Guinea pigs have four paws. Two front paws with four toes and two back paws with three toes. A guinea pig’s paw pads contain dense cartilage that allows it to remain on its feet for a long period of time.
Guinea pigs make great pets. They are fun and friendly creatures guaranteed to make any pet owner smile. However, they are not as common as cats and dogs, so many people know little about them. As we all know, dogs and cats both have paws, but what about guinea pigs?
Front vs. Back Paws
In short, yes! Guinea pigs have paws. Their front paws have four toes, while their back paws have only three toes. Their back paws are much longer than those in the front, with a slight arch—similar to the arch of a human foot.
Each paw also has paw pads. Their back feet have large paw pads containing dense cartilage. Cartilage is the same material found in a human ear or nose, but it provides a different purpose in guinea pigs.
In humans, the cartilage is there to hold the unique shape of your ear. In guinea pigs, it is thicker and more load-bearing. Since guinea pigs are sedentary herbivores, they spend a lot of time standing while they chew on hay or other food. Their feet are built to withstand long periods of placing weight on their paw pads, providing comfort in the form of cartilage.
Without the cartilage pads, standing would be a lot less comfortable, and they would be unable to stand to eat for such an extended period of time.
Though most guinea pigs have four toes on their front paws and three on their back paws, some have even more. In some cases, guinea pigs will have a condition called polydactyly, in which guinea pigs are born with extra toes on either their front or back paws.
Though it is typically the result of inbreeding, this condition is usually nothing to worry about. If the extra toes are a hindrance to the guinea pig, or if they are in danger of falling off (some are loosely connected to the side of the guinea pig’s paw), your vet will remove the extra toe to give your pet a better quality of life. It is better to remove the toe in a sterile environment than to risk the toe causing problems in your guinea pig’s daily life.
Guinea Pig Paw Care
Make sure to trim your pig’s nails regularly. If their nails are not subject to constant upkeep, they will grow too long and hinder your guinea pig’s movement. Nails that have grown too long can curl inwards or get caught on the netting of the cage and rip, causing a painful injury to your pet.
When trimming their nails, make sure you do not cut past the ‘quick’—the inner vascular portion of the nail. Your guinea pig’s nail will bleed if you cut down to the quick.
To avoid this, you can have the vet show you proper nail trimming techniques, or you can have a professional groomer take care of nail trimming if you are afraid to do it yourself. However, since nail trimming should happen routinely, it may be beneficial to learn yourself!
What is Bumblefoot?
Bumblefoot—also known as ‘Pododermatitis’—is an infection of your guinea pig’s footpad. It is essentially a scrape that has become infected and swollen. This can occur if your guinea pig walks on exposed wire netting or rough bedding.
If the scrape comes in contact with bacteria, it will become infected. If the guinea pig is left untreated, the infection will progress, and a vet might need to amputate the leg. If the infection is severe and the guinea pig is never taken to the vet, it can even result in death. Treatment is key to ensuring your guinea pig does not lose a leg or even its life!
To avoid bumblefoot, be sure to keep your guinea pig in a clean environment with low humidity. Soft bedding is key to preventing footpad abrasions—as well as routine checks to make sure the bedding is covering all areas of the cage. Ensuring your guinea pig maintains a healthy weight can also help prevent bumblefoot.
If you notice your guinea pig’s movement is inhibited, if it is showing symptoms of depression, or has suffered sudden weight loss, these may be signs of bumblefoot. Check your guinea pig’s paws regularly for swollen, flaky, or bleeding areas, and make sure to voice any concerns to your vet.
What To Do If Your Pet Has Bumblefoot
If you suspect your guinea pig might have bumblefoot, schedule an appointment with your vet.
Because the infection can be so dangerous if left untreated, it is better to be safe than sorry!
A medical professional will be able to provide your guinea pig with the care it needs.
Why All The Paw Care?
It might seem odd that there is so much upkeep for your guinea pig’s paws. After all, there are guinea pigs in the wild, aren’t there?
Guinea pigs in the wild are not the same as the domestic guinea pigs you’ve come to know and love.
In the wild, guinea pigs are traversing a variety of terrain that naturally wears down their nails and prevents the need for trimming. While they might experience rough terrain in the wild, they are not in a confined area that is as likely to spread bacteria, so they are not as inclined to experience bumblefoot.
It is important to remember that your guinea pig is a domestic guinea pig, not a wild one. Under no circumstances should it be released into the wild, as it is not equipped to survive such conditions.
Your guinea pig is used to being consistently fed in a clean and safe environment. Keep it under your care and keep it safe!