Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Vegetable and Fruit List for Guinea Pigs

I have received a lot of feedback, especially recently, that one of the biggest challanges for a new guinea pig owner is figuring out what fruits and veggies to feed.  I've compiled a list of fresh foods that I have fed or plan to feed my guinea pigs.  Usually I alternate foods based on what is seasonal, what's on sale at the store, and what I already have in my fridge for our family.  This is not a complete list.  If you have specific foods in mind that you want to know are safe and do not see on here, feel free to ask on our facebook page, and then I can make edits to this list as necessary. 


 I feed leafy greens everyday, but because different greens have different nutritional content and some are very high in calcium or oxalic acid, I rotate between a few different kinds of leafy greens each week.  Fruits are high in sugar and sometimes acidity, so I tend to cut up these types of items very small for my guinea pigs to share- same with carrots.  It takes them more time to dig for the pieces and enjoy them.  Plus one guinea pig can't steal them all.  Plan to feed about 1 cup of veggies (and fruits) per guinea pig daily, either in a single feeding or portions throughout the day.

Here are the foods and how often I'd feed them:
  • Bell Peppers, rotate colors - Almost Daily (red & orange are high in sugar, feed small amounts)
  • Cilantro - Almost Daily
  • Romain lettuce - 3 or 4 times a week
  • Butterhead or Bibb Lettuce - 3 or 4 times a week
  • Red or Green Leaf Lettuce - 3 or 4 times a week
  • Endive - 3 or 4 times a week
  • Arugula - 3 or 4 times a week
  • Carrot - 4 or 5 times a week, 1 large carrot cut up feeds 2-3 guinea pigs (tops appreciated)
  • Zucchini - 4 or 5 times a week
  • Apple - 2 or 3 times a week
  • Chard, swiss or rainbow - 2 or 3 times a week
  • Parsley - 2 or 3 times a week (cilantro is better alternative(=)
  • Dandelion Greens - 3 or 4 times a week
  • Watercress - 2 or 3 times a week in small amounts
  • Yam - 2 or 3 times a week
  • Grapes, any color - 2 or 3 times a week, I only give a couple per guinea pig, halved
  • Pea Pods and Green Beans - 2 or 3 times a week
  • Kale, red or green - 2 or 3 times a week (smaller portions, mixed with other greens)
  • Celery - 1 or 2 times a week (prefer leaves, stalks need cut tiny to prevent choking on strings)
  • Collard Greens - 1 or 2 times a week
  • Cucumber - 2 or 3 times a week (mostly water content, zucchini is better alternative)
  • Tomatos - 1 or 2 times a week, cut small (acidity may cause mouth sores in high amounts)
  • Squashes, all kinds - 2 or 3 times a week
  • Corn on the Cob - 1 or 2 times a week, can feed silk and husk if not treated with pesticide
  • Pumpkin - 1 or 2 tims a week
  • Basil, Thyme, or Dill - 1 or 2 times a week
  • Beet Green Leaves - 1 or 2 times a week
  • Mustard greens - 1 or 2 times a week
  • Spinach - 1 or 2 times a week
  • Broccoli - 1 or 2 times a week (may cause gas)
  • Cabbage, any color - 1 or 2 times a week (may cause gas)
  • Brussel Sprouts - 1 or 2 times a week (may cause gas)
  • Banana - biweekly in small amounts
  • Oranges/tangerines - biweekly (acidity can cause mouth sores)
Aside from the above fresh foods, my guinea pigs always have Oxbow pellets, and timothy hay available.  I sometimes give them my homemade Cavy Crunches treats.  I also take them outside for grazing.  They rarely receive anything else.

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Joy of Dandelions

When I created this little funny below, it generated a lot of laughter just as it was meant to, however, dandelions themselves are no laughing matter.  When you read this information on what kind of power "weed" dandelions are, I think you'll see them in a completely different light!

To many, dandelions are an annoying weed, but to guinea pigs, they're wonderful!  Guinea pigs know what's good!  In fact, the entire plant is good eating - for people too.  A quick internet search can turn up all kinds of recipes for teas, wines, honey, jams, and salads.  Not only are the leaves great in salads for humans, but they're perfect for guinea pig salads too.  Guinea pigs also take pleasure in nibbling on the flowers.  The stems look like funny fake worms, which your guinea pigs will make disappear in the blink of an eye!  Even roots can be eaten by guinea pigs. Be sure the dandelions have not been sprayed with pesticides or contaminated with other chemicals.  I recommend washing them as a precaution if you've picked some for your guinea pigs.

Most studies done regarding the health benefits dandelions offer are done with humans in mind, however I have every reason to believe they may have a similar effect in guinea pigs.  Although I don't agree with it, the reality is that guinea pigs are used for testing of human products because their bodies react similarly to how ours might.  With that in mind, take a look at these health benefits dandelions offer:
  1. The leaves tend to be a little bitter, especially in the fall, but the bitterness symbolizes a digestive stimulant that will help control both diarrhea and constipation by regulating bowels.  It's a good source of fiber.  In addition to stimulating digestion, it can stimulate an appetite.
  2. Dandelions, particularly the leaves and roots, support liver function by acting as a tonic, cleansing the body system, possibly even preventing liver diseases, and dissolving kidney stones.  Dandelions are a diuretic, cleansing the kidneys and urinary system.  It is even believed the compounds in dandelions may inhibit the growth of bacteria in the urinary tract.  It contains potassium, aiding bladder health as well.
  3. Dandelions are also known to the be the green vegetable richest in the antioxidant beta-carotine translating to vitamin A, offering a boost in the immune system and vision.  
  4. This power plant also contains B6, building up the immune system, red blood cells, and promoting mental health while reducing stress.  
  5. Dandelions are a source of Vitamin E, promoting healthy skin and hair.
  6. That's not all.  Dandelions are a source of other things like niacin, riboflavin, choline, iron, vitamin K, thiamine, magnesium, and protein.  This plant has been used to help prevent or treat diseases like diabetes and cancer.
The only thing to keep in mind with dandelions after all the wonderful benefits I've presented here, is that dandelions are a bit high on the calcium to phosphorus ratio for a guinea pig's nutritional needs.  Dandelion greens come in at a ratio of 2:8:1, so it's best to feed often, but not daily.  Feeding dandelions up to 4 times a week will offer your guinea pig many health benefits.


Saturday, April 26, 2014

Chance Meets the Boys for Lunch

After 2 weeks of antibiotics and a clean bill of health, Chance got to meet the other boys for the first time today.  Since Chance is so much smaller, and he's been through a lot, I wanted to take the introduction especially slow to make sure he isn't stressed.  (You can read here about why guinea pigs are usually happier with companions and tips for introducing them.)

I decided to have the boys meet over a yummy veggie lunch in a neutral zone.  I got out the playpen, laid down an extra U-haul pad, added veggies, and then added guinea pigs.  I added Chance first, then Chunky, then Chewy, and Dan last.  I did it this way because Chance is very shy, and Chewy and Chunky are really laid back.  Dan is the one I'm most worried about since he wears the pants in the big cage.

I'm very happy with the progress made today!   Chewy and Chunky gave Chance a little "howya doing" sniff and went about their day.  Chunky even laid with Chance for awhile, which Chance appeared at ease with.  Dan was a bit of a stinker, as I anticipated.  He sniffed, rumbled, circled Chance, and mounted him.  Chance whined a little bit, but since he's a submissive little guy, he didn't really react.  Dan soon lost interested and everyone enjoyed veggies together.  Here are pictures:
Chance waits for his friends to join him.

Time to dig in!

A little bit unsure about this.

Chance wonders why I'm staring at them.

Everyone's grabbing some veggies.

Chance checks to see if I'm still watching.

Chance offers to help Dan out with all those veggies.

Chowing down.

Everybody loves veggies!

Yep Chance, I'm still watching.  It's like I'm embarrassing him with his friends.

First meeting is successful!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Chance's First Week

It's now been one week since the day Chance was brought home.  Click here to read how his story became with me.  A lot has changed in a week, and I'm documenting his first week's progress here.
 4/12 & 4/13 Chance started out very weak, I realize now.  He commonly laid on his side in my arms, his head tilted, and his nose a little crusty. His eyes were watery and often stared blankly, unblinking.  He would brighten up sometimes, but other times he would sit hunched in the corner of his cage breathing heavy with his fur fluffed up.  He has sores in his fur but none appear infected, most are almost fully healed.  When he becomes stressed or excited, he darts around in circles, losing balance and bumping into things.  He was diagnosed with an Upper Respiratory Infection that the vet believes has been there for awhile, and is causing all of these symptoms.  It appears like he's dizzy or suffering from vertigo.  Although he feels a little bony, his weight looked good at 1 lb 14 oz.  The vet prescribed him with Baytril to be taken daily.  Despite this URI, Chance maintained a good appetite from the moment he arrived to his new home. At moments he's very inquisitive and showing spunk.
4/14 Chance is adapting to being handled more often.  He's very cuddly, and his head tilt is not always noticeable.  He is taking his medicine very well each day.  I find myself double checking that it really went into his mouth because he takes it so well.  If you've ever smelled Baytril you know, it can't taste good.  He's becoming talkative and comes up to the front of the cage to greet me.  His sores appear to continue to be healing well.
4/16  Chance is so sweet!  He's taken 3 of 7 doses of his antibiotics.  He still sniffles and sneezes sometimes, but it is less often.   There isn't much new discharge on his nose.   Chance is starting to run from me when it's time to give him his medicine.  He's going to hide in his house.  I attempted to trim his overgrown nails, which scared him, so I'm holding off on that for now.  His appetite is great, and he's getting so excited for his daily veggies.  He's continuing to itch a lot, which I noticed from the time I brought him home, so I treated him with topical Ivermectin to ensure he does not have mites.  He still has the head tilt, head bobbing, and circling sometimes when he's scared, and moving him in and out of the cage triggers these moments.  This all may or may not resolve over time.  Since he can hold his head upright when he's calm, I'm hopeful he'll make a complete recovery.  He enjoys removing every piece of hay from his holder to decorate his cage with to graze on later.
4/18  Things are continuing to do really well, but we may need to extend his antibiotics.  He still has a bit of a runny nose and sneeze.  Progress has not slowed though, today he started squealing his little lungs out!  I pinned a towel as a tent in the corner of his cage, which he did not approve of - you know how guinea pigs hate cage changes!  I put pieces of carrot in the towel to encourage him to go in it, and after he found and ate one piece of carrot, he didn't want to go back in.   He looked back at me and let out the biggest belly squeals and started kicking around.  It was so cute!  We're creating a monster here!  He has continued to wheek for anything he thinks he wants.
4/19  Chance's medication has been extended for another 7 days due to some symptoms still showing.  Overall, he's continuing to make great progress!  Today I didn't see his nose run at all.  He also is reacting less when moved in and out of the cage, which makes me think he may be less dizzy.  He's also learned to lay his head down, cuddle, and remain calm when I first pick him up, and then he'll perk back up which I think is what's helping him adapt.  It was a nice warm day outside today, so he went out in the grass for the first time.  He enjoyed it very much.  He also enjoyed an "Easter basket" full of guinea pig candy - which is sliced carrot, strawberry, apple, blueberries, and orange bell pepper.  This isn't a healthy mix for everyday feeding, but we felt it was a good day for some spoiling.  :)  He still has some scabs in his fur, but those are also continuing to heal, and he doesn't appear to be itching much.  We're hopeful that he can be integrated in with the other boys after his health has been completely restored.

Make an Easter Egg Bucket Guinea Pig Shelter

Easter is here!

Many of you will likely have these little plastic Easter buckets used for egg hunting that will be sitting around unused with the passing of the holiday.  Guinea pigs love igloos, or "pigloos" so why not make something similar for them to have when you take them outside for fresh grass?  Having a shelter outside protects them from the sun and wind, and it also makes them feel safe if something frightens them.
This is such a simple little task - flip the bucket upside down and use scissors to cut an opening big enough for your guinea pig to go in.  You can do this to multiple buckets and they stack together making it easy to carry multiple houses outside.  I use the handle from the bottom bucket to carry them all easily.

My guinea pigs approve!

Don't have any left over buckets?  No problem!  The ones shown in my pictures were just under a dollar full price, and after Easter they should go on clearance.  I hope this helps you enjoy fun in the sun with your guinea pigs.  Read here and here for information on plant and outdoor safety.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Pig of the Wheeek - Meet Butters!

Meet Butters

Butters is one of 10 rescued guinea pigs that live with Carole Kusch-Melcher.   Although all of them are loved very much, Butters is that special pig.  Last June, another guinea pig named Eva passed away at the age of 6, and it was a hard loss for Carole, as well as Eva's companion Frannie.  Frannie became very depressed and Carole started to worry that she may lose her too.  She contacted a local rescue to adopt a buddy for Frannie, but while at the rescue, she met Butters.  The rescue was trying to pair Butters with another pig, so she wasn't available.   The new guinea pig that was adopted, Zoey, became good friends with Frannie.  Since Frannie was a senior guinea pig of 8 years old, one more guinea pig, Cinnamon, was adopted from the same rescue.  Butters still wasn't eligible for adoption.

Butters - who wouldn't love that face?

Caramel was a tough guinea pig to bond with because of her sad history.  She had been hit with a plastic bat by a child, and was a fear-biter.  After many treats and petting, she eventually allowed herself to be picked up and now is one of the best cuddlers.  She stands on her back legs and wheeks for attention when she sees her mom.  She's come to prefer her cage a certain way, and takes pride in rearranging her cage (with some puffing and chattering complaints) if it's not put together right after cleanings.

Butters and Caramel check noses.

Butters remained on Carole's mind, and finally she became available for adoption with her companion Sierra.  Both were happily adopted.  Butters immediately became a super snuggler who loves to give kisses.  Her mom Carole says, "She is so like my Eva that she really healed my heart.  I was devastated when I lost her.  Butters truly is my furry angel.  Frannie also passed on Monday night with the help of my wonderful vet.  She had cancer and it had moved to her lungs.  She lived to the ripe old age of 9."

Butters the cuddler.

We know how hard it is to lose a beloved pet, and what better way to heal than opening your heart to another in need.

Here is where Butters and her friends live. Great set up!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Meeting of Chance

Today, I did something I urge others to never do.  I have a softness for guinea pigs and did something I didn't do with the others.  Although I'm not proud of it, I will tell you the story and why it wasn't the best idea.

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: