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Many owners are unsure of what type of bedding is best for their guinea pigs. This blog doesn't tell you which is the best bedding, it gives an overview of the main options for bedding. There are several options of bedding/cage lining material for guinea pigs. Each has their own pros and cons and it is important to make a choice that works for both you and your guinea pigs. Each owner will have different priorities when it comes to selecting a bedding/cage lining material.

Aspects of bedding material to consider:

Comfort- a good bedding material will be soft on guinea pigs' feet. Abrasive substrates can contribute to pododermatitis (foot lesions).

Absorbency - ideal substrates will be highly absorbent so your guinea pig does not get wet feet or undercarriage (they are potatoes on legs after all). The best materials for cage lining will also wick the moisture away so the layer in contact with your guinea pig remains dry.


Nontoxic - the material needs to have no adverse effects when in contact with guinea pigs. It must also be non-appetising so your guinea pig is not prone to eat it.


Dust Free - to reduce respiratory symptoms and allergies.


Neutralise Odour- this is for everyone's benefit, including your guinea pig. No one likes a lingering aroma!

Insulation - ideal bedding will provide some insulation to keep your guinea pig warm in the winter and cool in the summer.


Cost - understanding your budget when selecting the material. Some options may seem expensive at first, but in the long term they can work out to be more cost-effective.


Eco friendly- environmental impact varies between the options.

The main bedding substrate options for guinea pigs include fleece cage liners, cloth, paper and wood shavings.

Fleece cage liners:

These are fast becoming a very popular option especially for indoor housed guinea pigs. Not all fleece liners are the same. Some will contain fleece on both sides, some have a water repellent base layer, and others will have a central absorbent layer.


Personally, I feel that a good cage liner should have 3 layers. The top layer being soft and allowing urine to pass through it. A middle highly absorbent layer that is good at wicking moisture away from the top layer. Finally, a base layer, this could either be fleece again or a water repellent material.


Fleece liners are the most expensive option in terms of initial cost but are very cost effective in the long-range as they can be washed and used repeatedly.

Pros- soft, dust free, absorbent, eco friendly and cost effective in the long run

Cons- expensive initially, require frequent washing, rare for guinea pigs to chew it

Cloth:

Essentially the cheaper version of the fleece liner. Towels or bed linen can be repurposed to use for guinea pigs. Ideally natural materials like cotton should be used, they tend to be more absorbent than synthetic materials. Cloth materials are not as good as fleece liners at wicking moisture away so will need changing more frequently.


Pros- soft, dust free, cheap, non-toxic

Cons- not good at wicking moisture, can get smelly quickly, need more frequent washing

Paper:

There are several different options when it comes to using paper. I would generally advise against newspaper. The type of ink used for print can vary and newspaper breaks apart when wet. Commercial paper bedding can be found as pellets, confetti or shavings. I would look for options that have no additives and have the least amount of dust. Good paper bedding brands are highly absorbent, can reduce odour and are soft on the feet.


Pros - soft, absorbent, recycled varieties eco friendly

Cons - can contain some dust still, needs changing regularly and therefore can be higher cost over time, some guinea pigs may attempt to eat it

Wood shavings:

If going for the wood option, it is important to have shavings and not sawdust due to the dust levels. It is important to understand what the shavings are made from. Safe woods for guinea pigs can include Aspen, Ash, Kiln Dried Pine.

Pros - initially quite cheap, easily available

cons - can be abrasive on the feet, can be dusty, not as absorbent as other options so can be more expensive in the long run Remember that your choice for bedding/cage lining substrate should be what is best for you and your guinea pigs.


Guinea pigs can suffer from a number of skin parasites or infections. These can cause hair-loss and itchiness (pruritus) and require treatment. It is important to diagnose which parasite or infection is causing your guinea pig's skin lesions in order to treat them appropriately. In this blog I will run through the most common skin lesions in guinea pigs. Ringworm: Ringworm is not a worm but caused by a fungal infection, usually with a fungus called tricophyton mentagrophytes. Young animals are affected more often than older animals. Lesions are usually found around the head area and typical show hair loss, with crusting and scabbing. You will find that the hair falls out very easily at the edges of the lesions. If it is a mild case, it is usually not itchy. If the case is more severe, it can spread to other areas of the body and become itchy. This can result in the lesions becoming infected. The condition is zoonotic, meaning that lesions can spread to humans from the guinea pig. To prevent the transfer to owners, it is important to wash your hands after handling or treating you guinea pigs. If you notice similar lesions on your skin, please consult a pharmacist or doctor.




Ringworm in guinea pigs can be diagnosed by appropriate clinical signs and/or a fungal culture. All guinea pigs living together should be treated if one of their cage-mates has lesions. There are several different types of treatment available including washes, ointments and oral preparations. Treatment should continue for several days beyond the lesions resolving.

Lice: Lice are a type of insect living in the coat and skin surface of affected guinea pigs. The most common louse found on guinea pigs is called gliricola porcelli, another louse called gyropus ovalis can be found in some cases. Both of these lice are termed biting lice (which means they feed on surface skin cells), sucking lice are uncommon in guinea pigs (these feed by sucking blood).

Lice are very itchy, skin lesions occur as a result of this itching and include: hair loss, scabs and thickened skin. You will be able to see the lice in the coat of the guinea pig, usually around the rump or the back of the neck. They are about 1mm long and cream coloured. Diagnosis is by seeing the lice and/or performing a tape strip exam under a microscope. Lice pass from guinea pig to guinea pig easily, if they are in close contact; but do not pass to humans. Treatment is usually with topical insecticides and anti-inflammatories to control the itch and discomfort.

Mites: There are a number of mites affecting guinea pigs, the most common are trixacarus caviae (sarcoptic mange) and Chirodiscoides caviae. Trixacarus caviae is a mite that burrows into the skin, because of this they cause extreme itchiness and pain. The itch can be so severe that the guinea pig may start seizuring. Guinea pigs with this mite will commonly show hair loss n and the skin may become thick, yellow and crusty. Secondary bacterial infections often occur due to breaks in the skin from itching. The guinea pig may show generalised signs of illness due to the pain including lethargy, inappetance and weight loss. Treatment is usually with injectable antiparastic agents alongside pain relief. In addition, bedding will need to be thoroughly cleaned. Although not common, this mite can be transmitted to humans. Wear gloves when handling affected guinea pigs. If you notice lesions on your skin, please consult a pharmacist or doctor. Chirosdiscoides caviae are a non-burrowing mite and therefore produce very mild signs, and sometimes may not be associated with clinical signs at all. Unless they are causing clinical sign, these can remain untreated. If treatment is required, topical or injectable antiparastic agents can be used. Often, owners are concerned about white flecks in their guinea pig's coat. These flecks could be related to dry skin or they could be chirosdiscoides caviae. Neither are a significant cause for concern unless the guinea pig is itchy.


Owners often ask me about pain relief (analgesia) for guinea pigs. Sometimes pain in guinea pigs can be hard to assess and there is no universal pain scale in use for guinea pigs. Dogs, cats and rabbits have a universal pain scale that allow the veterinary profession to objectively assess the animal’s level of pain based on set criteria with a scoring system (i.e. 1-10, 1-5). This type of scale does not exist for guinea pigs as this is an area of research that needs to be developed.


Because guinea pigs are prey animals, they typically hide signs of pain. An observant owner, with a well-trained eye, can look out for changes in their guinea pigs, as well as the following signs:

· decreased mobility

· decreased appetite

· weight loss

· a hunched-up appearance

· teeth grinding (different from chewing)

· a fluffed-up hair coat

· vocalising (squealing, squeaking)


If you notice these signs, it is important to take your guinea pig to see a vet so they are not in pain. There are several pain relief options for guinea pigs and many of these are affordable. There is now a licensed anti-inflammatory, pain relief medication available for use in guinea pigs. This medication is effective and a good place to start for pain relief when treating guinea pigs who are in pain.


How a vet prescribes pain medication works under what is termed a prescribing cascade. This means that a vet starts with prescribing a drug that is licensed for that use, in that species first. Under the prescribing cascade, if such a drug is not available (or there are reasons for not using it) a vet can prescribe:

- either a medication licensed for that use in another species, or a medication licensed for a different use in the same species

- medicine licensed in the UK for human use

- medicine licensed in another country


It is important to understand that in order to obtain a licence, a drugs company has to satisfy several criteria to show that the medicine is safe and effective for use in that species, at a certain dose. The licensing process can be quite costly and this is potentially why there are very few medicines licensed for guinea pigs. Therefore, most medications for guinea pigs are prescribed under the cascade.


There are many safe options for pain relief in guinea pigs. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories are thought to be more effective at higher doses and appear not to have the same possible side effects in guinea pigs, as they do in other species. These are the mainstay of analgesia in guinea pigs. There are several other pain relief medicines available to guinea pigs, including gabapentin, amantadine and tramadol. These can all be given in oral, liquid preparations. In addition, injectable opioids are effective and local nerve blocks can be used in some cases.


After taking your guinea pig to the vet, it is very important to monitor your guinea pig/s closely for continued or new signs of pain during their course of medication. If you feel your guinea pig is still in pain, please speak to your vet about adjusting the dosage or medication. Each patient/case may have a different response to the prescribed medicine and dosage.

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Derwent Valley Vets

Boat House Inn,

110 Dale Road,

Matlock,

Derbyshire

DE4 3PP

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The Guinea Pig Vet's Consulting Times work on a two week rotation.

Rota A: 

     Tuesday:         10.00am - 9.00pm 

     Wednesday:    8.00am  -  2.00pm

     Friday:            10.00am -  7.00pm

     Saturday:        8.00am  -  4.00pm

Rota B:

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     Thursday:        8.00am -  2.00pm

     Friday:             8.00am -  2.00pm

 

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Derwent Valley Vets are available to see guinea pigs during times outside of the specified hours listed for The Guinea Pig Vet.


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*(In some cases The Guinea Pig Vet may be available outside of normal consulting hours)

Out of hours emergency provision is provided by:

Vets Now at any of their surrounding clinics. In order to contact out of hours provision,
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