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New Guinea Pigs: Should I Take Them to the Vet (Help Please!)

NewToPiggyCare

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Hi, guys.

I just got two guinea pigs, Ziptie and Button, two weeks ago. They’re adjusting well and I think we’re bonding.

However, I have some concerns about both their health. I had to purchase them from the pet store (on account of my local shelter being shut down due to COVID), and I’ve heard many horror stories about piggies health when it comes to pet store care.

So, I was already apprehensive and alert from the get-go. I noticed Ziptie making these loud sounds, sort of a purr but it could also be a wheeze. I looked up all GP noises, and it seemed like neither.

I’ve been monitoring his eating and drinking, and he’s doing great. He’s semi-energetic but also depends a lot on Button (as the dominant of the bonded pair), but I’m still worried it’s not a deep, content purr but a sign of a URI. Mostly because he does it for long stretches of time (I’d say at least an hour) and mostly it happens at night (it’s not snoring either). I wish I could get a video, but everytime I approach the cage, he still runs away.

Next is Button. I thought he was normal at first, but then I noticed him scratching at his ear. Like, a lot. At least four or five times a day.

This wasn’t really a concern until I saw his nose bleeding, and assessed the cause was his scratching. Again, no other symptoms of an ear infection.

The problem is whether I should take them to the vet or not. On most cases, I’d jump to it—but my parents are tight on money right now, and I spent everything on the cage and supplies. My mom bought me them, allowed me to keep them (even if she doesn’t want any herself), and helped with supply money. Now I’m asking her to take my piggies to the vet for $120?

I have a history with hypochondria (it’s passed down from my dad), and my mom is Asian so she doesn’t believe very much in doctors. None of us kids even go to doctor visits, or dental care, unless it’s absolutely necessary.

If I’m wrong, she’ll never let me take them again. If I wait to earn the money myself, it might be dangerously late if there is something wrong. It’s a bad situation and I’m hoping some long-time GP owners could help. I have researched extensively, but I can’t find muchthat’s not determined on “changed behavior”, and I have no idea what they were like prior to two weeks ago.

Sorry for this TL;DR—my main thing is, should I take them? Or get my own money? I was planning to splurge on Guineadad liners once I made enough, and I know their health is more important, but if it’s nothing to worry about than it’d just be a waste of money.
 

Piggies&buns

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From your description the noise ziptie makes could either be rumblestrutting - which is a normal dominance behaviour - or if could be a breathing issue. I’m afraid it’s impossible for us to know from your words alone, only a hands on check by a vet is going to be able to help and determine if there is an issue.

with Your other piggy, excess scratching and bleeding is of concern. Your piggy’s nose should not bleed and if it is then the he definitely needs to see a vet.

its important to have pet shop piggies vet checked in any event as they can have health issues sometimes due to the conditions they are kept in. Also, it’s essential that you check their sexes yourself as missexing is also common in Pet shop piggies and you don’t want to end up with a pregnant sow.

Guinea pigs are not cheap pets to keep, having money set aside for a vet fund is so important and I know vets are more expensive in the US than the UK But this makes it even more important to have money set aside to be able to get them to the vet when they need it.
 
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PigglePuggle

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Great advice there from @Piggies&buns , its always recommended to get a health check at the vet for any new guinea pigs, especially if their background is from a petshop.
A preventative health check now will save money on vet bills in the long run if any potential health issues are caught early as soon as you spot them.
It is very important to save money regularly to be able to afford vet care when needed, I always make sure I have at least £200 (I think that's around 260 US$) per piggy saved up for vet bills, and in the US vet bills are usually more expensive than here in the UK!
 

Free Ranger

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A video of Ziptie making his noises would be really useful for you... not just for this site (although the experienced keepers might be able to tell you it is normal and healthy!) but if it is a 'symptom' and you end up having to take him to a vet they would find it much easier to diagnose because I bet he won't do it to order in the surgery. You might have to be more sneaky about the recording! Whenever my piggies have ended up with respiratory infection it wasn't just breathing noises, they have also looked unwell and hidden away - and also they got worse until treatment rather than being the same every day.

I sympathise about the shelters closing - I am in the same position here in the UK with a lonely male. Although the pet-shop system has obvious issues not all pet-shop piggies have problems - my neighbour up the street always buys 'new' pigs and has had no issues. Good luck.
 

NewToPiggyCare

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Thanks for all your advice. I’m definitely taking them to the vet!

I guess I didn’t expect it since we've never taken our pets to the vet and they’re just fine.

I hear rumble-strutting a lot from Ziptie, so maybe it’s that but I wish I could take a video right now. I’ll have to do it tonight.

As for Button, I’m getting really worried. He squeaks a lot, like a lot, a lot, but I can’t tell if it’s for attention or if he’s in pain because he squeaks for food instead of wheeking. He’s always making scrubbing noises, especially when he’s in his hidey. It sounds like whimpers (not hooting) and he’s doing it a lot. Maybe he’s just talkative?

Anyways, I guess I’ll need to save money for their vet visits now. It’s going to take a lot to convince my family to allow me to take annually, considering they think vets are a waste of money.
 

Piggies&buns

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Thanks for all your advice. I’m definitely taking them to the vet!

I guess I didn’t expect it since we've never taken our pets to the vet and they’re just fine.

I hear rumble-strutting a lot from Ziptie, so maybe it’s that but I wish I could take a video right now. I’ll have to do it tonight.

As for Button, I’m getting really worried. He squeaks a lot, like a lot, a lot, but I can’t tell if it’s for attention or if he’s in pain because he squeaks for food instead of wheeking. He’s always making scrubbing noises, especially when he’s in his hidey. It sounds like whimpers (not hooting) and he’s doing it a lot. Maybe he’s just talkative?

Anyways, I guess I’ll need to save money for their vet visits now. It’s going to take a lot to convince my family to allow me to take annually, considering they think vets are a waste of money.
you’ve been lucky with other pets then, but piggies can get ill and crop up at any moment and due to the fact they are considered exotic pets, their treatment can be expensive.

if you are concerned he needs to see a vet now, as I said, bleeding is not normal. You cannot assume he is just talkative. He could be making noises due to being in pain. Excess scratching could be due to any kind of skin infection etc - not checked over and not treated then it’ll just get worse and make it more expensive as it’ll be much harder to treat

its not a case of taking them annually, they need to go whenever there is a medical issue - you could be there multiple times a year or you could not have any issues and not need to go for a long time. it doesnt matter what your family think, having the piggies means you all have the responsibility to take them as soon as there is a medical issue arise
 

Siikibam

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You’ve been given some good advice above. If your mum bought them for you then she has an obligation to take them to the vet when needed. If she’s the adult she took on that responsibility to fulfil their welfare needs. If she can’t do that then I’m afraid you’ll have to think about whether guinea pigs are the pet for you.
 

Free Ranger

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The above is really good advice and it's very true: some of my pigs never went to the vet and some had to go quite a few times. It's part of caring for the pigs just like parents care for their children.

At my vet practice there is a policy of not having to pay for a 'follow-up' consultation. This means if I see one particular vet about (for example) a bladder infection and they prescribe a course of antibiotics and some painkiller I would pay for the consultation and the meds. If this cures the pig that's great but if it fails I can then go back to that same vet for another consultation and different meds but this time only pay for the meds. If I went back to the same practice and saw a different vet I would have to pay again for the second consult. If you can find one with this policy it can make things much cheaper.

Not every vet here in the UK is the same and my most local vet practice - just up the street - has some lovely people but they are part of a chain and very expensive. It was worth it for me to phone around and enquire about (1) prices and (2) whether any of the vets kept guinea-pigs themselves. For me, this was more important than finding someone who advertised themselves as an 'exotic specialist'. This was what convinced me to go with my current vet practice in the next town (there are male and female vets there but it was the women that kept guinea-pigs so my vets are female... this might be a clue!) I can drive - but I've also been there on the bus with the guinea-pig carrier in my lap! If you use the internet or phone book to find a few different vet practices that you would be able to get to and find out a little more about the pricing it might show your mom that you are serious about being careful with money while finding the right treatment for your boys (as long as you don't run up a huge phone bill!) Even if, heaven forbid, you end up having to rush to the nearest in an emergency on one occasion that doesn't mean you need to go there every time.

Good luck again with your boys and I hope you manage to sort this out. These challenges can help us grow into stronger and kinder people 💕
 

NewToPiggyCare

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Hey! Just wanted to close this thread off (since I don’t know how to do that on the site). Anyways, I took them to the vet and they actually have ringworm! I didn’t even look into anything about that. Anyways, Button has an ear infection but they’re both being treated now. Luckily, it’s all very mild. But now that explains the rash on my foot, which I have to get a cream for.

They’re doing much better, although I feel bad that they don’t trust me nearly as much anymore. Because I have to remove all the hideys and pick them up twice a day for their medicine, they’re really scared of me. I searched up a ton of techniques to make the picking up easier, but it’s still sucky for all of us. But it’s all worth it in the long run!

I’ll save a fund for them now. Hopefully, we won’t have to go again soon. Also, although the visit was super expensive and I’ll be paying it back for the next montj, the vet place gave me a nice carrier. One less expense!
 

Piggies&buns

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I’m glad to hear they’re being treated and are on the mend.

Since ringworm spores can live in the environment for a long long time, ensure the cage is thoroughly cleaned down with a vet grade disinfectant and that any hideys that can be cleaned are thoroughly cleaned with the same disinfectant, anything that can’t be cleaned is thrown away and that any fleece bedding is given a thoroughly hot wash to kill the spores

the guide below details further
Ringworm: Hygiene And Pictures

Definitely have a good vet fund saved up. Expensive vet fees crop up when you least expect them
 

Free Ranger

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Awww, but do you know what? Even with no experience you suspected a problem and you're instincts were right! You found a vet and you're sorting it. These piggies are lucky to have found you and soon they'll be off the meds and bonding again. Thanks for the update 💕
 

NewToPiggyCare

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I cleaned everything with white vinegar and water when I got home, washed all their bedding, and soaked their wooden toys overnight. I have some experience with skin infections due to my cat, and I definitely don’t want that to stick around.

I’m going to do it again when I’m done treating them so hopefully it’s cleaned off everything.

Thanks for all your advice, it really assured me to go to the vets! Y’all are awesome, I don’t know how people had GP before the internet and experienced owners for guidance.

Now I just need to get through the next few weeks and make sure they don’t scratch me to death by the end of it. Then I can get them back in the play pen, which we unfortunately have to withhold since the floors are carpet and I really don’t want ringworm festering in there.
 
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