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Home > Care Guide > Health Tips > What's Normal?

What's Normal? What's Not?

Nose - Eyes - Ears - Feet - Fur & Skin - Droppings - Urine - Boar Glue
Weight - Water Consumption - Behavior - Life Expectancy

guinea pigNORMAL:
Nose should be clean.

    dot Snotty noses and frequent sneezing can be a sign of a bacterial infection.
    dot Fungal infections often start on the face.
    dot Cheilitis is an inflammation of the lips that sometimes spreads toward the nose.
    dot See also: URI. Fungus, and Cheilitis Up

See Swannie's healthy guinea pig at right.

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

    dot Crusty eyes (a sign of a bacterial infection)
    dot Bulging eyes (infection, injury, or tooth root problem)
    dot Sunken eyes (may be a sign of dehydration)
    dot Cloudy eyes (treat eye injuries promptly to prevent eye loss)

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).
    dot See also: Eyes Up

Ears should be relatively clean.

Dirty or inflamed ears; head tilt (ear infection), crust on edges of ears (parasite infestation, fungal or bacterial infection).
    dot See also: Fungus Up

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).
    dot See also: Feet and Grooming Up

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

    dot Lumps
    dot Scabs
    dot Dandruff, excess shedding
    dot Hair loss, either in patches or general hair loss

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!

    dot See also: Mites, Fungus, and Ovarian Cysts Up

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).

    dot Clumped droppings: may indicate impaction (males).
    dot Smaller droppings and/or teardrop shaped droppings: may indicate dehydration and/or eating less food.
    dot Pitted soft droppings may be caused by an overgrowth of yeast in the intestinal tract: a vet can diagnose this and treat with oral Nystatin.
    dot Diarrhea: can be life threatening. If the droppings are merely soft, temporarily withholding vegetables may help.

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.
    dot See also: Impaction Up

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).

    dot Gritty compounds: may indicate sludge in the bladder. Strong smelling urine may be a sign of dehydration or infection. The gritty deposits are sometimes called sludge, which feels coarse and sandy. Powdery deposits are normal. Rub the deposits between your fingers to determine if they are powdery or gritty.
    dot Blood in urine is not normal and may be due to a urinary tract infection, bladder stones, or (in females) reproductive problems like pyometra (an infection of the lining of the uterus).
    dot Incontinence is not normal. Your guinea pig should be relatively dry. If its fur is constantly wet and/or there is an odor, be sure to have your pet checked out for a urinary tract infection or other problem.

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

    dot See also: UTI and Bladder Stones Up

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.
    dot See also: Little Mouse (M) - Sperm Rod Identification

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.
    dot See also: Weigh Weekly Up

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:

    dot Diabetes
    dot Kidney failure
    dot Pain
    dot Hunger Up

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.
    dot See also: Diabetes (LINK), Pain, and Malocclusion Up

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.

A female guinea pig that is suddenly constantly chasing and mounting her cage mate may have a hormonal problem.
    dot See also: Ovarian Cysts Up

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. Up

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        dot What's Normal?

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