Scurvy in Guinea Pigs — and the importance of Vitamin C

07/19/2015What do guinea pigs and pirates have in common?This sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but there is a common medical condition that both guinea pigs and pirates suffer from, and that is scurvy. Also known as hypovitaminosis C. This occurs because both guinea pigs and humans cannot make their own vitamin C, and must ingest adequate levels in their die...

What do guinea pigs and pirates have in common?

This sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but there is a common medical condition that both guinea pigs and pirates suffer from, and that is scurvy. Also known as hypovitaminosis C. This occurs because both guinea pigs and humans cannot make their own vitamin C, and must ingest adequate levels in their diets. Most other mammals are able to make their own vitamin C, and it is mainly humans, some other great apes, and guinea pigs that cannot. Guinea pigs require 10-50 mg/kg daily to maintain good health.

Vitamin C is an important cofactor in the production of several enzymes and tissues, particularly collagen. Collagen is the “glue” that holds all our cells and tissue together, and so the symptoms of vitamin C deficiency often are caused by the lack of maintenance of this collagen matrix. Symptoms include lethargy and unwillingness to move, painful joints, poor condition, weight loss, dental issues, bruising or hemorrhage, diarrhea, and a rough coat or alopecia.

Hypovitaminosis C is easiest to diagnose in consultation with the client. A thorough history is warranted, going into detail about the diet. In terms of diet, find out what the guinea pig is fed every day, especially in terms of fresh vegetables and fruit. A guinea pig should consume 80% of the daily diet in hay or grass, with 5% being a pelleted diet formulated for guinea pigs, and the remaining 15% fresh fruit and vegetables. The fresh fruit and vegetable component is the most important part of maintaining adequate vitamin C intake. Vitamin C deteriorates and breaks down with storage and processing, meaning that even if the owner provides supplementation or the pellets containing vitamin C, it is difficult to rely on those sources solely for vitamin C.

Vegetables high in vitamin C that are suitable for guinea pigs include parsley, broccoli, kale, and red capsicum. Other dark green leafy vegetables are also a good source of vitamin C, and Chinese vegetables such as bok choy or kai lan are other options, as they are easy to find and store while maintaining good level of vitamins and minerals. Avoid vegetables such as iceberg lettuce as they contain a high amount of water and not a lot of nutrition. Guinea pigs that develop scurvy will often require supplementation with injectable vitamin C to increase the rate of recovery, as well as prevent further deterioration. They can then be maintained on an oral supplement while the diet is being improved.

Oxbow produces a good tableted vitamin C supplement that can be fed as a treat. Inwater vitamin C additives are often not appropriate as the vitamin tends to degenerate as the water is stored and comes into contact with light and air.

With good owner education and co-operation, many guinea pigs will do well after a diagnosis of scurvy. With guinea pigs that present for other conditions, it is still a good idea to investigate and evaluate the amount of vitamin C in the diet, and supplement the diet if needed.
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Exotic Pets Need Microchipping Too!

07/11/2015We have all heard of the new dog and cat laws in regards to microchipping. Although there isn't a law for exotic pets we think microchipping them is a fantastic idea!Unlike dogs and cats it can be extremely difficult to reunite lost rabbits, guinea pigs, ferrets, rats and birds with their families. They are very mobile, especially when stressed or scared, ...

We have all heard of the new dog and cat laws in regards to microchipping. Although there isn’t a law for exotic pets we think microchipping them is a fantastic idea!

Unlike dogs and cats it can be extremely difficult to reunite lost rabbits, guinea pigs, ferrets, rats and birds with their families. They are very mobile, especially when stressed or scared, and can travel great lengths when they escape. Another complication for bird owners is that many of the species we keep as pets are also found in the wild, so found or captured ‘wild’ birds may in fact be owned. This is why microchipping is so important. Scanning an animal that has been brought in to a vet clinic, animal shelter or wildlife facility for a microchip is becoming so routine that any microchipped animal should be able to be reunited with their family.

Here at The Unusual Pet Vets we stock ‘midi chips’ which are the perfect size for our smaller patients. Contact us today to book in your exotic pet for a microchip!

Oxbow Supplement Range

07/10/2015Oxbow Animal Health is an internationally-recognized brand committed to serving the needs of small exotic animals by providing superior nutrition. They have developed a supplement range designed for rabbits, guinea pigs and even rats!These supplements are timothy hay-based, high-fibre chews containing essential vitamins to support all of the animal’s bod...

Oxbow Animal Health is an internationally-recognized brand committed to serving the needs of small exotic animals by providing superior nutrition. They have developed a supplement range designed for rabbits, guinea pigs and even rats!

These supplements are timothy hay-based, high-fibre chews containing essential vitamins to support all of the animal’s body systems. Each supplement type contains high quality herbal ingredients specific to targeting particular key areas, and have the delicious taste of fresh timothy grass hay.

The Oxbow supplement range includes:

We were initially sceptical of how effective these supplements would be however have seen some good results.
The full range is available at both our clinic locations.

Metabolic bone disease in rabbits, as well as lizards…..

07/02/2015For years we have realised the importance of calcium supplementation and vitamin D in captive lizards in preventing the incidence of metabolic bone disease (MBD). We are now starting to realise the similar importance in captive rabbits too. MBD seems to be a potential cause of dental disease. Factors which influence the development of dental disease include ge...

For years we have realised the importance of calcium supplementation and vitamin D in captive lizards in preventing the incidence of metabolic bone disease (MBD). We are now starting to realise the similar importance in captive rabbits too. MBD seems to be a potential cause of dental disease. Factors which influence the development of dental disease include genetics, lack of dental wear due to poor diet, and metabolic bone disease (usually from calcium and vitamin D deficiency). Once we have a rabbit with dental problems it is impossible to change the dental anatomy of that rabbit. The main thing we can alter is the diet. Try to follow the following guidelines: Provide ad-lib grass and hay of good quality to promote dental wear and of a calcium content to promote bone mineralisation (Oaten or Timothy Hays are appropriate). Feed a variety of vegetables, safe plants and herbs – many are a balanced source of calcium and are good sources of indigestible fibre. If possible allow exercise outside each day – this allows for grazing and enables the rabbit to bask in the sun. Exercise also encourages gut motility. If needed you can also feed a well-balanced concentrate food to reduce any deficiencies in the diet. A general rule is no more than 1 tablespoon of a good quality pellet fed daily (these prevent selective feeding, where the rabbit chooses low calcium cereals and legumes from the “muesli” type diets). Muesli type diets and seeds should be avoided.

PET OF THE MONTH – July 2015

07/01/2015This is SMALLZ a 5 year old male guinea pig who we have been seeing for dental disease. Smallz carries the lethal gene which caused him to be born blind, deaf and with dental problems. Luckily for this little pig he has a loving owner who takes the very best care of him. We are happy to say he is currently doing very well.

This is SMALLZ a 5 year old male guinea pig who we have been seeing for dental disease. Smallz carries the lethal gene which caused him to be born blind, deaf and with dental problems. Luckily for this little pig he has a loving owner who takes the very best care of him. We are happy to say he is currently doing very well.

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