No matter what type of pet you have, you should have some sort of first-aid kit in case of an emergency. There’s nothing worse than the helplessness you feel after discovering your pet has an illness late at night. You can’t call your vet. The stores are closed. There’s nothing you can do other than search the internet for symptoms and at-home treatments. You’ll worry yourself to the point of a nervous breakdown because every source you find will have you believe that you’re in a hopeless situation. So, what can you do that’s actually helpful?
You can educate yourself ahead of time so you’re familiar with the signs of common illnesses. Your education helps you form a plan and having a health kit gives you the supplies needed to execute that plan. Doing this calmly and with purpose can help get you and your pig through to the morning until you can call your vet.
A health kit isn’t useful only in the case of an emergency, though. Having one around can provide you with the items needed for basic first-aid so you can treat minor issues before they become a major issue. It’s a small investment that can potentially save you from a larger vet bill if the situation progresses.
So, what do we keep in our health kit? Let me tell you!
Basic Wound Care/Surgical Aftercare
Povidone-Iodine Swabsticks (Betadine): Povidone-Iodine is a skin antiseptic. I use these on minor scratches, scrapes or sores to keep the area clean and to help prevent any infection from setting in. I like the swabsticks because I can accurately, quickly and easily get the iodine exactly where I want it on the pig. I’m notoriously messy and iodine can stain fabrics and hard surfaces so the swabsticks help me keep things tidy (and helps keep my husband from rolling his eyes). You can use a regular bottle of Betadine if you don’t have the same problem.
Chlorhexidine Solution (Hibiclens): This is also an antiseptic. When diluted with water, this can provide a very effective soak when your pig has open wounds on their feet, even with cases of bumblefoot. This is also part of an effective treatment in fungal or widespread skin infections when used on your pig during a bath. It’s safe to use for guinea pigs but you should avoid using around the eyes.
Sterile Gauze Sponges: This is a must in any first-aid kit, for humans or pets. Their main use is as a wound dressing for any area that needs covered and protected. They’re also useful to soak in chlorhexidine solution and bandaging or holding it on your pig in case they’re less than thrilled about standing around in a chlorhexidine soak.
Vet Wrap: Vet wrap sticks to itself, but not to skin or fur, which makes your life easier and helps keep your pig’s fur on his body. Use it to help keep dressings in place and to help keep wounds clean.
Sterile Saline Solution: I keep this on hand to flush out any abscesses or sores if need be. Can also be used to gently flush debris from the eye.
12-cc Curved-tip Syringe: I use this to flush the saline solution over any area that needs it. The curved, tapered tip makes it easy to directly apply to the affected area and provides enough pressure and volume to thoroughly clean the wound without causing more damage.
Chew Guard: This can be purchased through your vet and I have sometimes seen it at farm or ranch stores. Allivet.com also sells this product. This keeps your pig from chewing on any dressings that need to stay applied for an extended period. It’s basically a very weak pepper spray, however, so be very careful that you keep it away from your pig’s eyes, ears and mucous membranes. I spray it on a cotton swab and apply it directly to the dressing to avoid any accidental contact with skin or any other area. I hate using this but it can be necessary if your pig refuses to leave a dressing in place.
Prebiotics (Bene-Bac Plus): Just like in humans, guinea pigs often experience a bacterial and microflora imbalance in their gut, especially after a course of antibiotics. I keep this on hand to use during a course of antibiotics in case they start to develop soft stools or diarrhea. It contains the live microorganisms that are often wiped out in the intestines by the antibiotics and can only help your pig. Make sure you get the formula safe for guinea pigs and follow the dosing instructions on the package.
Pectin and Kaolin (PET Pectillin): Pectin and kaolin are useful to help treat diarrhea. Pectin coats and relieves irritation of intestinal membranes and can help reduce inflammation in the GI tract. Kaolin helps add bulk to the stool and slows down movement of the intestinal contents. Give your pig 0.1 cc orally of the liquid every 6-8 hours as needed. If you purchase a different brand of pectin and kaolin, make sure you get one with just those active ingredients. Many preparations include pain relievers or other meds that are not safe for your pig.
Loperamide (Imodium A-D): If the pectin and kaolin are ineffective, I will discontinue its use and switch to loperamide. This really slows down movement of the intestines but can potentially cause a buildup of excess gas, so it should be used only when necessary and with caution. Dose 0.1 mg orally to your pig by mouth every 8 hours for three days and then every 24 hours for 2 days. If you must use loperamide, you should absolutely be calling your vet as soon as possible. However, I recommend having it on hand in cases of severe diarrhea when you can’t get to the vet immediately.
Simethicone (Little Remedies): Simethicone can relieve excessive gas. It works by changing the surface pressure of smaller bubbles of gas, making it possible for those small bubbles to connect and make one bigger bubble, which can help to relieve pressure and ease passing of the gas. It cannot prevent or reduce gas formation. It only makes it easier to pass. Purchase the infant formulation and give your pig ½ of the recommended infant dose. Giving this in cases of mild gas pressure can help prevent a full-on case of bloat if caught early.
Zinc oxide (Desitin): A topical cream used to treat urine scald. Some older or ill pigs with decreased mobility can develop urine scald on their bottoms. Urinary tract infections and other illnesses can also sometimes lead to urine scald so make sure you have any underlying issue treated. However, in the meantime, Desitin can really help aid healing. Cleanse the area with Hibiclens or another safe antiseptic, dry the area thoroughly and apply the Desitin. Use sparingly, as it should not be ingested.
Miconazole nitrate (Monistat): A topical cream that can help remedy minor yeast or fungal infections. Fungal infections usually start on the face and cause itchy patches of hair loss. These areas of hair loss will develop scales, scabs or crusts. Keeping the area clean with an antiseptic and then applying miconazole to dry skin can help clear these lesions up. Make sure you evaluate your husbandry practices if your pigs have constant fungal outbreaks, as an unclean, humid cage can lead recurring fungal problems.
Lotion: I have four Teddy guinea pigs and they are known for having dry skin. I always keep a bottle of lotion from Gorgeous Guineas on hand to help moisturize their skin and keep them comfortable. Patches of dry skin can get itchy and if the pig is constantly scratching the area, such behavior can lead to abrasions and patches of hair loss. Applying lotion regularly to these areas can keep this from happening. Make sure the lotion you use is formulated specifically for guinea pigs. Human lotion has ingredients that are not safe for pigs.
Oxbow Supplements: I keep a bag of vitamin-C, digestive, urinary and joint supplements on hand for my pigs. While not necessary if fed a good diet of hay, veggies and high-quality pellets, I like to provide half a biscuit as a healthy treat (my pigs won’t eat an entire biscuit at once). I rotate what type I give them every day. I also make sure they get extra vitamin-C at the very first sign of any illness. As my pigs age, supplementation of one of these every day may become necessary if they develop any related health conditions. I like having them ready to go if I should ever need them.
Oxbow Critical Care: This is vital to keep on hand to syringe feed your pig if he ever stops eating. Proper digestion in a pig depends on them constantly ingesting food. If a pig stops eating, their health can very quickly decline. I always keep a bag of this in the house so there is no delay in treatment if needed. If you can only get one thing on this list, this should be that thing.
1.0 ml syringe: Used to administer small amounts of liquid medication orally to your pig.
15 cc syringe: Used to syringe feed the Critical Care. Try to choose a syringe with a larger opening, as the Critical Care can be thick and difficult to administer if your syringe’s opening is too narrow.
Cotton swabs: These are handy for 9 million different things. Just keep some in the box with your other supplies. You’ll need them.
Small scissors: You’ll need these to trim your vet wrap, gauze sponges or to cut fur from around a wound.
Where can you get all of these supplies? I get most of these things on Amazon, honestly. You can also find many of these things in your local pharmacy. There are a few things on this list that you may have to get through your vet. If you’re having a hard time finding something, I recommend looking at Allivet.com, which sells many of the same over-the-counter supplies your vet can supply.
Having a health kit on hand is one of the best decisions you can make about the health of your guinea pig. For me, having these things ready to go and easily accessible really helps ease my anxiety if something does go wrong. I hope I never need to use some of the things on this list but I’d rather have them and not need them than need them and not have them.
Remember, it’s your job to help your piggie thrive and not just survive in your care. Hopefully this list can help you toward that goal.