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Guinea Pig Health Checklist: Routine Weekly Checks at Home

Ensuring the health and well-being of your guinea pig starts with regular at-home checks. By familiarising yourself with routine health evaluations and recognising early symptoms of illness, you can prevent the onset of more severe conditions.

Guinea pigs have an innate tendency to hide signs of illness or distress. This behaviour most likely evolved as a survival mechanism in the wild, where revealing vulnerability could make them easy targets for predators. 

Use this weekly health checklist as a structured guide to monitor your guinea pig. If you spot anything unusual, contact your vet for professional advice. You can also refer to our guinea pig symptom checker to learn what might be wrong with your pet.

Ears

Examine your guinea pig’s ears, both internally and externally. They should be clean without an excessive build-up of wax. Signs like scaly, crusty, or dirty skin may indicate issues such as mites or infections. Attending to any cuts or bites is essential to prevent potential infections.

For a comprehensive understanding of their ear health, including cleaning techniques, common infections, infestations, and interesting facts, visit our guinea pig ear health page.

Eyes

Your guinea pig’s eyes should be bright and clear. Any signs of discharge, or if they look watery, crusty, or cloudy, may signal an issue. Bear in mind that It’s natural for guinea pigs to produce a white fluid in their eyes during grooming. When inspecting their eyes, ensure no foreign materials, like hay, are lodged in them.

For in-depth information on specific eye issues, their implications, remedies, and interesting facts, refer to our guinea pig eye health page.

Nose

A guinea pig’s nose should typically be clean and dry. Any form of discharge, be it runny or crusty, is a cause for concern as it could indicate the onset of a severe respiratory condition

Scabs or areas of hair loss near the nose might suggest a fungal infection or cheilitis

A bloody nose could stem from various sources, such as conflicts with another guinea pig, an injury from a sharp piece of hay, or other accidents. However, there could be additional reasons for such a symptom. If untreated, the condition may lead to an infection. 

Close  up of a  Silkie guinea pig's nose and mouth
A healthy Silkie guinea pig

Mouth and teeth

Examine around the mouth for sores or scabs. The teeth should be clean, straight, and even. There should be no food residue stuck between them. Regularly monitor their teeth as they grow continuously; without proper wearing down from a correct diet, they can cause significant health problems. A foul smell from the mouth may indicate an infection. 

See our comprehensive article on guinea pig teeth problems, including overgrown teeth, anatomy and treatment.

Feet and nails

Trimming your guinea pig’s nails is essential, usually required every 2-4 weeks. Their feet should appear healthy, without redness or soreness. Dryness might indicate a foot fungus; for black guinea pigs, a grey appearance to their footpads can suggest the same. Fungal infections, if neglected, or inadequate hygiene or unsuitable living conditions, can escalate to a serious condition known as bumblefoot.

Genitalia and bottom

Your guinea pig’s bottom should appear clean, healthy and dry, free from redness, swelling or debris such as hay or shavings. Check for any infestations, including maggots or worms. The hair around their bottom should not be wet or dirty.

For female guinea pigs, feel around the urethra to detect any lumps, a common place for urinary stones and inspect for soreness. For males, examine the genital area, including the penis, ensuring it’s free from dirt or signs of inflammation or bad smells which may indicate impaction.

Check the grease gland (where a tail would be if guinea pigs had tails) to ensure it’s clean and free from excessive grease or unpleasant odours. This issue is much more common in boars. Find out more about how to clean the grease gland.

At the same time, check your guinea pig’s poops are normal. Find out more about poops and diarrhoea.

Skin and body

While checking your guinea pig’s body, look for any lumps, swellings, sores or lesions. Lumps could be benign (non-cancerous), like sebaceous cysts or a  sign of something more serious. Thoroughly inspect the head, neck, tummy, back, and sides. 

Hair

Inspect your guinea pig’s hair, ensuring it’s clean and in good condition. Keep in mind that bald patches behind the ears are normal. As you part the hair, look for mites or dandruff; this may require close observation for any movement. If the hair has grown excessively long, consider trimming it, especially around the bottom.

To learn about infestations, visit our page dedicated to mites and lice in guinea pigs. Find out more about hair loss and what is causing it here…

A healthy long-haired guinea pig

Weight

Regularly track your guinea pig’s weight, as signficiant weight loss can indicate health problems. On average, adult female guinea pigs weigh between 700-900 grams and adult males weigh 900-1200 grams. However, this is a very rough guide. Most of my guinea pigs, including females, have weighed over 900g and I have a large male guinea pig who is 1.5kg.

If you notice sudden or gradual weight loss, check for symptoms like tooth overgrowth and ensure your guinea pig is eating properly. If you can feel your guinea pig’s ribs, they are likely to be underweight. Consult a veterinarian for a thorough examination so they can receive the appropriate care.

If you think your guinea pig is overweight, it is important not to restrict their food intake. It’s possible that the pellet food contains added ingredients like sugar, or that your guinea pig is consuming too many pellets and not enough fresh food and hay. It could be they are not getting enough exercise. Make a vet appointment if you think they are overweight.

Behaviour

Keep a close eye on your guinea pig’s behaviour. Signs of concern include lethargy, a hunched posture, or making squeaking noises while urinating or defecating. If you notice excessive thirst, diminished appetite, or frequent scratching and biting of their skin, these can also indicate health issues. 

Can guinea pigs transmit diseases to humans?

While it’s rare, there are a few diseases that guinea pigs can transmit to humans.

Diseases transferred from animals like guinea pigs to humans are known as “zoonoses.” These can arise from bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. Among the most serious are the bacteria salmonella and yersinia, which lead to diarrhoea and intestinal infections known as enteritis. 

Ringworm, a fungal infection, can also be passed from guinea pigs to humans. 

Children are particularly susceptible to zoonoses as they might inadvertently place their fingers in their mouths or forget to wash their hands, putting them at greater risk. From personal experience, having kept guinea pigs for several years, neither I nor my family members have contracted any ailments from our pets.

To minimise the risk of disease transmission, it’s essential to keep your guinea pigs’ living space clean, keep them clean, and wash your hands after handling them.

Illnesses and health conditions

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