for them to have, and be patient. They may not come to you the first time you try this. Once they are happy for you to have your hands near them, gently place your hand over their shoulder and slowly lift them, supporting their bottom with your other hand and hold them close to your chest or on your lap.
Degus do wriggle a lot but once they’re at ease with you, they may sit on you and allow you to stroke them.
NEVER pick your degu up by its tail, as it can be very painful and cause a condition called ‘tail-slip’. This is where the thin skin on the tail can tear off, exposing underlying tissue and bone. The only treatment for this is tail amputation.

Grooming

Degus do not need to be groomed, as they will clean themselves in their dust baths.

Neutering

Neutering is not routinely performed in degus. If you do not want your degus to have litters, then keep males and females in separate cages.

Feeding

You should be feeding your degu a diet that consists of good quality hay, good quality pelleted food and a small amount of fresh greens (making up no more than 20% of their diet)
Your degu should have constant access to hay and grass foods, as this is important for their dental and gastrointestinal health. This should make up the majority of their diet. You also need to provide them with a commercial diet, providing them with the correct nutrients that they need. Ensure you choose a ‘nugget’ food, rather than muesli-style. With the muesli-style diets, they pick out the parts that they like and leave the parts that they don’t, which means that they may not get all of their required nutrients. Nugget-style pellets prevent this selective feeding, as each pellet has an equal amount of nutrients. Finally, you can also give your degu some fresh greens, but not too many! Good foods to give them include kale, collard, romaine lettuce, dandelion greens, and roots such as beets, carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes and turnips.
Degus can be fussy eaters, so take care when changing foods, and always ensure you change foods over gradually over a few days.
NEVER feed your degu foods that are high in sugar (sucrose, glucose, fructose) or honey as this can cause diabetes and will make them very ill. If buying treats from a pet store, ensure that they specify their suitability for degus.

Common Health Problems

Diarrhoea:

Degus do not tend to drink much water, and so can become easily dehydrated if suffering from even small amounts of diarrhoea. Diarrhoea can be caused by poor dietary management, or poor sanitation. So always make sure you give your degu the recommended diet (as above) and clean them out regularly.

Diabetes Mellitus:

Degus can develop diabetes mellitus from eating foods high in sugar that can elevate blood-sugar levels, such as fresh fruit and also guinea pig food. Cataracts can develop within four weeks of the diabetes starting, so it is imperative that you give your degu their correct diet to prevent diabetes.

Image Ferrets – A rough guide to owning Ferrets

Ferrets – A rough guide to owning Ferrets

Ferrets can make very friendly pets. They’re generally very clean, playful and are ideal for older children. Domesticated ferrets come in a variety of colours.
They tend to live between 8 – 10 years and a healthy adult should weigh between 600 – 800g for a female, or 1.2kg for a male.

Companionship

Ferrets are extremely sociable and should be housed in same sex pairs or groups. You can house mixed sex groups together if they have been neutered. Ferrets will often pile together to sleep.

Housing

A large wire, escape-proof cage is essential for your ferrets. They are extremely active so need vast amounts of space. You can have a smaller enclosure for them if they often have (supervised) run of the house. Ferrets can easily be trained to use litter trays, which should be cleaned daily. Ferrets can squeeze through the tiniest of gaps, so you must ensure the cage is 100% escape proof.
Provide your ferrets with lots of wooden toys to gnaw on, hide in, crawl through, and generally run around with! Another fun game is to hide treats around the cage for them to forage and find. Provide plastic or cardboard tubes for them to run through (and chew!) and cardboard boxes to hide in.
Sawdust, hay, woodshavings or straw should not be used in ferret housing as they can cause upper respiratory tract problems. Line the floor with either flat or shredded newspaper, as they will use the litter tray for urinating and defecating. Provide a hide or nesting box and fill it with old duvets, sheets, towels or old clothes. They will pile on top of each other to sleep so ensure there is enough space for them to do this. Ferrets also seem to enjoy sleeping hammocks, so it may be a good idea to provide one of these too.
Ensure the cage is placed in an area away from draughts and direct sunlight. Ferrets are highly susceptible to heatstroke as they cannot sweat, so ensure their cage is not in direct sunlight and check them regularly to ensure they do not get too hot.

Handling

Ferrets are very easily tamed, but can bite when scared, so you will need to earn their trust before handling them. When you approach them, crouch down and speak very softly. Let them come to you – perhaps hold a treat in your hand for them to have, and be patient. They may not come to you the first time you try this. Once they are happy for you to have your hands near them, gently place one hand under their front paws and scoop up the bottom with your other hand. They can be very fast, so be careful!

Grooming

Ferrets should be groomed regularly, but do not stay still for very long! It is a good idea to groom them every other day so that they should be fine with having a very quick brush. Use a soft bristled kitten brush, or a rubber brush.

Neutering

Neutering is recommended in both male and female ferrets. Jills (females) will go into heat in their first spring, and remain in season until successfully mated. This can lead to anaemia, which can prove to be fatal. If you are not planning to mate your female ferrets, then it is advisable to have them neutered before their first season.
Hobs (males) secrete from their sebaceous glands during the breeding season, which creates the distinct odour associated with ferrets. Having them neutered before the breeding season begins can prevent, or at least drastically reduce, the smell that the ferret produces. It can also reduce dominance characteristics that can be shown by unneutered hobs.
It is worth noting that neutered ferrets (both male and female) are more susceptible to developing hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s Disease), which can cause alopecia and tumours in the adrenal glands. This can be controlled medically, but it is worth taking this into consideration when neutering ferrets.

Feeding

You should be feeding your ferret a good quality pelleted food. Ensure you choose a ‘nugget’ food, rather than muesli-style. With the muesli-style diets, they pick out the parts that they like and leave the parts that they don’t, which means that they may not get all of their required nutrients. Nugget-style pellets prevent this selective feeding, as each pellet has an equal amount of nutrients. Take care if you are thinking of changing their diet, and always ensure you change foods over gradually, over a period of 10 days.
Do not feed your ferret any grain-based foods (breads, cakes, cookies, cereals, noodles etc), nuts or fibrous fruits and vegetables, as these are indigestible to ferrets and can result in digestive problems, including blockages.

Common Health Problems

Intestinal Obstructions:

Ferrets love to chew, especially on rubber items, so it is imperative to supervise them constantly when they’re running around the house to ensure they do not swallow any of these items. Also, ensure that toys and blankets in their cages do not have any removable parts or decorations. Do not feed your ferret any grain-based foods (breads, cakes, cookies, cereals, noodles etc), nuts or fibrous fruits and vegetables, as these are indigestible to ferrets and can result in digestive problems, including blockages.

Hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s Disease):

This disease is commonly found in ferrets, and is not a contagious disease. It has been linked to neutering, especially early neutering (around 6 weeks of age). Symptoms of hyperadrenocorticism are alopecia (loss of hair), vulvar swelling in females, stranguria (frequent and painful urinating) in males, and pruritus (itchy skin). It can be treated by surgical removal of one of the adrenal glands or by using medication.

Influenza:

Ferrets are highly susceptible to several strains of human, avian and swine influena virus. Humans can infect ferrets and vice versa. If you or anyone in your household has cold or flu symptoms, then they should not handle the ferret. If you need to take the ferret to the vets for any reason, it may be worth checking over the phone that the veterinary staff who will be handling the ferret do not have any cold or flu symptoms!

Image Gerbils – A rough guide to owning Gerbils

Gerbils – A rough guide to owning Gerbils

They generally live for 2 – 3 years and a healthy adult should weigh between 46 – 131g depending on age and sex.

Companionship

Gerbils are very sociable and in the wild, they live in colonies. They are best kept in single-sex pairs or groups, and can become very depressed if kept on their own. However, do not introduce new gerbils once your gerbils are over 10 weeks of age, as it is likely they will fight. It is best to get them from the same litter. Females are also more likely to fight than males.

Housing

Gerbils love to burrow and build tunnels, so you will need to have a deep layer of wood shavings for burrowing. Plastic gerbilariums are the best type of cage to get, but you can also use hamster cages. If using a gerbilarium, you can fill the bottom of the cage with peat or soil, to aid the gerbils with their tunnel-building. Systems with lots of tubes and tunnels are great for gerbils, so long as they have the appropriate ‘room’ in the system to allow them to burrow. Gerbils also love to gnaw, so provide lots of toys and tubes to gnaw on.
Gerbils are very clean animals so like to use dust baths for cleaning themselves in. You can buy special containers to put the dust in, but you could use a large metal pet food bowl. Put the dust bath into their cage for them to use a few times a week, but make sure it is removed after 30 minutes, or they may use it as a toilet!
They will tend to use one area of the cage for a toilet, but do produce a lot less waste than other small pets. Ensure you have a nest box with nesting material inside. As they are fairly clean animals, their cage will need to be cleaned only once a fortnight, but clean the toilet area more frequently. Keep the cage away from direct sunlight and draughts, and away from loud noises (e.g. TV, radio).

Handling

Give your gerbils a few days to themselves when you get home before trying to touch them. When you approach them, crouch down and speak very softly. Let them come to you – perhaps hold a treat in your hand for them to have, and be patient. They may not come to you the first time you try this. Once they are happy for you to have your hands near them, gently scoop the gerbil into your hands and slowly lift them close to your chest or on your lap.
It is important to handle your gerbils regularly to develop their confidence and maintain your relationship with them.
NEVER pick your gerbil up by its tail, as it can be very painful and cause a condition called ‘tail-slip’. This is where the thin skin on the tail can tear off, exposing underlying tissue and bone. The only treatment for this is tail amputation.

Grooming

Gerbils do not need to be groomed, as they will clean themselves in their dust baths.

Neutering

Neutering is not routinely performed in gerbils as any anaesthetic can prove risky for them. If you do not want your gerbils to have litters, then keep males and females in separate cages.

Feeding

You should be feeding your gerbil a good quality pelleted food. Ensure you choose a ‘nugget’ food, rather than muesli-style. With the muesli-style diets, they pick out the parts that they like and leave the parts that they don’t, which means that they may not get all of their required nutrients. Nugget-style pellets prevent this selective feeding, as each pellet has an equal amount of nutrients. Finally, you can also give your gerbil some fresh greens, but not too many! Try to choose foods that are low in fat, such as carrot and apple. Pumpkin seeds also make great treats. Sunflower seeds are also favourites, but are very high in fat, so try to avoid feeding these if possible. Take care if you are thinking of changing foods, and always ensure you change foods over gradually over a period of 10 days.

Common Health Problems

Dental Problems:

Gerbils’ teeth grow continuously for their entire life, so it’s important to give them the correct diet to ensure their teeth do not become overgrown.  Typical symptoms of overgrown teeth are excessive drooling and loss of appetite. Providing wooden toys and treats to gnaw on can help to wear your pet’s teeth down.

Sores:

Gerbils can develop sores around the mouth and nose area from burrowing in rough cage material or rubbing against cage bars if they’re bored. If this happens, change the cage material and provide toys and exercise equipment (chew toys, tunnels, wheels etc.). If the sores are causing your pet any pain and discomfort, or are inflamed and oozing pus, then contact your vet immediately.

General Wellbeing:

A healthy gerbil will be active, playful and inquisitive with soft, shiny fur, bright eyes and a clean nose. Signs of illness include lethargy, ruffled fur, mucus around the eyes or nose, and loss of appetite. A gerbil’s teeth should not be visible when its mouth is closed and there should be a fine covering of fur over its ears.

Image Guinea Pigs – A rough guide to owning Guinea Pigs

Guinea Pigs – A rough guide to owning Guinea Pigs

Guinea Pigs (also known as ‘Cavies’) originate from South America (where they are still considered a staple food source), but were domesticated and brought to Europe in the 16th century.
They can live from 4 – 8 years, and a normal adult bodyweight is between 700 – 1200g, depending on the sex and breed of the guinea pig. They dislike change, so be very careful if you’re thinking of changing their food or habitat, as they can stop eating.

Companionship

In the wild, guinea pigs live in social groups of 5 – 10. They love company, so it’s best to keep a pair or group of them together. It’s best to keep to single sex groups, or if you choose to have mixed groups, ensure they have been neutered to avoid unwanted litters and aggression. NEVER house guinea pigs and rabbits together, as the guinea pigs can be bullied and injured, or potentially even killed by the rabbits.

Housing

The size of hutch for your guinea pig should be at least five times the length of the guinea pig and at least a foot wide. If you have more than one guinea pig, then there should be at least 0.9m squared per guinea pig. Essentially though – the more space the better! Because they are a prey species, guinea pigs can become very frightened in large open areas, so tend to stay close to walls and like to have lots of things to hide in. Boxes, tubes and PVC/plastic drain pipes are all very good for them to hide in! Ensure there are wood chippings or shredded paper lining the bottom of the housing, and fresh straw bedding in their ‘bedroom’ area.
Guinea pigs can be kept indoors or outdoors, but ideally should be kept in temperatures between 18ºC – 26ºC. Extremes of temperature (especially overheating) can cause stress and discomfort, and can lead to more serious issues, such as heatstroke. Ensure outdoor guinea pigs can be in areas of shade in the summertime. Outdoor hutches should be raised up on legs or bricks to stop them from getting damp, and the roof should be waterproofed and sloped to ensure rain runs off and doesn’t form puddles. The hutch must be secure to prevent the guinea pigs from escaping and stop predators from getting in.
Any bedding or woodchip that has been used as a toilet area should be changed daily, and the entire hutch should be thoroughly cleaned at least once a week.  You should clean the hutch at least 2-3 times a week in warmer weather to avoid damp and mould, and also to keep flies away (that can cause flystrike).

Handling

Guinea pigs can be easy to scare, so you will need to earn their trust before handling them. When you approach them, crouch down and speak very softly. Let them come to you – perhaps hold a treat in your hand for them to have, and be patient. They may not come to you the first time you try this. Once they are happy for you to have your hands near them, gently place your hand across their shoulder and have your thumb tucked between their front legs. Slowly lift them and support their weight by putting your other hand under their bottom. Then hold them close to your chest or on your lap. Take care not to put pressure on their abdomen. Once they are tamed, guinea pigs will be friendly and easy to handle.

Grooming

It is best to brush your guinea pig every day, especially if they are a long-haired breed (such as a Peruvian or a Sheltie). Not only will it help to keep them clean and healthy, but will strengthen the bond between you and your guinea pig.

Neutering

Guinea pigs can be neutered from 4-6 months of age. It is more common for the males to be neutered (castrated), as they can be aggressive towards other males in single sex groups, and to prevent unwanted litters when in mixed groups. The males are neutered more often than females, as they have a less invasive procedure than the females. However, female guinea pigs can be neutered (spayed).

Feeding

You should be feeding your guinea pig a mixture of hay, pelleted food, and fresh greens.
Your guinea pig should have constant access to hay and grass foods, as this is important for their dental and gastrointestinal health. This should make up the majority of their diet. You also need to provide them with a commercial diet, providing them with the correct nutrients that they need. Ensure you choose a ‘nugget’ food, rather than muesli-style. With the muesli-style diets, they pick out the parts that they like and leave the part that they don’t, which means that they may not get all of their required nutrients. Nugget-style pellets prevent this selective feeding, as each pellet has an equal amount of nutrients. Finally, you can also give your guinea pig some fresh greens, but not too many! Please see the list below for details of good greens to feed, and ones that are bad for them, or even poisonous.

Good Food:

Apples, asparagus, basil, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cantaloupe melon, carrots, cauliflower leaves and stalks, celery, chicory, Chinese parsley, coriander, cucumber, dill, garden cress, grapefruit, gooseberries, honeydew melon, kale, kiwi fruit, mangoes, oranges, parsley, parsnips, peas, red cabbage, red chard, romaine lettuce, Savoy cabbage, spinach, strawberries, tangerines, tomatoes, turnips and water cress.
Bad/Poisonous Food:

Antirrhinum (snapdragon), bindweed, bryony, buttercup, bluebell, crocus, daffodil, dock, foxglove, hyacinth, laburnum, poppy, potatoes and potato tops, ragwort, rhubarb and rhubarb leaves, sorrel, tomato leaves, tulip and yew.

The above list of bad and poisonous greens is not exhaustive, so always be careful what you feed to your guinea pig.
Guinea pigs can be fussy eaters, so take care when changing foods, and always ensure you change foods over gradually over a few days.
NEVER feed rabbit food, or foods for any other animals, to your guinea pig as they need large amounts of vitamin C not found in food other than guinea pig food. You must also ensure that the food does not exceed its expiry date, as the much-needed vitamin C is the most perishable part of the food.

Common Health Problems

Medical Emergencies:

As soon as you see any of these symptoms, take your guinea pig to the vet, as it can be a sign of a very serious problem: –
Refusal to eat or drink, lethargy, difficult or laboured breathing, sneezing, crusty eyes, limping, loss of balance, excessive scratching, hair loss, uncontrollable bleeding, extreme drop in body temperature, diarrhoea, blood present in urine, signs of temporary paralysis.

Problems caused by poor diet:

Dental Problems:

Guinea pigs’ teeth grow continuously for their entire life, so it is important to give them the correct diet to ensure their teeth do not become overgrown.  Typical symptoms of overgrown teeth (if it is difficult to inspect your guinea pig’s mouth) are excessive drooling and loss of appetite.

Hypovitaminosis C:

More commonly known as ‘scurvy’, this condition stems from a lack of vitamin C within your pet’s diet. Guinea pigs cannot naturally produce vitamin C, so you must ensure you feed your guinea pigs a diet that is very rich in vitamin C. Symptoms of this condition include lameness, loss of teeth, rough coat, loss of hair, pain on handling and anorexia.

General Problems:

Abscesses:

Guinea pigs are very susceptible to abscesses, which can be caused by knocks or fights. Bring them into the vets quickly to treat them.
Skin complaints: these are very common, particularly mange, which is caused by a mite burrowing under the skin. Look for the symptoms: little raised spots which are itchy and cause your pet to scratch, and that leads to scabs and loss of hair. Always see your vet for a correct diagnosis and treatment.

Health Checks

Every guinea pig is different, so it’s good to regularly check your guinea pig, so you know what is normal or abnormal for your pet. It is best to do these checks once a week, it is also a good chance to bond with your guinea pig, and offer them a treat afterwards to show it’s a good thing! If you spot anything out of the ordinary, phone your vet for advice.

Ears:

Gently look inside and make sure they’re clean and free from mites and fleas.

Eyes:

Make sure their eyes are clear and shiny. Dull, swollen eyes are often a sign of illness and can lead to blindness.

Teeth:

Check to make sure there isn’t any excessive drooling which can be a sign of dental problems. Be careful with this health check- your pet might not be comfortable with having their mouth inspected and may bite.

Fur:

Gently feel and look to check that there are no bald patches, no signs of mites or fleas and no injuries.

Feet: Gently hold and feel the feet to make sure your pet hasn’t injured themselves. Check their claws too – they need to be clipped to keep them at a safe length; your vet or nurse can do this for you.

Weight:

Weigh your pet on a regular basis to see that they are maintaining a constant weight that is healthy for their age. Regular visits to your vet will tell you what their weight should be. Watching the scales is important – obesity is a serious illness that can lead to other health problems.