“Weighing” the Chances for a Healthy Life
Evolution has taught guinea pigs (and many other animals) that hiding illness and injury is an important part of their survival. As a cavy owner this puts you at a serious disadvantage when it comes to evaluating the health of your small friend. No matter how observant you are when it comes to the living and eating habits of your pigs, I can almost guarantee that most of the time they will be better at hiding a problem than you will be at detecting it!
A growing number of experienced guinea pig owners are discovering the best tool at their disposal for early detection of health problems is an ordinary digital kitchen scale. Weighing your pig weekly and tracking their weight over time can determine the difference between minor and major illnesses. Weighing is fast, easy and requires no special medical knowledge but it might save your pig’s life.
Choosing a scale:
- I recommend a digital scale with measurements in grams as well as ounces (an ounce is a little more than 28 grams so grams gives a more accurate reading) and the scale should go up to about 5 pounds.
- If the scale doesn’t have a bowl or container to weigh the guinea pig in you’ll want to find one of your own to use – typically the scale surface is too small to weigh effectively.
- Higher quality kitchen scales have what’s known as a tare feature which just means if you put a container on it before turning the scale on the weight of the bowl will “zero out” and you won’t have to subtract the container weight to get the pig’s weight.
Things to keep in mind about weighing:
- Some pigs will try to leap or run until they get used to being weighed. If they are on a high surface like a counter top and run off it they can be seriously injured. Until your pig is comfortable with the weighing process it’s a good idea to sit on the floor and do it.
- The scale should sit on a stable and solid surface for accuracy; make sure you move your hands away from the pig enough not to affect the weight while still being close enough to stop them if they try to dash off.
- It can be helpful to weigh on the same day of the week, it helps to remember and get in a routine.
- After you have a weight on your pig, record the date and weight somewhere you can keep it as well as future weights. Something as simple as a notebook is fine, as is a spreadsheet or a calendar. The important thing is that you can track their weight over time and be able to take it to the vet to show the doctor if you have a concern about your pig’s health.
- Pig weights do fluctuate some throughout the day and from day to day. From personal experience, a change of 20+ grams from one day to the next is not that unusual. Consistent or dramatic weight loss is a cause for concern and should be checked by a vet.
- As pigs get to be senior citizens they have a tendency to lose a small amount of weight consistently over time even if they are otherwise healthy.
- Your scale might not reflect the same weight as the one at your vet or one a friend has. That’s ok; the important thing is to show weight trends over time so weighing on the same day of the week using the same scale will give you the information you need.
A kitchen scale can be found at most retailers fairly inexpensively. More options means more cost but a basic digital gram scale with a tare feature can still probably be found for $25 or less. Most major stores carry them and they can be ordered online. This one small step can be a great benefit to your cavy, and bring you peace of mind as well.
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