Guinea pigs make popular pets for kids. They’re cute, they are easy to care for, and they have a really friendly temperament. But did you know that your child’s pet guinea pig could be at risk from a condition called scurvy? Read on to find out more.
What is scurvy?
Like human beings, guinea pigs are unable to synthesise their own vitamin C, which is vital for their good health and growth. A lack of vitamin C causes problems with the body’s production of collagen and leads to problems with bone and tissue formation, skin health, and blood clotting issues. Your guinea pig may have scurvy if you notice any of the following symptoms:
- a lack of energy and weakness
- lameness and problems with walking
- swollen, painful joints
- small cuts and scratches failing to heal quickly and bleeding excessively
- spotty skin indicating bleeding beneath the surface
- scruffy, poorly-conditioned coat
- loss of appetite and consequent weight loss
- repeated bouts of diarrhoea
If left untreated, scurvy is usually fatal, so you should take your guinea pig to the vet clinic as a matter of urgency if any of these are presented.
Treatment and prevention
Most cases of scurvy in guinea pigs are caused by improper diet, although there are some diseases that can prevent the animal’s body from absorbing vitamin C properly. The vet will ask for a full history of your pet’s symptoms including details of the diet you have been using. A blood test may also be taken to measure the levels of vitamin C that are present.
Dietary issues that cause scurvy are easily preventable. Always feed your guinea pig a specially formulated diet that contains added vitamin C; your vet will recommend something suitable. In addition, offer your pet fresh fruit and vegetables, such as apples, bell peppers and lettuce, a couple of times a week. You could also include chewable vitamin C tablets in your guinea pig’s diet, and your vet will provide guidelines as to the correct dosage.
If possible, it’s a really good idea to put your guinea pig out on your lawn in an enclosed run so that he’s safe from predators. Fresh grasses are a great source of vitamin C, and your pet will also benefit from the fresh air and sunshine.
You can easily prevent your guinea pig from contracting scurvy by feeding him a varied diet that’s rich in vitamin C. For further information and guidance on the correct care and diet for your guinea pig, have a chat with a local vet (such as one from Belmont Avenue Veterinary Hospital).