Cavy Care

This section contains articles with advice about caring for your cavy (guinea pig). General care is covered in the Frequently Asked Questions page.

The opinions expressed in these articles are those of the authors only, and no responsibility will be taken for the use of, or accuracy of, the information contained therein.

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Orphan Care

Some Notes on Rearing Orphan Guinea Piglets


  1. Every effort should be made to prevent orphan piglets! Feed pregnant sows well and move them and handle them as little as possible in the last fortnight of pregnancy.
  2. Newborn piglets are not hungry for the first 24 hours of life, as they are born with sufficient supplies for this time. They are also born with antibodies and so unlike other domestic mammals, do not need colostrum to give them all their disease protection. Keep them very warm and dry during this period - a large motherly sow will usually do this for you, even if she has no milk.
  3. Make every effort to find a foster mother (guinea pig).
  4. If no foster mother is available and the piglet is not deformed in any way, give evaporated milk, undiluted.

Lumps or Abscesses on Guinea Pigs

These particular lumps are caused by a bacterium called Streptococcus zooepidemicus infecting guinea pigs.

Of course guinea pigs may get swellings or lumps on any area of the body, but the condition called "lumps" usually causes swellings aroung the head and neck.

The bacteria, having been introduced to the cavy by a carrier animal (usually a bought in cavy), gains access to the body via small abrasions in the mouth. Vitamin C deficiency will predispose to infection as it retards wound healing. An abcess forms at the site of entry and these may swell up to golf ball size. Abcesses may form in any organ, however head and neck are most common. If the bacteria is introduced into a group of cavies which has never had contact with it before, an epidemic may occur with cavy deaths. Later on surviving cavies will show the classical "lumps" in the neck.




  • good husbandry ie:
    • fresh greens every day for Vitamin C
    • avoid overcrowding
    • clean bedding to avoid ammonia build up
    • good fresh hay free of thistles and mould
  • avoid mixing bought in stock with resident cavies straight away
  • regularly check cavies for neck lumps and treat any affected seperately



  • large abcesses may need to be lanced and drained. Sometimes sedation is needed for this. Valium 5mg/kg intraperitoneally given by a vet works well. Keep the area clean and free of flies whil it heals. Antibiotics will be needed.
  • small abcesses less than 1cm diameter may respond to antibiotics alone. Cephalexine (Rilexine, Ceporex) seems to be relatively safe in guinea pigs. The dose is 50-100mg/kg daily by injection for 5-10 days. All antibiotic injections are restricted medicines. This means that your vet will need to see your caviary and /or at least some affected cavies, before prescribing antibiotics. Also as the antibiotic must be given by injection, either your vet must give the injections or instruct you in the proper way to do this.

An ounce of prevention is worth (and is cheaper than) a ton of cure.


Dawn Mills

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