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Guinea Pigs/Sick Guinea Pig

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Question
4 mo. old guinea pig diagnosed with Pneumonia. Treated a month ago but sickness persisted. On stronger dose of medication; still eats/drinks/poops regularly, still has wheezing, has lost function of left eye (which also turned red), his head tilt has worsened, and his left ear has fallen down (used to stand up).  

What is potentially wrong? Does this realistically seem curable?

Thank you.

Answer
The head tilt is indication that there was an inner ear infection, which causes the balancing mechanism inside the ear to be unable to maintain proper balance thus the head tilts. The ear that has fallen is most likely a reaction to that same problem. In most cases that head tilt is permanent and when you lift the pig up it gets worse.

Guinea pigs do not do well on medication. Too often what happens is a secondary infection caused by the antibiotics and the problem worsens. Most pigs will sound wheezy if you put their chest to your ear. This is often diagnosed as a respiratory infection when in fact it is not.

Realistically, no I doubt this is going to go away. The good news is that the pig is eating, drinking and pooping regularly. I would stop the medication.  For ear infections they usually respond better to low dose prednisone to help reduce the inflammation that's causing the tilt. But in most cases that tilt stays.

At this point it's been too long for prednisone to help. Steroids, although they have a remarkable way of helping, can also cause more trouble if used indiscriminately or for too long.

Anatomically the ear has a mechanism inside that works like a water level. When you put the level on a flat surface the water inside the tube will always go to exact level. If you tip the level the water will travel to the other side to find where level is.

The ear does the same thing. It compensates for the fact that we're living on a round, not flat planet.  Gravity spins us around and keeps us upright on the ground.

If that 'water level' is damaged by infection or injury it doesn't know which way is up. Thus the head will tilt to what it thinks is upright. Unfortunately in most cases it never completely heals back to normal and the pig is left with a permanent tilt.  

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Pat VanAllen

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As is sometimes the case, people in urgent need of information have a higher degree of expectation than those of us as experts are able to give. The experts on this site do their best to give the most accurate and responsible answers possible. We ask that you remember that it is not our intention nor place to criticize the professional advice given by your veterinarian, nor is it appropriate for us to comment on the correctness of a diagnosis made by a licensed physician. Our knowledge is experience based. Although many years of breeding and showing cavies gives me a wealth of experience it cannot change the fact that we as experts are not veterinarians and therefore may occasionally have to reject questions that appear to be asking us to criticize advice given by the licensed professional. Having raised and exhibited cavies for many years I have extensive experience in cavy care and husbandry. I currently have an active breeding program for pedigreed show animals but do not encourage backyard breeding for inexperienced owners. Although I don't encourage breeding for fun I'm always happy to answer any questions from an owner who is in sincere need of help. Pet owners wanting to breed should understand that even experienced breeders have litter losses. The mortality rate is high in cavies. The chance for losing both sow and pups is always present, even with experience. Although this is a site for experts to assist owners, there is no expert in any field who has all the answers. The wisest thing a good expert can know is their limitations. Not having an answer does not diminish one's ability or knowledge. It simply shows that we recognize our limitations and operate within them.

Experience

Raised and shown cavies for many years, having aquired my first cavies in the early 1970's as pets. My caviary currently handles 65 + animals in two different breeds and several varieties. Having been in the health care industry as a licensed nurse for 35 years I have hands on experience with care and needs in both humans and cavies. Member of American Rabbit Breeders Association and American Cavy Breeders Association.

Organizations
Awarded Lifetime Membership in of one of the oldest cavy clubs in the United States, on whose Board I served as Sec/Treas for six years and currently serving as President. Also editor/publisher of the club's quarterly newsletter. We are strong supporters of our youth exhibitors, most of whom are 4H members who are working on cavy projects. Through these projects they become good responsible citizens. We deal with all aspects of showing, breeding, caring for and sharing experiences in the fancy. The cavy fancy is not a new one but in some areas is still relatively unknown. Our goal is to inspire interest in high quality, responsible breeding to improve the species, not just the reproduction of guinea pigs. Our job is to educate owners to help them make the right decisions and choices in the care of their cavies.

Education/Credentials
Graduate in nursing. Certified in emergency medicine.

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