:: How I Get Along With Everyone Else!  

A guinea pig hanging out on the carpet, found in the free domainGuinea pigs have three main interactions with humans.  The first one is the guinea pig being used as a household pet.  They make great companions for children because of their docile nature.  They rarely bite or scratch when they are held and they are very sociable.  The second use for guinea pigs by humans is the use for food.  In Peru, guinea pigs are bred on a large scale and are a major part of their diet.  Guinea pigs were originally domesticated in the Andes for their meat.  Some people believe guinea pigs are given their name because of their similar taste to pork.  Having a pet guinea pig may seem slightly strange seeing as they eat them in other countries!  The final and one of the most famous uses for guinea pigs is the use of it as a laboratory animal.  This began in the 17th century but became more common in the early 20th century. They are primarily used for human medical research in the area of scurvy, diabetes, tuberculosis and a number of other conditions.  The term ‘guinea pig’ soon went hand in hand for a subject of experimentation.

An adorable guinea pig, found in the free domainIn a household some pets can learn to get along with guinea pigs.  Dwarf rabbits, dogs, and cats are examples, but in some cases they will claw or bite the guinea pig.  Gerbils, deer mice, and hamsters do not get along with guinea pigs.  They speak another “language,” and the guinea pig will not defend itself against these more aggressive animals. 

Guinea pigs are preyed upon by other organisms.  In nature these predators include snakes, foxes and bird of prey.  The guinea pig is a consumer, placing it closest to the producers in the food web.  It is a food source for secondary consumers and tertiary consumers.

Guinea pigs encounter a number of diseases.  Some of the most common ones are bacterial and fungal diseases. One is called streptococcal pneumonia.  Its pathology consists of the guinea pig’s lungs filling up with fluid and meningitis is commonly seen with this disease.  Streptococcal pneumonia is passed by direct contact and carriers for the disease include rats and humans.  Another disease is Bordetella pneumonia.  The guinea pig develops lesions and will lose a lot of weight.  The animal will also sneeze a lot and have nasal discharge.  CerFrom Jackie's Guinea Pig Graphics vial Lymphadenitis is yet another disease that affects guinea pigs.  Basically this disease entails lumps; the guinea pig’s lymph nodes become very large and develop abscesses (a collection of pus). A strange disease for the guinea pigs is Pododermatitis which is also known as ‘bumblefoot.’  This occurs in guinea pigs that live on wire floors that are unsanitized and rough.  Lesions will develop but can be properly cared for (simply by being put in a cage with soft bedding) so the guinea pig doesn’t become more infected.  The best way to care for a guinea pig though is to prevent a disease or sickness before it happens.  Proper diet and a tidy living space will not only keep a guinea pig healthy, put happy too.  If you found these diseases fascinating, check out this site!

In the disease section, it may seem that all bacteria are bad for guinea pigs, but that’s not true at all!  The guinea pig has a cecum, which is a large, thin-walled sac located at the crossroads of the small and large intestine.  This sac contains up to 65% of gastrointestinal contents.  In the cecum there are bacteria and protozoa to aid in the digestion of foods that the guinea pig has eaten!  E. coli  also lives inside the intestine of a guinea pig.  For these bacteria and protozoa to do their job properly, they need fiber.  Without this essential item, the gastrointestinal tract would slow down, changing the bacterial and fermentation population.  Over time this can lead to the guinea pig having indigestion. 

Go to Habitat to learn more about guinea pig survival!