If you’ve not heard of a skinny pig, then you’ve been living under a rock for a long time. Skinny pigs are a hairless form of the beloved pet, Guinea pigs. However, while they are technically the same species, there are many differences between the two. Here are some of the differences between guinea pigs and skinny pigs.
1. Skinny Pigs Can’t Live Outside
Personally, I wouldn’t recommend ever housing a guinea pig outside. I have found that indoor guinea pigs are healthier, happier and more domesticated than those that are housed outside. However, there are plenty of people who are happy to have guinea pigs living outside either in outdoor enclosures or in sheds.
In contrast, skinny pigs can’t live outside. They must be kept inside and sometimes have additional heat applied through an overhead heater or heat mat, commonly used by reptile keepers. This is because the lack of fur means they have less insulation than they would normally have.
This does make their requirements a little harder to meet, but it does allow for enclosures that are more open and interactive with you. Something that I personally enjoy more.
2. Skinny Pigs Eat More
Most of our energy as mammals comes from the food we eat and not the environment, unlike with fish, amphibians and reptiles. However, guinea pigs use their fur to insulate themselves to reduce their energy needs to keep them warm. With no fur, skinny pigs need to eat more to keep themselves warmer and for energy.
Saying that, most guinea pig owners over feed their guinea pigs. A female guinea pig should only weigh about 700 to 900 grams. Yet many guinea pig females are given a full bowl of food every day. This can lead to a female weighing as much as 1,200 grams when their older. This 30% higher than it should be.
Males also tend to suffer. Their average weight should be about 900 to 1,200 grams. I’ve often found that 1,000 gram weight is perfect. Yet some males can sometimes weight in excess of 1,400 grams.
Why is this important? Well because if you want a skinny pig, and you then feed it more than you would normally feed a guinea pig and you’ve been overfeeding that guinea pig, you’re going to overfeed your skinny pig.
What you should be doing is offering a balanced diet to both species. I’ve found that three handfuls of hay per enclosure, about 30 grams of fresh food per day per enclosure and 16 grams of dried food per day per guinea pig is the perfect amount.
I add more hay, fresh food and four grams of dried food for pregnant guinea pigs. For skinny pigs I add about four grams of dried food per day as well. This creates a more balanced diet rich in nutrients. We recommend a pelleted food to ensure that there is no selective eating.
3. Skinny Pigs Don’t Have Shorter Lifespans
Many people think that skinny pigs have shorter life spans. This isn’t correct. There is no reason why your skinny pig should live less than a normal guinea pig. That is unless there is improper breeding with the breeder. What do we mean by improper breeding? That is when there is a line of skinny pigs where every parent, grandparent, great-grandparent, and so on and so on is a skinny pig. Why does this matter? Because every second generation a normal guinea pig (or a skinny carrier) should be used for breeding, this prevents serious health complications from setting in.
The more skinny pigs used within a breeding line, the higher the risk that there will be a genetic defect. A similar thing happens with many snakes when two albinos are bred together. This can cause significant issues with genetic coding that causes the offspring to have shorter lifespans or poorer living conditions.
But you can’t just ask who the parents are. As two skinny parents are okay, it’s whether all their grandparents were skinny is the problem. So always make sure that you get a generational check when it comes to buying your skinny pig.
4. Skinny Pigs Can Get Sunburnt And Dry Skin
Another common problem with skinny pigs is that they can get sunburnt and have dry skin. These are two conditions that are present because they don’t have any hair. Both problems are fairly easy to solve, fortunately.
For sunburns, the simple solution is prevention. As we’ve mentioned before, skinny pigs can’t live outside. It is as simple as that. Don’t have them outside and they won’t get sunburnt. Also, avoid using UVA heat lamps for additional temperatures. These are great for providing light and heat, but they can also be a major cause of sunburn, its like placing your skinny pig in a tanning room all day.
For dry skin there are several options you could try. For one, you could adjust their diet. There are fresh food and certain dry foods that can offer more oil to naturally make their skin less dry. Alternatively, you can use coconut oil to rub into their skin.
5. Skinny Pigs And Guinea Pigs Can Live Together
Whether or not you’re looking to start with skinny pigs or add to a collection, it is important to note that skinny pigs, like guinea pigs, are social animals. They like to live in herds for safety and company. That being said, that doesn’t mean you have to keep a herd of skinny pigs. You can mix them up.
You might not need to buy two skinny pigs and build a new enclosure if you’ve already got an established herd. If you want to add to it and you want to try a skinny pig, you can try to add one to that herd. Of course, you have to be prepared that it might not get on with the herd and then you’ll need to buy another skinny/guinea pig to go with that one or re-home it.
To introduce new guinea pigs/skinny pigs to an already established herd you need to follow a set process that is designed to minimise risk and improve chances of a successful integration. Males are going to be more challenging than females, so it is better to avoid combining two males unless there is no other choice. In reality, males that live together should be brothers from the same brood that have never lived apart.
When combining new females together, first introduce them together in a neutral space, like a bath. It is also wise to have them living in separate enclosures next to each other for at least a week, if not longer. Then you can slowly introduce them. I’ve started with a 15 minute session in an enclosure and working their way up to an hour. If there are no problems, you should be able to move them in together.
Watch weights of the herd and for any fighting. If a guinea pig starts to lose weight or there are fights; remove the new member of the herd out.
6. Breeding Skinny Pigs And Guinea Pigs Is Fine
One of the few things that I don’t like about the guinea pig breeding community is that they are completely against breeding guinea pigs. This is because there is huge risk with breeding. But that is the same for any breeding project and it is just knowledge that determines the safety for the sow and babies.
So, if you want to breed guinea pigs or skinny pigs, then we suggest that you research it properly. Unfortunately, most forums don’t give great information and you’ll be hard pressed to find a breeder who will help you. We went to the internet and read science journals about guinea pig breeding. From that we’ve developed a specific way to breed guinea pigs and skinny pigs that will thrive.
There Is No Competition With Skinny Pigs Versus Guinea Pigs: They’re Both Great
There is no competition when it comes to skinny pigs versus guinea pigs. They are great companions and pets for any household. There might be some slight changes to routines and care between the two, but at the end of the day, if you can give it a good life, there should be nothing stopping you from buying which ever one you want.
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