Using the tabs below, click on the heading that best describes your guinea pigs condition to guide you through some possible scenarios and what action you need to take.
This is just a guide and nothing can replace expert advice from a great vet. However there is a myriad of knowledge that you can acquire that will help you know when to seek a vet or when to take other steps.
If your guinea pig is not moving and not responding to you in any way, this is a medical emergency. You need to get your piggie immediately to a vet.
There are several possible causes ( See below) – but the one that is most common and that you need to immediately rule out is heat stress.
Guinea pigs do not cope well if temperatures exceed 30 degrees C. In particular if they are older, they find it more taxing. On hot days guinea pigs are best kept indoors.
If it has been a particularly hot day and your piggie has been left in warm weather and is not responsive and not moving, then immediately get a damp cloth and put your piggie on this while you rush straight to the vet. This is a medical emergency.
If you suspect heat stress as the cause, you need to bring down the core body temperature of your guinea pig in a way that does not cause shock. By placing your piggie on a cool surface this will start to happen, but it is important to move the position of your piggie regularly as the area against the cool cloth will become warm as heat transfers. Once with a vet they will administer subcutaneous fluids through a needle which can help. These fluids will keep circulation intact and more importantly major organs of the body. If your vet does not mention this – please ask about it.
One of the reasons that fluids are so important is that guinea pigs can’t perspire. In this way, they will overheat very quickly as they don’t have a way to cool.
Heat stress is a complete emergency. Many guinea pigs will not recover from this – so you do need expert help and quickly. If your guinea pig does survive, you need to ensure that you take adequate precautions so this does not happen again. For some time after they will be very sensitive to heat changes so you need to keep conditions very stable for them.
Stroke or Heart Attack
Like us, guinea pigs can have strokes or heart attacks. In some instances you may simply find that your piggie has died and be wondering why. This is more common with aged piggies than with younger ones.
It is possible with a milder attack; you could find your guinea pig completely unresponsive but still alive. Usually other symptoms are present, like twitching, eyes that are ‘flickering’, or your piggie unconscious. Flickering eyes are an indication of neurological damage (brain damage).
Again this is a medical emergency and the prognosis is not usually good. Your piggie needs expert care for help in recovery and assessment that this is the issue.
In the event that you get your guinea pig quickly to a vet they may opt for a steroidal injection if they feel it may assist in recovery.
Urination of blood can be caused by several different conditions all of which will require a veterinary appointment – however compared with something like heatstroke where immediate help is required; you can wait until the first available appointment.
If you suspect blood being present – you need to confirm this. Place your piggie on a white cage lining (such as a towel) and leave with food and water for a short time (an hour or two). As they regularly toilet, you will soon be able to identify if blood is present.
There are different colours of blood that can indicate different things. Bright red indicates fresh blood and current blood loss somewhere, where dark brown is blood that has been excreted that is older.
The most common cause of urination of blood is a Urinary Tract Infection – or UTI.
If left untreated this will develop and can kill a guinea pig. Usually at the point of excreting blood, the guinea pig is in extreme pain when urinating. You will notice a high pitched squeal and hunched movement if this is the case.
Your guinea pig will need confirmation of this by the vet who will then prescribe an antibiotic which will sort out the infection. One of the indicating signs that this could be the problem is a wet or damp bottom area as the piggie tends to urinate more frequently.
Once you have seen a vet you can also give your guinea pig cranberry juice (diluted into their water) or Barley water – which both help reduce pain and symptoms of urinary tract infections.
Bladder or Kidney Stones
Another cause is bladder or kidney stones. This is not as easily treated as easily and the bladder/kidney stone will need removal. This means surgery by an experienced vet is required. The surgery is intrusive and the guinea pig will need care right through the recovering days after as well as pain management medication. Usually this is only confirmed by an ultrasound or X-ray. Your vet will need to establish between a URI and Stones in order to determine which treatment is appropriate.
It is also worth mentioning Bladder sludge which is a pre cursor to bladder stones. This can be just as painful to a guinea pig as stones, but it has more of a chance to be removed from their system naturally.
There are herbal supplements that can be given to guinea pigs that will assist with this.
Lastly – ensure that you are not feeding your guinea pig a high calcium diet with hay such as Lucerne. This is linked to formation of stones and sludge.
Guinea pigs can catch a cold and get sick just as we do. If you have a guinea pig with crusty eyes and or snotty nose – then it is sick and needs medical help. This is usually indicative of a respiratory infection. Get an appointment for your guinea pig with a vet so that he can examine your piggie and prescribe a course of antibiotics.
Put your ear against your guinea pig chest wall and listen. You will hear either clear unobstructed breathing or a rattle-like noise as they breathe (the latter being a severe infection and possible pneumonia).
Also watch the guinea pig chest wall to ensure that breathing is even and regular – not irregular. This will indicate breathing issues associated with being sick and possible severity.
The main thing is to catch the cold before it can advance to a pneumonia which is infection in the lungs and can cause death. The vet will do these checks as well as checking the guinea pigs temperature.
Once your guinea pig is on antibiotics, you need to ensure they are comfortable.
Place a warm water bottle in one area of their cage under a soft cloth so they can move onto it for warmth if they need to.
Prepare some saline which is water with some salt mixed into it. Using a damp tissue with the saline, wipe over the eyes and nasal area to remove the build-up of crustiness. This will make your guinea pig feel more comfortable. You can also use the cotton buds to help with the nasal area.
Regularly offer some more tempting small treats – like a tiny piece of water melon so that hydration is not an issue and it interests the piggie enough to continue eating. This is important in the case of antibiotics like Baytril that have been known to decrease a piggy’s appetite.
Ensure that you are weighing your piggie daily while your piggie is unwell so that you can keep a close eye on them.
Guinea pigs that are hunched over are showing signs they are in pain. Usually this is coming from the abdominal area, but could also be something like a bone/spinal issue or muscle problem.
Ensure that you have a white material under them for a few hours so that you can ensure their urine is clear. This will give more of an idea as to where the problem may be. Make a vet appointment to have this investigated as medication may be required.
Check your piggy’s weight to ensure it has not gone down and that they are eating.
Check their poops to see that they are not all dried out – but nicely round and moist, and not runny. The poop will give a good indication as to what is going on
It is important to keep a record of your guinea pigs weight so when they are not well you can tell if they have lost weight. In particular long haired guinea pigs can be difficult to notice until weight loss has really progressed – so always weigh them.
Once you recognise that your piggie has lost weight – you will need to establish why. Make an appointment to see a good guinea pig vet and before you attend take a look at the following points:
Firstly, examine your guinea pigs teeth. Offer your guinea pig some tasty items such as long stems of fresh grass – all piggies love this. If you piggie can eat this speedily then teeth issues are less likely.
Has your guinea pig been eating – have you seen your piggie eat? Has food been left in the cage? It is possible that one piggie is eating all the food while the unwell piggie does not want to eat?
Guinea pigs with teeth issues look like they race straight for their food and even start to eat. However if you watch how they eat in comparison to your other piggies, you may notice the food goes very slowly into the mouth, or often they will look like they start but in fact then give up and walk away. They come to realise they just can’t eat it.
Check the guide for Teeth on this website here. You will not be able to see the rear molars but just taking a look at the points on this page will help identify what is the problem.
Is your guinea pig sick?
Your guinea pig may be sick, in which case, look at the other tabs in this structure to see if any of the other points raised may apply.
Put your ear against the chest wall of your guinea pig to listen to clear breathing or a raspy sound that may indicate infection. Also observe your guinea pig carefully to see that the breathing is even and regular.
Is your guinea pig moving about as normal? Are they behaving in the same way? Have they had a fall or injury recently? Do they make high pitched squeaks if you touch them in a particular area?
All of the above will create an insight as to what is causing the problem. This information is useful when speaking with your vet. Depending on the outcome, your guinea pig will need treatment by a vet and then careful attention after.
Obstruction in throat:
It is possible that your piggie may have an obstruction in the throat area preventing them from eating. This could also be a cut or sore in the throat area causing pain so that they don’t want to eat. If you have been feeding them a mix with seeds it is also possible that one could have become stuck.
Having made all the above observations you will have good information to relay to the vet. The vet should be able to confirm these by a thorough examination and depending on which problem, the treatment will be different.
You will need to look at carefully managing your guinea pig following the vet treatment and this will most likely include hand feeding.
A very high pitched wheek is usually a noise of pain or distress in guineapigs.
Consider what was happening at the time so that you can match the scenario to the noise.
Consider situations like these
- Were you grooming them – and perhaps a hair was pulled to tight?
- Were they urinating in which case there could be a urinary tract infection?
- Were they being nipped by another cage mate on the bottom?
- Were they trying to move about and stopped? Could it be an injury?
If you are hearing these high pitched noises often try to work out what is going on so you can take the right action. A once off noise like reaction to brushing is not a problem, however if you are hearing it all the time, then you need to have this checked further.
Coccidiousis is a dreadful condition that will caused blood to be shown in the faeces.
Usually the guinea pig is very unwell, underweight, losing weight, not wanting to eat, poops are not oval – but have a little ‘tail ‘on one end of the shape, and the blood is showing in the poop rather than urination.
Cocci needs to be treated with medication immediately and is life threatening.
If you guinea pig has a very swollen stomach there may be a couple of causes:
Firstly is your guinea pig pregnant? This will be likely if you have a male and female guinea pig housed together.
Secondly, if the skin of the stomach is tight like a drum and you have noticed your guinea pig not wanting to eat or move about as normal. This could be “bloat”. This is a life threatening condition and your guinea pig will need immediate veterinary assistance.
There are several reasons why a guinea pig may limp or drag a leg. Please consider the following:
Vitamin C Deficiency
Guinea pigs will start to walk oddly when they are not getting enough vitamin C in their diet.
Guinea pigs, like us, cannot make their own vitamin C and must get it through the foods they eat.
If you suspect your guinea pig may have vitamin C deficiency your guinea pig immediately needs additional vitamin C. You can provide this via pet Vitamin C tablets which you can purchase from pet supply places or vets.
You can also purchase “Ascorbic Acid” (chemical free) from a chemist or health food store which is a powdered form of vitamin C. Simply sprinkle a pinch of it directly on the fresh fruit and veg and you will know that piggie is now getting a good supply of vitamin C.
Your guinea pig may also walk strangely if it has arthritis which is an inflammation of the joints and soft tissue in the guinea pig. Typically this would be the case for piggies over the age of 6 years or more. However, it could be found in younger piggies if they have had previous injuries or born with deformities. There is also other conditions like osteo dystrophy found in Satin guinea pigs that can be debilitating.
Guinea pigs with arthritis can take pain medications but they need to be prescribed by the vet. Making sure your guinea pig is not exposed to any cold or heat extremes is also a must as a piggie with this, already has a compromised immune system and joints that are already swollen and sore become more painful in the cold conditions.
Lastly your guinea pig may have sustained an injury. Occasionally they will leap on and off hidey holes and other items. As they have a more brittle bone structure than other animals, they may have mistaken the jump and hence caused a pain to a limb. If this is the case the main concern is that of a broken bone. If you think this is possible then vet treatment again is required immediately.
Diarrhoea (Runny Poop) can kill a guinea pig within a short amount of time. They lose such an amount of fluid that dehydration becomes critical. Usually if a guinea pig has diarrhoea then something is very wrong and veterinary assistance is needed to confirm the exact cause.
If you have been weighing your guinea pig regularly this gives you a good base line to now monitor your guinea pigs weight closely. Whenever your piggie is ill, you will need to closely keep an eye on weight.
As guinea pigs with diarrhoea lose a lot of fluid they can become dehydrated very quickly.
Signs of dehydration are:
- The appearance of the ears (tilted down and floppy)
- Eyes appearing sunken and smaller
- Limp and lethargic piggie not wanting to move
Why is poop softer?
Piggies can experience softer poops from several different things. Please consider the following:
- If a guinea pig is stressed it may stop eating or over eat to try and over compensate. This will in turn show as an effect in their poop.
- They eat too much of a new food.
- They eat something they have not had in a while. For example a different type of grass, or grass time when they have not had it for a while.
Always ensure that your piggie has access to water and if you can at different intervals provide some electrolyte fluid, it will help. There are a number available – but Lectade was created specifically for animals.
Remove all greens, fresh fruit and veg from the cage. Ensure that your piggie only has access to hay and fresh water.
If your piggie is still eating that is positive, however if he is refusing all food you must take him right to the vet.
In most instances they can do a “faecal float” where they take a sample of the poop onto a glass slide and then looking at it under a microscope they will be able to tell if a particular parasite or organism (such as Giardia) is to blame. The treatment of this may then be a course of antibiotics.
Regardless of the cause of diarrhoea, the piggy’s ability to process and absorb food normally has been interrupted.
One suggestion to help your piggie recover healthy gut bacteria is “Poop Soup”. Guinea pigs are copraphagic animals and they eat the ‘night poops’that contain essential bacteria and vitamins they need for health.
To make this soup we can’t always get the right night pellets, however if you have another piggie that is not caged with your unwell piggie, and you can gather several of the healthy samples, you can mix this into the food the sick piggie has access to. If you are making a critical care mix, one or two of these will add to the mix is great. This enable an unwell piggie to obtain much needed healthy gut bacteria in order to get back to a healthy state.
Do not give back the greens and veg until poop has returned to normal. This should be within a day to two. Beyond this they will need balance with vitamin C.
If your guinea pig is moving about with its head in one position, tilted, there could be several causes. Consider the following:
Guinea pigs can be born with deformities and one such obvious deformity is head tilt. Gentle massage can help strengthen muscles around the head and neck.
Guinea pigs get ear infections just like we do. They are extremely painful and can disturb the lining of the ear if left untreated. You need to take your piggie to a vet so that they can prescribe a course of antibiotics that will treat this. When a guinea pig has ear ache it can be so bad that they then go off eating which can cause secondary issues like not wanting to eat.
Guinea pigs can have strokes. With less severe strokes they may survive but you then notice they have a head that is tilting to one side. This might be more likely if your guinea pig is elderly (7 – 9 years of age) as your piggie may have sustained some neurological damage as the result of a stroke. Other indicators can be with their eyes and they may be ‘flickering ‘or behaving more unusual.
Again your piggie will need to be checked by a vet to rule this out. It is also possible that a Dex injection could be administered which may assist with recovery.
There are differing degrees of sore feet.
As guinea pigs do not have fur on their feet they are prone to injury if they are not housed in the right way. The pads of their feet are the areas that come into direct contact with the housing surface and carry their full body weight.
The first sign of feet being painful is a reddening to the pads. This redness could be caused by too much moisture on the cage floor or incorrect bedding. If the cage is not cleaned regularly enough or there is no padding and they are just walking on paper then the pads will become inflamed. If your guinea pig has black feet – you may not notice they are sore as the redness will not be seen.
As the inflammation increases there is a risk that bumble foot can develop. Bumble foot is very painful and debilitating and can ultimately result in a limb needing amputation or the guinea pig may die as a result of infection.
To read more on bumble foot – click here
If you notice that only one pad is red – then it may be due to injury to that limb. Check carefully for any skin that is broken or pierced and also that the guinea pig is moving smoothly and not limping or showing that they don’t want to weight bare on that limb.
If there is a cut and infection then your piggie may require antibiotics. Certainly if you suspect bumble foot, most definitely will require antibiotics.
Treatment for red pads
You can use natural products such as calendula cream, aloe vera, Manuka honey as well as a number of others to massage into the area and sooth the skin. I find with Manuka that it is very sticky so for that reason tend to opt for the first two. But they are all wonderful and if you do this twice a day, you will see improvement quickly as the redness dissipates.
Consider the substrate that they are on. Is it clean? Do you need to clean more regularly? Use a different substrate?
If you are treating feet with sticky substances like Manuka, consider using flannel or cloth as the ground covering as you will struggle with shaving sticking to the treated areas. If the feet are only red then you will not need to bandage them. Bandaging is used when there are open wounds in this area from bumble foot and it can be useful in treatment.