I am often asked by worried mothers the question, 'Is there anything my children can catch from a guinea pig?.' In short very little, certainly a lot less than they could pick up from carnivores such dogs or cats. I then go on to recount an anecdote from one of my trips to Great Ormond Street hospital where I have been taking my guinea pigs a once a week basis for the past nine years.
The scenario was one sick child confined to bed after an operation who had three of my guinea pigs snuggled around her. I sat one side of the bed while her mother was on the other.
One of the doctors who was passing by, paused and took in the scene. "I've seen it all now' he remarked, with a grin. "Don't you ever worry about the children picking up something from them?" enquired the mother. "She's more likely to pick up something from you me or Mr Gurney here than she is from those little tykes!' he reassured her.
He obviously knew his business but that is just what I would expect from a doctor who worked in one of the worlds most brilliant children's hospitals.
In the main, what guinea pigs get in the way of bugs and ooh nasties, are species specific. In other words the bug that likes them are not particularly interested in humans. However there is one that humans can and do pick up and that is fungal.
There are many strains of this and several of them are common to both human and guinea pigs. Children are particularly susceptible to picking them up and I always emphasise this whenever I am asked for advice if a family guinea pig has some kind of skin problem.
The good news, is that it is more of a minor irritation to a human being than a serious health threat. They are easily treated with creams or powders and if they have become systemic with the Griseofulvin.
That doctor, and many of the other doctors at Great Ormond Street regard my guinea pigs as a very useful aid to getting their patients back onto their feet.
I'm very pleased and proud that my guinea pigs are used in this way in a hospital. The usual connection between guinea pigs and hospitals is in the medicines which have been perfected by their suffering through experimentation.
In this book I hope to redress the balance and give these adorable animals a better fighting chance than they stand at present because of the low priority they are given by the veterinary profession and laws of this land.
If I and many other owners were satisfied with the standard of veterinary care our animals were getting it would not have been necessary to embark upon this book or set up a State registered charity to improve their veterinary care.
The way things are going with the veterinary laws in this country we will soon reach the point where only members of the R.C.V.S. are allowed to write books about veterinary care. What price freedom of information?.