Guinea pigs – 9 things you might not know

1. Pigs need pals

A guinea pig is a sensitive creature. Make any significant changes to his environment and you might find your pig refusing to eat or drink. But if you've got a pair of bonded pigs, the effect of an environmental change is minimal – pigs with pals don't get stressed so easily. This is a good thing to remember if you're bringing a pig to the vet – bring the support crew too! 

2. Pigs are pigs

Guinea pigs are not fussy where they go to the toilet – they'll happily poo in their food bowls, water bowls and bedding areas. If you have pigs, you'll need to clean their food and water bowls daily

3. Antibiotics can be lethal

Certain types of antibiotics will kill off good bacteria in your guinea's gut causing a problem called enterotoxaemia. This is a fatal condition. 

4. Pigs can get scurvy

Guinea pigs (like humans and gorillas) can't make vitamin C, so if they don't get enough of it in their diet, they can develop scurvy. Signs include joint pain and bleeding. 

5. Lady pigs get cystic ovaries

If not neutered, female pigs will often develop cysts on one or both of their ovaries. The cysts may cause alopecia (baldness) and uterine problems. Treatment is surgical removal of the ovary and cyst.

6. Male pigs can get breast cancer

Mammary adenocarcinoma (breast cancer) occurs in both male and female guinea pigs, with males being affected more than females.

7. Pigs get bladder stones

Bladder stones are a common problem in older guinea pigs. Signs of stones include straining to wee and blood staining of the urine. Stones are diagnosed with X-ray or ultrasound and the treatment is surgical removal. 

8. Pigs go bald

Lots of pigs get bald spots (known as alopecia). These can be due to age, other pigs (biting or fur pulling), mites (mange) or hormones. Ringworm is also common.

9. Pigs don't go viral

Unlikely most other species, guinea pigs are hardly ever affected by viral infections.