-Please note that this is just a guide. If you have any health concerns for your pig seek veterinary attention without delay-
This topic is so important, and to cover everything that you need to know in this booklet is almost impossible, so I will just list a few things to be on the lookout for with your piggie. If your guinea pig exhibits any symptoms listed below, or if it just seems to be “not quite right” get it to a vet immediately. While I will list just a few of the more common illnesses (maybe common, but can also be fatal), please make it a habit to go to the following link, for references on illnesses and maladies that can befall a cavy. There are also forums there with experienced guinea pig owners (not breeders!!) who are always willing to help with information and suggestions.
With the permission of Guinea Lynx, I am reproducing their emergency medical guide. Please take this information seriously. If you suspect your pig is sick, it is always best to seek veterinary treatment. Your guinea pig may have been ill for some time before the symptoms are even noticeable.
The following symptoms are SERIOUS and warrant a trip to he vet ASAP. As this list is not complete, if you have any concerns, PLEASE, see a vet immediately.
• Not eating is extremely serious, as your pet's system will shut down with dire consequences. After as few as 16 to 20 hours of anorexia, liver cells begin to break down and from then on, your pig will only get worse. If your guinea pig is not eating, get to a vet immediately to determine the cause and begin treatment.
• Crusty eyes, Labored breathing, crackling sound from the lungs, eyes that are almost sealed shut, discharge from the eyes and/or the nose, sneezing, coughing, and wheezing can all be symptomatic of an upper respiratory infection (URI). Antibiotics are prescribed to treat these bacterial infections (cavies do not get cold viruses). Get to a vet immediately if you see any of these symptoms. Untreated URI’s are almost always fatal. Occasionally allergies can produce the same symptoms - but because URI's are so deadly and fast moving, it is imperative that the vet rules out a URI before considering the possibility of an allergy.
• Blood in the pee, squeaking while peeing, a serious and painful condition. A vet should check your pet for a possible urinary tract infection (UTI) or problem with the bladder or kidneys. A sour smell could indicate a cyst, bladder or urinary tract infection, or stones.
• Diarrhea especially if accompanied by the pig looking ill and sitting with its coat puffed up: get to a vet. A black, foul-smelling watery mess indicates a very serious intestinal problem (bacterial infection, eating spoiled/moldy hay or vegetables). For diarrhea resulting from antibiotic use (killing off intestinal bacteria), consult your vet, who may switch to a different one and prescribe an intestinal bacterial supplement (a probiotic). Milder forms of diarrhea (too many fresh fruits or vegetables or a change in feed) are also serious, require immediate treatment (generally replacing fresh vegetables with lots of timothy hay), and with no rapid improvement require a trip to the vet. Severe diarrhea can also be caused by E. coli and giardia. Your vet will do a fecal smear to identify the problem and prescribe appropriate medications. When your piggie has diarrhea, dehydration and weight loss occurs. It’s always a good idea to have good quality pellets on hand for just such an emergency. The three brands I recommend are Mazuri (alfalfa based), Oxbow Cavy Cuisine or Zu preem (timothy based).
• Listlessness, discharge from eyes and nose, swollen joints, difficulty walking get to a vet. These are signs of scurvy.
• Labored breathing, blue tinge to the lips and snout (only visible in pink skinned pigs), get to a vet. May be possible heart or lung problems.
• Drooling, Weight loss, interest in food but can't or won't seem to eat: get to a vet. The molars could be overgrown (malocclusion), which will result in the pig slowly starving to death if the cavy does not receive treatment. Can be misdiagnosed as vitamin C deficiency (scurvy).
• Bloat (a light tap on the side sounds hollow)
• Guinea pig in discomfort: get to a vet. Could be an intestinal blockage.
• Difficulty walking, Pig holding it's head tilted to one side: get to a vet. Prompt treatment is critical for complete recovery. This can indicate an inner ear infection (torticollis/wry neck).
• Hair loss, dry, scaly skin, open sores, scratching, pain when touched: get to a vet. If it is Sellnick Mange (a parasitic infection) it can even be fatal and usually warrants two ivermectin treatments 10 days or so apart. May also be fungal.
• Delivery Problems: You must get the sow to a cavy knowledgeable vet immediately if you witness any of the signs listed below:
o Sow straining for more than 10 minutes and not producing a baby.
o Sow bleeding
o Sow squealing loudly with each contraction
o Sow getting exhausted and just giving up from trying.
o No placenta being produced with the babies
o Sow smelling like nail polish remover, or acetone. This can occur from 2 weeks before until 2 weeks after the birth.
• There should be one placenta for each baby. The afterbirth will be a round flat bloody object ranging in size from a nickel to a quarter. If she stops eating or drinking or you feel there is something wrong, get to a vet right away.
• Poisoning: Symptoms vary widely. The American Veterinary Medical Association's "A Pet Owner's Guide to Common Small Animal Poisons" lists dangerous chemicals that may accidentally be ingested by your pet. These include a short list of poisonous plants, human drugs dangerous to pets (such as acetaminophen -- also known as Tylenol), household products and more. If you suspect your pet has been poisoned, contact your veterinarian immediately.
Guinea pigs very seldom get over an illness without help and can decline EXTREMELY quickly. While it may appear your guinea pig has "just" come down with something, it may have been concealing symptoms for some time, a behavior that puts additional stress on the immune system. Concealing illness is a survival mechanism in the wild, where a lagging pig would quickly be picked off by a predator. For these reasons, if you suspect your pig is ill, it is always best to take it to a vet. If you have more than one pig, you might take along a healthy one so the vet can compare them (unless it has already been separated from the sick one to avoid passing on an illness to your other cavies).
Often the first sign of illness is weight loss. The most important tool you have to monitor your pig's health is to weigh it once a week. Keep a chart! This will enable you to spot gradual weight loss and get medical help before it's too late, perhaps buying you valuable time for early treatment. Weight loss may also be one of the first signs of malocclusion.
• One ounce weight fluctuation is OK.
• Two ounces - Go on alert.
• Three ounces - Extreme red alert.
• Four ounces - Get the pig to a vet.
Other general signs of illness are: rough or puffed up coat, dull and/or receding eyes, lethargy, hunched posture, refusal to eat or drink. Be an observant owner! Behavior unusual for your guinea pig (which may include sitting with it's face in a corner, lowered responsiveness) could also indicate the need to seek medical assistance or at the very least, the need to monitor the pig closely.
You should also have an emergency medical kit on hand consisting of the following items: triple antibiotic ointment or Neosporin; kaopectate; q-tips; 1 cc syringe; betadine solution; pellets, in case of emergency only (oxbow, mazuri, or zu preem); unflavored pedialyte; mylicon (or any children's gas relief liquid) and cuticle cutters to trim their nails.
Exotic Vet Listing: