Pet Store Items that Harm Your Guinea Pig

Let’s face it, we’ve all done it … walked into a pet store, saw the cute treats they have for guinea pigs and thought “my piggies would love this!” The fact of the matter is though, not everything that pet stores advertise as “for guinea pigs” is not always safe, or healthy, for them.

Despite the fact that pet stores are supposed to be full of helpful advice and healthy toys and treats, they are actually full of harmful options for your piggies if you are not careful. Now, they do have some healthy toys and treats, you just need to know what to look for. To help you, I have created a list of things to stay away from as you walk through the isles of your local pet store.

1. Store-Bought Cages

Store-bought guinea pig cages are very cramped for piggies. They do not foster their curious nature and can cause weight gain from lack of space to roam around. These are appropriate, however, should your piggies have free-roam of a room and have come and go access to the cage.  I do use a store-bought cage though for traveling to the vet (get your very own downloadable care binder here to keep everything organized!) and when I volunteer with Grizzly. (To find out more about volunteering with guinea pigs, click here).

2. Sugary Processed Snacks

Sugary processed snacks are not foods that guinea pigs would normally eat in the wild, thus their digestive tracts and stomachs are not made to handle these types of foods. They have no nutritional value, and may cause excessive weight gain and diabetes. So, next time you see those sugary “treats” at the pet store, resist the urge my friend!

An alternative to these sugary processed snacks are:

Katee Timothy Baked Biscutes

Oxbow Simple Reward Treats

My piggies love both, and I haven’t found a flavor of either that they don’t quickly scarf down!

3. Seeds

Seeds are not very good for guinea pigs, as they have a high fat content and really do not have nutritional value for your piggy. They are fine in moderation, however the sweet seed sticks they sell at pet stores are not of any nutritional value for your piggy.

4.  Exercise Wheels + Exercise Balls

Both of these items are very dangerous for guinea pigs and should not be bought for your piggy under any circumstances! The spines of guinea pigs are not meant to bend the way that they do while in an exercise wheel or ball, thus causing spinal damage.

Some alternatives to keeping your guinea pig entertained are:

Tunnels

Wooden Houses

Barrel Roller Chew Toy *my piggies favorite!

So there you have it my friends, five things to stay away from while shopping at the pet store! Remember, just because it is advertised as safe for guinea pigs, does not mean that it is!

Love,

Ashlee + Piggies

Advertisements

A Beginners Guide to Bonding Guinea Pigs

I have bonded, and attempted to bond, LOTS of guinea pig pairs. There are a few things you need to know before starting:

1. When bringing a new guinea pig into your home, you should quarantine them for a least a week. This will allow you to make sure that neither of the piggies have any illnesses that they could pass onto the other and the new family member will be able to get used to the smells of the home. During this time, you can also begin to bond with your new piggy one on one.

2. This is probably the most important to remember: not every guinea pig pair will get along! One of my guinea pigs, Alvin, has been un-pair-able thus far. He does, however, enjoy being grid-mates with Girzzly. He and Grizzly are in a large C&C cage with two grids diving them. They are able to smell each other and interact while still having their own space. You NEVER want to have a guinea pig isolated form other piggies!

3. Know that if you pair a young pig with a slightly older one, once the baby hits maturity there is a chance they may not bond well anymore. This is not true for every case, but is something to keep in mind.

There are many methods to bonding guinea pigs, and many experts have their own routine and things that have worked for them in the past. There is no one right way. Here I will outline the way have been bonding guinea pigs for many years now and has worked the best for me.

Step One: Lay down new blankets/fleece in a neutral part of the house. I like to use the bathroom because there are no other animal odors in there. Everything you use during this introduction phase should be cleaned or new. This is because you do want to use items that one of the guinea pigs has marked as their own already. A neutral, level playing field is key to success.

Step Two: Make sure there are several shelters, water bottles, hay racks, and plates of fresh veggies and maybe some fruit nearby. The reason you want several is because you don’t want them fighting over places to lay, food to eat or water to drink.

Step Three: There are different opinions about this step, so you need to decide what is best for you and your piggies. Sometimes I do this step, sometimes I don’t. I have not really found a definitive answer as to whether this step make a difference or not.

So what is this optional step?

Bathing.

Some people think that by bathing the guinea pigs prior to meeting you can eliminate heavy marking scents that are in their fur. Like I said, I have bathed guinea pigs before a meeting, and other times I have not because over bathing is not good for piggies.

So, this third step is optional. There are so many differing opinions on this.

Step Four: Place the guinea pigs in the neutral area together. You want to make sure that you have dry fluffy towels near by to toss over the piggies and break them up should a fight occur. NEVER stick your bare hands between fighting guinea pigs, trust me on this one! I once got a beautiful puncture wound on my birthday from doing this during my first bonding session. (I still have the scare to prove it!)

Step Five: This next step is also something that is debated between people, which is why knowing the piggies you are bonding ahead of time is so important.

48 hours is key.

In my experience I have tended to find that it takes about 48 hours to truly determine whether or not the guinea pigs will be a good match or not. I have talked with others who say 12, 24, or 36. Just make sure you keep your eye on them for a few days after bonding, especially after you have returned them to a clean permanent  cage.

Finally, here are some other things you should know when bonding piggies:

1.  Mounting and rumble strutting are perfectly normal at first. The piggies are trying to figure out which one will be the dominate one. Now, should they start biting each other and blood is starting to appear, this is a sign that they are not going to be a good fit. I have heard of people being able to successfully bond guinea pigs after a nasty fight, this has never happened for me though. I tend to find that once two guinea pigs have had a huge fight (where there is blood involved), they usually will never pair together.

2. Once they have eaten and fallen asleep, waking up to another guinea pig in the cage with them is one of the determining factors in bonding, and the time where you want to have a towel ready for sure.

There you have it. If you have any questions, please feel free to comment down bellow and I will answer them to best of my ability! If I don’t know the answer, I find one for you!

You can also connect with me on any of the social media platforms or shoot me an e-mail at hi@littlecavylove.com

And don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE HERE for exclusive content and updates!

Love,

Ashlee + Piggies

3 Things Even Experienced Guinea Pig Owners Aren’t Doing

We all want to be the best guinea pig owners, right?

Well, even if we have been owners for years, sometimes there are some things that we just forget about! (Myself included!) So, here are the top three things that I have found that even experienced guinea pig owners sometimes forget to do.

1. Weigh Weekly

It’s okay, sometimes we all forget to weigh our piggies. We get caught up in our day to day routines and just want to love on our piggies when we get home and not have to worry about getting down and dirty with the nitty gritty of care.

As I’m sure you know, weighing your guinea pig weekly is SO important! (jump on over here to learn more!) It is also important to keep in mind that it is best to weigh them the same day of the week and the same time. You also need to be keeping a record of your piggy’s weight, both to monitor health and take to your veterinarian during check-ups. If you would like to have a FREE weigh tracker, scoot on over here to snag a copy for yourself!

2. Boar Cleanings

Now, this one only applies to you if you have a boar (male guinea pig), obviously. I must admit though, at one point I felt as though I was a pretty knowledgeable guinea pig owner, then one day I heard the term “boar cleaning” and I though, “What the heck is that?” I looked it up and instantly felt like the worst guinea pig momma EVER! My babies were 1 and 1 1/2 at the time, meaning that they should have had boar cleanings for a long time, but I just had no idea!

What are boar cleanings?

Male guinea pigs can become compacted quite easily, thus their anal sack must be cleaned out on a monthly basis with a Q-Tip and Mineral Oil. (I will be posting a video soon on how to do this, so keep your eye out!)

Some months your piggy may not need a deep cleaning, a quick swirl of a Q-Tip to get any hay and fur out may be all they need! Just keep an eye on them as they begin to move into their later years.

For example, one of my older piggies needs to be cleaned once a week if not twice. He gets really dirty and has other digestive issues causing the more frequent cleaning. If you think your guinea pig may need to be cleaned out more often than once a month, this is something for your vet to look at and advise you what is best for your individual guinea pig.

3. Measuring Food

I will be the first to admit that sometimes I get lazy, or flat out forget, and don’t measure the pellets or the veggies that I give to the piggies daily. This is so important because being overweight can be so dangerous for guinea pigs. One thing that it may cause is bumble foot.

Do you know how much they should be eating? Skip on over to my Nutritional Guide to find out!

So, those are the top three things that I have found even experienced guinea pig owners forget to do sometimes.

What do you know you should be doing but forget to do sometimes? Leave your comments bellow!

If you have any questions please feel free to comment down bellow, connect with me on any of the social media platforms, or shoot me an e-mail at hi@littlecavylove.com

Don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE HERE for exclusive content and updates!

Love,

Ashlee + Piggies

About the Piggies

There are four male guinea pigs that are apart of the Little Cavy Love heard: Alvin Theodore, Popeye, and Grizzly.

Alvin and Theodore I rescued together in October of 2014 when Alvin was a year old and Theodore was six months.

Their previous owner had them in a very tiny store bought cage (my biggest pet peeve) with only a hay rack, water, and one piggloo. They were scared out of their mind, the girl admitting that she hardly spent time with them. (To this day, April 2016, Alvin is still quite skittish and really only allows me to handle him.)

So what are they like?

Alvin can be described in one word: DIVA. He has so much attitude and will not pair with any other piggy at all! (Him and Theodore unfortunately began fighting about six months after I rescued them.) He is, however, gridmates with Grizzly. I can tell he gets sad when Grizzly is away in that he will stare into Grizzly’s cage, just waiting for him to return. I have tried bonding them, but Alvin is just way too full of personality! They are very content as gridmates though.

Theodore in one word would be GENIUS! He is a lot like a dog in many aspects. He knows his name, he will chase his toy when I throw it, he will come when I call him … it is so cute to watch! He does have a lazy streak in him though! One day I moved his bed on the other side of the cage from his food and water, and what did the little booger do? He drug his bed across the cage so he could lay in it and still reach the hay rack and the water bottle! What a goober!

Grizzly_LittleCavyLove

The next baby boy I got was Grizzly. At the time I was working at a petstore (worst decision ever!) and when I laid eyes on Grizzly I knew he was either a runt or taken from his momma too soon, and on top of that he had an upper respiratory infection that my manager didn’t want to try and treat.

I took him home the second I was allowed to, despite getting married in a week, and it turned out to be one of the best decisions! He is such a calm piggy (with a wild streak, of course) and is actually a Nationally Certified Therapy Animal with a program called Pet Partners. (To learn more about his “job”, click here.)

Popeye_LittleCavyLove

Popeye was the last to come into our family, but he was definitely meant to be with us. To learn about why he had to have his eye removed and more about his story, click here.

He is nothing but a little teddy bear, he can never get close enough to me when we are cuddling on the couch. He loves giving kisses, and despite being let down by humans in the past, is the most trusting piggy I have ever met!

So, those are my piggies! I love each and every one of them so much and I don’t know what I would do without them! They each add so much to my life their own way!

I’d love to hear about your piggies! Visit the community page here to post about your guinea pig(s), and if selected you could have an entire blog post dedicated to you and your piggy!

Love,

Ashlee + Piggies

Learning to Care for a One Eyed Guinea Pig

To start off, you may be wondering who the cutie is in the picture above, well this is my 3 year old piggy Popeye. I rescued him in 2015, 2 weeks after he had to have his eye removed.

So, why did this handsome man have to have his eye removed?

Popeye had gotten an eye infection, something that could have been taken care of quite quickly should his previous owner had taken him to the vet, however he did not want to spend the money on a “rodent”. (His words, not mine). This poor little guy was then put through the tragic ordeal of having his eye removed, after being abandoned by the only person he had ever known..

Most of the time, eye infections are quite easy to cure, if you take your piggy to the vet.

The day I went to the vet’s office to pick up Popeye, the moment I picked him up he melted into me and began to purr. He knew he was going to be taken care of and given all the love he would ever need for the rest of his life!

Now that’s get into the nitty gritty of caring for him. I learned a lot with this little guy; his eye did not heal as it should have and is still open to this day.

Three days after Popeye came to his forever home, he was able to get his stitches out. Not going to lie, I bawled like a baby hearing Popeye squeal while they were being removed. Once they were out, we realized that due to excessive swelling that occurred after surgery, his eye lids had not healed together. His eye socket was completely open. I was so worried he would get something in there, and begged the veterinarian to do another surgery and close his eye together.

She did not want to put his little body under anesthesia again unless he really needed it.

We went home and hoped that everything would be okay. It was, for a little while.

Several weeks after Popeye got his stitches out, I noticed that there was a lot of extra drainage in his eye and took him to the vet as soon as I could get him in. Unfortunately, he had developed an abscess in his eye. He was put on Baytril (an antibiotic) and I was instructed to clean the outside of his eye with warm water and a Q-tip twice a day.

After a round of Baytril, the abscess cleared up!

 About 6 months ago, the veterinarian that had taken care of all my guinea pigs, and did Popeye’s surgery, moved out of state and I thus the search for a new exotic veterinarian began.

I was extremely fortunate enough to be able to find such a knowledgeable and caring veterinarian to start seeing!

Our first visit with her did not turn out as I had expected, though. Upon first look at Popeye, she asked me how long he had had the eye infection. I looked at her dumbfounded, and told her that all the drainage Popeye was experiencing I had been informed by the previous veterinarian was normal.

It was then her turn to look at me dumbfounded.

She apologized and informed me that drainage is normal after an eye removal, but not to the extent that Popeye was experiencing it.

He was put on two rounds of an high dosage antibiotic and Ciprofloxacin, a medicated eye drop. Once the infection cleared up I was instructed to clean the outside of his eye daily with warm water and a Q-Tip, put a few drops of Saline Solution in his eye twice a days to keep it moist, and use the Ciprofloxacin should it start to have extra drainage again.

Taking care of Popeye takes a bit longer than any of my other piggies, but I wouldn’t trade him for the world. Despite being let down by humans before, he loves me unconditionally and purrs each and ever time I pick him up.

I didn’t adopt him, he adopted me.

Do you have a beautiful one-eyed piggy?

Share their picture bellow or e-mail it to me at hi@littlecavylove.com to be featured!

Don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE HERE to exclusive content and updates!

Love,

Ashlee + Piggies

P.S. It is worth the extra time, and money, to find a veterinarian that truly knows what they are talking about when it comes to guinea pigs, or any exotic animal for that matter. I learned this the hard way. Don’t take your piggy’s health lightly, you never know what could happen. For help in finding the right veterinarian, jump on over HERE.

Guinea Pigs in Animal Assisted Therapy

What exactly is animal assisted therapy?

Let’s get some vocabulary out of the way so you know what the heck I’m talking about!

When volunteering with your piggy (or any approved animal for that matter), there are different types of activities that you can participate in.

1. Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT). The leading organization in bringing animals and people together in this type of environment is Pet Partners. (To find out more about this amazing organization, and hopefully join me in volunteering with them, click here.) They define AAT as “Animal-assisted therapy is a goal oriented, planned, structured and documented therapeutic intervention directed by health and human service providers as part of their profession. A wide variety of disciplines may incorporate AAT. Possible practitioners could include physicians, occupational therapists, physical therapists, certified therapeutic recreation specialists, nurses, social workers, speech therapists, or mental health professionals.”

2. Animal Assisted Intervention, which Pet Partners defines as “Animal-assisted interventions are goal oriented and structured interventions that intentionally incorporate animals in health, education and human service for the purpose of therapeutic gains and improved health and wellness. Animal-assisted therapy (AAT), animal-assisted education (AAE) and animal-assisted activities (AAA) are all forms of animal-assisted interventions. In all these interventions, the animal may be part of a volunteer therapy animal team working under the direction of a professional or an animal that belongs to the professional himself.”

3. Animal Assisted Activities, which Pet Partners defines as “Animal-assisted activities provide opportunities for motivational, educational and/or recreational benefits to enhance quality of life. While more informal in nature, these activities are delivered by a specially trained professional, paraprofessional and/or volunteer, in partnership with an animal that meets specific criteria for suitability.”

4. Animal Assisted Education, which Pet Partners defines as “Animal-assisted education is a goal oriented, planned and structured intervention directed by a general education or special education professional. The focus of the activities is on academic goals, prosocial skills and cognitive functioning with student progress being both measured and documented.”

So, now that we have the nitty gritty of the vocabulary out the way, let’s get to the fun part!

I start preparing Grizzly before we even leave the house. I have a store bought cage for his travel carrier (all they should EVER be used for). I put some fleece at the bottom, his hay rack, water bottle, and the fleece sleeping bag I made for him so he can hide if he wants. I get him out of his big cage and spend some time with him, giving his veggies and just loving on him. Next, the car ride.

He actually seems to enjoy car rides. He tries his hardest to get high enough to were he can see out the window. (If my husband is driving I will sometimes take him out and let him look out the window, he is so fascinated by it!)

During the car ride, I try to talk to him as much as I can. Hearing my voice not only reassures him that I am still there with him, he seems to be calmer through the visit as well.

Before we head into the facility where were we will be visiting, I put his blanket in his basket that he travels in (I use the same blanket every time) and give him a few minutes to get comfy in his basket. We have done this so many times now, when he goes into his basket, he knows it’s time for work!

This is where I tend to get the question, “How do you keep him from using the bathroom on people?” 99% of the time he stays in his basket, and if I do take him out to let someone hold him, he is on a VERY thick blanket so that if he were to urinate, it would not get on anyone. If he does poop, I ALWAYS keep hand sanitizer with me, so I pick it up discretely as possibly and use hand sanitizer right away! However, because we have visited so many facilities together, Grizzly knows when he is working and he tends not to use the bathroom. Once he gets back into his travel cage, that’s a whole other story though!

So, like I said during the visit, 99% of the time I keep Grizzly in the basket for two reasons:

1. Less stress on him.

2. Most people have never held a guinea pig and they may feel uncomfortable holding him. Using a basket provides an opportunity for the individual and him to connect in a way that is comfortable for both of them.

Once our visit is complete and Grizzly is back in his travel cage, I like to let him decompress for awhile before I snuggle on him anymore. I give him lots of fresh veggies as a reward, and he usually ends up taking a nap on the ride home.

Why do I volunteer with him?

It is absolutely amazing to be able to see people that are very stressed out, completely  decompress and relax when they are interacting with Grizzly. Their whole demeanor changes. I also just love interacting with people, you would be surprised how much people open up to you, and you might be the only smiling face that they see all day!

I love visiting nursing homes and seeing people who don’t normally engage with other or talk much, open up when they see Grizzly.

Volunteering with Pet Partners has been such an incredible experience. I highly recommend looking into getting your guinea pig (or another animal you may have) certified through this amazing organization. Get plugged in and see the difference that you can make!

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me on any of the social platforms or shoot me at hi@littlecavylove.com

And don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE HERE for exclusive content and updates!

Love,

Ashlee + Piggies

P.S. Here is a picture of Grizzly in his basket heading to “work”!

20160130_125700

Taking Your Guinea Pig Outside

To start off, raise your hand if you know that guinea pigs can’t sweat.

Did you raise your hand?

If you didn’t, keep reading.

If you did, keep reading…

I still have some information that will help you!

So, guinea pigs can’t sweat huh? That’s right, anything over 80 degrees F puts them at risk of dehydration and heat stroke. Now, this doesn’t mean that they can’t get too cold. You want to keep your guinea pigs in an environment that is between 70 and 80 degrees F (some will say 65 to 75 degrees F, as a rule of thumb if you are uncomfortable, your piggies probably are too).

With this in mind, and for other reasons as well, you should never keep your guinea pigs outside in a hutch that is not temperature controlled! Taking your guinea pigs outside is completely fine, and highly encouraged for busting boredom, but there are a few things you are going to want to take into consideration before adventuring out into the open with your piggy.

1. Heat (if you haven’t guessed that one already 🙂 ) and humidity level.

2. You want to make sure that your guinea pig is contained, you don’t want them to escape as they will not be able to survive on their own in the wild.

For my guinea pigs, I use an open bottom exercise pen and you can safely put a thin sheet over the top to protect them from birds while still allowing a fresh breeze through the sides.

3. Keep an eye out for prey animals, especially birds that can swoop down and pick them up. By sitting under a tree with them, putting a sheet over a wire play pen, or creating a hutch with a roof your guinea pig will be safer.

4. You also want to make sure that there have been NO PESTICIDES used on the grass (your piggy should NEVER be placed on the concrete to run around, as it can get too hot), they will harm and potential kill your piggy.

5. Make sure where you place your guinea pig there are no harmful plants near that they could eat.

Your guinea pig will love going outside with you, it is a great boredom buster for them and a great bonding experience! Follow the five guidelines I have written about here, and you and your piggy will have a safe adventure out doors!

Here are two of my guinea pigs, Alvin and Theodore, enjoying time outside together!

If you have any questions please comment down bellow or follow me on any of the social media platforms!

And don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE HERE for exclusive content and updates!

Love,

Ashlee + Piggies