A Medical and Care Guide for Guinea Pigs


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What's Normal? What's Not?

New guinea pig owners may wonder if their guinea pig is healthy! Here are some tips to help you know what to look for. Be sure to check out the Emergency Guide for more information.



Nose should be clean.


See Swannie's healthy guinea pig above.



Eyes should be clear and symmetrical. White secretions of a milky white fluid are normal. The fluid is used to clean their faces.


NOTE: Some guinea pigs develop a condition called "pea eye" in which the white conjunctiva is visible. Seek treatment if there is tearing, crustiness or redness (inflammation).



Ears should be relatively clean.


Dirty or inflamed ears; head tilt (ear infection), crust on edges of ears (parasite infestation, fungal or bacterial infection).



Feet should have a clean, soft footpad. Nails should be a proper length.


Scabs, crusts, or swelling of the foot. Long nails (be sure to clip nails regularly).



Healthy looking fur and skin. A modest amount of shedding is normal.


Parasites like mites are extremely common and very painful. Treatment is easy. If you suspect your guinea pig has mites, be sure to treat them as soon as possible!



Droppings should be uniform and oval, medium to dark brown. Aromatic greenish droppings may be caecal pellets, which the guinea pig re-ingests (necessary for good nutrition).


See a vet immediately for severe diarrhea, which may indicate a serious parasitic or bacterial infection.

Tip: Did you know guinea pigs eat special droppings called cecal feces? This is known as coprophagy. Cecal feces contain many important nutrients. Read more about digestion on the impaction page.



Urine may be clear to cloudy in color. Calcium compounds in the urine cause this cloudiness. Normal urine is not gritty in texture. Dried urine may leave powdery white calcium compounds. Very young guinea pigs often have an orange or brown tint to their urine. Urine sometimes changes to an orange color on standing (this may be the oxidation of porphyrins in the urine).

Chalky urine deposits on fleece. NOT NORMAL:

TIP: To check for sludge, line the cage with dark colored towels. To check for blood, use light colored towels.

See Tracis photo of thick powdery deposits at right.
See also Tracis photo of light chalky urine deposits: Click to view


Yes, male guinea pig ejaculate is normal! Ejaculate is generally white in color and appears rubbery. It is sometimes referred to as "boar glue" due to its tendency to stick to just about everything, and the supreme difficulty of removal. It may appear as a blob or more worm-like.

What isn't normal is hardening of boar glue within the penis. Be sure to check out your guinea pig if he is in discomfort or has difficulty urinating. More in the Records Forum.


Weight loss is an early sign of many illnesses. To help monitor health, weigh your guinea pig weekly! Use the weight/health record pages provided in GL's handy Cavy Health Record Book, a loose-leaf notebook, or a calendar, but be sure to record your guinea pig's weight on a regular basis. While weight will fluctuate slightly during the day, a two or three ounce loss may indicate the onset of a problem. If your guinea pig has lost four or more ounces, see a vet immediately.


Water consumption is different for each guinea pig. Consumption is dependent on temperature, taste of water, activity, and preference. A guinea pig provided ample vegetable matter (rinsed and still wet) might appear to drink very little during the day. If you are concerned, check for signs of dehydration.

Possible causes of excess water consumption:

Ill animals (especially those with molar problems) may be unable to eat but will drink excessive amounts of water. Make sure your guinea pig is not just playing with the water bottle (or that the water bottle is not leaking) if you suspect your pet is drinking too much.


Become familiar with your guinea pigs' behavior; how much they move around, what they like to eat, how responsive they are to you and to sounds around them.

Changes in behavior are red flags. If your guinea pig is not eating favorite foods or is hiding it its house, something is wrong. Your pet is depending on you to know when it is ill. See a vet promptly if you suspect your guinea pig is sick.

Mounting: A female guinea pig that is suddenly constantly chasing and mounting her cage mate may have a hormonal problem.


The average life expectancy of a guinea pig is 5 to 7 years. So if you decide to adopt, make sure you are there for the long haul! While rare, some guinea pigs have even lived over 10 years. Others have genetic predispositions or illnesses that shorten their lives.

Feed the right foods and learn all you can about proper care. See a vet promptly if you suspect your guinea pig is sick.Go Up

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