This law is called the Animal Welfare Act. The Animal Welfare Act outlines how people must take care of and act towards animals in New Zealand. The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), the Police and SPCA work together to make sure people in New Zealand follow these laws.
Under the Animal Welfare Act, all animal guardians (owners) are responsible for making sure the welfare needs of animals in their care are met. Learning about the Five Domains helps us to understand these welfare needs and how we can make sure we provide these. One of the Five Domains is Health. In this section you will learn about this domain and how you can make sure your guinea pigs have the right veterinary care to be healthy.
Just like you have a family doctor that you see when you are unwell, your guinea pig needs their own doctor too - a veterinarian is an animal doctor.
It’s a good idea for your family to find out which veterinarian they plan on using before you get your guinea pigs. Ask your friends that are guinea pig owners which veterinarians they recommend. If possible, visit the clinic beforehand and look around. Ask yourself: Is the waiting area clean? Are the staff helpful? Find out the opening hours and if they handle emergencies after hours as well.
Once you get new guinea pigs, your family should register them with your chosen local veterinary clinic straight away. Make an appointment as soon as you can for a check-up. Your vet can then create a care programme for your guinea pigs. It is helpful to write a list of the questions you want to ask so everything can be covered.
It is really important to establish a gentle, positive relationship with your guinea pigs. This is rewarding for you both, but also makes health checks and grooming much safer.
To avoid accidents and injury when handling your guinea pigs:
Use both hands - place one hand under your guinea pig’s chest so their front legs are either side of your fingers and use your other hand to support their back and rear. Once picked up, you should hold them close into your body and support them from underneath.
Once they get to know you they’ll enjoy spending time with you, but remember - not all guinea pigs like being picked up and held. If your guinea pigs are frightened or are not relaxed and happy, interactions are better and safer at ground level.
Guinea pigs feel pain in the same way as other animals, including people, but they are not very good at showing outward signs of pain and may be suffering a great deal before you notice anything is wrong.
A change in the way your guinea pig normally behaves can be an early sign he or she is ill or in pain. If your guinea pig is not eating or is more quiet than usual, it is highly likely to be ill, or in pain. If so, you should talk to your veterinarian immediately.
Regular health check-ups with a vet is the best way of detecting any problems with your guinea pig early. Remember that if any of your guinea pigs show any signs of injury or ill health, you must take them to their veterinarian immediately. If it is late at night or on the weekend and your veterinary clinic is closed, there are great after-hours clinics available hours veterinary clinic is.
Daily brushing with a soft baby brush or a metal greyhound comb will help remove some of the loose hair and lessen shedding.
Daily brushing is especially important for long haired guinea pigs.
Less brushing is necessary for the short haired varieties.
The most common guinea pig parasites are: fleas, lice, mites and ringworm.
Just like a cat or a dog, guinea pigs may act itchy when they have fleas. Check for fleas at home by looking for flea dirt in your guinea pig’s fur. You will see small black specs near the hair base, looking a bit like coffee or dirt. If you comb some out onto a white sheet of paper and sprinkle water over the flea dirt you will notice that it dissolves to a reddish-brown colour - the colour of dried blood.
A flea infestation is uncomfortable and distressing for a guinea pig. They can develop a painful skin rash and significant blood loss.
To prevent or treat your guinea pigs for fleas, make sure to talk to your veterinarian about guinea pig safe flea treatments. They will be able to recommend the appropriate flea treatment and show an adult in your family how to apply it.
Guinea pigs with lice, mites or ringworm will act very similar or show similar skin wounds to ones with flea infestation. Scratching to relieve the itch will often cause even worse skin problems, so it’s important to take your guinea pigs to their veterinarian. Just like fleas, they can be treated with appropriate parasite control before they become seriously ill.
Ask your parent or caregiver to help you handle your guinea pigs for signs of illness or injury every day.
Make sure this is done by someone else if you are away.
Consult your vet immediately if you suspect your guinea pig is in pain, ill or injured.
SEE YOUR VET IF YOU SEE:
People often think a trip to the vet as something only needed when one of their guinea pigs become unwell. However, it is also important to remember that annual health checks are important for your guinea pigs wellbeing. These annual checks are a great way to detect any small problems before they become more serious.
During this 15 - 20 minute appointment, your veterinarian will carefully examine each guinea pig’s entire body from the tips of their ears, to beneath their tail! Your veterinarian will also discuss any concerns you have regarding your guinea pig’s health, diet and behaviour.
All guinea pigs adopted from SPCA will already have been spayed or neutered. There are already more guinea pigs than there are good homes for them, so please don't let your guinea pigs have babies.
If your family or friends have guinea pigs that are not spayed or neutered, encourage them to speak with their veterinarian about having their guinea pigs spayed or neutered. Explain that before they know it, they could have baby guinea pigs that they’ll need to find homes for, and finding a loving, responsible home for each guinea pig isn’t always that easy! What’s more, if those babies don’t get spayed or neutered, they will have babies too – meaning more loving, responsible, forever homes will be needed to be found.
If any of your guinea pigs ever shows any signs of injury or ill health, an adult must take them to their veterinarian immediately. If it is late at night or on the weekend and your vet is closed, there are great after hour clinics available for emergencies.
If you find a guinea pig that doesn’t belong to you or that shows signs of sickness or injury, get an adult to contact your local SPCA immediately.
Remember to always find an adult before you approach any guinea pig that appears sick or injured – even your own guinea pig. Guinea pigs may respond differently because they are in pain.
At SPCA, we recommend your family take out pet insurance to save thousands of dollars should something happen to your guinea pig.
While most guinea pig owners will have worked out vet costs, it is the out-of-the-ordinary expenses that can catch you out. For example, you could spend thousands of dollars on treatment for a road accident or animal attack. Taking out pet insurance helps you budget for the unexpected.
A guinea pig's digestive system has a super awesome way of making its own guinea pig vitamin pills! These are called caecotrophes.
Sometimes you will see your guinea pig 'cleaning' themselves and then they look up and they're munching on something - they have eaten a caecotrophe straight from their bum! This special type of poo is made from the nutritious bits of food that have been sent to the guinea pig’s appendix, where it is made into a nutritious snack for the guinea pig!
It's really important for guinea pigs to eat these caecotrophes as they contain vital nutrients, so don't discourage them.