Often described as furry potatoes, guinea pigs aren’t exactly known for their svelte physiques. But what happens when your cute and cuddly cavy starts looking more flab than fab?
3 Ways You Can Tell If Your Guinea Pig Is Overweight
It’s not always easy to tell if your already rotund piggy is packing on the pounds. After all, some breeds are just naturally bigger than others, while others, like the Peruvian guinea pig, has a mop of hair that can make it look fat.
The most accurate way of keeping an eye on your piggy’s weight is with a gram scale. On average, a healthy male cavy should weigh between 900 and 1,200 grams and a female anywhere between 700 and 900 grams. To make sure your piggy is maintaining a healthy body weight, we recommend weekly weigh-ins.
2. Guinea Pig-Size-O-Meter
If you don’t have a scale, you can gauge if your cavy is gaining, or losing weight with the Guinea Pig-Size-O-Meter. This infographic provides you with a quick visual reference you can use to find out if your pet is more spud than bud. Why not print a copy and keep it handy?
Observing your piggy is also an excellent way to check its weight. Walking differently, battling to walk and decreased activity levels are all tell-tale signs that your cavy may have a problem with its weight.
Holding and grooming your guinea pig isn’t just necessary for building a bond with your pet, it’s also a good way to check its weight, and address any problems. Guinea pigs on the brink of obesity usually have a bit of a potbelly, and when it’s standing, you aren’t able to see its feet.
If you’re still not sure, gently feel around your guinea pig’s body. If your piggy is getting porky, you won’t be able to feel its ribs, hips or spine.
When To Worry About Your Guinea Pig’s Weight
Sudden weight gain or weight loss is often a sign of an underlying health problem, such as pregnancy, a tumour or bloat. Take a look at our guide about acceptable weight gain, and when it’s time to worry.
- Increase in weight of around 25g – a small amount of weight gain is normal and nothing to be too concerned about.
- Increase in weight of 55g – although there is still no cause for serious alarm, this kind of weight gain suggests changes need to be made to your guinea pig’s diet sooner rather than later.
- Increase in weight of 85-100g – this kind of weight gain is cause for alarm, and you need to get your piggy to the vet as a matter of urgency.
Potential Health Problems in Overweight Guinea Pigs
In the same way that being obese affects humans, it can also have severe health implications for guinea pigs. These include:
- Heart problems
- Back pain
- High blood pressure
- Digestive problems
Other conditions also associated with obesity in guinea pigs include:
Pododermatitis, also known as bumblefoot, is a common problem for obese cavies. Excess weight puts pressure on the footpad, causing it to become inflamed. Not only is this condition extremely painful, but it can also be fatal if left untreated.
Urine scald is pretty much what it sounds like, and is usually caused when the skin and fur between your cavy’s back legs get damp from urine. Keep in mind; however, urine scald isn’t a disease, but rather a symptom. If left, it can lead to more severe problems, such as urinary tract infections and bladder stones.
Another unpleasant and potentially fatal disease for overweight guinea pigs is flystrike. While it can be caused by dirty hutches and soiled bedding, it’s also more common in obese piggies that are unable to groom themselves adequately. This condition is fatal and needs to be treated by a vet as a matter of urgency.
How To Prevent Obesity in Guinea Pigs
Guinea pigs, by their very nature, are active. They spend their days exploring and foraging, but as is the case with humans, and other animals, too much food and too little exercise can lead to weight problems.
Take a look at how you can keep your guinea pig slim and trim (or as slim and trim as a poofy potato can be).
Feed your guinea pig the right food
Not only should you be feeding your guinea pig a healthy diet with fresh fruit and vegetables daily, but you should also watch its food intake. Hay provides your pet with the fibre it needs to aid healthy digestion, and it contains all the essential nutrients cavies need.
Foods that you never give your guinea pig include:
- Dairy products
- Pickled food
- Dried beans
Spoil Your Guinea Pig With Healthy Treats
It’s a fact! Guinea pigs love treats but make sure the ones you give your cavy are healthy. Vegetables and fruit are always a good option, as are treats that encourage foraging and exercise. Our Christmas treats for guinea pigs provide healthy and oh-so-delicious treats.
Less Food, More ‘Joe Wheeks’
Your guinea pig’s food intake is only half the battle. To keep your pet from becoming overweight, it’s essential that you keep it active with loads of activities and supervised playtime. When setting up a hutch for your cavies, they must have plenty of space to explore, as well as a run where they can get much-needed exercise.
Create a Stimulating Environment for Your Guinea Pigs
A bored guinea pig is more often than not a chubby guinea pig. Make sure your pets have access to a variety of stimulating toys, including tunnels, balls and chewies. The company of other piggies is also essential to keep your pet active.
If your poofy potato is overweight or obese, you need to take action fast. Unfortunately, weight issues can have a serious impact on your guinea pig’s overall health and affect its everyday life. In the long run, however, obesity can lead to life-threatening conditions that can shorten your cavy’s lifespan. Monitor your pet’s weight, limit treats and keep it active.
Have you managed to shed your piggy’s excess weight? Tell us how, and feel free to share your ‘before’ and ‘after’ pics too.