What Allergies Can a Guinea Pigs Have?

What Allergies Can a Guinea Pig Have

Much like humans, Guinea pigs and animals, in general, can develop a particular allergic reaction to a specific substance. Guinea pigs can have an allergy to specific food, medication, and even bedding!

Just a decade or two ago, Guinea pigs weren’t as famous as they are now. And with their popularity slowly rising, we began to learn more about these tiny animals. This allowed us to interpret their signs of illness pretty quickly and we now know much more about possible issues than a decade or two ago.

When it comes to the allergies, Guinea pigs are quite resilient. However, exposing them to certain conditions or giving them food and medication that isn’t meant for then can sometimes have FATAL consequences.

In this article, we’ll examine what allergies can Guinea pigs have, as well as some allergic symptoms that you should take care of.

Guinea Pig’s Allergic Reactions

An allergy can be expressed in numerous ways, depending on the cause of the allergy. These signs are sometimes serious and sometimes not a cause for concern. Carefully take note of those:

  • Itchy Eyes

Itchy eyes are the most common sign of an allergy. However, it’s much harder to spot this on your Guinea pig since it can’t tell you directly. If you see a Guinea pig trying to scratch his eyes or have a problem with the vision, that could indicate a possible allergic reaction. In that case, you need to call the veterinarian to determine the cause of that allergic reaction.

  • A Consistent Cough

This one is pretty serious and requires your immediate attention. Usually, Guinea pigs and animal in general, don’t cough that much. The only reason for coughing is either flu or part of the food stuck in the throat. However, if that cough starts terrorizing your Guinea pig, it’s critical that you seek medical attention.

  • Skin Rash

Skin rash is very hard to notice since Guinea pigs have fur. Luckily, skin rash is often followed by itchy skin, making the animal scratch a particular part of the body. Alternatively, if the itch is getting worse, a Guinea pig can roll on the floor as it tries to scratch its skin. It isn’t an amusing thing to watch and requires immediate medical attention.

  • Sneezing

Sneezing might not indicate anything serious. It’s very common for animals to sneeze, especially when it is outside or when there’s too much dust in the environment. But, if this sneezing persists throughout the day or week, medical attention is needed.

  • A Runny Nose

A runny nose is when a Guinea pig has excessive drainage that comes from nasal tissues in the nose. Usually, this kind of allergic reaction is associated with something in the air that irritates the nasal membranes of the nose. A runny nose is sometimes associated with asthma, which we’ll talk about in just a second.

  • Wheezing

If a Guinea pig has a runny nose or problems with breathing, wheezing can also occur. It’s that high-pitch sound that comes from the chest while you breathe. This one is pretty rare, though, but it’s even harder to spot.

  • Breath Shortness

You’ll notice this one right away if your Guinea pig isn’t as active as it was before. Simply put, shortness of breath will make it harder for it to breathe, causing a Guinea pig to stop running and jumping around. This one can be pretty serious!

  • Anaphylactic Shock

Anaphylactic shock is a pretty serious medical condition in which the blood pressure suddenly drops, causing heavy breathing and even inability to breathe. This condition can appear if there’s a severe allergic reaction and needs to be treated immediately.

It CAN be fatal if not treated well.

What are Guinea Pigs Allergic to?

There are some strict rules when it comes to Guinea pig allergies. Here is what every Guinea pig owner should inhibit and keep out of Guinea pig’s reach:

  • Chocolate

They say that dogs and cats shouldn’t eat chocolate. Well, Guinea pigs also don’t handle chocolate very well. Eating chocolate can be fatal to Guinea pigs! When it comes to eating sweet food, you shouldn’t give it to any other animal, not just Guinea pig.

Animals are born to eat either grass or meat, and there isn’t a place for sweet food in their diet.

Next time you buy chocolate, be sure to eat it alone or with your family, and not with your Guinea piggie.

  • Iceberg Lettuce

We all know that Guinea pigs love eating lettuce. I mean, even we love eating some salad with our favorite dish. It’s healthy and has some vitamins here and there. But, iceberg lettuce is a bit different regarding quality macro and micronutrients.

You see, this kind of lettuce is the least nutritious and can cause some stomach problems. Some even say that certain kidney problems can occur, so evading it should be your priority.

On the brighter side, Guinea pigs aren’t allergic to most greens. In that case, they can safely eat spinach or even cabbage. Those two are great for Guinea pigs!

  • Penicillin

Penicillin is one of the most significant discoveries of all time. This substance is used in the treatment of various health problems and is known to have an immediate effect. But, Guinea pigs shouldn’t take advantage of penicillin. Even some people are allergic to this substance and this allergy, if not treated immediately, can result in death.

Most pets aren’t allergic to penicillin, but Guinea pigs are entirely different. Nonetheless, you can always remind your vet before he starts a particular treatment. If your Guinea pig received a dosage of penicillin, be sure to mention it to your vet.

  • Aloe Vera

Aloe vera is known as one of the best antibacterial plants out there that have been used by ancient people. This antibacterial plant is excellent for people, puppies, and babies, but not for Guinea pigs. The main allergic symptom of aloe vera allergy is itchy skin that we mentioned before. Even the smallest amount of aloe vera will make a Guinea pig scratch like crazy!

I know this sounds strange, but there are cases where Guinea pigs even scratched themselves to the point of bleeding. Next time you read about using aloe vera for Guinea pigs, don’t listen to that. Unfortunately, this is discovered a few years ago, so many Guinea pig owners aren’t aware of that.

  • Pine Bedding

Just a decade ago, pine was the most premium Guinea pig bedding out there. This pine bedding could cost a Guinea pig owner a lot, providing a comfortable and reliable place for an animal to lay down. But… not anymore!

Recently, it’s discovered that Guinea pigs can get a strong allergic reaction to pine bedding in the form of liver damage and itchy skin.

Those two allergic reactions come from mites that live in the pine, and they can even bother people, not just animals. If you want high-quality bedding, you can still opt for hay. But before you get some hay, make sure it’s immaculate, without excessive dust. As we mentioned before, dust can also trigger allergic reactions.

  • Cedar Shavings

Another common Guinea pig bedding is cedar shavings. Cedar bedding is known to have oil in it, and this oil is the culprit for the most allergic reactions in Guinea pigs. Not only that it can evoke itchy skin and skin rash, but also cause some problems with internal organs.

And as we know, Guinea pigs love biting everything around them, and they use their nose a lot. Again, you can replace cedar shavings with a nice amount of clean hay.

Conditions Caused By Allergic Reaction

  • Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis is pretty common in both animals and humans. This is an inflammation of the eyes and results in itchy eyes and red eyes. If not treated well, it can be contagious and rapidly spread.

  • Asthma

Asthma is also common in both humans and animals. This condition causes heavy breathing caused by a strong respiratory reaction. Thankfully, its symptoms can be kept to a minimum.

  • Rhinitis

Rhinitis is one of the most irritating allergic reactions. During rhinitis, your nose canals are secreting an excessive amount of fluid which reduces in the stuffy and runny nose. Guinea pigs can as well develop a symptom of rhinitis, especially during an allergic reaction.

  • Eczema

Eczema is a condition in which skin gets itchy and inflamed, often followed by a skin rash. This allergic reaction can be produced by pine or cedar bedding.


All in all, Guinea pigs can suffer serious allergic symptoms that we mentioned above. Having in mind that Guinea pig is a rodent and rodents usually use their teeth and nose to recognize the world around them, they are sometimes greatly endangered.

To significantly reduce the possibility of allergy, you should avoid some of the food we mentioned, as well as pine and cedar bedding.

In case of severe and non-severe allergic reaction, you should ALWAYS visit a veterinarian. It’s essential that those symptoms are mitigated and eliminated as soon as possible.

Clarissa Moolbrock

Clarissa Moolbrock is one of the founders and editor at Guinea Pig Tube. She is also an author of "Complete Guinea Pig Care Guide: The Essential, Practical Guide To All Aspects of Caring for Your Guinea Pigs" (available on Amazon). Being a veterinary technician helping animals and sharing her experience and knowledge with other guinea pig owners is her passion. Her life goal is to popularise guinea pigs as pets and that is why she has started Guinea Pig Tube website.