If Bennie the Guinea shows signs of nasal congestion, your best bet is to get the pet to the vet. While the condition could be something minor, a guinea pig's cold can quickly turn into pneumonia, the leading cause of death in the species. The sounds your pet's breathing makes when he's congested are called rales.
A wide range of diseases can cause congestion in your guinea pig. Some are more serious than others, so you can't take chances: Get a veterinary diagnosis. You can help avoid certain diseases by taking good care of your guinea pig. Make sure he always has a source of vitamin C in his habitat. Keep his cage clean, removing soiled bedding daily. The ammonia from urine can quickly irritate his airways. Your cavy should always have a supply of fresh, clean water available. Spend time with your guinea pig every day, checking carefully for signs of illness.
Guinea pigs get kennel cough; the condition's not limited to dogs and cats. Guinea pigs can pick up Bordetella bronchiseptica, the bacteria that cause the infection in canines and felines, from other pets in your house. If you have a dog or cat who's coughing, and your guinea pig also exhibits nasal discharge and trouble breathing, the cavy could have Bordetella bronchiseptica infection courtesy of Ruff. Of course, a guinea pig can pick it up from other cavies. Many guinea pigs carry and spread the infection but never show symptoms of the disease. Since kennel cough is potentially fatal, take your guinea pig to the vet at once if he shows any signs of congestion.
A certain type of adenovirus affects only guinea pigs. Nasal congestion is one of its primary symptoms, along with weight and appetite loss and difficult respiration. Many cavy carriers never come down with the disease. Those who do suffer the virus' effects tend to be old, young or vulnerable because of a compromised immune system. Since the virus is contagious, you must separate sick pets, throw out old bedding and thoroughly clean the cage. While affected guinea pigs can pull through, unfortunately often the first sign the illness is a dead guinea pig. Your vet might give your pet intravenous fluids, as well as prescribe antibiotics. Supportive care in a quiet environment helps your pet recover.
Bennie's congestion or cold can rapidly progress into pneumonia, whose symptoms include breathing difficulties, fever, nasal discharge, loss of appetite and sneezing. Your guinea pig might suffer from pinkeye, the eye inflammation formally known as conjunctivitis. Your vet might give your cavy intravenous fluids and force-feed him. She'll administer antibiotics, but guinea pigs are sensitive to these medications; if your pet develops diarrhea, the antibiotic therapy has to stop.
Dumby image by Rose Flores from Fotolia.com
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.