Before anything else, let us first explain that ‘guinea pigs are not pigs.’ They may have some physical attributes that are strikingly similar, but guineas are not pigs. They are rodents. Well, big rodents to be precise. They are also ‘not form guinea,’ and there is still no accurate explanation where that name originated from.
Anyway, when we here the term ‘guinea pigs’ or “Cavies,” what comes to our mind are small, puffy and adorable animals. That could be somewhat true. However, there is much more to the “cuteness” they can offer which people don’t always realize.
Guinea pigs are also smart, friendly, loving creatures. They have distinct personalities just like us! Like Cinderella’s seven dwarfs, their characters can significantly vary from active and lazy, sleepy and noisy, friendly and grumpy.
They understand and can interact with their owners, and can form meaningful bonds with their caregivers. Just like other pets, they provide us with joy and amusement, but they too, need some caring and attention.
Just like all living beings of the animal kingdom (including us humans), they too get sick. Even though they spend most of their time inside their cages, there is still the possibility of them catching disease-causing microorganisms in their environment.
As pet owners, we would certainly love seeing our pets healthy and happy. But how exactly do we protect them? Can we get them vaccinated like dogs and cats? How can we shield them from things that might get them sick?
This article intends to provide answers to these questions and more, for better care and happiness of your beloved pet.
What Is the Meaning of Getting Shots?
Shots, or vaccinations, refer to injections offered to animals. It helps prevent them from acquiring regular, and sometimes life-threatening diseases. It falls under the group of veterinary biologics.
Moreover, it involves the treatment or injection of specific antigens to animals. The purpose of which is to develop a level of immunity to specific pathogens. Vaccination prevents animals from acquiring diseases which are not only harmful to them but also carries the severe possibility of transfer to other animals and even human beings.
Is It Possible to Vaccinate Guinea Pigs?
Because Guinea pigs spend most of their time in cages or indoor enclosures, they are not too prone to dangerous infectious like other feral animals or those in the wild. For this reason, no existing vaccine is available or suitable for guinea pigs.
However, this does not mean that your cavies do not need regular veterinary care. Because just like other pets, their health, safety, and overall well-being mainly depend on our ability to recognize signs of illness and act on them accordingly.
What Are Some Common Health Issues?
One peculiar characteristic of guinea pigs is their habit of veiling the signs of illness. Since they are sensitive to pain and infection, their health can deteriorate quickly. Because of this, they may already be in a life-threatening condition by the time illness becomes apparent.
Even if your pets may not show symptoms for the following conditions, it is still essential to take them for a routine veterinary check-up at least once a year. Many of these health issues are entirely preventable through proper care and ideal feeding practices.
Below are just some of the health problems commonly affecting Guinea pigs:
1. Deficiency in Vitamin C
Much like us humans, guinea pigs are not capable of synthesizing Vitamin C or Ascorbic Acid in their bodies. Because of this, it is necessary to provide fruits and vegetables to offer Vitamin C they need for proper functioning of their body.
You can add green leafy vegetables, as well as fruits like kiwi, to their diet since synthetic vitamin C on their feeds is an unreliable and insufficient source.
Deficiency in vitamin C can cause symptoms such as swollen joints and hemorrhage affecting skeletal muscles, intestine and other body tissues. Symptoms include lack of appetite, weakness, pain, and difficulty with movements, diarrhea and a rough feel on their coats.
2. Swollen and Ulcerated Footpads
Also known as Ulcerative Pododermatitis, this is a common condition that happens when we keep cavies on hard and rough surfaces and unprotected wire mesh flooring. The lack of cushion causes discomfort and ulceration to the soles of their feet, which can progress to the bone tissues.
To prevent this from happening, you should keep domestic guinea pigs in an adequately cushioned cage with beddings made of soft materials.
Symptoms like intense scratching and hair loss are indicative of mite infestation. It can severely affect guinea pig’s well-being and comfort, primarily caused by severe itching. Fortunately, this can be easily treated by a qualified vet.
4. Dental Issues
Because their teeth are continuously growing, there is a need for guinea pigs to eat grass consistently throughout the day. It is possible to control dental problems by ensuring that pets eat the proper diet. That means a lot of hay and green leafy vegetables.
Warning Signs of Guinea Pig Illness
Understanding the signs and symptoms of the disease is crucial to ensuring the health and safety of your fur baby. It gives way to prompt medical attention when necessary and quick health problem resolution.
Being responsible owner means proper understanding and awareness of the following warning signs and symptoms.
- Wheezing or difficulty in breathing
- Sneezing and crusty eyes
- Rough coat
- Dull eyes
- Hunched posture
- Diarrhea or watery stool
- Blood present in urine
- General hair loss
- Excessive scratching
The absence of vaccination certainly has some impact on the quality of care we can provide our cavies. They may not have the exact level of protection like dogs or cats do, but this certainly does not diminish our ability to care and protect our Guinea pigs from diseases, in our own ways.
It is up to us to determine the level of protection they can get, depending on how much work we are willing to for their well-being.
While it is true that Guinea pigs can’t be vaccinated, they can have owners who love them and care for them, and willing to do everything to keep them safe, happy, and healthy at all times.
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