Guinea pigs are not the most robust of animals. As such, they can succumb to an illness more quickly than many other species. Veterinary care should be sought more readily than it might be for cats, for example.
But vets see many more cats than guinea pigs. This is a combination of the practice of simply ‘discarding’ a guinea pig and getting a new one, and the fact that cats are simply a much more common pet. But whatever the underlying reasons, the net effect is for vets to tend to have much less experience treating cavies.
That puts the onus on the owner to make efforts to seek out a qualified vet even before obtaining a guinea pig. A small amount of time spent on the phone or in person interviewing potential vets will radically reduce any grief and expenditure later on.
It may be necessary to have more than one vet, one for the cats and dogs, another for the guinea pig. That’s a practice most people will engage in reluctantly. That’s understandable. A vet visit represents an investment of time and effort. Choosing a vet is often as much an emotional decision as a rational one that’s based on expertise.
It’s difficult enough to find one skilled vet whom we feel comfortable entrusting our furry loved ones to. Finding two, in separate offices that may be a distant drive, can be at least an inconvenience. But the well being of your guinea pig requires it.
Guinea pigs are sensitive to a number of medications that may be highly beneficial to other species, including humans. Penicillin-based antibiotics, for example (such as ampicillin or amoxicillin) can easily be fatal to a cavy. Enterotoxemia, a digestive system reaction to antibiotics, can lead to fatal diarrhea. That implies that finding a vet knowledgeable about guinea pigs in particular is essential to the health of your pet.
Beyond medical treatment for illness and injury, a guinea pig owner will look to his or her vet for advice on diet, grooming, housing and other issues. It’s important to be able to trust the advice of the professional you pay to give it.
Even well-meaning vets, which are the overwhelming majority of course, can make statements that sound very authoritative, but are still mistaken. There’s no substitute for real knowledge, and in the more detailed or advanced areas, experience is the best teacher. They’re expected to be current, aware of the latest findings in disease research and pharmacology, when it comes to other animals they treat. No lesser standard should be applied when it comes to a guinea pig.
For example, one vet may recommend pine or cedar wood shavings as bedding. Many guinea pig owners might well do the same. But there’s some evidence to suggest that phenols given off by pine or cedar wood shavings are harmful to the respiratory tract of guinea pigs. The ability to weigh the evidence objectively for or against that view is important in a professional.
Take the time to seek out good veterinary care for your cavy. Both you and your guinea pig will benefit.