**Guinea pigs should be housed indoors only**
80% of their diet should consist of hay. Your guinea pig should have access to unlimited fresh high-quality hay. Soiled hay should be removed daily. Adult guinea pigs (over 6 months old) should be fed Oxbow Western Timothy Hay. This hay is the most nutritious; it is what they are fed now and the one we recommend they continue. Oxbow also offers a variety of hays (oat, botanical, orchard) if you would like to offer diverse flavors/textures in addition to western timothy hay. Juvenile guinea pigs (under 6 months) old should be fed Oxbow Alfalfa Hay. All types of hay can be purchased from Chewy, Amazon, Small Pet Select, Rabbit Hole Hay, or any pet store.
10% of their diet should consist of green leafy vegetables. Guinea pigs can start to have small amounts of vegetables introduced into their diet at 2 months old. Vegetables should be introduced gradually, one per week, so that you can monitor for an adverse reaction or sensitivity. If any vegetable seems to cause digestive problems do not feed it in the future. Organic vegetables (no pesticides) are recommended whenever possible. Adult guinea pigs can have about 1/2 cup (a small handful) of leafy greens and 1 tablespoon of non-leafy green vegetables per day, however, if their poops become small, dark, or smelly this amount should be reduced to every other day or 3x per week. (Read this helpful: guide to guinea pig poop)
Research each vegetable before feeding it to your guinea pig as some should be offered sparingly and might lead to toxicity or gas/bloating if overfed but here is a short list of some greens and vegetables that are guinea pig approved: alfalfa, cilantro, clover sprouts, basil, beet greens (tops), bok choy, carrot tops, celery, cilantro, collard greens, dandelion greens, endive, escarole, kale, mint, mustard greens, parsley, peppers, romaine lettuce (no iceberg or light-colored leaf lettuce), spinach, spring mix, watercress.
Do not allow your guinea pig to eat: MEAT, animal products (eggs/dairy), chocolate, nuts/peanut butter, avocado, chard/silverbeet, iceberg lettuce, rhubarb, onions, garlic, chives, shallots, potato tops/leaves, tomatoes, eggplant, cauliflower, parsnips, raisins, fruitpits/seeds, muesli, cereal, oatmeal, rice (cooked and uncooked), bread, cookies, crackers, cat/dog/hamster/rabbit food. If your guinea pig has eaten one of the mentioned foods, you should speak to your vet immediately.Some of these foods can cause death in a matter of hours.
5% of their diet should consist of fortified food/pellets. Adult guinea pigs should be fed 2 tbsp and juvenile guinea pigs 1 tbsp of pellets daily. Oxbow, Timothy Complete, Organic Bounty, and Garden Select are the foods we feed and recommend as they have the best nutritional composition to meet your guinea pig’s dietary needs.
Guinea pigs should never be fed pellets that have artificial coloring, seeds, nuts, or grains mixed in (like Kaytee Forti-Diet Pro, Higgins Sunburst, Vitakraft Complete Nutrition, Tropical Carnival) as they are not able to digest these and it can lead to serious health complications (malnutrition and dental problems) and death.
5% of their diet can consist of treats. Max ½ oz (about 1 tablespoon) daily. Carrots and fruits are considered treats and should be fed sparingly. Watery fruits such as melons should be fed sparingly as they will cause diarrhea. FAVOR biscuit type treats which are made of hay, such as Oxbow Baked Treats, Oxbow Dried Fruit Treats, Oxbow Organic Barley Biscuits, Oxbow Natural Science Supplements (there are many options, digestive support will help reduce gas / bloating and your guinea pig will love them!), Selective Naturals Loops and Selective Naturals Sticks. AVOID treats with artificial coloring (like Kaytee Healthy Topping, just because it has “healthy” in the name doesn’t mean it is!), nuts/seeds/grains (like Kaytee Healthy Bits, Vitakraft Crunch Sticks), Veggie Sticks and sugar/dairy (like Vitakraft Yogurt Chips).
Vitamin C is VERY important for your guinea pig! Guinea pigs do not produce their own vitamin c so it’s very important that owners supplement it or they could develop scurvy and pass away. Oxbow Vitamin C Supplement, Sherwood Vitamin C Supplement, or natural bell peppers are easy ways to supplement this daily! If you use bell peppers, they should get a sliver a day each and PLEASE make sure to remove the seeds. Fresh water should always be available. Because of their high fiber diet, if guinea pigs do not get enough water they can develop digestive problems. Water bottles should be replaced daily. The water bottle should be sanitized with a mild dish detergent and rinsed thoroughly weekly.
Guinea pigs are prey animals; in nature being picked up means a predator has caught them and their natural instinct to get away might be triggered. If you try to pick your guinea pig up too soon or too often they might associate you with that fear and start to run away whenever you approach.
Instead, they will much prefer it if you get down on their level. Try laying down on the floor and let your guinea pig approach you first. Be patient, this will take some time. Once your guinea pig realizes that you are not a threat (and have yummy treats) they will come running to you for attention and affection (and said treats). When your guinea pig is comfortable with your presence and being pet you can slowly start picking them up for short periods. *If your guinea pig has a history of abuse or neglect, it may take a longer time for them to feel comfortable and safe being picked up. If that is the case, respect their autonomy and continue interactingwith them on the floor unless they are in danger.*
To pick them up safely, place one hand gently but firmly on your guinea pig’s upper back to secure them as you slide your other hand under their belly. As you begin to lift them slide the hand that was on their upper back down to their bottom. Guinea pigs are very fragile and have a relatively weak spine. If their bottom is not supported, there’s a risk of spinal damage when being handled. Once you have picked them up, hold them close to your body; this will help them feel secure. Wrap your arms around your guinea pig to prevent them from struggling and possibly jumping/falling from an unsafe height.
Children should always be supervised when playing with or around your guinea pig and should only handle or hold the guinea pig when sitting.
Guinea pigs should not be bathed often as this can cause serious health issues. Guinea pigs are prone to pneumonia and if they inhale water or you aren’t very careful, a bath could cause pneumonia and kill them without medical treatment. They are also prey animals and the fear of a bath could cause them to go into cardiac arrest. If guinea pigs live in a clean environment and are not overweight, they do an excellent job of bathing themselves every day and don’t need assistance. If your guinea pig does get dirty you should spot clean them, use dry shampoo, or on rare occasions give them a butt bath. *If they are not properly cleaning their bottoms this might be a sign that something is wrong and you should consult with a vet.
You can use a pet brush to gently (guinea pigs have very thin sensitive skin) groom your guinea pig’s fur every few weeks but it’s usually not necessary for short-haired breeds. Long-haired breeds may require more frequent grooming while shorter hair breeds can be done less often.
Since guinea pigs are not able to dig and wear down their nails naturally, their nails will invariably grow too long. You should trim your guinea pig’s nails every 4-8 weeks. You will need clippers and kwik stop in case you trim too closely and they begin to bleed (you can also use cornstarch or flour if you do not have kwik stop on hand).
First, you will need to examine the nail to locate the vein inside. This vein is called the “quick”; cutting it will cause your guinea pig to bleed and experience some pain. (Some guinea pigs’ nails are dark and you may need to use a flashlight to see the quick.) Your guinea pig might become startled by the sound of clipping and may begin to resist even if you do not hurt them. By trimming their nails regularly they will get used to it.
Silkie/Shelties/Coronets: These guinea pigs are well known for having medium fur until their butt where they have a “bridal train” of fur. This area tends to become matted quite easily and should be lightly combed once a day. Please note that overbrushing will cause the hair to thin and fall out but tangled fur can cause urine scald, urinary infections, and trouble walking/arthritis.
Peruvians: Peruvians are noticeable because of their longhaired rosettes (fur swirls). It is extremely important to brush Peruvians out every single day as their full bodies have long hair and they can become very matted and painful to the touch without proper grooming. These guinea pigs do need fur trims a few times a year as well. Peruvians are a lot of work to maintain so please make sure you’re ready for it before committing! They can develop severe arthritis from matted fur that causes trouble walking.
Texels: While very rare to see in rescue, we do occasionally get Texels into rescue. They are purposefully bred for their natural long curly coats which are gorgeous but time consuming to maintain. They do need to be brushed carefully every single day with a bristle brush and also need fur trims from time to time. They also overheat pretty easily.
Skinny Pigs: Skinny Pigs (or hairless guinea pigs) are prone to a few different problems. Since they have no fur, they have difficulty regulating their body temperature. They must be kept out of direct sunlight, away from any vents or fans, away from tile/marble/granite, and the temperature of their areas must be closely monitored. Skinny pigs chill very easily and it can be fatal for them. Skinny pigs are also somewhat prone to dandruff and vets can recommend some products to help with that but baths will dry out their skin so they are not recommended. They can very easily get poked, cut, or rashes from things in their environment (even just chewed cardboard) so everything should be soft in their area. They are also more prone to bumblefoot than most so the flooring of their cage must be kept well padded.
These are TOXIC to guinea pigs. Air fresheners can cause everything from neurological symptoms to poisoning, paralysis, and death. Please do not have any air fresheners or diffusers in the room that your guinea pigs are in!
Most houseplants are TOXIC to guinea pigs. It’s surprisingly common for us to see guinea pigs that ate their owner’s house plant through the cage, got very sick, developed toxicity, and either needed to be hospitalized or passed away. Poinsettias are toxic to most animals but most house plants are toxic to guinea pigs. Please make sure there are none that your guinea pigs can get to! List of safe and unsafe food/plants for guinea pigs.
Guinea pigs do not have the same kind of flexibility as hamsters. Their spines don’t bend or flex in the same direction. They aren’t able to bend in the right direction for hamster balls or wheels and should never ever be placed inside of one.
When choosing toys for your guinea pig, make sure that any willow or wicker balls that you choose are smaller in size. The large ones carry the risk of getting stuck on your guinea pig’s head which could result in strangulation and death.
Please try to avoid getting any painted wooden toys for your guinea pigs. Natural wood is fine but paint can be toxic for guineas and it will flake off into their mouths and become ingested from the toys as they chew on them.
**Please note that we cannot personally vouch for most of these vets, this is just a compiled list of vets within each area that state they see exotics.**
Avian and Exotic Animal Medical Consulting – Miami
Exoticare Veterinary Services – Miami
Paws and Claws Medical Center – Miami
South Kendall Animal Hospital – Kendall
Country Club Animal Hospital – Miami
Oakland Park Animal Hospital – Oakland Park
Animal House Veterinary Hospital – Pembroke Pines
Dr. Ferber’s Animal Hospital – Pembroke Pines
Broward Avian and Exotic – Deerfield Beach
Welleby Animal Hospital – Sunrise
The Bird and Exotic Vet – Greenacres
Animal Hospital at The Marketplace – Wellington
PGA Animal Clinic – North Palm Beach
Promenade Animal Hospital – Palm Beach Gardens
ABCDE Animal Clinic – Palm Beach Gardens
Lantana-Atlantis Animal Hospital – Lake Worth