Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Product Review: Kaytee layer cakes

Today we're reviewing Kaytee layer cakes, which we received through Piggies Paradise. These are chew toys that are supposed to "provide a hard source for gnawing and trimming teeth." You may be wondering if Buffy can fairly review a product like this when she's feeling sick, but don't worry. The medicine is helping her feel a bit more like her old self, and I saw her chewing on the log chew toy recently. If these chew toys are any good, she'll probably want to chew on them, too.

Wood chew toys are generally safe as long as they aren't shiny or smooth, which indicates they're coated in a sealant.

Doesn't look like sealants were used.

We're not interested. Got any food for us?
These chew toys just don't interest us. They do look nice, though, so we're thinking we'll leave them in the cage as holiday decorations. We give Kaytee layer cakes 2 out 5 stars!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

How Do You Know When It's Time To Euthanize A Guinea Pig?

The humans have had to make a lot of hard decisions lately surrounding Buffy's health. A few weeks ago, they brought her in to the vet after she had been exhibiting lethargy and had been losing weight. An X-Ray revealed a uterine tumor that the vet diagnosed as cancer. They sent her home with some medicine, and told them to bring her back in in a few weeks. She had started to gain weight on the medicine at first, but after the course of treatment ended, her symptoms reappeared.

When the humans brought her back in, the vet explained that she wasn't a good candidate for surgery and gave them two options: to euthanize her, or to send her home with some painkillers and other meds to make her more comfortable.

The sad truth is, every guinea pig owner will have to face this question at one point or another; it's part of owning any pet (except for maybe a bird, some of which can outlive their human owners). The humans decided not to euthanize her just yet, and brought her back home, where I have been sleeping next to her and watching over her every day.

I've been sleeping next to Buffy, guarding her pigloo while she rests.
I will chitter at anyone who gets too close to her.
Buffy is in what can be considered a guinea pig hospice at this point, and the humans have been providing her with palliative care. She has regained a bit of weight now that she's back on the meds, but still has to have Critical Care a few times per day. She isn't in any obvious pain, and still enjoys coming out of her pigloo for treats and to hang out with me.

So how do you know what the right decision is under these difficult circumstances? The right decision in a situation where all of the options are bad is the decision you can live with. The humans didn't feel that putting Buffy down at that point was the right call because even though her condition is terminal, she isn't in pain, and with the meds, she can still enjoy nibbling on a blueberry, following me around, and chin scratches.

With Lola, the humans knew it was the right time because she was unable to eat on her own or with assisted feedings, and was in obvious pain on her last day. In that circumstances, it was the humane thing to do. But with Buffy, she isn't quite at that point yet, and the humans are committed to ensuring that her remaining time is as comfortable and happy as can be.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Guinea Pig Attractions Around the World: Cavy Village in the Netherlands

We recently mentioned some guinea pig-related attractions for your humans when they decide to go on vacation. Here's another guinea pig attraction we wanted to bring to your attention: the Cavy Village in Bakkeveen, The Netherlands. The Cavy Village provides a shelter for guinea pigs whose owners can't care for them anymore. In addition, according to their website, "the village has an entertaining and educative function. Thanks to the presence of the many guinea pigs, the chicken and the geese, the cavy-village is well worth a visit."

Watch this video about the village from Vice (make sure you turn on closed-captions if you don't speak Dutch):



Good job, Netherlands! We think every country should have a Cavy Village.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Guinea Pig Attractions Around the World: Nagasaki Bridge and Bogota Races

Many humans like to travel the world on vacations. It's just something they do, and no amount of wheeking can stop them. It's generally best to just let them go do their travel since there are lots of issues with flying if you're a guinea pig. (Just make sure they make proper arrangements for your care while they're out of town!)

If your human has decided they need a vacation but don't know where to go, here are a couple guinea pig themed attractions you can suggest to them to make sure they're thinking of you while they're gone:

Nagasaki Bio Park

If your humans decide to visit Japan, you have to tell them about this place at Nagasaki's Zoo and Botanical Garden. As described by their website, "You can see the adorable going home rush of guinea pigs on the bridge." This attraction is so cool that Parry Gripp made a song about it:



Bogota Guinea Pig Races

As described in the book Forty Five Ways to Feel Alive: "A super cute form of gambling has hit the streets of Colombia, it is called Guinea Pig racing. A number of small colored plastic huts are lined up at one end of the street and spectators place bets on which ones the guinea pigs will run into."

Here's a video of one of these races:

While this is cute, we'd like to know more about how the guinea pigs are treated before fully recommending this one. (If anyone has more information on these races, please let us know in the comments section.)

Monday, December 7, 2015

Buffy Status Update

While we would have liked to have provided you with another food review, product review, etc. by now, it's hard to think about those kinds of things when Buffy is sick like this. So for now, we're just going to give you a status update on Buffy.

The original discharge instructions said that we should have our humans contact the vet if Buffy doesn't improve in 3-5 days. Fortunately, she seems to be getting better. The humans have been diligently feeding Buffy her Critical Care and medicines, and for the past few days, her weight has been going up:
  • 12/2/15 = 727
  • 12/3/15 = 731
  • 12/4/15 = 747
  • 12/5/15 = 755
Hopefully, her increasing weight means that we can shift our attention from the partial GI stasis to the uterine mass. The next steps are for the humans to call the vet with a status update, and to schedule a recheck examination soon to "reevaluate the suspected reproductive tract mass/pathology." 
Glad to see you're not too sick for floor time with me, Buffy!
Let's hope the good news keeps coming so we can get back to reviewing products that you might be considering getting your guinea pig for the holidays!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Older Guinea Pigs and Reproductive Issues

Hi readers, Broccoli here. Buffy is now 5.5 years old, which is grandma pig age in guinea pig years. The humans noticed she has been losing weight and has been pretty lethargic lately, and while she has been eating, she's been eating more slowly than she usually does.

The humans took her into the vet yesterday, and they were concerned because her GI tract was almost in compete stasis. This means that food wasn't moving through her body like it is supposed to. To figure out what was wrong, the vet sedated and took an x-ray to see what was going on. They confirmed that her belly was pretty empty and gassy, and that there was a mass around her uterus. Not great news at all. This could be anything from a tumor to ovarian cysts, but they weren't 100% sure based on the x-ray. They also did a blood test, which came back normal, except for low electrolyte levels (which is not especially worrisome given her other symptoms).

The treatment is to provide hormones that shrink the mass and restore her natural hormone levels, so they injected her with a tiny device called Suprelorin that slowly releases hormones into her body (now she's a cyborg pig!).

They also prescribed her drugs to reduce pain (MeloxicamTramadol), reduce gas (Simethicone), encourage GI movement (Cisapride), Critical Care, plus an antibiotic (Enrofloxacin). That's a lot of meds, but strangely enough, Buffy has enjoyed taking them and is very obedient during assist feeding time.
Lola made much more fuss when the humans were feeding her Critical Care.
The humans also bought lots of green pepper and Belgian endive to hand feed Buffy, since the goal over the next few weeks is to get her to gain weight and fight the GI stasis. Hopefully, once she regains her appetite and weight, the device will have also shrunk her mass.

Hang in there, Buffy! We're all rooting for you.

Product Review: Higgins Sunburst Forage Pies with Carrots and Alfalfa Hay

Today, we're reviewing the the second item from our November Piggies Paradise boxHiggins Sunburst Forage Pies with Carrots and Alfalfa Hay. As we mentioned before, Piggies Paradise is no longer in business, so we're going to take our time and review each product individually until we've run out of complimentary products to review.

Pies? I hear humans say good things about pies. Can we eat these things, or is this going to be just like the pizza treats all over again?
At this point, we're learned to be naturally suspicious of any treats that aren't from Oxbow, so we wanted to take a look at the ingredients before getting our hopes up:

Well, at least it's a much shorter list to look into than some other treats we've reviewed.
There are only 5 ingredients on the back. Unfortunately, some of them are concerning:

  • Corn, Corn starch - The diet expert at guineapigcages.com and Guinea Lynx states that: "Corn products (including corn bran, corn germ, corn gluten, ground corn, etc. There is no legal definition of 'corn' alone in animal feed, so it may be any combination of products. Corn is not a normal feed for cavies, may contribute to allergies, and can be high in fat and certain sugars/starch depending on the product. Additionally, some corn is contaminated with deadly aflatoxin which can cause liver failure and death.)"
  • Alfalfa - As we said in our Ask A Guinea Pig Post on the best hay: "Alfalfa hay is a legume hay, not a grass hay. Only give alfalfa hay to pregnant, nursing, or young guinea pigs under 6 months old. Alfalfa hay is too rich for adult guinea pigs because it contains high levels of calcium, and in excess can lead to health problems, such as bladder or kidney stones. Even if you have a young, pregnant or nursing guinea pig, certain piggies who are prone to stones or other medical conditions should not be given alfalfa hay."

We feel the same way about these treats as we did with the Power Snap treats: we've seen more egregious ingredient lists on treats before, so we're not going to give it the absolute lowest rating, but the ingredients are still not good. We might have even given these treats a higher rating if they acknowledged that only certain piggies (pregnant, nursing, young) should be eating alfalfa, but they don't say that. It just says "For guinea pigs." For all these reasons, we're giving Higgins Sunburst Forage Pies with Carrots and Alfalfa Hay 1.5/5 stars.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Product Review: Oxbow Simple Rewards Bakes Treats with Cranberry

We've had our eye on the new flavors of Oxbow Simple Rewards for a while now. We've already tried bell pepper, apple and banana, and carrot and dill. Now, thanks to the November Piggies Paradise box, we're able to try the cranberry kind just in time for Thanksgiving.

Speaking of Piggies Paradise, we have some sad news to share. We recently learned that they went out of business, so there weren't be any more monthly boxes to review. This is unfortunate; we thought the idea had potential, but it apparently just didn't catch on fast enough. Then again, we don't really understand human money and businesses; we just like the idea of treats and toys to review every month!

Since ordering the monthly subscription is not an option, we're just going to take our time with the products in this last box and review each individually.

We're thankful for the opportunity to try these, Piggies Paradise!
Now, let's dig in and review them!

Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!

Buffy is trying to be sneaking and eat hers without being seen. I still see you, Buffy. You're not very good at hiding.
As we've often said, keep in mind that treats like this are only supposed to be a small part of our diet, even if we beg for the entire bag. As long as you keep this in mind, these treats are great. Oxbow does it again--5/5 stars!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Product Review: National Geographic Power Snaps

We recently reviewed our first Piggies Paradise subscription box, but held off on reviewing one of the products inside of it until later: National Geographic Power Snaps. This was because this product had a long list of ingredients, so we knew it would take a little time to review, and we didn't want to hold up our Piggies Paradise review just for one product. Now, we're going to take a more in-depth look at Power Snaps.

Okay, let's see what's in these things.
There are a few ingredients in these treats we think are worth discussing:
  • Sugar, corn syrup - As we originally mentioned in the Piggies Paradise review, these treats contain added sugar and corn syrup, and guinea pigs shouldn't be eating too much sugar.
  • Dried plain beet pulp - According to the GuineaLynx, forum, this ingredient is "Considered low-quality fiber that can clog the villi of the intestine. Common in all animal feed since it is a byproduct of many human products."
  • Flaked corn, Ground Corn - GuineaLynx forum says: "There is no legal definition of 'corn' alone in animal feed, so it may be any combination of products. Corn is not a normal feed for cavies, may contribute to allergies, and can be high in fat and certain sugars/starch depending on the product."
  • Calcium carbonate - This is an ingredient we have a tough time deciding if it's okay or not. On the one hand, Oxbow uses it in some of their products, and Oxbow uses an advisory board of veterinarians and scientists to develop their products. On the other hand, some people on guineapigcages.com have expressed concern about Oxbow's use of calcium carbonate in their pellets, and thus have switched to KMS Hayloft pellets
  • Dehydrated alfalfa meal - Alfalfa should generally be restricted to young (under 1 year) and pregnant or lactating guinea pigs due to high levels of calcium.
  • Vegetable oil, ground flax seed - GuineaLynx forum says that nuts, seeds and oils are "too high in fat and protein, not a natural food source, often present in animal feeds in seed byproducts that have little to no nutrient value." 
For what it's worth, most of these ingredients that we found issues with weren't at the top of the list of ingredients, so there is probably not too much of them in each treat.

Unfortunately, we're not going to be able to do a taste test of these treats. We probably could have eaten a few and been fine. However, we decided we're better off not putting this stuff in our bodies when there are so many better treats out there. 

We're going to give National Geographic Power Snaps 1.5/5 stars; there are worse treats out there, but you can definitely do much better than these treats.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Product Review: KMS Hayloft Timothy Choice Guinea Pig Feed

Back when Lola was diagnosed with bladder stones/sludge, we started looking into what we could do to prevent her stones from getting any bigger. In our research, we saw that some people claimed that KMS Hayloft is even better than Oxbow when it comes to pellets that won't contribute to bladder stones. This also how KMS Hayloft markets their pellets; they claim: "The calcium/phosphorus levels are right in line with the current literature in keeping with urinary tract health." Therefore, we had our humans order the  KMS Hayloft pellets at the same time as they ordered the bluegrass hay.

The first thing we noticed was that there was some packaging issues. The pellets were in a plastic bag that tore inside the cardboard box from being pressed against the bluegrass hay.

Where did all the pellets go?
The humans had to dig around the side of the box in order to get the pellets for us. We didn't care too much, although our humans looked mildly frustrated by this.

Every morning, the humans would give us 1/4 cup (1/8 of a cup for each of us) in our bowl.

It's good stuff!
KMS Hayloft Guinea Pig Feed pellets tasted just as good as good as the Oxbow pellets in terms of taste. Both are a great way to start your day. We're not sure if these pellets made any difference in Lola's condition before she passed, but at least she enjoyed eating them with us. These pellets are a great choice for any piggy concerned about stones/sludge, although it would be nice if the packaging was a little less flimsy. 4.5/5 stars!

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Product Review: Piggies Paradise Guinea Pig Subscription Box

Subscription boxes like Birchbox have really taken off. You can find a lot more than makeup and beauty products in them now. For example, there's one called Sock Panda where you can get socks mailed to you every month. There's also one called Bark Box that's full of treats and gifts for dogs. Now, there's even one for us called Piggies Paradise!

We heard of Piggies Paradise recently when the creator offered to let us try it out and review it. (We feel we should mention this in the interest of full disclosure, even though as long-time readers know, we've taken freebies and still given 1-star reviews before.)

Let's see what we got in here...
There were four different products inside the box. Buffy and I then debated what the best way to review this is since we usually just review one product at a time. We decided that we'll briefly review each item here (leaving open the possibility of a more in-depth review in a later post if we have more to say on them), and then finally give an overall review to Piggies Paradise.

Oxbow Vitamin C Supplement Tablets

Wow, these things smelled good! We knew we wanted them even before the humans took them out of the package.
Open it! Open it! Open it!
Once the humans opened it up and gave us each one, it turned out they tasted as good as they smelled. We think these things will be a great substitute for liquid vitamin C that needs to be fed through a syringe for when we have a pet-sitter. 5/5 stars!

All Living Things Bumble Bee Halloween Costume

I volunteered Buffy to try this one on:
You look great!
This bee look a bit annoyed with her costume on; it's a good thing that stinger wasn't real! Even though Buffy isn't crazy about wearing costumes, she looks so good that you've got to give this costume 5 stars!

National Geographic Small Animal Wood Wreath

We reviewed a somewhat similar product to this one in the past: the Busy Bunny's Chew Ring. There are some significant differences between that product and this one, however. This one has a wooden hook so it can hang down. This one has a thing ring of tiny logs, rather than a skinny strings of wood weaved together. This one also has a pine cone in the middle of it. (Pine cones are fine for guinea pigs as long as they have been sterilized.)
Yes, I see it.
This seemed like a fine product, but it just never captured our interest beyond a couple courtesy nibbles. 2/5 stars.

National Geographic Power Snap Small Animal Treats

Last up, we have some treats from National Geographic:

Is that granola?
On the plus side, this treat claims that "your purchase supports the conservation of animals and their habitats." However, there is a long list of ingredients on these treats, and a few of them gave us pause. Therefore, we'd like to hold off on reviewing these until we have enough time to do the research on these ingredients, and we'll do a separate post about it. For now, we'd just like to point out that the ingredients include sugar and corn syrup, and guinea pigs should not have too much sugar.

The Verdict on Piggies Paradise

Rating a subscription box like Piggies Paradise is tricky, because the "product" we're reviewing is actually a bundle of other products. Not only that, but it's also the concept of getting a bundle of products of a certain type (guinea pig products, in this case) on a regular basis. Not every product on this box was a home run; we weren't too excited by the wood wreath, for example. However, those Oxbow Vitamin C Supplement Tablets were amazing! We wanted to chew through the lid to get at those things! Based on what we've seen so far, we'll give Piggies Paradise 4.5 out of 5 stars for having a great concept and some products we liked, but also at least one product with at least one or two ingredients that weren't good.

We've been reviewing guinea pig products for a while now, and one thing we've learned is that you can't trust companies to only use safe, healthy ingredients/materials in their. We generally trust Oxbow to put out good products, but we've seen some real junk coming out of other companies, such as sickly-colored lollipop treats full of stuff we shouldn't eat, willow balls with random peanuts inside of them, and a grass tunnel with burlap unnecessarily added, which can cause digestive blockages. So Piggies Paradise has their work cut out for them, trying to find enough new things to put in the box without including unhealthy or dangerous products. Other than the treats with the added sugar, we think they're doing a great job so far, and hope they can keep it up! We'll keep reviewing Piggies Paradise boxes as we receive them and let you know our thoughts.

If you want to give Piggies Paradise a try, they've been nice enough to give a special coupon code for Cavy Savvy readers. The code is: CAVYSAVVY10 (in all caps). Their website is:

https://piggiesparadise.cratejoy.com/

Monday, October 26, 2015

Can Guinea Pigs Eat Huckleberries?

Even though sometimes our humans make bad decisions like feeding us lemons, we're still pretty happy with our humans overall. Take this past week, for instance. Our humans visited the west coast, and while there, they thought of us and brought us back a gift from the other side of the country. What gift, you ask? Why, our favorite thing ever: food!

This time, the humans managed to get their hands on huckleberries.
Huckleberries for me? What a thoughtful gift!
Huckleberries can be found in the Rocky Mountains and Pacific Northwest. They're the main food source for a bunch of animals including deer, birds, insects, and bears. We've read that efforts to domesticate the huckleberry haven't been very successful, so they have to picked in the wild by hand, leading to them being somewhat expensive. Thanks, humans! We know that money stuff is very important to you.

Guinea pigs can have huckleberries, but should only have a couple per pig per week. (The humans gave us a little more than they were supposed to before they realized that the diet expert at guineapigcages.com had recommended we only have a couple. Oops! I guess this means no fruit for the rest of the week for us, unfortunately.)


This better be good if I'm missing out on all other fruit this week.
Not bad...
Huckleberries were pretty good. However, we did get bored of them eventually. Broccoli would wonder off, eat hay, come back and nibble at them. I started doing this too towards the end. I suppose this is another reason to feed less- you don't want to waste expensive berries by allowing us to get bored of them!

Huckleberries get 3/5 stars!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Ask A Guinea Pig: Guinea Pigs Outdoors and Dog Friendships?

It's time for another installment of Ask A Guinea Pig, where we answer your questions! chewy pig asks: "I have a male guinea pig named chewy who we take outside once every day. We just got an outdoor dog and would like to keep taking chewy out. Any tips for getting them to like each other?"

Answer: Before answering your main question, we wanted to talk a little about bringing your guinea pig outdoors. Guinea pigs should not be housed outdoors due to temperature fluctuations, predators, and other issues, although bringing us outside occasionally for things like pignics is fine. I hope you're not using a leash or harness to walk us like a dog since those things can injure us. Also, make sure that you take a look at what we said before about guinea pigs eating grass if you're going to let us graze outdoors; grass is generally fine, but you'll want to avoid grass that's been treated with chemicals, or come into contact with other stuff that's bad for us like dog poop. Also, you'll want to take care to make sure that your piggy doesn't escape into the wild. Broccoli was living in the wild when we first found him, and as he can tell you, it's not fun.

Now, onto your main question: Can guinea pigs and dogs be friends, and can you do anything to encourage this? The important thing to keep in mind is that dogs are natural predators and guinea pigs are prey animals. There are some differences in dog breeds; we've read that terriers are known for chasing rodents, while Shelties tend to be a gentle breed. Even within the same breed, individuals may vary; you might have a gentle terrier or a vicious Sheltie. No matter the breed, you should consider training your dogs if they are going to be around guinea pigs. We also generally recommend that you never leave your dog around your guinea pigs unsupervised. This can get your piggies killed. While we have read some sweet stories of dogs and guinea pigs getting along, it's better to be safe than sorry. Even a gentle dog could be careless and accidentally hurt your guinea pig by stepping on them or laying down on them if they're large enough. Also, because your guinea pigs are prey animals, they're probably going to be scared around a big predator like a dog. One person who had both guinea pigs and dogs noticed that after the dog died, the guinea pigs seemed more relaxed and noticeably less scared.

We're not saying it's impossible that your guinea pig and your dog could become friends. But we are saying that you're playing with fire if you're encouraging this friendship. Your guinea pig is better off being friends with another guinea pig.

Guinea pig friends are best! A dog would probably want to chew on us rather than the log.
Anyone have any experiences with dogs and guinea pigs? Got another question for our next Ask A Guinea Pig? Let us know in the comments below!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Can Guinea Pigs Eat Lemongrass?

It took a bit of research to figure out if we were allowed to eat lemongrass. We found one person express concern that lemongrass is the source of citronella, an insect repellent, which gave us pause. However, we also found that other people claim their guinea pigs love it, and more importantly, the diet expert at guineapigcages.com said that it should "be fine occasionally." Therefore, we're going to say that lemongrass should be okay for guinea pigs to eat, but only occasionally, and only in small portions just to be safe.

First, start by having the humans cut off the stiff tops and the root ends, and then peel the outer layers. You'll only want to give us the relatively-softer inner part; the rest of the plant is just too tough.
Even the softer inner part looks pretty tough!
Wow, this is really tough to eat!
I'm confused. Is this food or a chew toy?
Broccoli got sick of chewing and left without fighting me for my portion. I stuck around and chewed on this stuff for a bit, but eventually got bored. This is nowhere our favorite food, but we've had worse. (I'm looking at you, actual lemons!) It did leave a nice lemony flavor in my mouth, though.

Lemongrass gets 2/5 stars!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Can Guinea Pigs Eat Pomegranate?

Even though we've been reviewing foods for years, and it's getting tougher to find foods we haven't reviewed yet, we're still managing to find some. Today, we're reviewing pomegranates. The big concern with feeding pomegranate to guinea pigs is the seeds, which some have claimed can be a choking hazard. What you'll want to do is crack open the outer part, pick out the red bubbles, pick out the seeds from the red bubbles, and then give us the fleshy part that remains. The problem is, you'll have to do a lot of work for a very small amount of edible fruit! The fleshy part of pomegranate has a tendency to turn into juice at the slightest amount of pressure. After several minutes of cutting the seeds out of the red bubbles, this is all the humans had to show for it:

That's it? Really?
Wow, this is really good!
That didn't last long at all. I'm going to make sure I didn't miss any.
Pomegranates are really tasty, but they are a lot of work for our humans without a lot of food as payoff. We don't mind putting our humans to work for us, but it's torture waiting that long for them to cut up a decent amount of food! We'd give pomegranate a perfect score if we were just rating on taste alone, but we're going to have to take off a couple stars for being an inconvenient mess. We'll give pomegranate 3/5 stars!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Can Guinea Pigs Eat Black Corinth Grapes?

Black corinth grapes are also known as champagne grapes. They are the smallest variety of seedless grape. If dried, they are then known as Zante currants. These should not be confused with the berries called currants, which you may remember from our previous review. (For information on dried grapes, see our raisins review.)

Like all grapes, we can have black corinth grapes 2-4 times per week in 25 gram portions.

They're so little! They look perfect for the size our mouths.
Lunch time!
They're pretty good.
Black corinth grapes aren't bad, but they turned out not to be our favorite. We both ate them with less enthusiasm then we would our favorite foods (like carrots), and Broccoli got bored and wandered off before finishing his. For being pretty good but not quite as good as regular grapes, black corinth grapes get 3/5 stars!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Why Are They Called Guinea Pigs? What Are Guinea Pigs Called In Other Languages?

Have you ever stopped to think about why we're called "Guinea Pigs" (in English)? Where did that term come from? Is it a reference to the country of Guinea, or the British coin? There is actually no definitive answer to why we're called guinea pigs, although the Grammarphobia blog cites four possibilities:
The Oxford English Dictionary mentions three theories about the origin of this inappropriate name:
(1) The animal was perhaps “thought to resemble the young of the Guinea Hog (Potamochoerus),” which is a river pig found in Guinea.
(2) Back when the phrase “guinea pig” was first recorded, the word “Guinea” was often used to denote some unspecified or unknown faraway land.
(3) The “guinea” here may represent a confusion with Guiana, a region of northeastern South America. This explanation “seems unlikely,” the OED says.
And here’s another suggestion, from the Chambers Dictionary of Etymology:
(4) The little feller was named for the people who brought it to England, “the ‘Guinea-men’ who sailed on ships plying between England, Guinea, and South America, to which the animal is native.” (The ships themselves, usually slavers, were also called “Guinea-men” or “Guineamen.”)
Interestingly, other languages have their own terms for us that are not just their word for "guinea" plus their word for "pig." Here are some examples:
  • In Icelandic, we're called "naggrís," which means "gnawing piggy." This makes complete sense, since our teeth are always growing so we always need to be chewing.
  • In Chinese, we're called 豚鼠 (túnshǔ), or "pig mouse."  This also makes sense since we look a little bit like these other animals. 
  • In German, we're called "Meerschweinchen," or "little sea pig." This one seems strange at first glance since generally don't like water (except to drink). However, according to one of our readers, "The name is derived from the fact that guinea pigs were first sent from overseas (South America), coming in shiploads to Europe. Originally they were meant for food but Europeans never really got into eating guinea pigs (luckily!) and started keeping them as pets instead. "
  • Several languages refer to us as "Indian pigs" or some variation of that:
    • In French, we're called "Cochon d'Inde," or "Indian pig."
    • In Greek, we're called  ινδικά χοιρίδια (indika xoiridia), or "Small Indian Pigs."
    • In Portuguese, we're called "porquinho da Índia," or "little pig of India."
    • In Italian, we're called "Porcellino D'India," or "Little Indian Pig." We're also known as "Cavia Peruviana," or "Peruvian Cavy."
    • Similarly, in Spanish, we're called "conejillo de Indias," or "Indian bunny rabbit." The "Indian" part from these languages refers to how we arrived in many countries from overseas.
That's me! I'm a gnawing, little pig-mouse-rabbit who came from overseas!
Is there another word for guinea pig in the language you speak? If so, let me us know in the comments below!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Guinea Pig Allergies

Cat and dog allergies are well-known, which is not surprising given that they are more commonly owned pets. Is it possible to be allergic to guinea pigs as well? The answer unfortunately, is yes, although luckily our humans do not suffer from this problem.

What are allergies?
Allergies occur when your immune system is hypersensitive to a substance that normally isn't a problem for others. Allergies can cause red eyes, itchy rashes, runny noses, skin inflammation, and difficulty breathing.

How common are guinea pig allergies?
According to one source, 15% of people are allergic to dogs or cats. Another source claims 10% of people are allergic to household pets, with twice as many allergic to cats as dogs. We have no idea how common it is to be allergic to guinea pigs. The closest we've found to an estimate of this is a study of allergies among animal handlers, which found that 16% of animal facility workers were allergic to one of the animals they worked with (rat, mouse, guinea pig, hamster, and rabbit), but only 3% of non-animal handlers were allergic. So we're guessing somewhere in the neighborhood of 3%-16% might be allergic to guinea pigs, but nobody knows for sure.

What should I know about guinea pig allergies?
Here are a few things you should know about guinea pig allergies:
  • Contrary to what many people think, it is not the hair itself that causes allergic reactions. Animal hair can be a good carrier for the substances that cause allergic reactions, however.
  • The substances that actually cause allergic reactions are usually proteins in the saliva, urine, and dead skin debris. Because of this, getting a hairless breed of guinea pig like a skinny pig or a baldwin will not prevent allergic reactions.
  • If you do not yet have a guinea pig and are considering getting one, it's probably a good idea to find out if you're allergic first. See an allergist and get tested. If you are allergic, you can then decide if it's worth the hassle of trying to control your allergies or not.
  • If you're allergic and still want to be a guinea pig owner despite this, you might want to try immunotherapy (allergy shots). Treatment can take up to 18 months, and is likely covered by your health insurance policy if you have one. Please note that while this treatment is effective in the majority of patients, it does not work for everyone.
  • Besides immunotherapy, there are also medications like antihistamines that may help. 
  • In addition to being allergic to guinea pigs, it is also possible to be allergic to hay and certain kinds of bedding (e.g. aspen or pine bedding). If this is the case, you may want to switch to Carefresh or fleece for your bedding, and experiment with different types of grass hay. (For example, we found one person who was severely allergic to timothy hay, but completely fine with orchard grass hay.)
  • It is a good idea to keep the source of potential allergens (the guinea pigs, the hay, and the bedding) out of (and away from) your bedroom.
  • It is also a good idea to have an air purifier in your bedroom and another one by the guinea pig cage.
  • If you are allergic, try to get someone else who is not allergic handle the tasks that are likely to set you off. This includes clean the cage, handling the hay, and so on.
  • You should wash your hands and arms after handling your guinea pig if you're allergic. You could even add barriers like gloves and paper towels to prevent physical contact if necessary
  • Clean your house frequently and thoroughly to prevent the accumulation of allergens.
The decision to get a guinea pig should not be taken lightly. You should do your research on whether you're allergic before you get a guinea pig. If you're allergic and decide to get one anyway, you should do your best to keep your allergies under control and give us a decent home. Discarding a guinea pig (or any other pet) due to a failure to plan for the possibility of allergies is not only unfortunate, but irresponsible and unfair to your furry friend. So do your homework, and take your cavy commitments seriously!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Can Guinea Pigs Eat Golden Raspberries?

You may have noticed that we haven't been doing many posts recently on what guinea pigs can eat. This is because we've already reviewed most of the foods that we know guinea pigs are allowed to eat and are available at our local stores and farmer's markets. However, the other day, the humans finally came across something new: golden raspberries! We haven't even heard of golden raspberries before. Will they taste different from regular raspberries?

Raspberries can be fed almost daily to guinea pigs, but only 1-2 raspberries per pig per day. (We went with three for those post because we hadn't had any fruit lately, and we agreed we'd get no raspberries tomorrow.)

Can't wait to sink my teeth into them!
Yum!
No, Broccoli! It's mine!
Why is it that whenever I find foods that I like, another piggy tries to steal it from me? It's too bad there wasn't a hiding spot nearby. He ended up getting half of the last golden raspberry!

Well, I suppose I can't hold it against golden raspberries for being so good that they inspire bad behavior in my cage mate. To be honest, aside from the gold color, I didn't find any differences between these and regular red raspberries. But that's just fine, because we love regular raspberries. Golden raspberries get 5/5 stars!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Product Review: Oxbow Simple Rewards Baked Treats with Bell Pepper

We're continuing on in our quest to try the new types of Simple Rewards treats from Oxbow. We already tried the Apple and Banana kind and the Carrot and Dill kind. Today we're reviewing Oxbow Simple Rewards Baked Treats with Bell Pepper. One of our readers commented that they liked this kind in particular, so we were particularly excited to give it a try. (We're also fans of bell peppers, which added to our excitement.)

Regarding treats like this, please keep in mind that they are only supposed to be a tiny part of our diets, if they are fed at all. Fruits and veggies also make fine treats. But just as humans like their cookies, even though they aren't a necessary part of their diet, it's fun to indulge a bit every once in a while. If you're not using Oxbow treats, however, you better take a very close look at the ingredients. There's some real junk out there.
This is delightful! Sitting on a comfy pillow, eating delicious treats...
The humans gave us the royal treatment when we tried this one. They put us each on a pillow individually and fed us the treats. And the verdict? They were just as good as the commenter on the previous post said they were!

Oxbow Simple Rewards Baked Treats with Bell Pepper gets 5/5 stars!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Guinea Pig Grieving

Even though it is often said that time heals all wounds, the loss of Lola still makes us sad. Immediately after losing her, Buffy and I had been sleeping close to each other in the little cage, when we usually slept separately in our own pigloos. As social animals, many of us will take the loss of our cavy companions pretty hard, although this can vary from pig to pig.

Here's some advice on how you can support your piggies while we grieve:
  • Regularly monitor your guinea pig's weight while they grieve; once per day for at least a week after the loss is recommended. Some pigs may stop eating.
  • Consider adopting another guinea pig from a rescue or shelter, especially if you are down to just one guinea pig. A happy, healthy guinea pig may help cheer up a depressed guinea pig. Some guinea pigs may not accept another cage mate if left alone too long on their own.
  • Try to spend extra time with your grieving piggies.
  • Thoroughly clean the cage and everything in the cage to remove the smell of the lost companion. (This is especially a good idea if the deceased had something communicable.) 
  • Changing up your cage configuration and feeding routine can be helpful according to some.
  • Some guinea pigs may enjoy having a plush animal companion. (However, you'll want to make sure we don't chew up our plush toys. The stuffing can be harmful.)
Finally, keep in mind that we can support you as you support us. When you feel sad about losing your piggy, we'll be happy to sit in your lap and commiserate with you. (Buffy is still likely to nip your fingers if you try to commiserate for too long, though. Some things never change!)

Product Review: KMS Hayloft Bluegrass Hay

Our hearts are still aching from the loss of Lola. It just won't be the same reviewing products and answering questions without her, but we'll try our best to continue on. We're sure she'd want us to keep the blog that she worked so hard on going. Just an FYI, this was the last post we were working on before her untimely passing, which is why there's a picture of her in this one.

Readers probably know that when it comes to hay, Oxbow and Small Pet Select tend to be our favorite brands. But did you know that there's another brand of hay out there that tends to be highly-regarded by reputable guinea pig sites? They're called KMS Hayloft (formerly known as Kleenmama), and they're mail-order only. We actually reviewed them before, but it was several years back so we had to remind ourselves what we had said. It looks like it was so different from the store brand hay we were used to at the time that we weren't sure whether we wanted to eat it or not, and held off on reviewing it.

KMS  Hayloft sells two types of hay: Timothy and Bluegrass. They were out of timothy when we had the humans order, and I don't think we've ever tried bluegrass, so we went with that. We actually hadn't heard of bluegrass before (it wasn't listed on our hay post), so we checked their website and found more information about it:

"The beautiful hay we carry called 'bluegrass' is actually a hybrid seed my farmer has developed. It is an orchard/bluegrass seed. For those of you that are used to orchard grass, this will be similar except it has a beautiful blue/green color. After viewing more that 30 farms and countless hays, it just didn't do justice to call my hay 'orchard', so I have chosen to call it 'bluegrass'. It is a wide bladed, leafy variety that is soft and pliable. Nutritionally, it is equivalent to orchard grass."

This is what KMS Hayloft's bluegrass hay looks like.
Keep in mind that guinea pigs need to have a grass hay, but it doesn't necessarily have to be a timothy hay. There are some slight nutritional differences between grass hays, but generally not enough to make much of a difference. (Remember, legume hays, such as alfalfa hay, are a different story, however! These should not be part of an adult guinea pig's diet in most cases.)

Lola seemed to enjoy it! (Poor Lola... We miss her!)
Bluegrass is fragrant and delicious. Our only issue with it is that it doesn't have any seed heads, which is our favorite part! But, if you want to mix some bluegrass with timothy hay, you could then mix things up without missing out on the seed heads.

Some of you may be wondering: How does KMS Hayloft compare with Small Pet Select? Well, let's do a comparison:
  • In terms of price, Small Pet Select seems to have higher list prices. For example, at the moment, Small Pet Select has 20 pounds of 2nd cut timothy hay for $44.99 ($2.25 per pound) and 60 pounds for $84.99 ($1.42 per pound), while KMS Hayloft has 40 pounds of 2nd cut timothy hay for $28.00 ($0.70 per pound). So at first glance, it sounds like KMS Hayloft gives you more for less. However, this is only before you factor in shipping! On this order of KMS Hayloft hay, it cost $32 for shipping, roughly as much as the order costs, and bringing the cost up to about $1.50 per pound. However, they were shipping from the west coast to the east cost, so the rate would probably have been cheaper if we lived closer to them. Small Pet Select, on the other hand, usually offers free shipping if you subscribe to their newsletters and find the weekly code in each one. (Even if you don't have a code, they offer free shipping on orders over $40.) If you're a cost-conscious hay buyer, you may want to get a free code for Small Pet Select, determine the shipping cost for KMS Hayloft where you live, and then calculate the price per pound for each to figure out the better deal for you.
    • We should also point out that Small Pet Select has a "schedule & save" discount of 15% if you're willing to commit to having hay automatically ordered on a regular basis. If you're willing to do this, you should also take this into account when figuring out the best deal.
  • In terms of shipping, they use different companies in case you have a preference; Small Pet Select uses FedEx, while KMS Hayloft uses UPS. A Consumer Reports study found FedEx to be a little better than UPS for what that's worth.  They also ship from different locations; KMS Hayloft ships from Spokane, WA, while Small Pet Select ships from Louisville, KY. How close or far these locations are to you will probably affect the shipping speed as well as the cost. Finally, we should point out that in our most recent orders, Small Pet Select took 1 day to ship the hay from the order date, while KMS Hayloft took 2 days.
  • In terms of quality, we have no complaints about either one.
In summary, both Small Pet Select and KMS Hayloft are good options. We'd probably go with Small Pet Select if we're running low and need the hay in a hurry to avoid running out, but otherwise, it's kind of a toss-up.

We'll give KMS Hayloft Bluegrass Hay 4.5/5 stars!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Goodbye, Lola

It is with a heavy heart that we share the news of Lola's passing this morning. After losing weight for several months, battling an eye injury, combating several UTIs, and passing a bladder stone, she has made the trip over the rainbow bridge. Due to a combination of weight loss and passing the stone, she developed sepsis very quickly, leading to a very sad vet visit this morning.

While we are heartbroken over her loss, we try to remember the good times we had with her. From when she was first brought home and introduced to Annie (who bit her ear and left her with a lifelong reminder), she had been the fiesty one of the bunch. When the water bottle broke and stopped up, Lola was the one to save us by shrieking until the humans realized what was wrong. Lola was always down for a snuggle or pet, was very good about not peeing on the humans when being held, and was an adventurous eater who loved trying new foods, treats, and products.

This has been a rough weekend for Lola, having had to be brought into the vet several times. During one last happy moment two nights ago, Lola was being especially affectionate with the humans, nuzzling and licking them for almost an hour. She seemed grateful that she could have one last good time with her piggie and human family.

We appreciate all your support and condolences. Knowing that Lola shared her life not only with us and the humans, but with the tens of thousands of readers who log on to Cavy Savvy each month brings us some measure of comfort.

If you have enjoyed reading about Lola on this blog, please let us know in the comments. It would mean a lot.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Ask A Guinea Pig: How Do Guinea Pigs Get UTIs?

It's time for another installment of Ask A Guinea Pig! Today, Christina asks: "Did the vet say how guinea pigs can get a UTI?"

Answer: When the humans brought me in and the vet diagnosed me with a UTI, the conversation was more focused on treatment options going forward. However, you raise a good question, so we will do our best to answer it!

We should point out that there are actually a few similar, related urinary tract conditions that are relatively common problems for guinea pigs:

A Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) is when the urinary tract gets infected, most commonly by E. Coli, but sometimes from other viruses and fungi. For guinea pigs, the reason this usually happens is a combination of our short legs and contact with wet bedding and droppings.

Bladder stones are hard accumulations of calcium carbonate (90%+ of the time) or calcium oxalate that form in the bladder. Stones can be especially dangerous in male piggies because they can block the flow of urine more easily than they do for females. The cause of bladder stones is not well-understood, but factors that contribute to bladder stones include:
  • Bad diet - A good diet of grass hay, fresh vegetables, and reasonable servings of low-calcium pellets are important. Too much calcium and oxalates may lead to stones.
  • Insufficient water - Drinking plenty of water can dilute the urine and prevent stone formation.
  • Obesity
  • Genetics
Bladder sludge refers to gritty, calcium particles that form in the bladder. The sludge can form into stones if left untreated. Think of bladder sludge as the early stages of bladder stones; both are caused by the same factors. Bladder sludge and smaller stones may be able to be passed through the urinary tract.

Sometimes stones and sludge are found alongside infections, and sometimes not. Stones and sludge might lead to a UTI, but we've never heard anyone suggest that UTIs can lead to stone or sludge.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Guinea Pigs and Blood in Urine

Hi folks, Lola here. I've been having a rough couple of weeks. The humans noticed that I've been more lethargic than usual, so they took me to the vet this week. Turns out, I've lost quite a bit of weight over the last few months. During the exam, I peed on the vet's table (sorry, vet!), and the vet tested it for infection since it was tinged with blood. I have a UTI, and the vet wanted to do an X-ray just to be sure that I didn't have a bladder stone.

First, they sedated me, and then I went in the X-ray machine. The good news is I don't have a bladder stone, but the vet did notice some sandy sludge in my bladder, which mean I have to take some antibiotics to clear the infection. Also, I have to return in two weeks to be sedated again, so they can flush the painful sandy stuff out of my bladder.

On top of that, the X-rays showed I'm gassy, probably from swallowing air during the stressful car trip to the vet. Now I'm on 4 medications: Meloxicam to reduce inflammation, two oral liquid antibiotics, and an oral anti-gas liquid. Since I've been eating less, I also have to take Critical Care, which isn't bad tasting, but which I don't like eating since I'm so uncomfortable all the time.

I did get some pretty cool X-ray photos out of the experience though. Check them out:

The dark oval is the air I've swallowed.
Kind of hard to see, but the white line there is my bladder. Ouch,
The red arrow shows my tiny bladder.
The white color is due to the sandy sludge.


























Not a fun time. 0/5 won't recommend getting a bladder infection.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Product Review: Oxbow Simple Rewards Baked Treats with Carrot and Dill

As we've mentioned before, Oxbow has introduced several new five new types of Simple Rewards treats. We're big fans of Simple Rewards, so reviewing a new flavor was a no-brainer for us! This time, we're reviewing the Carrot and Dill kind. Long-time readers probably already know we love carrots, and we think dill is pretty good, too. We got a good feeling about this one!

Look at what the human's new program can do! You can see each of us eating the treat in the same picture!
The humans decided to feed up separately on a pillow to discourage fighting over the treats. And I have to admit they do have a point. Sure, I love my cage-mates Lola and Buffy, but when treats are involved, things can get a little crazy and it's every piggy for themselves!

These treats were just as good as we expected them to be! They get 5/5 stars!

(By the way, just a friendly reminder that treats like this should make up no more than 5% of our diet. If we keep begging for more, we encourage you to switch to some sort of vegetable or hay.)

Sunday, July 12, 2015

How Long Do Guinea Pigs Live on Average?

Hello, Cavy Savvy readers! Today I feel I should talk with you about a topic that's not the most pleasant thing to think about, but is important nonetheless: aging.

This was me from April 2010 was I was just a baby! How cute was I? (See more of my baby pics here.)
Maybe some of you have been with us since we started this started this blog back in March 2011, and you'll need to start thinking about this as well.

As we have previously mentioned, guinea pigs live about 5-7 years on average, and the oldest known guinea pig lived 14 years, 10.5 months.

We have read that the breed of guinea pig can affect life span. For example, skinny pigs tend to live 4.5 years on average, but may reach 5-7 with proper care and a little luck. Some have speculated that because the more exotic breeds are bred for specific characteristics, a side effect of this are various genetic problems that can shorten the average life span of that breed in comparison to the American Shorthair. Others have disputed this claim. We would like to see some solid research on this before we know what to believe.

Other factors that may influence guinea pig life span besides breed include:

(Take some of these things with a grain of salt, by the way. We don't know how reliable all these sources are.)

Guinea pigs may be considered older when they are 5 years old. There are several things you should know about caring for older guinea pigs, including:
  • Older guinea pigs tend to be mellower, and more appreciative of human attention.
  • Be attentive to how your guinea pig normally behaves so you can detect potential problems as quickly as possible. This goes for guinea pigs of any age, but is especially true of older piggies since they can't recover from illness and injury as well as younger piggies. Make sure you read over the signs of guinea pig illness, and pay particular attention to changes in weight, appetite, and thirst.
  • Eye problems such as cataracts are common in older piggies. Cataracts result in gradual changes to the appearance of the eyes. If there are sudden changes to the eyes, this could be a more serious problem that requires veterinary attention.
  • Older guinea may have stiffer joints, and find it more difficult to walk on loose bedding. Switching to fleece may help with this. Consider whether any changes to your cage setup could make your older piggy's life easier, such as switching from a 2-level cage to a 1-level cage. You may also want to talk to your vet about anti-pain or anti-inflammatory medication if your piggy seems to be in pain (you can tell if your pig is in pain if their fur is puffing up).
  • Make sure you monitor our foot pads for signs of irritation, which, if unchecked, can develop into a serious condition called pododermatitis (AKA Bumblefoot). To prevent this, make sure you keep our cage clean, encourage physical activity, and avoid wire floors and rough bedding. Consider moisturizer if the skin seems particularly dry, and antibiotic ointment for minor problems, but consult your vet before treating your pig.
  • For older guinea pigs, consider wellness visits every 6 months rather than every year.
With proper care, your older piggy may still have lots of good years left with you.