Saturday, May 18, 2013

Ask a Guinea Pig: What Should I Know About Diabetic Guinea Pigs?

Rosangela Sarno writes: "My guinea pig is 6-7 months, but I think he's diabetic. He's too thin and drinks a lot of water. I was wondering if you could write a review of diabetic guinea pigs, that would be amazing. Specially if includes a food guidance."

According to the American Diabetes Association, "Diabetes mellitus (MEL-ih-tus), or simply, diabetes, is a group of diseases characterized by high blood glucose levels that result from defects in the body's ability to produce and/or use insulin." There are two main types of diabetes, as well as gestational diabetes that occurs during pregnancy. In type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce insulin. In type 2 diabetes, the body fails to use insulin properly. In gestational diabetes, hormones from the placenta that help the baby develop also block insulin in the mother's body. For guinea pigs, Type 2 diabetes is probably the most common.

Here are some things you should know about diabetes in guinea pigs:

  • The most common symptoms owners notice include: rapidly-forming cataracts, chronic wet bottom, and urinary tract infections. Other symptoms may include excessive thirst and urination, weight loss despite a normal appetite, bloody urine, and painful wheeking during urination.
    • If your guinea pig is displaying symptoms, go to a cavy savvy vet to discuss your concerns. Don't just assume it's diabetes- it could be a number of things, and only a vet will be able to tell you how to help your guinea pig for sure.
  • Remissions are common; about 1 out of 3 guinea pigs regain the ability to use insulin without medication.
  • Type 1 diabetes in guinea pigs must be treated with insulin injections.
  • Type 2 diabetes in guinea pigs can often be treated with oral medication. One medication that your vet may prescribe is called Glipizide (in the US; alternative names include Glyburide in Canada and Glibenclamide in the UK).
  • In terms of diet, you should make the following changes:
    • no treats with added sugar
    • Stick with green and yellow peppers, but avoid red peppers because they're higher in sugar.
    • Celery is fine for diabetic guinea pigs, but not everyday.
    • Lettuces are fine for everyday feeding.
    • Cherry tomatoes are low in sugar, and are fine to feed to your diabetic guinea pig.
    • In general, eliminate fruit from your guinea pig's diet unless your vet says it's okay to continue giving them small quantities. With your vet's permission, you may be able to feed small quantities of some fruits with lower sugar amounts, such as raspberries, strawberries and gooseberries.
    • no high fat foods like corn
    • increase hay consumption by reducing the amount of green vegetables fed

(Sources: Guinea Pigs With Diabetes, Hazel and Ginger - Diabetes TreatmentLy&Pigs - Re: Diabetic Guinea PigJanice Vannevel (Can Vet J Volume 39, August 1998) - "Diabetes mellitus in a 3-year-old, intact, female guinea pig")

If your piggy gets diabetes, they can still eat good stuff like red lettuce.


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