Ask A Vet - Why Has My Guinea Pig Started To Bite?

My 19-Week-Old Guinea Pig Has Started To Bite - Is It Normal?

I have a 19-week-old male guinea pig, he's indoors, an only pig, and is handled daily, he's on good feed, plenty of fresh vegs, fruit, and chamomile hay, he's changed out 2 times a week, and has playtime on the grass, he's just started to bite us, quite badly!

We are now wary of him, He's handled gently and monitored when children hold him, he has started scratching a lot, but I can't see anything on him, I have read about mites, etc., do you think it's just adolescence or shall I seek help?

I'd appreciate any advice, Thanks, Shelly.

 Guinea Pig  illustration

Hi Shelly,  it sounds like you are having a tough time of it currently! It is quite unusual for a guinea pig to bite aggressively, in fact in my 14 years of training and working as a vet it has never happened to me. As you are well aware though, that's not to say it doesn't happen!

The vast majority of guinea pig bites are usually gentle and are just a way to explore the environment or try to communicate. These are especially common if food and fingers get too close! Looking for patterns in the biting can be useful, for example, if he bites when carried, touched in certain areas, or needs the toilet. The recent scratching could definitely be related. Mites are very difficult to see with the eyes and an itchy uncomfortable pig is certainly more likely to bite. If he is checked over by a vet and everything seems well and no issues are noted with the environment then it may well be due to adolescence.

If this is the case then the behaviour should start to fade at around one year of age and it is important to continue to handle him throughout. Interestingly young males can develop better if given the company of another guinea pig and this is something that could be considered. Obviously, if a female is added then one would need to be neutered, castration in itself though is not likely to improve his behaviour.

 Advice from Adrian Caunter, BVSc BSc PgC SAS MRCVS

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