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Guinea Pigs/Nibbling on ears

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Question
QUESTION: Hello there,
I have 2 female guinea pigs.  They are approximately a little under 2 years old and are fairly large.  They seem to get along well.  I have not seen any fighting or heard any squealing.  This morning I was feeding them their vegetables when I noticed that one had a little notch taken out of its ear.  It isn't red or bleeding so I'm wondering if it has been there for a while without me noticing?  I was wondering if you would know anything about this or any possible remedies.  Maybe there is a product (like some sort of bitters) I can apply to its ear to discourage anything negative from happening.  
Thank you so much for your time and advice,
Maria Sebastian

ANSWER: Actually these kind of injuries are common. They're just cosmetic and there's no need to put anything on it. And yes, it's entirely possible it's been there for awhile and you just never noticed it.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hello again,
I was wondering if you think this injury is from the other guinea pig? Also if I notice more of the same...what should I do to help this little girl out? Is it aggressive behavior? Any info or advice is greatly appreciated-my daughter was upset as she left for school this morning because of it. Thank you again!!!

Answer
It's definitely from the other pig. And yes, it is aggression but not the type you need to be so worried about that you want to separate the pigs. I do think however, that we need to be sure you have two females and not two boars. This is a frequent occurrence when someone acquires two pigs especially if you got them young and were told they were the same sex.

If you could would you take a picture of each of them by holding them upright and photographing their undersides? Don't put the camera too close or it will blur what we're trying to see.  About 18" is a perfect distance.  I can blow it up on my computer if I need to.

When someone buys two young pigs they very often look so much alike that an inexperienced person will not correctly sex them. Two young boars will get along just fine for about 1 1/2 to 2 years. Then the hormones begin to express themselves and they sometimes begin to fight. If that's the case here it is more serious than two females just being cranky when they come into heat. In the case of the males they will fight aggressively until one of both is seriously injured.

Females come into heat approximately every two to three weeks. They're only in heat for a couple of days and only receptive for breeding for a few hours. During that time they're testy and cranky just as we females are. The nipping at the ears is a common thing. Sometimes they will make a tear in the ear and sometimes it's a clear bite, leaving the ear looking as if someone took a hole punch to the end of the ear. If however, you start seeing signs of body injury then it's more serious and they'll need to be kept apart.

If you recently acquired these pigs there is yet another possibility, especially if you got them from a breeder. As breeders we tag the left ear for identification purposes. The number on the ear is put on their pedigrees so we can tell who is whom. On the show table they are identified by that number as well. Sometimes a pig will scratch themselves and get the tag caught in the rear toenail and pull it through causing a rip in the ear. Again, it heals just fine and is nothing but a cosmetic concern.

But before you start looking for another cage please let's determine what we're dealing with. By this age the scrotum is well developed and should be easily seen. Another way to tell is for you to hold them on your palm and run your forefinger and middle finger under the belly and down through the genitalia. If you feel the scrotum then you have the answer. But if you're unsure I will be happy to help.

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Pat VanAllen

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As is sometimes the case, people in urgent need of information have a higher degree of expectation than those of us as experts are able to give. The experts on this site do their best to give the most accurate and responsible answers possible. We ask that you remember that it is not our intention nor place to criticize the professional advice given by your veterinarian, nor is it appropriate for us to comment on the correctness of a diagnosis made by a licensed physician. Our knowledge is experience based. Although many years of breeding and showing cavies gives me a wealth of experience it cannot change the fact that we as experts are not veterinarians and therefore may occasionally have to reject questions that appear to be asking us to criticize advice given by the licensed professional. Having raised and exhibited cavies for many years I have extensive experience in cavy care and husbandry. I currently have an active breeding program for pedigreed show animals but do not encourage backyard breeding for inexperienced owners. Although I don't encourage breeding for fun I'm always happy to answer any questions from an owner who is in sincere need of help. Pet owners wanting to breed should understand that even experienced breeders have litter losses. The mortality rate is high in cavies. The chance for losing both sow and pups is always present, even with experience. Although this is a site for experts to assist owners, there is no expert in any field who has all the answers. The wisest thing a good expert can know is their limitations. Not having an answer does not diminish one's ability or knowledge. It simply shows that we recognize our limitations and operate within them.

Experience

Raised and shown cavies for many years, having aquired my first cavies in the early 1970's as pets. My caviary currently handles 65 + animals in two different breeds and several varieties. Having been in the health care industry as a licensed nurse for 35 years I have hands on experience with care and needs in both humans and cavies. Member of American Rabbit Breeders Association and American Cavy Breeders Association.

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Awarded Lifetime Membership in of one of the oldest cavy clubs in the United States, on whose Board I served as Sec/Treas for six years and currently serving as President. Also editor/publisher of the club's quarterly newsletter. We are strong supporters of our youth exhibitors, most of whom are 4H members who are working on cavy projects. Through these projects they become good responsible citizens. We deal with all aspects of showing, breeding, caring for and sharing experiences in the fancy. The cavy fancy is not a new one but in some areas is still relatively unknown. Our goal is to inspire interest in high quality, responsible breeding to improve the species, not just the reproduction of guinea pigs. Our job is to educate owners to help them make the right decisions and choices in the care of their cavies.

Education/Credentials
Graduate in nursing. Certified in emergency medicine.

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