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!
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!