Just a decade or two ago, guinea pigs weren’t as famous as they are now and with their popularity slowly rising, people are slowly learning 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.
But what about allergies, can guinea pigs even be allergic to anything? This topic is very important as most animals, especially pets can be allergic to certain things and every owner should learn some basic information about them before getting any type of pet.
What allergies can guinea pigs have? Much like humans, guinea pigs can also have an allergic reaction to a specific substance (allergen). Guinea pigs can have or develop an allergy to a specific food, medication and in some cases, even certain beddings can cause allergic reactions. Still, when compared with other animal’s allergic susceptibility, we can also say, that guinea pigs are quite resilient. However, exposing them to certain conditions or giving them food and medication that isn’t meant for them can sometimes have even fatal consequences.
This topic needs to be a must-read for every guinea pig owner. In most cases, if you notice any health-related problems with your guinea pig, the best course of action is to go visit an exotic vet. It is very hard to evaluate how serious the problem is, especially for people who have just gotten a guinea pig (beginners).
In this article, we’ll examine what allergies can guinea pigs have, as well as take a look at some allergic symptoms that you should watch out for in case an allergic reaction happens and also how to prevent and ease allergic reactions. Let’s start!
Guinea Pig Allergies: Everything You Need to Know
Can guinea pigs get allergic reactions? Yes, guinea pigs can have allergic reactions. An allergy can be expressed in numerous ways, depending on the cause of the allergy. These signs are sometimes serious and sometimes are not a cause for concern. Carefully take note of these following symptoms:
• 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 its 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 animals 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.
Related: Can Guinea Pigs Cough?
• 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 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.
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 the inability to breathe.
What Can Guinea Pigs Be 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.
Note: Not every guinea pig is the same, some guinea pigs can be allergic to certain substances while others can be immune to that particular allergen. It is the same case with humans. This is just a general take at some possible allergens for most guinea pigs.
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 animal, not just a guinea pig.
Next time you buy chocolate, be sure to eat it alone or with your family, and not with your guinea pig.
• Iceberg Lettuce
We all know that guinea pigs love eating lettuce. It’s healthy and it has some vitamins here and there. But, iceberg lettuce is a bit different regarding the quality macro and micronutrients.
This kind of lettuce is the least nutritious and can cause some stomach problems in guinea pigs. Some even say that certain kidney problems can occur, so evading it should be your priority.
Related: 13 Most Toxic Foods for Guinea Pigs
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.
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 even 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. Next time you read about using aloe vera for guinea pigs, think about it twice. Unfortunately, this is discovered a few years ago, so many guinea pig owners aren’t aware of that. This allergic reaction is not that severe and some guinea pigs don’t even have it.
• Pine Bedding
Just a decade ago, pine was the most premium guinea pig bedding out there. Pine bedding could cost a guinea pig owner a lot but provide 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 in Guinea Pigs
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 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.
Guinea pigs can as well develop a symptom of rhinitis, especially during an allergic reaction.
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 have 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 guinea pig allergy, you should avoid some of the food we mentioned, as well as pine and cedar bedding.
In case of a 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. Best of luck!
Related: Are Guinea Pigs Hypoallergenic Pets?
List of Sources
Watkins, N. G., Hadlow, W. J., Moos, A. B., Caldwell, H. D., Ocular delayed hypersensitivity: a pathogenetic mechanism of chlamydial-conjunctivitis in guinea pigs, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 1986.
Bouhuys, A., Justesen, D. R., Allergic and classically conditioned asthma in guinea pigs, Science, 1971.
Suda, H., Okamoto, M., Fukumoto, M., Delayed-type skin allergic reaction in guinea pigs induced by anti-rheumatic compounds with sulfhydryl groups, Immunopharmacology and immunotoxicology, 1993.
Hsiue, T. R., Lei, H. Y., Hsieh, A. L., Wang, T. Y., Chang, H. Y., Chen, C. R., Mite-induced allergic airway inflammation in guinea pigs, International archives of allergy and immunology, 1997.
Mizutani, N., Nabe, T., Sasaki, K., Takenaka, H., Kohno, S., Nasal hyperresponsiveness to histamine induced by repetitive exposure to cedar pollen in guinea-pigs, The European respiratory journal, 1999.
De Weck, A., Brun, R., The experimental eczema in guinea pigs, Dermatologica, 1957.
Xiang, A., Uchida, Y., Nomura, A., Iijima, H., Dong, F., Zhang, M. J., Hasegawa, S., Effects of airway inflammation on cough response in the guinea pig, Journal of applied physiology, 1998.
Kristofferson, A., Ahlstedt, S., Enander, I., Contact sensitivity in guinea pigs to different penicillins, International archives of allergy and applied immunology, 1982.
Al Suleimani, M., Ying, D., Walker, M. J., A comprehensive model of allergic rhinitis in guinea pigs, Journal of pharmacological and toxicological methods, 2007.