This webinar will cover the basics of what you need to know to build a guinea pig friendly practice- from husbandry and their diet to reducing stress in the clinic and basic medical/diagnostic techniques. Guinea Pig dentistry and some common medical conditions will also be covered along with improving hospitalisation.

This webinar is sponsored by Burgess Excel and is delivered by John Chitty, RCVS advanced practitioner in Zoological Medicine. Employed in a small animal/ exotics practice in Andover, Hampshire with a 100% avian/ exotics/ small mammal caseload- referral and first opinion. 

For me, seeing a Guinea Pig for a consultation is unusual, so it can be difficult to know where to start. John Chitty starts the webinar by giving us basic principles of biology, starting with how these animals used to be wild and have been domesticated to be kept in houses. They have a lifespan of 5-10 years, and are not a herd or solitary animal, they are usually found in small groups. They feed on coarse vegetation and are coprophagic.  

Regarding their diet, they need fibre and fresh greens. The use of concentrates in these animals will be used in conjunction with fibre and fresh greens. Commonly they will present a Vitamin C deficiency due to the impossibility of synthesising it in the gut, causing skin lesions. If we do not feed guinea pigs correctly, we may see a tendency to become obese. Husbandry can be in or out, always taking into account the 5 freedoms and knowing that they need space for shelter but also a space where they can move around. 

Stress is an important sign in these patients, so we will want to decrease the signs of stress as much as we can. Knowing how to handle these creatures will make our work much easier. 

Some tips from John Chitty regarding transport are: 

  • Always bring companions 
  • Transport should be dark  
  • A lot of bedding 
  • Top opening beddings  

As they are prey, we must try to ensure that when they arrive at our clinic there is silence and avoid barking dogs and sudden sounds of people. 

During the examination, try not to hold them up as they do not like being held up. John tries to examine them in the box, unless it is an ocular, dental or aural examination. 

John takes us on a tour of what you would normally see in the teeth of a guinea pig. We are then told about what to look for. For example, if you do not see food in the mouth, it is a sign that they are not eating. If the incisors start to look broken, or present at an abnormal angle, that can indicate that they are chewing incorrectly. X-rays are shown, where John gives a comprehensive explanation of the teeth of guinea pigs and some of the diseases they face. John also discusses TMJ’s and how they are commonly affected, causing a lot of pain when eating. 

Ring worm is also discussed, with it being very common, and how these cases should be dealt with during the consultation. 

If a Guinea Pia is to be hospitalised, we must consider that the place should be warm, quiet and it would be best if they bring their own food, but otherwise John recommends Burgess Excel’s DualCare. John explains about the nutrition needed, the best way to give it, how much and for how long. He stresses that one should not forget to observe the faeces, urine and respiration rate. 

The webinar touches on the topic of neutering, where in males it is a quick and relatively simple process, in females it is more invasive and there are more risks involved.  

Cysts are also discussed. Follicular cysts are less common, they cause oestrogen secretion, and the signs are infertility, persistent and irregular oestrous. Rete ovarii cysts are very common, John talks about how they are said to produce no hormones, but this is debatable because of their hormonal behaviours. They cause infertility, vaginal bleeding, anorexia, among other issues. Also discussed are alopecia and associated causes, dysuria, anorexia; the diagnosis of these diseases and the therapy to be used. 

Cystitis-Urolithiasis is common, complex, and there are many causes. Ultrasounds, x-rays, endoscopies, among others, can be used for diagnosis. Emphasis is placed on the presentation of the disease, similarities, complications, diet, surgery and medical therapy to be used. 

Regarding respiratory disease, primary pathogens are Bordetella and Steptococcus. Bordetella is carried by healthy rabbits and guinea pigs that may or may not have respiratory signs and can be purulent. Often both diseases have antibiotic failure, which is why Dr Chitty considers the dose, penetration, sensitivity and activity of the drug before giving it. It also lists which antibiotics are safe to use and which are not, and alternative therapies. 

Eye problems, such as hay seeds in their eyes can be presented, therefore the use of good quality hay is recommended, as this can avoid complications.  

This is a very informative webinar, given by an expert on the subject. For vets looking to do more consultations on guinea pigs and don’t know where to begin, this is an excellent place to start. 

Please, leave your comments on the webinar below!