Monday, September 4, 2017

Guinea Pigs and Solar Eclipses

Humans here in the United States caught eclipse-mania a few weeks ago due to the total solar eclipse on August 21, 2017. Do guinea pigs react to solar eclipses? Is there anything you should be concerned about when they happen?

Because animals behave differently during night and day, as you can imagine, they can get confused during a solar eclipse and behave as if it suddenly became night time. According to a National Geographic article, "modern astronomers and eclipse chasers have also reported wild and domestic animals noticeably reacting to eclipses: Dairy cows return to the barn, crickets begin chirping, birds either go to roost or become more active, and whales breach in the seas."

There's actually an app for nature-loving humans called iNaturalist that allows users to record their observations of nature, and during the eclipse, they had a special project called "Life Responds" to systematically track how animals responded to the solar eclipse. Unfortunately, while there were plenty of dog and cat observations, we did not find any guinea pig observations in the project records. However, there were some observations of our distant relatives on the evolutionary family tree:
  • Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) - "No squirrels were seen - but there was A LOT of squirrel chatter all at once at 2:41pm! Reminded me of their warning call when a snake or raptor is about."
  • Domestic Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus ssp. domesticus) - "Grooming itself and eating, which it usually does around 4 PM"
  • California Ground Squirrel (Otospermophilus beecheyi) - "Squirrels bothered tourists as usual during the eclipse."
Kind of a mixed bag here, but looks like a lot of our distant cousins didn't even notice the eclipse.

On a related note, is there anything you should be concerned with regarding a solar eclipse? Humans have been very concerned about eye damage from looking up at the solar eclipse without proper eye protection, causing a condition called solar retinopathy. This can happen from staring at the sun during regular times, although ordinarily, your body feels pain and tells you to stop it. Is this a concern for guinea pigs? There was a debate about this on the Guinea Lynx Forum:
  • WindeSpirit: "I've been seeing a number of things about folks protecting their dogs & cats from the upcoming eclipse, but nothing about for the other indoor animals... In particular, those that have a window close to them or access to seeing out of, specially from floor height. Please take a simple precaution measure and close blinds, hang up sheets if need to.  Remember, piggies can play statue so easy, and sleeping with eyes open? One can only guess at what sort of damage that could potentially happen to them, and their sight is poor enough as it is. Better not to risk it with such a easy thing to do."
  • Kimera: "I don't understand what you are afraid of. Eclipse reduces the amount of sunlight, not making it stronger or more dangerous in any way. Eye protection, for example, very dark glasses, are necessary only for curious people who want to look directly at the sun to observe the eclipse."
  • crowcrash: "For future reference: The concern is that because the light is more dim, animals will look up or stare at the sun because it doesn't hurt to look up at it. But it will still damage their eyes."
  • kailaeve1271: "I am late as well, but I should let everyone know animals do not naturally look at the sky for no reason except if they sense a bird or something in a tree. Animals don't just stare at the sun. They just assume it is getting late outside. Trust me your animals are safe."
  • WindeSpirit: "To answer, what I am afraid of during eclipses? A piggy who normally sleeps in their safe and happy sunny spot suddenly starts bumping into things as if she had a stroke. Unless any one of the tests afterwards came back a false negative, which was unlikely. The vets only other conclusion was to ask about the partial eclipses, access to sun & exact day it started, that was both positive. We could only figure that the lack of sun allowed whatever natural instincts for her eye to look towards the sun, and assumed she was asleep when it happened since that would have been the ideal position, not to mention the position she usually was in, while in her sunning spot. Perhaps the shadow on her made her think I was standing outside and her eye naturally gravitated? ...The point is, there are times where enough of circumstances happen that can get a animal to look up... the piggy I was speaking about above was our Cotton princess. She lived a long and happy life, though she didn't sunbath as much the following 4-5 years, I ended up having to get a sun lamp."
So it sounds to us like guinea pigs probably don't care much of about solar eclipses (us two being the exception since we write a blog that makes us interested in just about anything guinea pig related), and will probably just ignore it. But there's at least one anecdote of a guinea pig being hurt by a solar eclipse, so it might be worth taking a moment to block off windows during the next one.
Although the risk is slim, it wouldn't hurt to take precautions to protect my eyes!
It will be some time before the next solar eclipse, but it's still something to keep in mind!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Can Guinea Pigs Eat Pink Pearl Apples?

Have you ever stopped to consider all the many wonders of nature that are out there? There's such a huge variety of things to look at, sniff, and--most importantly--chew on. And just when you think you've chewed on it all, nature finds something new to surprise you with. Sometimes the surprise is even hiding inside of something familiar. Take today's food review, for instance. You have what appears to be a regular, old apple, but cut it open, and... SURPRISE!

Wow! It's pink!
Yes, it's pink inside! Hence the name, pink pearl apples. These apples are only ripe from late August to mid-September, so keep your eyes peeled if you want to join in the fun.

Like all apples, we can have pink pearl apples 1-2 times per week.
Why are you giving me that look, Lola? You have your own.

My pink apple!
Admittedly, it tasted just like any other apple. But that's not a problem for us, as we love apples! The splash of color was a nice surprise, too. 5/5 stars!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Ask A Guinea Pig: Guinea Pig's Average Heart Rate?

It's time for another installment of our Ask A Guinea Pig series, where we answer questions from our readers! Here's today's question: Kathy Newman asks: "What is a guinea pig's average heart rate?"

Answer: We actually found a fair bit of variation in the answers out there, but the general consensus seems to be that it's somewhere around 200 - 319 beats per minute. (For comparison, in humans, "A normal resting heart rate for adults ranges from 60 to 100 beats a minute," according to the Mayo Clinic. So guinea pig hearts beat quite a bit faster!)

According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, a guinea pig's resting rate rate is 200-300 bpm:

Doctors Foster and Smith's pet education website gives slightly different numbers: 240-310 bpm. Also, an article in Nature claims that: "guinea pigs have a heart rate of 200–250 beats per minute." In The Biology of the Guinea Pig (Joseph E. Wagner, ed.), they reported that in a 1971 study, "They recorded a mean rate of 275.5 beats per minute as a normal resting heart rate. A range of 229 to 319 beats per minute demonstrated wide individual variation. They also reported that the guinea pig, while often appearing quiescent, is keenly aware of environmental changes as reflected in heart fluctuations. Introduction of a rat into a guinea pig cage caused a distinct bradycardia (25% less than resting rate)" This reminded us of one of our previous Ask A Guinea Pig posts on dogs and guinea pigs, where we cited an anecdote about guinea pigs been much less scared after the dog passed away.

Interestingly, in The Biology of the Guinea Pig, they also note a 1972 study "reported that the heart rate was significantly (P < 0.001) slower in summer than winter." This might help partially explain the different numbers. They also provide the following table, summarizing past research on guinea pig heart rates:

And, if you were curious how you might actually go about measuring a guinea pig's heart rate, we found an article from 1998 describing their process:
"The investigated animals were familiar with a daily standard procedure which included weighing in a plastic basin since their first day of life. In order to avoid disturbing the animals we used this procedure as base for our heart rate measurement: The head of an electronic stethoscope (Bosch, Germany) was built in the weighing basin in a way, that it was directly under the chest of the Guinea pig (figs. 1 and 2). By using an underneath accessible adjusting device the stethoscope’s head could always be adjusted in an optimal position without touching the respective animal with the hands. The electronically amplified heart rate sounds and the animal’s identification were recorded with a commercial two-speed dictation machine (Sanyo, Japan)."

Keep those questions coming!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Guinea Pig Attractions Around the Word: Berkley 510 Skateboarding Guinea Pig Mural

We've highlighted many guinea pig attractions around the world, but let's not forgot that our own country is also part of the world, and has its' own guinea pig attractions worth highlighting!

At 510 Skateboarding in Berkley, California, there was a controversy over a mural back in 2009. They had a 16 foot tall mural on the side of their business that went against the local signage laws because it included their name. An article in Berkleyside shows this mural of a guinea pig as the mural in question, although we're a little confused since the original article said it was a "rainbow mural" (possibly just meaning the colorful background?) and had the business name's name on the mural, which we didn't see until we saw the little"510" patch on the sleeve. (Is that what all the fuss was about?) Here it is:
Photo from Berkleyside (Source); Photographer: Rannie Turingan.
After seeing how old this story was and all the controversy, we figured that the mural was probably gone. However, thanks to Google Street view, we found out that it is still there:
Still there as of April 2017!
Any humans live in or near Berkeley? Go check it out and get your picture taken in front of this super-cool mural!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Guinea Pig Cuddle Cloning

We recently did a post on guinea pig cloning--something that's not quite available yet for guinea pigs, but is available for dogs and cats, so it's probably not too far off in the future. Until then, there is another option for those who can't wait: a guinea pig Cuddle Clone! As their website explains:
"We make soft, adorable, customized stuffed-animal versions of people’s pets called Cuddle Clones. All you have to do is submit at least one picture (although several are preferred) and choose a few customization options (eye color, ear position, tail position) and we’ll send you your very own Cuddle Clone."
Unlike ViaGen Pets, Cuddle Clone does offer a guinea pig "cloning" option:
Here is Bear and his Cuddle Clone.
Gypsea & Cuddle Clone.
Like real cloning. Cuddle Cloning seems expensive. (At least, we think it is. Even after all this time, it's hard to wrap our minds around that money stuff that humans care so much about.) The regular price for a Cuddle Clone is $249, although they're current having a limited summer sale of $149 for a guinea pig. Even though this is a lot less than the $25,000-$50,000 that actual cloning costs, we still don't think our humans will go for it. It's always an option for the future, though, since you just need pictures rather than genetic samples!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Guinea Pig Cloning

Ever since Dolly the sheep was cloned in 1996, the idea of animal cloning has been moving more and more from the realm of science fiction to science reality. There is now a company in the United States that offers pet cloning services called ViaGen Pets.

Our humans recently had a chance to speak with a company representative, and they said that they only currently offer their services for cats and dogs. This is because it takes a lot of research and development work to discover a reliable cloning process for each animal species, and it's probably no surprise that there are a lot more cat and dog owners out there to sell their services to. Also, their services are currently pretty expensive; they currently charge $50,000 for dog cloning, and $25,000 for cat cloning, although they hope to bring the cost down to $5,000 in the future. (They also offer genetic preservation services for $1,600 to save your pet's DNA for possible future cloning.) However, given how far animal cloning has come in the 21 years since Dolly, who knows how this will change in the next decade or two? Guinea pig cloning could become both available and affordable for the average human.

Here's the process works, according to one of their brochures:
No guinea pigs yet..
Of course, we may want to step back and ask an obvious question here: Why would you want to do this? Why wouldn't someone just accept a guinea pig (or other pet) created the way nature has been making them up to this point? According to veterinarian Alice Villalobos, “As a veterinary oncologist also focused on palliative care and hospice for dogs and cats, I see how this could become a more accessible opportunity for those who want to have an option for a continuum with a genetically similar pet who they are on the verge of losing.” These sentiments seem to match the user reviews on the ViaGen Pets Facebook page:
  • "Thanks to Viagen and their great staff I have peace of mind knowing there is a piece of my angel out there waiting for me! I can hardly wait to hold her in my arms again."
  • "It's never easy losing a "pet", especially when you think of them as family and their health declines almost overnight. Preserving our cat's cells helped with the grieving process because even though she is no longer with us, her cells are preserved! No matter what we decide down the road as far as cloning, it's nice knowing there are options."
  • "You gave Casanova a second chance at being able to continue his lineage (as Casanova is almost 17 now and his sperm are inactive). Casanova 2.0 one day will be able to continue Casanova's family tree"
We think this is all understandable. I remember how painful it was to lose our cage mates Buffy and Lola 1, and perhaps having a clone of them would have made the loss easier to accept. On the other hand, if you have room in your home for another guinea pig, creating a new cloned guinea pig in a surrogate mother seems like a missed opportunity to adopt one of the many guinea pigs who are out there and needs a good home.

What are your thoughts on guinea pig cloning? Let us know in the comments below!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Ask a guinea pig: Are lime peels safe for guinea pigs?

It's time for another installment of our Ask A Guinea Pig feature! Andi Rogynous asks: "Columbia doesn't like limes either, but she did eat the rind. do you know if that's safe?"

Thanks for the question, Andi. It's always good to do your research before feeding something questionable to your piggy. As you know, we did a review post on limes a while back, which included the rind. Of course, we hated limes and barely touched them, so eating the rind was a bit of a moot point for us. Still, just in case there are some piggies out there who feel differently, let's dig into this lime peel issue.

Research has shown that citrus peels are "a good source of molasses, pectin and limonene," and have lots of health benefits. Lime peels in particular are a good source of fiber compared to other citrus peels:
Of course, this seems to be human nutrition research, and doesn't necessarily mean that guinea pigs should have it. We've read that a study showed that limettin, a substance found in lime peel, was not found to be toxic to guinea pigs, but haven't seen any other research specifically on guinea pigs and lime peels.

However, we also know that guinea pigs can eat the rinds of other citrus fruits. For example, guineapigcages.com's food chart has orange peel listed as a 2-4 times per week food. In addition, when asked about lemon peels, their diet expert said: "The rind can be fed in small quantities as well."

In addition, we found a thread on the Guinea Pig Forum where someone fed their guinea pig a small lime slice, peel intact, and no one on the forum raised this as an issue:
Image source: PiggieWigs12 on the guinea pig forum; caption: "so apparently special needs Norman loves limes but especially loves lemons!"
Therefore, although the evidence is not 100% ironclad, we're going to say that lime peels are probably safe to feed occasionally (assuming your piggy actually likes them!). However, we should note that limes may have waxy coatings added to them, and should therefore be organic and cleaned very thoroughly. In addition, citrus peels may be high in oxalates, and should therefore only be fed in small quantities.