Guinea pigs are popular kid's pets for several good reasons, but this doesn't mean they are indestructible. Unfortunately, broken guinea pig legs are seen far too often by exotic animal vets and these injuries are often due to accidents involving children or problems with the guinea pig's cage or toys. If you find yourself with a guinea pig that has a potentially broken leg, there are things you can still do to help your pocket pet.
Types of Broken Bones
Simple fractures are broken bones with no skin wounds so the bone has not broken through the skin layer. Where the break is located and how long it has been broken will determine the treatment plan. Fractures can also be broken down into more specific types that your veterinarian may reference such as oblique, compound, compression, and others.
Compound fractures can be more severe than a simply fracture since they are more than just a broken bone. These fractures have a wound or swelling of blood under the skin called a hematoma associated with them or the bone may even be protruding through the skin. Compound fractures are at a higher risk of getting infected than simple fractures because of this break in the skin layer.
How Do Guinea Pigs Break Legs?
- Accidents - A common reason for a broken guinea pig leg is rough handling by children. Children tend to be more aggressive with animals, carry them around, and even step on pets accidentally which leads to injuries such as broken bones. But adults sometimes have accidents, too. Guinea pigs get dropped, wiggle and try to jump out of arms, get stepped on, and get picked up incorrectly and all these things can cause a guinea pig to break its tiny leg.
- Getting Stuck in the Cage - Guinea pig cages with wire floors, hay hoppers, wire exercise wheels, and other items that a leg will fit in can easily cause a leg to get stuck and injured.
- Malnutrition - If a guinea pig does not receive proper nutrition then its bones will become weak, brittle and prone to fracturing. This usually occurs when a guinea pig isn't getting appropriate foods and inadequate vitamins and minerals.
Treatments for Broken Guinea Pig Legs
If your pet is having a hard time walking or an obvious leg injury, it should be taken to your exotics vet as soon as possible. If your guinea pig is not eating then this should be treated as an emergency situation to prevent ileus from developing as a secondary result of the pain from the leg injury. You can syringe feed your guinea pig some mixed vegetable baby food or Critical Care until it can be treated by your vet but this is only a temporary solution. The stress a guinea pig's body goes through from an injury and the pain it may endure is enough to kill it if left untreated. Even if the first vet you take it to cannot help you fix its leg, be sure to ask for pain medications and anti-inflammatory drugs to keep it comfortable until you can get it more help.
Your vet may be able to tell if the leg is broken without X-rays but an X-ray is the best way to see exactly where the leg is broken. The leg may need to be splinted or have surgery to place pins in it to hold it together until it heals. If the leg cannot be repaired surgically, splinted, or is a break that is more than a few days old, it may need to be amputated if it cannot heal. If one of these options are not affordable to you, your exotics vet may discuss euthanasia. Some guinea pig owners who cannot afford surgery or splinting have been successful with at home cage rest and supportive care for about a month to see if the bone will heal first. This method is intensive on your part and may not help every kind of broken leg. Ask your exotic veterinarian if this is a break that would respond to this type of treatment prior to deciding to go this route.
Preventing Broken Guinea Pig Legs
- Feed Appropriate Foods - Make sure you are providing the proper guinea pig diet to your pig to keep its bones strong. Provide a vitamin C supplement whether that be in a tablet, droplet form, etc. since guinea pigs can't make this vitamin, they must ingest it—similar to humans.
- Get Rid of Items that Legs Can Get Stuck In - Remove anything that a guinea pig could get its leg stuck in such as a wire wheel, a hay hamper or hay ball, wire ramps, and even wire cage bottoms.
- Remove Cage Shelves - Don't allow your guinea pig the opportunity to fall in its own cage.
- Monitor Children - Have children sit on the ground when handling guinea pigs and teach them how to be gentle with pets while supervising them.
- Provide a Safe Place to Run Around - Make sure you and everyone in the house knows when your guinea pig is out of its cage so that no one steps on it or provide your pig with a playpen to avoid those types of accidents.
Health Problems in Rodents. VCA Animal Hospitals.
Choi, Hong Kyu et al. Inflammatory responses in the muscle coat of stomach and small bowel in the postoperative ileus model of guinea pig. Yonsei medical journal vol. 54,6 (2013): 1336-41. doi:10.3349/ymj.2013.54.6.1336
Minimizing Stress Helps Keep Guinea Pigs Healthy. U.S. Department of Agriculture.