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  • Guinea Pig Care and Feeding

    Guinea Pig Care and Feeding

    Looking for a pet that’s gentle and loveable but doesn’t require the run of the house? Then you may want to consider a guinea pig. Guinea pigs are one of several small, domesticated mammal species commonly known as “pocket pets.” In 1996, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, about 583,000 U.S. households kept at least one guinea pig as a pet.

    While we’re not sure how they got their name, guinea pigs have been bred for more than 400 years. They descend from wild porcupine-like rodents of South America and are called “cavies” (a shortened form of their Latin name) by many breeders and owners. A guinea pig’s claim to fame is that it is the only domestic rodent with no tail.

    Behavior
    Guinea pigs rarely bite or scratch, but they can be messy-scattering food, water and bedding all over their cages. Their vocabulary includes about nine sounds, from whistling to purring to squealing. They are most active at dusk and dawn, but easily adjust to the routine of your household. Guinea pigs can be fun to watch. They like to explore new settings, but if scared, they’ll either freeze or scatter in different directions.

    Choosing your new pet
    Before welcoming Piggy into your home, it’s a good idea to read up on guinea pigs and their care. Also, find a veterinarian in your area who is comfortable treating guinea pigs; not all of them are.

    Your new guinea pig should be at least six weeks old before bringing him home. Guinea pigs can already breed at this age, so be sure not to keep a male and female in the same cage unless at least one is neutered. (Check with your veterinarian for more information about getting your pet spayed or neutered.)

    Guinea pigs come in a variety of colors and coats from which you can choose. They may be a solid color, or a combination of two or three colors. Their coat may be short, long, silky or whorled. There are even hairless guinea pigs! If you choose a long-haired guinea pig, be prepared to help him groom himself by combing him once every two or three weeks.

    Creating the best home for Piggy
    Guinea pigs are social animals and can live with others of their kind in the same cage, but be sure that enough space is provided for each animal. Partitioning the cage is suggested to provide each animal with separate sleeping quarters. Male guinea pigs should not be housed with young ones. If you notice any signs of aggressiveness between guinea pigs living in the same cage, separate them at once. Some guinea pigs will engage in “barbering,” or chewing on each other’s hair. This is not usually an aggressive act, but rather may be due to boredom, excitement, a hereditary behavior or perhaps a dietary deficiency. If the barbering becomes stressful or harmful to one or more of the guinea pigs, however, you should provide them each with their own home.

    Piggy’s cage should be at least 18 inches high, 24 inches wide and three to six feet long with a solid floor (wire floors are irritating and can lead to foot or limb problems). Be sure to place the cage in an area free from drafts, chills, extreme heat and sudden temperature changes. Also, keep your new friend in a quiet area with few disturbances. The cage may or may not have a roof to it; if not, be sure that the walls are high enough to prevent escape, and that no predators (mainly other household pets) can reach into it. The lower three inches of the walls should be solid-this prevents bedding and food from being scattered outside, yet still allows the guinea pig to see what’s happening around him.

    The cage should be easy to take apart and clean. Make sure it’s well-ventilated (no glass aquariums!), with no sharp edges or corrosion and no small openings that can trap Piggy’s feet or limbs. The cage should also offer your pet a place to hide (see below for objects that you can put inside to make life more interesting for him).

    You’ll also need to provide at least 2 inches of bedding for your new friend. The best bedding is hardwood shavings, or ground corn cob mixed with a nesting material such as cotton. Shredded newspaper works well, too. Whatever type of bedding you use, it must be nontoxic, nonabrasive and inedible, as well as dust free and absorbent. Also, make sure no sharp objects are mixed in it. The bedding should be easy to form into nests and tunnels, as well, since guinea pigs like to nap and hide in these. Sawdust should never be used, and while cedar chips are a popular bedding choice, they do tend to make your guinea pig’s coat a bit reddish in color.

    Cleaning and entertaining
    OK, you’ve got the right cage and the right bedding. But you can’t just plop Piggy into his new home and feed him now and then. The cage will need to be cleaned and the bedding changed. And guinea pigs thrive on loving attention and play, just as cats and dogs do.

    To keep your pet’s home clean and safe, change the bedding daily. Once a week, thoroughly wash and disinfect his cage with a solution of 1 ounce of bleach mixed in a liter or quart of water. Be sure the cage is rinsed well and completely dry before adding fresh bedding and putting Piggy back inside. Rinse feeders and waterers every day, too. And keep your friend’s home dry, as dampness can cause illness.

    In addition to spending quality time with Piggy, help keep him entertained by giving him objects to play on. Try adding one or more of the following to his cage: running wheels, escape tunnels (PVC pipe-wide enough so that Piggy can’t get stuck in it, of course-makes a good tunnel), ladders or plywood boxes (to climb on). On mild days, you can supervise him in a safe, outdoor pen (with shade always available), and you can make an indoor playpen, as well, to provide him with more room to roam. Your friend would also enjoy exploring a closed room now and then, under your watchful eyes, of course.

    Feeding
    Guinea pigs are strict herbivores. They should be fed a complete, pelleted diet made especially for guinea pigs that contains at least 16% crude protein. The pellets should not be fed more than 90 days after their milling (check the bag or box for the milling date). Also provide small amounts of grass hay, and supplement Piggy’s diet with a source of active ascorbic acid, such as a handful of cabbage or half a handful of kale (washed and fresh) or a quarter of an orange. Because guinea pigs can’t produce their own Vitamin C, you should add a Vitamin C supplement to their water-a teaspoon of Vitamin C liquid to 12 ounces of water. The water will need to be replaced daily, however, as the Vitamin C will lose its potency rather quickly.

    In addition to the above, the following fruits and vegetables-fresh, washed, and with seeds or pits removed-can be fed as treats:

    • lettuce
    • broccoli
    • cauliflower
    • carrots
    • pea pods
    • pears
    • apples
    • oranges
    • peaches
    • strawberries
    • pineapple
    • papaya
    • blueberries

    Also, dandelions, grass and wild clover can be picked from your yard (but only if you’re sure they’re free from pesticides) and offered to Piggy, along with oats or graham crackers. But no more than 10% of your guinea pig’s diet should be made up of foods other than the pellets. And to be sure he doesn’t have a bad reaction to a new food, offer only one new food to Piggy at a time.

    Don’t feed powdered food; it just gets wasted, and the dust from it can gather around Piggy’s mouth and in his nose and cause health problems. No table scraps or other animals’ food, either! These, too, can cause health problems resulting from an unbalanced diet.

    To prevent obesity and nephrosis (a disease of the kidneys) in older animals, decrease the amount of pelleted food offered and supplement with more hay. In these aging pets, hay can constitute up to 25% of their diet.

    Food and fresh water should always be available. Mount feeders and waterers to the cage walls to avoid spills, and only use water bottles with metal sipper tubes, as Piggy will just chew up plastic tubes.

    Guinea pigs commonly ingest their own feces, so although you may be disgusted to see such behavior, don’t be alarmed! This is normal and provides them with proteins and vitamins.

    Health and handling
    Guinea pigs should have veterinary exams done twice a year. At your first visit, have your veterinarian show you how to clip Piggy’s nails, which will need to be done every two weeks or so. He or she may also suggest having your pet’s teeth trimmed regularly, as well.

    The most common health problem seen in guinea pigs are colds that result from drafts, dampness or temperature fluctuations. While we don’t think of colds as being too serious, Piggy’s cold can quickly develop into pneumonia, so it’s important to have him examined by your veterinarian as soon as you notice signs of illness. Also, if your pet stops eating, have him seen immediately by the veterinarian, as this can be life-threatening.

    To keep your guinea pig as healthy as can be, take time every day to examine him for lumps, cuts, fleas, ticks or lice. If Piggy displays a hunched or huddled posture, he could be injured or sick. Guinea pigs are prone to abscesses under their chins, too, where their lymph nodes are. Other common signs of illness include diarrhea, weight loss or excessive weight gain, inactivity, not going to the bathroom, nasal or eye discharge, hair loss, incoordination, or limping. If you notice any of these signs, make an appointment with your veterinarian right away to get your friend back on the road to good health.

    When handling your guinea pig, be sure to pick him up carefully to avoid injury or discomfort. Use one hand to support him under the chest, and the other hand to support him under the hindquarters. Never grab him over his back, as doing so can inhibit his breathing. And, of course, such a small pet can be easily injured if dropped, so be careful!

    A healthy, happy guinea pig
    With good care, guinea pigs live up to 12 years, with about six or eight years being the average. By learning all you can about your new pet; providing him with a clean home, a nutritious diet, and expert veterinary care; and giving him lots of love and affection, you can help Piggy enjoy a healthy, happy life.

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Exotic Pet Care

  • Here at Animal Care Centers we see all animals great or small! We have certain Doctors who will see pocket pets, reptiles, and even our avian friends. If you have a small pet that needs medical attention please feel free to call us and we can help you set up an appointment.

Parasite Control

  • There is no subtle way to say this. To you, your pet is a family member. To a parasite, your pet is food. Parasites like fleas, ticks and heartworm-carrying mosquitos can carry numerous diseases that can seriously harm your pet. Here at Animal Care Center we offer a top of the line selection to help take care of these parasites and to keep you and your pet safe!

Nutrition Counseling and Premium Pet Diets

  • Here at Animal Care Center we recognize the importance that nutrition plays in the overall health and happiness of our pets. Nutritional evaluations and recommendations are included as a key component of our preventative health care protocols. We strive to be a valuable resource of nutritional information and advice for our clients. We believe that good nutrition is vital to your pet’s health. There are so many facets to nutrition so we understand how overwhelming it can be when you go pet food shopping. We are here to help you understand nutrition and what works best for your pet.

    Here are some nutritional topics that we can discuss with you during an appointment:

    • Understanding the basics of healthy nutrition and feeding practices
    • Reviewing life-stage nutritional recommendations for your pet
    • Determining the daily recommended caloric intake needs of your pet
    • Reading and understanding pet food labels

     

    If you have ever caught yourself walking up and down pet food aisles and not knowing what in the world is best suited for your pet’s diet, don’t fret you are not alone! We too have become frustrated by the vast number of pet foods, which are often misleading and confusing due to marketing schemes used to confuse owners. Also we are concerned about the number of pet food recalls that have occurred over the past several years. For this reason we are here to help you decide what diet works best for you and your pet. We can provide food lists that we can recommend to you or we also carry veterinarian prescription diets. Our prescription diets are specifically designed to help support the following aspects of our pets’ health:

    • Oral health/Dental Disease
    • Obesity
    • Diabetes
    • Kidney disease
    • Live disease
    • Feline Hyperthyroidism
    • Gastrointestinal disease
    • Urinary tract disease, including urinary stones
    • Joint Disease
    • Food allergies
    • Skin disease
    • Heart disease

Geriatric Care and Wellness Programs

  • We care for your pet that has been in your family’s life! As our pets age they have special health needs that may require more attention and care then younger pets. We do recommend twice-a-year wellness examinations. These are important in order to detect or treat medical problems that may arise. A baseline senior wellness exam should be performed so it can be used as a benchmark for measuring changes in your pet. This exam includes a complete physical exam, oral and rectal examination and recording of body weight and body condition. Our Dr. also examines your pet’s ears, eyes, and various internal organs. Some laboratory work may be done, including a complete blood count, urinalysis, fecal exam, and perhaps endocrine blood tests and other diagnostic tools used to detect health baselines or issues.

Travel Certificates and Health Certificates

  • Domestic and International Health Certificates (USDA accredited) – Traveling with your pet? No problem…We can help! There are a number of travel regulations and requirements that exist and vary according to different airlines and destinations. Always make sure you do the proper research before your appointment to determine what is necessary for your unique travel needs. And if there is something you are not sure of you can always give a call! We are always here to help!

Microchip/Pet Identification

  • Microchipping can save your pet’s life. 1 out of 3 pets become lost in their lifetime. According to the humane society, only about 15% of lost dogs and 2% of lost cats ever find their way back home. Almost 4 million pets are euthanized each year! This includes lost pets whose owners were not found in time. Microchips are an easy and inexpensive way to ensure your pet doesn’t become a statistic.

In-House Pharmacy

  • Our full In-House Pharmacy allows us to fill our patients’ prescriptions and quickly handle pet emergency needs.

Endocrinology (hormones)

  • Our doctors are dedicated to diagnosing and treating dogs and cats with a variety of endocrine (hormonal) diseases, such as diabetes, hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, Addison’s disease and Cushing’s disease. The endocrine system is an intricate arrangement of many hormones and control mechanisms. This complex system can fail in many places. Endocrine disorders are both multitudinous and often difficult to treat. However, our doctors here have seen numerous cases and have proper diagnostic tools to effectively diagnose and treat these disorders. If your dog or cat has an endocrine problem or you believe may have an issue please do not hesitate to call us.

Dermatology & Allergy Services

  • We provide complete medical care for skin conditions including serum allergy testing (QVC) and a full line of veterinary skin care products and diets. Companion animals can suffer from many of the same skin conditions that we do. Whether it be allergies, parasites, or a skin infection, our doctors are able to identify, diagnose and treat a wide variety of skin conditions.

Ophthalmology & Tonometry

  • This is the examination and treatment of conditions of the eye. (Tonometry defines the use of a specialized instrument to measure intraocular pressure which is vital in the detection of Glaucoma in our pets.) Animal Care Centers recognizes the importance of your pet’s eyesight and takes great measures to provide both care and client education.

Oncology

  • Getting a diagnosis of cancer for your beloved pet can be a very devastating and stressful time. We understand and are here to help both you and your pet. Our highly skilled and experienced doctors are trained to deliver compassionate care using treatment options to help improve the quality and duration of your pet’s life.

Cardiology

  • Animal Care Centers provides comprehensive treatments for conditions of the heart. Through the use of such diagnostic tools as an electrocardiogram (EKG), echocardiogram (scheduled with our participating mobile specialists) and blood pressure monitoring, we are able to accurately diagnose and successfully treat our patients. We also have an in-house pharmacy for cardiac medications.

Laser Therapy

  • We have class IV Laser Therapy which is used to help relieve chronic pain and accelerates your pets healing and rehabilitation time following surgery. Laser Therapy can also be effectively used for on-going treatment of other chronic joint and muscle pains. We have seen positive results in our senior patients and in those who are challenged by arthritis. Read more about Pet Laser Therapy

Pain Management

  • Before, during, and after is our belief here at Animal Care Centers! We believe advanced medical protocols for the relief of acute and chronic patient pain is vital in our field! Not only do we keep our patients pain free during routine or specialized surgery but we also strive to keep our non-surgical patients who have chronic pain as pain alleviated as possible!

Dental Care & Dental Digital Radiology

  • Here at Animal Care Centers we provide complete dental services for your pet which includes full cleaning, polishing and dental radiographs (x-rays). We also provide before and after pictures to each client.

Anesthesia (including Propofol and Isoflurane)

  • We provide complete anesthetic monitoring which includes pulsoximetry, capnometry, blood pressure, EKG, core body temperature, respiration monitors and ventilator. We also provide warm intravenous fluids during surgery.

Telemedicine

  • We can send certain diagnostic procedures via telephone or computer. This is a wonderful tool when needing vital tests done as soon as possible. This includes EKGs and Lab Work.

Ultrasonography

  • Performed in-hospital by a Board Certified Ultrasonographer. Ultrasound plays a dynamic role in determining treatment plans in special cases.

Digital Radiography

  • We have state-of-the-art Direct Digital Radiography allowing for quick and enhanced-image diagnostics.

Patient Care

  • We provide soft bedding, warm IV fluids and therapeutic warm blankets for surgical and medical patients. We also provide our patients with our undivided attention and tender care.

Critical Care and Emergency Services

  • We provide intensive advanced care and treatments for most critical need patients and emergencies. For extreme cases that require highly specialized treatments we can offer stabilizing care until transferred to a specialist. We also have in hospital oxygen cages that are vital in emergency situations.

Full In-House Lab

  • In our laboratory we can run blood work quickly for emergencies or as a routine measure. Blood work that we can run in house includes: complete blood count (CBC) with manual and LaserCyte hematology testing, chemistry profiles, electrolytes, urinalysis, fecal analysis, cytology, heartworm/erhlichia/anaplasma/lyme disease testing, feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus snap tests, and other in house diagnostic snap tests.