5 Common Ailments of Guinea Pigs
Wed, April 21, 2021

5 Common Ailments of Guinea Pigs

Guinea pigs are easy to care as pets if handled gently and frequently, making them ideal for families / Photo by: Dev_Maryna via Shutterstock

 

Guinea pigs are easy to care as pets if handled gently and frequently, making them ideal for families, said Laurie Hess and Rick Axelson of VCA Hospital, an operator of more than 750 animal hospitals in the US and Canada. Guinea pigs are hardy animals but they are susceptible to certain health complications and diseases. 

Common health complications include respiratory diseases, diarrhea, and more. By knowing which illnesses commonly affect guinea pigs, you can be better prepared to look out for signs and symptoms of sickness, wrote Adrienne Kruzer of The Spruce Pets, a pet platform. 

 

Respiratory Infections

Pneumonia is one of the most significant diseases of guinea pigs. It can be caused by several bacteria such as Bordetella and Streptococcus. Your pet can harbor these bacteria, so it’s possible for it to be an asymptomatic or apparently healthy carrier. The aforementioned bacteria can be “opportunistic,” meaning they can infect vulnerable animals, multiply, and cause disease if the “opportunity rises.” 

Stress such as overcrowding, pregnancy, and the presence of other illnesses increase the likelihood of the disease to develop. Young animals will be the most vulnerable. Bacteria can spread by direct contact, aerosolized or airborne particles, as well as contaminated hands or other objects. Infected guinea pigs may sneeze, refuse food, have eye or nasal discharges, or have trouble breathing. 

Cultures of the eye and nose discharge can be taken in order to identify the causative organism so that your veterinarian may prescribe the appropriate antibiotics for your guinea pig. However, some guinea pigs may need to be hospitalized for additional care. 

Pneumonia is one of the most significant diseases of guinea pigs. It can be caused by several bacteria such as Bordetella and Streptococcus / Photo by: Grigorita Ko via Shutterstock

 

Diarrhea 

Like rabbits, guinea pigs have a sensitive gastrointestinal tract. Guinea pigs have a specific natural “good” gastrointestinal bacteria or flora essential to normal bowel function. “Bad” (often) gas-producing bacteria can overgrow if this normal bacterial flora becomes unbalanced or altered. The bad bacteria can also produce painful gas, inflict damage on the intestinal tissues, slow down food passage through the intestinal tract, cause severe diarrhea, and release toxins. In severe cases, it can even result in death. This condition is known as gastrointestinal (GI) stasis. 

Some intestinal parasites like cryptosporidia and coccidia can also cause diarrhea. Other signs associated with diarrhea include depression, anorexia, low body temperature, dehydration, and depression. If your guinea pig is suffering from these symptoms, it is best to bring it to your veterinarian immediately. Certain antibiotics should not be prescribed to guinea pigs as they can upset their normal gastrointestinal bacterial flora, resulting in diarrhea. Antibiotics purchased over-the-counter in a pet shop should not be given since they are inappropriate for your pet. 

Like rabbits, guinea pigs have a sensitive gastrointestinal tract. Guinea pigs have a specific natural “good” gastrointestinal bacteria or flora essential to normal bowel function / Photo by: Pressmaster via Shutterstock

 

Scurvy

Guinea pigs are unable to produce vitamin C. Vitamin C aids in the normal development and maintenance of joints, mucosal surfaces like gums, and skin. It also plays an essential role in healing wounds. Lack of vitamin C makes your guinea pig more vulnerable to skin diseases and infections. Your guinea pig is deficient in vitamin C if it has a rough coat, off its food, has diarrhea, is reluctant to walk, or has ulcers or hemorrhages on its gums.  

Guinea pigs need 10 to 50 milligrams of vitamin C daily depending on their condition. Commercially available pellets contain vitamin C, but it is unstable and breaks down or oxidizes quickly. To prevent vitamin C deficiency, your guinea pig should receive this vitamin adequately either as a tablet or liquid every month by mouth. It is not recommended to place the vitamin in water as it can break down quickly, thereby losing its potency. 

 

Ileus

Your guinea pig should always be eating and defecating. What happens when your pet has not touched its food or you see its stools become smaller and smaller? It’s possible that your guinea pig has ileus. This is caused by gas buildup in your pet’s gastrointestinal tract. Gas is unable to leave its body because there is a lack of normal peristalsis. It can also happen when no food is coming to the digestive system, causing discomfort, which can be life-threatening. If you suspect ileus, take your guinea pig to the veterinarian so it can get a proper diagnosis and be prescribed with medications. 

Ileus can also be caused by an underlying illness or stressor, causing your guinea pig to stop eating. Moving the cage, introducing a new guinea pig, or being afflicted with respiratory infection or ectoparasites can stress your pet to the point it doesn’t eat and develops ileus. Hence, it is best to be cognizant of how any change may have affected your pet and monitor its food intake. 

 

Ectoparasites 

If your guinea pig is losing hair or scratching excessively, then it may have lice or mites. Lice, sarcoptic mange mites (scabies), and Demodex mange mites (Demodex) are conditions that cause itching and hair loss. Lice and their eggs can be seen in the bald patches behind your pet’s ear. Talk to your veterinarian to determine the best course of action to get rid of your guinea pig’s lice or mites. 

Watch out for red flags of sickness and disease even if guinea pigs are hardy animals. Also, be sure to bring your guinea pig to your veterinarian for a checkup to keep it healthy and happy.