There are quite a few things on the market that can be very harmful for cavies. They may seem perfectly okay, but they are actually not made for our sensitive little pets and should be avoided.
- Exercise Wheels/Balls. Pigs have solid compact bodies with relatively small legs; their spines are not flexible like some other rodent species and are not as flexible. They can get serious spinal injuries from these items and can also break legs, ankles and toes if their nails catch in the small holes. Aside from the danger, they are simply not fun for your cavy. Many pigs will not even move while in them – which is the safest thing for them!
- Hammocks. Can be dangerous to pigs for the same reasons as harnesses, leashes and balls – leg, spine and other injures can occur if they become tangled up getting in and out of one.
- Treats with Seeds/Nuts. Pigs are not seed eaters; seeds can be very harmful. Pigs have choked on seeds, gotten them stuck in their teeth and other harmful and painful things. At best, seeds and nuts are empty calories for pigs with no nutritional benefit.
- Treats with Yogurt. Pigs are lactose intolerant so all dairy products are bad for them, no exceptions. Yogurt treats can be high in sugar and also have no nutritional value.
- Treats with Honey. Honey is another form of sugar and is “junk food” for pigs. Honey is coated on a lot of treats so be sure to read all labels before you buy.
- Treats in general are tricky. Most contain too much sugar (in the form of honey or “hidden” sugars) or have dangerous ingredients (seeds, nuts, dairy). There are acceptable treats available but they can be hard to find. Keep in mind, your guinea pigs’ favorite treat is going to be a variety of fresh veggies from your refrigerator!
- Salt or Mineral Wheels/Blocks. Both items are potentially harmful. Excess minerals can build up in the body and cause health problems. Pigs get all the salt they need in their regular diet; there is no need to supplement.
- Chew Stones/Rocks. Pigs need to chew to keep their teeth worn to the correct length but chew stones are NOT the way to accomplish that. They can be a choking hazard and can injure soft piggy mouths. Good quality unlimited grass hay is the perfect choice for wearing their teeth and is good for their health in lots of other ways too.
- Vitamin and Mineral Drops for water. Guinea pigs need plenty of vitamin C but they don’t need extra minerals, those can be harmful. Vitamin C should never be added to water bottles; the C will lose its’ potency rapidly and will not benefit the guinea pig anyway. Worse, additives in water can cause it to taste odd and many pigs then won’t drink enough.
This is not a comprehensive list but it is a collection of things I’ve seen, done or heard about. When shopping for your guinea pig try to keep in mind their physical safety and nutritional requirements to help you make your decisions; your guinea pig will be happier and healthier!