Having small pets like guinea pigs can be entertaining but also a big responsibility. Not only do they need attention and care but you have to make sure that you and your family are not exposed to any possible diseases or complications your pet may have. Now, we do not want to alarm you or give guinea pigs a bad name, but care and safety are always needed regardless of which pet you own.
Many diseases that our pets carry are easily transmissible to human beings and can be infectious. In the best case scenario, which is the most likely scenario, most diseases are caught in time and cured.
The transmission of diseases, whether infectious or viral, from animals to humans is known as “zoonosis”. Any infected animal can harbor potentially dangerous disease, however, small pets such as guinea pigs, mice and rabbits are the highest at risk. Nonetheless, it is important to note that by keeping an active hygiene regime and frequent check-up of your pet this risk is very low.
Now, let’s start with zoonotic diseases that guinea pigs can transfer to humans.
Full List of Zoonotic Diseases That Guinea Pig Can Transfer to Humans (Infectious Diseases)
The first infectious disease we shall explore is salmonella, a potentially life-threatening bacteria. Reptiles and rodents have an extensive history in spreading this disease to humans. Symptoms in humans include nausea, vomiting, fever, cramps, diarrhea, headache, chills, and traces of blood in the stools. The disease can be caught within a day or two upon being diagnosed.
Guinea pigs can pass salmonella to their owners through their feces. Curiously, guinea pigs can appear completely healthy and undisturbed when infected with salmonella in the beginning. However, after a few days, you will notice symptoms such as blood on the skin and stool, decreased activity and hair loss. The ideal treatment, in this case, is antibiotics.
Fortunately, this disease is easily curable but if you notice any of these symptoms please visit your doctor and veterinary ASAP!
Source: Salmonellosis and Guinea Pigs
Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis Virus
The following is a virus that causes febrile illnesses that manifest after one or two weeks of constant exposure. In fact, the first week is characterized by the absence of symptoms in humans but can then end with the onset of flu, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, muscles aches and spasms, and headaches. Further symptoms may include coughing, chest pain, joint pain and sore throat.
Note, however, that this type of disease is most commonly found in undomesticated rodents and guinea pigs. Domesticated pets are also at risk if they somehow come into contact with an undomesticated infected animal, in particular rats.
Most patients are cured within the first week of symptoms. However, a second phase may develop with devastating effects such as meningitis with high fevers and headaches, encephalitis where the patient feels drowsy and confused, or meningoencephalitis, which is the inflammation of the meninges and brain. Fortunately, the latter is very rare in development.
The best way to prevent this disease is to ensure your guinea pig is well fed, cleaned, and routinely checked up by yourself or the veterinary. Also, please ensure that there are no external animals or factors that could potentially infect the pet upon contact.
Source: Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis in Guinea Pigs
Have you been noticing the pink eye in your guinea pig? Then it may be more serious than it appears. This condition is caused by a bacteria called “chlamydia caviae”, which can cause serious consequences upon human contact. The bacteria can also be found in dogs, rabbits and horses, so it is not exclusively related to your pet.
By washing your hands frequently and respecting the daily and weekly hygiene needs of your pet, the bacteria and its complication can be avoided. If you have a friend or family member with a delicate immune system, please be very cautious!
A further symptom in guinea pigs is nasal inflammation. Therefore, if you notice that your pet is struggling with pink eye and/or breathing, it may be best to call the veterinary for a check-up.
Fortunately, pneumonia is an extreme and rare case. However, we cannot stress enough the need to keep your house, guinea pig, and cage clean. Further, wash your hands each time you come into contact with your pet.
Source: Care of Guinea Pigs – Purdue University
This quirky sounding name stands for “Streptococcus equi subspecies zooepidemicus” and can affect both humans and guinea pigs. It is an opportunistic pathogen and typically causes upper respiratory tract infections. Symptoms include inflammation of either the abdomen, thorax, or lymph nodes, sepsis, bronchopneumonia, and the inability of wounds to heal.
In guinea pigs, the main symptoms are acute respiratory issues and inability to eat or drink because of swollen glands. Please check for these symptoms. The good news is that the disease is rare in both animals and humans. Treatment entails hospitalization.
Source: Streptococcus equi subsp. zooepidemicus Infections Associated with Guinea Pigs
This condition can also be transmitted via undomesticated pets, namely rodents such as rats. However, guinea pigs can also carry and potentially spread the dangerous bacteria, but only if they are found and kept within unsanitary conditions and in close contact with undomesticated infected rats. Adults and children typically manifest only slight symptoms and it is possible to have a quick recovery.
Symptoms include headaches, chills, fever and muscles aches. By visiting your local doctor you can be prescribed the right medicines for a prompt recovery. If left untreated, the illness worsens and, in worst cases, can lead to death. The elderly and infants are the most vulnerable category.
Guinea pigs, in this instance, will manifest a few symptoms but significant symptoms include the sudden appearance of soars and their difficulty to heal.
Please make sure your house is in the right sanitary conditions for your pet. If you have any doubts or suspicions of having rats in the house, please inform the right specialists. This would benefit not only you but also your family and pets.
Source: A Scientific Review of Leptospirosis
Tips on How to Prevent Zoonotic Guinea Pig Diseases to Humans
In conclusion, hygiene is a fundamental part of not only everyday life but also for preventing the spreading of potentially dangerous and infectious diseases.
Guinea pigs require special care and attention, and if you do not clean their cage daily, weekly and monthly, not only will your pet suffer from its consequences but also the rest of the household will.
Now, we didn’t mean to scare you with these possible diseases. Remember they are usually all rare and some even require very specific circumstances. However, we cannot stress enough how important it is to follow hygiene practices for a happy and healthy living.
Here is a list of hygiene advice:
- Do not apply makeup, eat or drink whilst you are handling your guinea pig.
- If you are handling body fluids, tissues or waste, please use gloves!
- If you are simply handling and playing with your guinea pig without using gloves, wash your hands with soap as soon as you are finished.
- Once you are finished handling your guinea pig, wash any clothing or items that have been in contact with the guinea pig.
- Do regular check-ups on your guinea pig. If you notice anything unusual, like a change in habits or physical issues, contact your veterinary as soon as possible.
- Disinfect regularly all the equipment your guinea pig has been in contact with and maintain it as sterilized as possible.
- If you have been bitten or scratched by your guinea pig, immediately disinfect the wound.
- Do you feel different after being in contact with your pet? Please visit the doctor immediately and explore the possible reason. If it is related to your pet, call the veterinary soon afterward for a routine check-up.
- Play safe!
How Many Times a Month Should I Clean the Guinea Pig’s Cage?
The standard hygiene routine requires you to follow daily, weekly and monthly cleaning phases. The first one is a superficial clean-up of the cage area and includes the replacement and supply of food and water. The second one entails a spot-cleaning session of specific areas of the cage, such as changing the bedding. Lastly, the third routine entails the complete washing of the cage, accessories, and toys.
Click here to read more on how to properly clean the guinea pig cage.
Are Guinea Pigs Overall Safe?
They are one of the most playful and docile animals you can get and are perfect for children. Because of their serene mood and propensity to play, there is a very low chance of getting hurt. However, as with any pet, guinea pigs need their attention and care as well.
How Likely Am I to Catch a Disease from a Guinea Pig?
The chances are pretty low to catch a disease from a guinea pig, especially if you take good care of your pet and do not neglect its needs. Make sure that your living space is clean and free from any infected animals or potentially lethal bacteria as a result of poor cleaning practices. Rodents like rats can carry many dangerous and lethal diseases not only to humans but also other animals, please make sure they are nowhere near your family and pets. If you notice any anomalies, please report them to your veterinary or any competent professional of your trust.
Source: Zoonotic Diseases in Rodents – University of Colorado Denver