I went to visit a friend today who is quite a long road trip away. She wanted to show me a small privately owned (non-chain) store near her that has some impressive saltwater setups, knowing that I am a fan of them. While we were in there walking around, I noticed a little guinea pig in a cage, as they had some other small animals. Normally I do not look twice at them, because I do not want to support the breeding and sales of small animals, while so many remain in need of adoption.
This time I looked, and there was a small guinea pig with a tilted head looking at me. It was very cute, admittedly I think all guinea pigs are, and I reached down and put my fingers through the bars. It sniffed and nibbled at my fingers, but I could see it was a little bobble headed and it's head remained tilted. I watched a little more and could tell something was clearly wrong with the guinea pig. It was marked a "young guinea pig" but it didn't very appear young, although quite small. I decided to walk away, and reminded myself why I don't look at them.
We were off to the next store to pick up a few things we needed, and the guinea pig remained on my mind, knowing I was far from home and checking back wouldn't be an option. I went back. I asked to see the guinea pig and it was roughly grabbed and placed in my hands. After looking him over I could see he was a boy with bright eyes, but also had sores in his fur, a tilted head, and a slightly messy nose. I asked if he had been with another guinea pig that had been fighting with him. I was told no, he came in with a pregnant female that was sold and he's been alone for some time and is probably about a year old. I pointed out the issues I noticed and was told he's fine and healthy, he's been there awhile so they're sure. I asked if they offer health guarantees, and that was a no. I again mentioned the head tilt and was told it's his "character" and he just wants that side of his head scratched. By this point I was irritated that someone would think I'm so foolish, and clearly he had no intention of acknowledging there was a problem. I put the guinea pig back and walked out of the store.
This is where I did something I never suggest anyone do.... I went back - again. This time I handed over $30 for a guinea pig I know has health issues and is in need of medical attention. I reinforced their poor animal care practices. I made their neglect of creatures profitable, and I feel terrible about it. He will, no doubt, be replaced by another guinea pig now in the store. Upon purchase, my new guinea pig was placed in a box crickets had been shipped in and some other animal, I'm guessing a ferret by the stools in the box, had also been in that box. I immediately removed him from it and left the box.
The guinea pig ran from that man and neurotically thrashed around in the cage when he tried to pick him up, but was unusually calm in my arms. As soon as a got him out of the store he was instantly at ease on my lap. He rode home on a blanket with me. As soon as I can get him into the vet this week, I will be getting him a much needed check up. I've been fortunate not to have to deal with too many guinea pig illnesses in my lifetime, but I wonder if he has injuries from being dropped at some point. My vet will be able to give me more information. Since his nose is a little messy, I also want to have him checked for a possible upper respiratory infection, although his eyes look great, so I'm hopeful there isn't an issue. I found a few scabs on him that are mostly healed, but there is one wound on his back that I think needs medical attention too, to ensure it doesn't become an infected abscess.
As with any new guinea pigs brought into a home with other guinea pigs, he is in a temporary quarantine cage far away from other guinea pigs and I wash my hands very well after handling him. Until he has a clean bill of health, there will be no attempts to have him meet the other boys.
So far we know he loves pellets, hay, and veggies. Yep, he's a guinea pig! He's been very excited about everything placed in his cage. He is only receiving a very small portion of vegetables at the moment while his stomach adjusts to the new diet. He has a very sweet and mellow disposition, some of which could be related to illness, but judging by his behavior in the store, he appears to feel safely at ease.
Meet the little fellow we call Chance: