Guinea Pig Health Guide

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As with any pet you should keep an eye out for whether or not your guinea pig is feeling well. If their appearance or behavior changes it may be due to an illness. Remember, your guinea pig is very, very dependent on you for their well being. They can’t drive themselves to the vet!

Unfortunately guinea pigs tend to be slightly more prone to illness then other pets.  This Guinea Pig Health Guide lists the symptoms of some common illnesses that you can look for:

Excessive Scratching

Excessive scratching can indicate that your guinea pig is suffering from a parasite or a fungal infection, neither of which your pet wants to suffer with for long.

To check for parasites you need to carefully comb through their hair and look at their skin. Look for small brown spots – these are lice. Lice can be killed by giving your guinea pig a bath with a specially medicated shampoo that you should get from your veterinarian. Don’t use a medicated shampoo that is used on people of other types of pets. also, if your guinea pigs has lice then the cage may be infested and you should give the cage a good, thorough cleaning and disinfecting.

Loss of Hair

You may notice that your guinea pig is losing hair on some parts of it’s body. In some cases this is normal, as when the guinea pig is cut or scratched. The hair will fall out until the affected skin is completely healed. There are other causes of hair loss that should be looked into further

Guinea pigs can lose hair if they are infested with mites. Significant hair loss is often caused by ringworm, and sometime by ovarian cysts. In these cases a visit to the vet is an appropriate course of action.

Watery Eyes

Your guinea pig may have watery eyes. This may be caused by allergies, or maybe he just has an irritant in his eye like dirt or dust. Irritants can be washed out of their eyes – contact your vet for the proper method to do this. Sometimes watery eyes are caused by something more serious like cysts on the eyelid that irritate the eyes.  These can be very painful to your guinea pig and should be removed by an experienced veterinarian.

Sneezing and a Discharge from the Nose

If your guinea pig is sneezing this could be a sign that your pet is allergic to something in his habitat or in his food. Try changing the materials that you use to line his cage, or that you have provided for his bedding. Also consider a change in his diet (not too drastic because guinea pigs are creatures of habit and don’t like change). But don’t do both of these things at the same time or you won’t be able to tell what is causing the problem.

Of greater concern is if your guinea pig is experiencing any kind of discharge from his nose or if he is persistently rubbing his eyes. If this is the case then a trip to the vet may be necessary to determine the problem.

Labored Breathing, Wheezing or Coughing

Pet guinea pigs are very susceptible to respiratory problems. If you hear your guinea pig coughing you should take it seriously, particularly if it accompanied by wheezing or labored breathing. These are symptoms of a lung or respiratory infection. If you notice these symptoms you should take your pet to the veterinarian as soon as possible. If a respiratory infection is not treated right away it could lead to pneumonia which can be fatal to your guinea pig.

Change in Color of Urine

Guinea pig’s urine is naturally a little milky in  color and appearance. If you notice that your pet’s urine changes to something either completely clear of very white, or the urine appears to have a thicker consistency, it is an indication that his diet is too high in calcium. If this is the case then cut back on food or treats that are high in calcium. If you notice that the urine has a reddish or pinkish color it is because there is blood in the urine and may be an indicator of bladder stones. This is a serious illness and you need to get your pet in to see the vet right away.

Soft Stool or Diarrhea

Your guinea pig may develop diarrhea if his digestive balance is out of whack. This is typically caused by your guinea pig having too many wet foods, like vegetables, in his diet. This malady can be fixed by reducing the amount of veggies you are feeding him, and increasing the amount of hay in his diet, which promotes a healthy digestive balance. If the diarrhea persists then you need to get your pet the the veterinarian right away because your guinea pig can quickly become dehydrated and die.

Stiff Joints

Guinea pigs need to have their diets supplemented with vitamin C, either in the form of vitamin supplements, or by feeding them a diet high in vitamin C. If your guinea pigs appears to have trouble moving or walking it could be because he is suffering from stiff joints which is a symptom of scurvy, and is caused by a severe lack of vitamin C. This needs to be treated without delay so get him him to se your vet right away.

Be sure to read my article on Guinea Pig Food which discusses the guinea pig’s need for additional vitamin C in their diet.

An Unusual or Abnormal Tilting of the Head

Sometimes your guinea pig will appear to have difficulty walking and will be tilting his head to one side. This is usually caused by an infection of the middle ear. An infection of this type is painful to your pet and can cause damage to your guinea pig’s hearing. This infection needs to be treated quickly so don’t delay in getting your little friend to the vet.

Guinea Pig Seizures

You may witness your guinea pig having a seizure. There are typically two types of seizures that you might see happen. In one type of seizure your guinea pig will have his head straight up in the air with no tilt to it. The cause of this type of seizure is tiny mites which have burrowed under your pet’s skin and has affected his nervous system. This can be treated relatively easily by your vet.

If the seizure results in your guinea pig’s body going rigid, or his body curls in an unnatural way with his head tilting to one side, the cause can be for a variety of reasons. The problem should be diagnosed by your vet after performing blood tests.

Summary

Guinea pigs are fragile creatures that are completely dependent upon you for their care and health. If your guinea pig appears to be ill then refer to this Guinea Pig Health Guide and seek the appropriate veterinary care for your pet.