We know the idea of having your very own guinea pig can be very exciting, but it’s always important that you do thorough research on the different breeds and the levels of time and care that they require. While at the very basic level, many guinea pigs are very similar, some guinea pig breeds require different amounts of time devoted to their care. Some are higher maintenance than others, and aren’t really recommended for first time guinea pig owners. However, you shouldn’t let that stop you if you’re ready for the commitment after reading all there is to know about guinea pigs and the different breeds.
The Silkie guinea pig is one of those breeds that requires a little extra time and attention, but they’re just as adorable and loveable as the rest!
As you may have guessed just from looking at them, the name comes from their hair! The Silkie guinea pig was discovered in the 1970s and came from the cross-breeding of Peruvian guinea pigs and American guinea pigs.
Physical Characteristics of Silkie guinea pigs
Silkie guinea pigs have long, straight hair that can grow up to 24 inches. Their hair sweeps back from their head and across their body and forms a teardrop shape when seen from above. It’s similar to that of a lion’s main in that it doesn’t really have a parting. Some Silkie guinea pigs can have a satin coat, which is glossier than the standard Silkie guinea pig coat. They’re pretty average-sized, coming in between 8-16 inches in length, and can weigh anywhere from 1-3 pounds.
Silkie guinea pigs can come in a variety of colors, such as white, black, red, brown, and gray with several different combinations of the colors in their coats. The most basic of them is called Self, which is when only one color shows. Other coat types include Dutch, Brindle, Tortoiseshell and White, Roan, Agouti, Dalmatian, and Himalayan.
Silkie guinea pigs have very calm and gentle personalities, which gives them the temperament to be good pets for children. However, they definitely need to be cared for by adults since their grooming needs are quite high maintenance.
In general, guinea pigs need a constant supply of hay and water, pellets, and around a cup of fruits and vegetables to supplement other nutrients they need, such as vitamin C, calcium, and others. Younger guinea pigs need more calcium than older ones, but older ones need more vitamin C. It’s important to make sure that your guinea pig has a balanced diet that doesn’t consist too much of any one thing.
Silkie Guinea Grooming
Because of its long hair, grooming these little piggies can be a little more complicated than the average guinea pig breed. However, you should use these grooming routines to bond with your piggy and get to know each other! You’ll be doing enough tasks when it comes to this routine, might as well get closer to your piggy over it.
Silkie guinea pig hair needs to be brushed daily! Make sure to be extra gentle, especially if you’re detangling their hair. Because their hair is so long and flowing, they can be prone to tangles. Sometimes they might even need the occasional professional grooming to ensure good condition of their hair, skin, and nails. So treat your guinea pig to a (piggy) salon visit every once in a while—they’ll thank you. When brushing their hair, you can use anything from a comb, baby brush, or even a regular brush.
Because of their long hair, Silkies can pick up different things from their living environment, whether that’s food, urine, or other materials lying around. However, just like most animals, Silkie guinea pigs don’t like bathing! In order to keep them safe and healthy, they do have to be bathed regularly, at least once a week. They’ll fuss, but they’ll thank you later.
Despite their propensity for longer hair, you should keep your Silkie's hair on the shorter side if they’re not a show animal! This keeps them from picking up dirt and other materials around them like mentioned before, and they’re less likely to carry as much bacteria around with them. If you'd still like to keep their signature luscious mane, we recommend making sure that they're not treading on their own hair at least! You can cut their hair yourself by using scissors, but electronic clippers might be easier and more convenient for you.
Unfortunately, guinea pigs are susceptible to ear infections because of the earwax buildup that they experience—buildup can lead to the growth of fungi and other bacteria. You can use cotton swabs to clean the outer ears of debris, such as excess wax, dirt, and whatever else you find. However, it’s very important that you don’t venture any further than the outside of their ears and what can be seen easily—never insert the cotton swab into their ears!
Your Silkie guinea pig’s nails need to be trimmed at least once a month! However, this does depend on the individual guinea pig and their nail growth turnaround. For example, younger guinea pig’s nails grow faster than older guinea pigs! Their diet also plays a role in how quickly their nails grow back. It’s also important to note that more active guinea pigs wear down their nails faster than less active ones. With this line of thinking, it would make sense that sometimes older guinea pigs might need a trim more often if they’re not moving around as much as their younger counterparts.
It’s important to note that guinea pigs usually have a low tolerance for nail clipping, this means you’ll need to be very patient with your piggy and only do a few at a time. Make sure to take some breaks in between, especially when your guinea pig gets fussy—just try again later! If possible, make nail clipping a two-person job. One can hold the guinea pig so their legs aren’t dangling, and the other person can do the nail clipping. If only one person is available, then gently swaddle or burrito wrap your guinea pig in a blanket and hold them how you would hold a football! Then you can begin clipping their nails.
For a one person job, we recommend using the pouch that comes in the Offbeat Piggy Play Package. This is designed specifically for holding guinea pigs in the correct way to do things like administer medication, petting, and in this case, cut their nails!
You can utilize nail clippers that are meant for cats! There are two kinds: scissors or guillotine types. Either one is fine, as long as you’re careful and don’t trim your guinea pig’s nails too short. This can cause bleeding, which can be stopped by applying styptic powder, or by gently pressing a paper towel to the affected area until it stops.
Note that guinea pig teeth are growing constantly, especially if their diet is rich in Vitamin C. However, their teeth are naturally worn down to normal lengths by the foods they eat. If they don’t eat enough hay or fruits and vegetables, their teeth won’t wear down properly, and this can lead to impaction, which can be painful for your piggies. When this happens, a visit to your vet becomes necessary for treatment.
Common health issues in Silkie Guinea Pigs
Unfortunately, guinea pigs are prone to some health issues even if they seem to be perfectly healthy! There are some things you should look out for, that way you can get them the treatment they need if they happen to contract something.
Pneumonia is one of the more prevalent diseases that guinea pigs tend to suffer from because of the bacteria that they pick up from their surroundings. According to research done by VCA Animal Hospitals, guinea pigs become carriers of the bacteria that cause pneumonia and stay asymptomatic—VCA calls these bacteria “opportunistic,” because they become dangerous when factors of the guinea pig’s health status allow for them to be. This includes stress or other illnesses that render the immune system weaker than normal.
Symptoms include inability to eat, discharge from the eyes and/or nose, sneezing and trouble breathing. If your guinea pig has any of these symptoms, see your vet. They can take cultures of the discharge from their eyes and nose to help them figure out what’s going on with your guinea pig!
We believe that the number one way that we can prevent infections by ensuring that their living environment stays clean and hygienic! Our GuineaDad Premium Liners are made with fibers coated in an antibacterial agent that inhibits bacterial growth.
This occurs when long-haired guinea pigs are kept in dirty conditions, making them susceptible to matted hair and creating the perfect breeding ground for flies to lay their eggs in, which can then harm your guinea pig further by attacking their infected skin. This disease is life-threatening, and it’s important that you keep them and their living room as clean as possible to prevent them contracting this in the first place.
Guinea pigs have very delicate digestive systems, which makes them susceptible to issues involving it. When it comes to their diet, too much water or too much fiber can cause an upset in their usual digestion and cause diarrhea. With this comes loss of appetite, dehydration, weight loss, and things like low body temperature.
Like humans, guinea pigs can’t create their own vitamin C within their bodies, and need outside sources of it, especially as they get older. A deficiency of vitamin C can be detrimental to their health, as it can cause them to be more likely to contract diseases and infections.
Symptoms include things like rough hair, loss of appetite, diarrhea, decreased mobility, and swollen feet or joints are likely to be vitamin C deficient.
Guinea pigs are prone to the development of bladder stones, and usually form in the bladder or in the kidneys, or the tubes that drain the kidneys called ureters. When stones are lodged in the ureter or obstruct the urethra, it can become life threatening. Surgery is necessary to remove the stones a lot of the time, but regular check-ups with your vet can prevent emergencies such as these.
This is when sores form at the bottom the feet from pressure, which usually comes from the guinea pig being overweight. The sores can be painful and result in inability to be properly mobile. Treatment for this can be a little difficult, but a visit to your vet and following their treatment suggestions such as surgery, bandages, and antibiotics can alleviate the pain for your guinea pig.
One way you can relieve some of the pain that your guinea may experience in their little feet is by using the Guinea Dad Premium Liners. These liners are made to be easy on their feet and soft to the touch for pure guinea pig comfort bliss.
According to the Humane Society, guinea pigs need at least 7.5 square feet of space, but the more space the better! You want to give them as much space as possible so they can roam around freely and be active, therefore staying healthy and youthful.
Where to find your own Silkie Guinea Pigs
It's most ethical to adopt your guinea pigs from a shelter if possible. It’s common for new guinea pig owners to give them up for adoption quickly after acquiring them when they’re not prepared for the amount of care their guinea pig needs—especially if they’re higher maintenance.
Some guinea pigs in the shelters have been mistreated and not properly cared for in the past, prior to their arrival at the shelter. Shelters do the best they can, but many have limited resources in helping hands and funds, and they take in and care for as many guinea pigs as they can. When we adopt from the shelter, guinea pig parents not only provide better customized care for each guinea pig, but also help free up rescue centers' capacity to help more animals in need.
If guinea pigs aren’t available at your local shelter, you can “rescue” them from a pet shop, since some pet shops may not be able to put as much of their time and resources towards specialized care for the guinea pigs, because they have so many other types of animals to look after as well.
What’s left to know?
Make sure before you acquire a guinea pig of your own that you are aware of the needs and levels of care that Silkie guinea pigs require and are committed to taking care of your guinea pig to the best of your ability with the information that you’ve researched beforehand!
One you’ve learned all there is to know about Silkie guinea pigs, you’re all set to seek one out and give them the love and care that they deserve!