Guinea pigs are very energetic and rugged animals meaning they can handle a lot but they are also prone to certain diseases and disorders. If you’re looking to adopt or buy a guinea pig you’ll want to make sure you understand what the most common illnesses, disorders and diseases that plague guinea pigs.
Guinea pigs that live by themselves are susceptible to disease and disorders related to their age, reproduction, oral hygiene and grooming. Whereas guinea pigs who live with others are commonly affected by bacterial or viral diseases.
Unlike most other animals, guinea pigs are very sensitive to antibiotics so treatment of infections can prove to be challenging. The best thing you can do is work to prevent these diseases and illnesses from occurring in the first place.
The best way to prevent sickness in your guinea pig is to promote a healthy lifestyle and improve their living conditions.
Digestive Disorders in Guinea Pigs
Guinea pigs can suffer from diarrhea and it’s most likely caused by bacterial, viral or parasitic infection. Diarrhea can be deadly for guinea pigs if prolonged. It’s important that if your guinea pig has had diarrhea for several days that you talk to your vet.
The common signs of diarrhea in guinea pigs will vary depending on the cause. You’ll want to observe your guinea pigs weight, appetite, stool stains, look for loose feces, excessive dehydration, fevers, abdominal pain and if your guinea pig is constantly in a crouched stance.
You can help avoid diarrhea and treat it by putting more fiber in your guinea pig’s diet. You want to avoid feeding them fruits and vegetables that are high in moisture. A probiotic can be added to feed to help improve their digestive health.
Depending on how serious your guinea pig’s diarrhea is you may want to see a vet. The vet may give the guinea pig an IV and more fluids if they are not drinking enough water. Guinea pigs should recover after a few days with proper care.
Dental (Teeth) Problems
Many guinea pigs suffer from irregular teeth and is often called malocclusion if you’re talking to a vet. This condition is responsible for “slobbers” which are guinea pigs who excessively generate saliva. Teeth can become irregular for many reasons but the most common are due to injury, vitamin deficiencies or genetics.
Teeth defects in guinea pigs most often happen to their molars or premolars due to improper alignment. Some common signs of teeth problems in your guinea pig are: appetite loss, pain in mouth, bleeding, bad odors and puss coming from the teeth roots.
If you are seeing any of these signs you should talk to your vet. The vet may clip or rasp the teeth to get them back in alignment.
Respiratory or Pneumatic Disorders in Guinea Pigs
Pneumonia is one of the most widespread respiratory infections on most animals, not just guinea pigs. Essentially, pneumonia is the inflammation of the lungs. Pneumonia can be caused by bacterial and viral infections.
The clinical signs of pneumonia in guinea pigs include dyspnea, coughing, sneezing, discharge from nostrils, weight loss, lethargy and loss of appetite.
Treatment for pneumonia in guinea pigs includes oxygen therapy, vitamin C and antibiotics. If you have multiple guinea pigs housed in the same environment you’ll want to separate them so the pneumonia doesn’t spread.
The A-type adenovirus is the one that infects guinea pigs. This virus is normally present in guinea pigs and usually doesn’t cause illness. However, as stress is induced on the guinea pig their immune systems become weaker.
This disease, with a weakened immune system, will act much like pneumonia in guinea pigs.
Reproductive Disorders in Guinea Pigs
A common illness found in female guinea pigs that are over 1 years old are ovarian cysts. These are fluid-filled pockets that cover the membrane of the ovaries and can occur in both ovaries or a single one.
A guinea pig with an ovarian cyst will have abdominal pain, hair loss, lethargy and a decreased appetite. A vet can give a tentative diagnosis but the guinea pig will need an ultrasound to be fully diagnosed.
If a female guinea pig is having a lot of trouble giving birth it’s likely dystocia. Dystocia can have several causes but most are linked to an oversized fetus, low energy levels during birth, low calcium, and abnormal position of a fetus, narrow birth canal and even hormonal imbalances.
Since this disorder can have so many causes each one will have their own treatment decided upon by your vet. Your vet may give your guinea pig drugs to help with contractions and widen the uterus. If unsuccessful, a c-section to save the life of the mother and kids will be performed.
Nutritional Disorders in Guinea Pigs
Scurvy is one of the most common illnesses that guinea pigs suffer and it’s due to the lack of vitamin C in their diet. Guinea pigs can’t synthesize vitamin C meaning they depend on getting it through their diet or supplements.
Vitamin C is required by their body to perform various functions, such as the production of collagen. In this instance, collagen helps with joins and movement. However, guinea pigs need vitamin C for much more than joint health.
To cut it short – if guinea pigs don’t get vitamin C through their diet their lifespan will be cut down dramatically. You should be putting supplements in their diet and giving them foods rich in vitamins and antioxidants.
Metabolic Disorders in Guinea Pigs
Hardening of Organs
The hardening of organs, or metastatic calcification, is common in male guinea pigs more than females who are over 1 year old. This disorder is where organs will harden and no longer work leading to immediate death.
The signs of hardening organs are frequent urination, rigid muscles or joints and dramatic weight loss. There is no clear cause for this disease but many speculate it is linked to diets high in calcium, vitamin D and phosphorus.
Ketosis, also known as pregnancy toxemia ketosis, occurs from the high number of ketones in a guinea pigs body. The main causes of ketosis in your guinea pig are larger litter sizes, anorexia during pregnancy, obesity, not enough exercise and stress.
Ketosis in guinea pigs usually occurs in the last few days of pregnancy or within the first week after the female gave birth. The female guinea pig will show signs of muscle fatigue, tremors, lack of coordination, lethargy and coma. Ketosis has a high mortality rate in guinea pigs if not properly cared for or caught early.
The vet will pull a blood sample and provide oral supplements to help the guinea pig work through this disorder.
Cancer in Guinea Pigs
Just like with all animals, guinea pigs can get cancer too. As your guinea pig ages the likelihood of cancer increases quite a bit. Fortunately, many types of cancers aren’t common in guinea pigs like they are in other animals.
Most guinea pigs are likely to develop cancer by the time they are 4 or 5 years old. The most common types of cancer in guinea pigs are skin tumors, blood cancer (leukemia), lymphosarcoma and ovarian cancer.
There aren’t too many signs that your guinea pig has cancer aside from monitoring their health. You’ll likely start to notice weight gain or loss or blood in bodily fluids such as finding blood in their urine.
The most common treatment method, if treatable, is surgery to remove the tumors.