Although your guinea pig may be a hardy little animal, it is prone to several health problems, some more life-threatening than others. Knowing what these issues are, and recognising the symptoms early on will ensure you get the best possible treatment for your cavy.
We’ve put together a list of the most common problems guinea pigs may experience, as well as possible causes and the best course of action. Let’s take a look at these in a bit more detail.
Common Guinea Pig Problems
Guinea pigs are prey animals, and one of their survival tactics is to hide any signs of illness. Unfortunately, what this means for you as a piggy parent, is that you might only realise something’s seriously wrong when it’s too late. The most common health problems you should always be on the lookout for include:
- Skin conditions
- Dental issues
- Urinary problems
Guinea pigs are susceptible to several skin conditions, including ringworm, mites, lice and fungal infections. Not only are these uncomfortable for your pigg, but if left untreated, can even prove fatal. Rather than purchasing over-the-counter products (that don’t work), we recommend a visit to your vet as soon as possible.
Common symptoms of skin infections or diseases can include:
- A dull, dry coat
- Bald patches or hair loss
- Scabby areas around your guinea pig’s ears and face
- Red or dry skin (dandruff)
- Discomfort when you’re handling your guinea pig
- Sudden or unexplained biting
More often than not, these skin conditions can be prevented by looking after your guinea pig correctly. You should do a spot clean daily, and remove wet or soiled hay and bedding. Every three to four days, you will need to do a more thorough clean. Although it’s not a good idea to bathe your guinea pig too often, washing your guinea pig two or three times a year with a suitable shampoo will keep your piggy’s skin in tip-top condition.
A prevalent problem for guinea pigs is pneumonia. This is because a lot of cavies carry Streptococcus and Bordetella, two bacteria that cause this respiratory problem. Happy and healthy guinea pigs never actually develop an infection, however, if your cavy is stressed, or doesn’t get enough vitamins and minerals, it is more likely to suffer from this potentially fatal illness.
Signs your guinea pig has pneumonia can include discharge around the eyes and nose, difficulty breathing and sneezing. The only way to treat this condition is with antibiotics, and in severe cases, a longer stay at the vet with additional care might be necessary.
Abscesses are also common for guinea pigs and are usually a sign of an underlying health issue. These pus-filled sores can be the result of a bite from a hutch mate or something a little more serious, like an infection of a joint or an internal organ.
An abscess can swell up pretty quickly, and cause your guinea pig a lot of pain. Common signs, other than the infected bump, can include obvious distress when you try to pick your cavy up, a loss of appetite and lethargy.
Abscesses need immediate treatment from your vet and will either be drained or surgically removed. If there is an underlying infection, your guinea pig might be given a course of antibiotics.
Dental issues are another common problem for guinea pigs and can include abscesses, ulcers or mouth sores, broken or missing teeth and malocclusion. Keep in mind that although these don’t sound like serious issues, they can make chewing difficult and even stop your guinea pig eating.
Genetics, age and an incorrect diet can all play a part in dental issues, and more often than your cavy will need a vet to sort the problem out.
Bumblefoot is a common problem for pets that live in wire-bottom cages, have bedding that’s too rough for their feet as well as unhygienic conditions. Also known as pododermatitis, this painful condition occurs when a guinea pig’s footpads become infected.
The most obvious signs that your cavy is suffering from this condition include red, inflamed feet, cuts and abrasions. Other than being extremely painful, bumblefoot can cause lameness, so you must get it treated as soon as possible,
Flystrike is as nasty as it sounds, and when it comes to this condition, prevention is the better option. It’s caused when flies lay their eggs on your guinea pig or in the hutch, and the hatching maggots start to eat away at its flesh.
If you notice eggs or maggots in the hutch or on your guinea pig, you need to act fast. This extremely horrible condition can be fatal and will need to be treated quickly and effectively.
While diarrhoea in healthy humans isn’t necessarily a cause for concern, it can be dire for your pocket pet. Guinea pigs can become dehydrated or suffer from hypothermia after a bout of diarrhoea, which can be fatal if not treated quickly, and effectively.
Always keep an eye on your guinea pig’s poop for signs of a serious underlying health issue.
Scurvy in guinea pigs is caused by a vitamin c deficiency and can lead to skin problems, swollen feet, a loss of appetite and ulcers. In some cases, your guinea pig might have diarrhoea. You can prevent this condition by ensuring sure your cavy is getting the right amount of vitamin c in its diet.
Make sure your guinea pigs’ pellets are fortified with vitamin C and that they are getting plenty of vitamin c-rich vegetables.
Tumours, like abscesses, are common in guinea pigs. Although they are usually harmless, it is best to have any lumps or bumps checked out by a vet, and have them removed if necessary.
Female guinea pigs, or sows, tend to suffer from urinary infections, including cystitis, which can lead to more severe problems such as kidney or bladder stones.
If you notice blood in your cavy’s urine, difficulty urinating, or a loss of appetite, you need to get urgent medical attention as it can be a life-threatening condition.
Tips On How To Check Your Guinea Pig For Health Problems
Ideally, your guinea pig should have a shiny coat, bright eyes and be attentive, but for these prey animals, looks can sometimes be deceiving. This is why you need to do regular health checks to make sure your cavy is happy and thriving in your care.
6 Ways to check your guinea pig’s health
Take a look at our handy tips to help you identify any problems before they become life-threatening for your precious pet.
1. Bring your guinea pigs inside
Bring your guinea pigs inside and place them on a blanket or towel. Make them as comfortable as possible and handle them gently. Take your time checking each piggy, one at a time.
2. Weigh your guinea pig
An overweight guinea pig is an unhealthy guinea pig. Use a small scale to check your cavy’s weight. Depending on the breed, a female should weigh between 800 and 1000g, while a male will be between 800 and 1200g.
3. Look for any skin problems
Skin problems can often be a sign of an underlying health issue. Check all over your guinea pig for any signs of hair loss, red or scabby sores, ringworm, mites, lice and flystrike.
4. Trim your guinea pig’s nails
Overgrown nails can lead to more serious issues such as bumblefoot. Carefully trim or cut your cavy’s nails, or get a vet to do it if you’re not comfortable.
5. Regularly check for bumps or lumps
While you’re grooming your guinea pig, check for any strange bumps or lumps. These can either be an abscess or a tumour and will need to be looked at by your vet.
6. Look for any kind of discharge around your guinea pig’s eyes and nose
Any sort of discharge around your guinea pig’s eyes and the nose is a sign that something’s not quite right. Get your cavy to the vet as soon as possible if you notice a discharge.
As a responsible guinea pig parent, it’s your job to take good care of your fur baby. This means ensuring your guinea pig’s hutch is set up correctly.from its size and the kind of bedding you use, to having all the essentials in place and doing regular health checks.
Guinea pigs are fantastic pets, and if you take the time to do this, your pocket pet will be happy, healthy and popcorning all over the place.
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