In general, guinea pigs are hardy and low-maintenance animals. And that is one of the main things that make them amazing pets, especially for children. However, this fact does not mean that guinea pigs aren’t prone to certain illnesses.
If you want to be a great owner to your little fluffy ball (which we are sure you do), you should at least learn about the existence of some guinea pig illnesses. Thankfully, the list is not going to be too long. In case you know exactly what to expect and how your guinea pig might start acting in case it gets sick, then it will be much easier for you to figure out when the poor fellow needs to be taken to the vet. Eventually, you might end up saving the guinea pig’s life.
We present to you the full list of health problems in guinea pigs. Take your time to go through all the guinea pig illnesses from A-Z.
What Are the Signs of Guinea Pig Illnesses?
Even though the diseases from which guinea pigs might suffer are diverse, there are still a few common symptoms that the majority of these diseases have in common.
Persistent scratching and hair loss, for example, are symptoms of quite a few different illnesses. Loss of appetite, diarrhea, problems with urination and/or defecation, breathing problems… All these things are signals that there is something wrong with your beloved pet.
The only right thing to do is to take your guinea pig to the vet as soon as you notice any of these symptoms. The great news is that most of the guinea pig illnesses are easy to treat and will go away fast. Of course, only in case, you managed to take the little guy to the doctor at an early stage of the illness.
Noticing a disease symptom isn’t difficult if you spend enough time with your guinea pig on a daily basis. If you know everything about the habits and behavioral patterns of your pet, then you can easily notice any difference in behavior. You should pay attention not only to physical changes but also to behavioral changes. If your cavy was very active and curious and then suddenly lost interest in everything – then this might be a symptom of a serious illness.
Monitor how much your guinea pig eats and drinks on a daily basis and if the quantity suddenly changes, make sure to take the little guy to the vet. Just in case.
Guinea Pig Illnesses – Full List of Health Problems in Guinea Pigs
Our A-Z List of Guinea Pig Illnesses is the most detailed guide for guinea pig symptoms and diseases. Here you will find scientific information for diagnosis and treatment of different guinea pig’s illnesses.
In a nutshell, abscesses are an infected swelling. The poor guinea pig is suffering from an infection and an abscess is the body’s way to try and get rid of the ‘aliens’. Usually, these swelling accumulate bacteria and pus. Abscesses are not an illness on their own, they are formed as a reaction to something. However, swellings can cause a lot of pain and discomfort.
The worst part is that abscesses can form practically anywhere. The swellings can develop on and under the poor cavy’s skin; around internal organs, bones, muscles, lymph nodes, and even teeth.
As the thing is full of pus, it might feel logical to simply drain the liquid. Unfortunately, guinea pigs tend to develop thick pus. It is practically impossible to drain, so the only way to get rid of the abscess is by removing it during surgery.
How to figure out if your guinea pig has an abscess or not? If the little fellow has a wound, for example, the chances are high that the area around it will become red and swollen. Later on, it might develop into a capsule. Basically, this capsule is the abscess. The swelling might be under the skin. In such a case, you might see a little lump and the area will be warm if you touch it.
You should certainly take the poor lad to the vet. The doctor would either drain or remove the abscess. After that, you would have to give your guinea pig some antibiotics. There are swellings that are much harder to remove. The ones that are formed around bones and teeth, for example. In the most severe cases, the vet would have to remove the affected tissues as well.
Source: Natural Infections of Guinea Pigs
Once again, barbering is not really an illness. However, it might become a problem. If your beloved pet is extremely bored, it might start to chew on its own or someone else’s hair (‘barber’). Some cavies might get carried away and end up biting the skin.
To ensure that your guinea pig never does that, provide the little fellow with enough toys and chewing material. Remember that guinea pigs have to have enough fresh hay to chew on at all times.
In guinea pigs, bladder stones usually for because of the buildup of calcium. In case there is too much of this element in the diet of your guinea pig, then the calcium simply won’t have enough time to get washed out from the body. Thus, it will start to build up in the urinary system.
It’s a painful condition that can become life-threatening if not treated. The stones might completely block the urinary tract. In such a case, the guinea pig won’t be able to urinate and might even die within one single day!
The stones may simply be present in the system and cause pain. Make sure to pay extra attention to your beloved pet’s litter. If you spot blood, you would have to take the little guy to the vet immediately. Do the same thing, in case you notice that the fluffy ball has not urinated for quite a while.
Other symptoms include a hard stomach. Moreover, you might be able to feel the stones when you touch the poor fellow, but make sure to be gentle to not cause any pain. Unfortunately, the absolute majority of stones can be removed only through surgery.
Source: Urethral Obstruction in Individual Guinea Pigs
Did you know that guinea pigs’ teeth grow throughout their whole lives? That’s why it is necessary for the animals to wear them down. Otherwise, the teeth might overgrow or become misaligned and that will cause a series of problems in your beloved pet.
To keep the cavy’s teeth healthy, you have to make sure that the little guy has enough things to chew on at all times. Of course, regular vet check-ups are a must, as some problems cannot be seen by a non-professional.
Unfortunately, no matter how hard you try to take care of the fluffy ball, sometimes its teeth might just keep on growing too fast (even if the guinea pig has enough chews).
Elongated roots – can become a problem. That’s when the teeth start growing into the jaw. Unfortunately, you can’t always spot that with a naked eye. There might be small bumps on the cavy’s lower jaw. Or its eyes might start to tear up, but only an X-ray will help you tell if the little guy is suffering from elongated roots or not.
Malocclusion – is a condition that appears when the guinea pig’s teeth are not properly worn down. The bottom teeth would start growing towards the tongue, while the upper ones will make their way to the cheeks. Needless to say that the little fellow will be in pain, as the overgrown teeth cause different sores and injuries. Moreover, the guinea pig will stop eating.
If you noticed that that the teeth of your guinea pig started to break or to simply fall out, then it might mean that there is something wrong with the cavy’s diet. In a healthy. Guinea pig the teeth will grow back just fine. However, if there is a sharp part that might be hurting the poor fellow, it’s better to pay a visit to the vet.
Source: Objective Interpretation of Dental Disease in Rabbits, Guinea Pigs and Chinchillas
We are used to thinking that diarrhea can’t be an extremely serious or dangerous condition. After all, we can easily treat it. However, diarrhea can become a great big problem in small animals like guinea pigs.
It is important to understand the root cause of the condition. Unfortunately, those can be absolutely different. The first thing that you have to take into consideration is the diet of your beloved pet. Guinea pig’s gastrointestinal tract is incredibly sensitive. Moreover, the little guys have a specific bacterial flora that can easily be ruined. If there is an imbalance in the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria that may cause a gas buildup (a very painful condition), diarrhea and, in the most severe cases, even death.
To avoid such conditions make sure to not drastically change the diet of your guinea pig. The fluffy balls are especially vulnerable for the first few days after adoption. The best way out is to feed the cavy with the same things that it had been given before and later on slowly introduce new products. Moreover, some foods might simply act a laxative. Lettuce, for example, if fed in great quantities can cause diarrhea. As well as a lot of other fruits and vegetables. And even though your guinea pig has to follow a well-balanced diet full of fresh products, the first thing you should do if you notice that the cavy is suffering from diarrhea is exclude all the fruit and vegetables. Let the little guy eat only pellet and hay for a few days.
However, this condition might not be a reaction to food. Bacterial infections can cause diarrhea. This condition can also be a symptom of enteritis. In such a case, you won’t be able to adequately treat diarrhea all on your own, so a trip to the vet is a must.
Bear in mind, that guinea pigs can be given only specific antibiotics that won’t ruin their sensitive gastrointestinal flora.
Source: Care of Guinea Pigs
Unfortunately, the fluffy balls might suffer from foot problems for a variety of reasons. Those may be an injury, a disease, age-related changes, and obesity. You would have to keep an eye on how your guinea pig walks. In case you have noticed that there is something causing pain, then you would have to take the guinea pig to the vet. A professional would prescribe the best treatment which may vary from antibiotics to a simple medical spray.
One of the conditions that you should be aware of is ‘bumblefoot’ (pododermatitis). Fortunately, you can easily notice this illness as the pads of the feet of your precious guinea pig will no longer be pink and soft. You will spot sores that have been caused by an infection. Usually, such a condition occurs when an obese guinea pig lives in a wire-bottomed and/or dirty cage. The condition is chronic and causes a lot of pain. Needless to say that the poor cavy will find it challenging to move around.
The first thing that you have to know about fungal problems in guinea pigs is that humans can easily catch them as well. So, make sure to wash your hands after you handle your guinea pig. If you suspect that the poor fellow has a fungal problem, use gloves.
At the same time, do remember to wash your hands before handling the guinea pig as various bacteria and fungi develop in a dirty surrounding. Keep the cage of your pet clean and dry and don’t forget to change the food, water, and bedding regularly.
One of the worst conditions is ringworm (which is actually a fungal problem, not a parasite). The condition can easily be treated if you pay a visit to the vet during the early stages. These kinds of problems can also be referred to as ‘fungal mange’. The conditions can be painful, lead to hair loss and hot skin. Moreover, your guinea pig might be scratching a lot and you will notice strange substances on its face and body. Fungal problems are treated with the help of different shampoos.
Source: A Brief Overview of Zoonotic Disease
Did you know that guinea pigs can’t sweat? That’s why cavies don’t like hot weather. In fact, it might even be dangerous. If the temperatures are above 78.8°F, then you have to make sure that the cage of your guinea pig is not located under direct sunlight. The little fellow can easily get a heatstroke as it’s practically impossible to cool down with a thick coat.
If you have noticed that your beloved pet is lying down and is rapidly breathing, then quickly place the cage in a cooler place (ideally, with a breeze) and make sure to sprits some cold water on the little guy to help the cavy cool down (however, it should not be ice water).
Needless to say that if you fail to help the little guy it might pass away.
Source: Take Shade: Preventing Heat-Related Illness – Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University
Just like any other animal, a guinea pig can get injured in a variety of ways. If you happen to have more than one cavy, then the injuries might appear after fights. Or the little guy might simply slip or fall. Some of the injuries might not be obvious that’ why regular check-ups are necessary. Part the hair of the little guy, check the feet and the mouth.
Lice are, possibly, one of the most common conditions. Thankfully, the majority owners know about this problem and at least have an idea of what to do once you spot the insects. Lice do not suck blood, they live on the skin and hair but can still cause a lot of discomfort in guinea pigs. The guinea pigs, in some cases, might develop an allergy. Or the itching will be so bad, that the poor fellow might start scratching and biting its skin. You have to ensure that no infection gets in the sores.
Source: Lice of Guinea Pigs
Fortunately, you can easily get rid of lice with the help of the right shampoo. Simply remember that the tiny insects are contagious. You would have to thoroughly clean the cage and even the room in which the guinea pigs live. In case you have other pets, you would have to bathe the animals with a suitable shampoo as well.
Related: 7 Common Skin Problems In Guinea Pigs (Treatment Included)
Unlike lice, mites get under the skin of the guinea pig. Certainly, it causes a lot of pain in the animal. Usually, mites strike the area around the genitals and the front legs first. The guinea pig would start to scratch and bite itself. You will notice that there are some bald patches on the body and the overall hair will become thinner.
It is practically impossible to protect your guinea pig from mites, as the poor thing might get infected not only from other animals but also from hay. Unfortunately, even good-quality hay can sometimes be contaminated. However, there are some preventative measures that you can follow. Buy a special shampoo that you would use a few times per year after you bathe your little friend.
In case the guinea pig got infected, it is always better to pay a visit to the vet. And don’t forget to disinfect the cage before you put the guinea pig back as mites are extremely contagious.
Source: Mange Mites in Guinea Pigs
Guinea pigs like to live in a dry environment. Whenever it gets damp, the little guys are prone to various respiratory infections. Moreover, cavies are surrounded by tiny particles from hay, for example. These things can cause severe allergies and irritate the lungs, throat, and nose.
You would have to take your pet to the vet if you notice that the little thing is making noises when it’s breathing and if the cavy is coughing, sneezing or in case there is some discharge from its eyes or nose.
Pneumonia is also a relatively wide-spread illness among guinea pigs. Guinea pigs might already naturally have bacteria inside their bodies. In case the little guy suffers from stress, for example, the illness will start to develop. That’s why it is important to remember that guinea pigs are vulnerable and don’t like drastic changes in their lifestyle. Moreover, remember to always wash your hands before handling the little thing as you might be carrying some dangerous bacteria.
Source: Bordetella Pneumonia in Guinea Pigs
Guinea pigs are one of the few animals that cannot produce vitamin C. That’s why it is important to ensure that the little guys get enough of this element with their diet. Cavies should be given enough vitamin C daily as a single big dosage will simply get washed out from the body.
Scurvy is an illness that develops when there is not enough vitamin C in the cavy’s body. The guinea pig will end up having problems with its joints, gums, and skin. Moreover, the furry ball will be more prone to various infections. Severe vitamin C deficiency can even lead to paralysis.
Depending on the condition of the cavy, it would need 10-50 mg of vitamin C daily. In case you can’t provide adequate quantities of the element within the diet, make sure to consult the vet about vitamin C supplements.
Related: Guinea Pig Vitamin C Food List (Dosage, Serving Size & More)
Whenever you are handling your beloved pet, make sure to check the little guy for some strange lumps. If you find something that has developed incredibly fast, the chances are high that it might be a simple fatty cyst. But, unfortunately, guinea pigs can get cancer. That’s why it is crucial to take the fluffy ball to the vet as soon as you spot a lump. Breast and skin tumors are the most common types. On an early stage, these things can be removed surgically without major complications.
Source: Spontaneous Tumours in Guinea Pigs
We have already mentioned bladder stones. However, guinea pigs (especially, sows) are prone to a bladder infection (cystitis). Such a condition might result in blood in the urine, anorexia, the inability to urinate or short and frequent urination. Cystitis is a painful condition that has to be treated by a vet.
Source: Cystitis in Female Guinea Pigs
So these are guinea pig illnesses from A to Z. Simply remember that it is always better to take your beloved pet to the vet, in case there is something wrong with its body or behavior.