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Guinea pig body quirks

Discussion in 'Daily Care' started by Wiebke, Nov 29, 2010.

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  1. Wiebke

    Wiebke Moderator
    Staff Member

    Mar 10, 2009
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    Coventry UK
    Here are some body pecularities that can easily throw new owners!
    It would be a very good habit if you gave your guinea pigs the onceover every week, at the same time as you are weighing them. That way, you can be sure to spot many problems early on. Guinea pigs can’t come up and tell you what is wrong with them, so it is useful to know what is normal and what is not!

    Toes: Guinea pigs have four toes on their front paws and three on their back feet. Occasionally, they can have an extra toe on their back feet. That is called polydactyly. Whether the extra toe needs to be removed, depends on how firmly it is attached to the foot. Please see a vet about the removal.
    From 6-10 months old, guinea pigs need to have their claws cut regularly. We have a guide for clipping at the top of our health/illness section.

    Feet: The soles of the feet should have an even colour and should be smooth. It is not uncommon for hard skin growths to develop on the soles of the front paws; they are called spurs. They can be clipped off, but not too close to the skin where the spur is still life and could bleed.

    Nipples and belly button: Male and female guinea pigs both have two nipples, like humans. They also have a belly button, but it is not as noticeable in some guinea pigs as it is in others.

    Bald patches: Most guinea pigs have a bald patch behind their ears. They also lose their hair on the inside of their front legs from regularly washing themselves.
    Any other bald patches are due to skin parasites like mites, fungal complaints or hormonal problems in some adult sows. Please have your piggies seen by a vet for a proper diagnosis unless you REALLY know what you are dealing with!
    Guinea pigs do not go bald with old age and need to be seen by a vet if their hair is thinning out at any age.
    A dull or fluffed up coat indicates a serious illness. Scales, with or without hair attached to them, indicate mites or fungus. Some guinea pigs can shed hair and will do so from time to time, but that should happen evenly all over the body and not result in bald patches. Please investigate any increased itchiness for skin parasites.

    Grease gland: About 1 inch above the anus, guinea pigs have a grease gland on their back. It is especially active in male guinea pigs and may need regular cleaning. For that, please look up the bathing thread in the reference section.

    Privates: Please check the privates regularly, but gently. Hay and bits can get caught in the penis sac and need to be removed carefully.
    A guinea pig penis has two little hooks at the tip. Sometimes the tip looks curly; that is called a “cauliflower willyâ€. A penis can be any colour from pink to purplish. In rare cases, a penis cannot be retracted; please see the vet about it.
    Sometimes, smelly semen can harden around the penis. It needs to be removed carefully. The same “boar glue†can also end up on other guinea pigs.
    If you are not sure about the sex of your piggy, look up this link: http://www.cavyspirit.com/sexing.htm

    Eye colour: Eyes come in all shades from dark to red to ruby to bright pink. There are no albinos in guinea pigs, and pink eyes are not linked to blindness. There is, however, a special breed called pink eyed whites (PEW). Healthy eyes should be bright and shiny and neither sunken nor bulging.

    Eye cleaning fluid: Guinea pigs do not blink and often sleep with their eyes open. They have a white milky fluid to clean the eyes. If you notice a guinea pig with watery eyes, please check for irritation like a speck of dust or hay in the eye and if necessary, wash out the eye with some boiled, cooled water. If the runny eyes continue, you need to see a vet.
    Please see a vet as soon as you notice crusty eyes or noses; they are symptoms of respiratory tract infections which can kill if not treated immediately.

    Ears: Ears get floppier the bigger they grow. Please check them regularly for wax, ear mites and dirt. See a vet if you see a guinea pig that shakes its head repeatedly or develops/has a head tilt.
    Guinea pigs regulate their body temperature via the blood flow through the ears; they do not sweat or pant. That is the reason why pale ears can look very pink at times!

    Teeth: The four front teeth (two at the top and two at the bottom) should be even and parallel. The bottom teeth always look longer than the top teeth. Healthy front teeth wear themselves down and sharpen themselves against each other and do not need regular clipping.
    Guinea pigs have also got molar teeth at the back of the mouth which should be ground down nice and even. Problems usually happen if that is not the case. Molars can grow spurs which can grow painfully into the tongue or the side of the mouth and prevent a piggy from chewing at all. If not treated properly, it can kill.
    Beware of the vet who only checks and clips front teeth! He will just make the problem worse. Plenty of hay is much more efficient in keeping teeth ground down properly than gnawing toys.
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