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Guinea pigs are known for hiding their illnesses, and once you start noticing symtoms, your cavy might already be very sick. Guinea pigs have fragile immune systems and are susceptible to respiratory illnesses. If left untreated, your pet's upper respiratory infection (URI) will most likely be fatal. Some guinea pigs die within 48 hours of acquiring the illness, so make sure to take your piggy to the vet right away if you notice any symptoms.
Symptoms of an Upper Respiratory Infection
You've probably noticed that your piggy likes to eat a lot. Guinea pigs are grazers, and if they stop eating or drinking, it's a cause for concern and could indicate a URI. Symptoms of respiratory illness also include lethargy, wheezing, sneezing, coughing, discharge from the nose or eyes, weight loss and unusual hair loss. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of other guinea pig illnesses, such as scurvy, which is a vitamin C deficiency. In any case, if you notice signs of illness, you should take your furry friend to the vet right away.
Consequences Of An Untreated Upper Respiratory Infection
If left untreated, a URI will most often lead to death, often within a matter or hours or days. The illness is also very contagious, so a sick piggy could easily spread the illness to others. Guinea pigs purchased from pet stores are more likely to fall ill with URIs because of their exposure to so many other guinea pigs. If you have more than one guinea pig, make sure to separate them if one of them is showing symptoms.
Treating an Upper Respiratory Infection
Immediately take your sick guinea pig to the vet for treatment. Your vet will likely prescribe the sick piggy one of three types of antibiotics commonly used to cure URIs. Bactrim is most frequently prescribed, while Baytril is sometimes used for adult piggies and chloramphenicol and doxycycline are used on occasion. To speed up your cavy's recovery process, place a heated pad underneath her cage to help keep her warm and make sure to keep her away from any cold drafts.
Preventing an Upper Respiratory Infection
To spare your beloved cavy from suffering, it is important that you take steps to prevent a URI from happening in the first place. Piggies who are stressed, very young or very old are at the highest risk of acquiring the sickness. Make sure to replace your pet's bedding frequently to keep the cage clean, since poor hygiene can cause a buildup of bacteria. It is also important that your guinea pig's cage have good ventilation. Keeping your pet in an aquarium, which has solidly enclosed sides that prevent air flow, can cause illnesses. But also be sure not to place your piggy in front of a window or open door: cold drafts can encourage a URI, especially when combined with wet bedding. A piggy with a strong immune system is more likely to survive a URI, so make sure your pet gets plenty of vitamin C. Guinea pigs need more vitamin C than other domestic rodents, and may need supplements if they aren't getting enough in their food.
- Dumby image by Rose Flores from Fotolia.com