Guinea Pigs/URIs

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Question
QUESTION: How can a guinea pigs get URIs? My two year old guinea pig had 4 URIs since August, and i'm wondering how does he get URI. He is indoor only pet, and only guinea pig in household. He is kept away fro drafts, his fleeces removed and cleaned every other day. He is given various veggies and fruits each day, hay and guinea pig pellets are available 24/7.

ANSWER: To be honest I think that many vets diagnose a guinea pig with a URI simply because the owner has brought the pig in and expects a diagnosis of some kind. Nearly all guinea pigs have a wheezing/clicking sound in their chest when you put them up to your ear. That doesn't mean they have an infection.

In all the years I've raised and shown cavies I've had only one or two that showed true signs of respiratory issues and they didn't show them until they were close to death. Over the years I've had hundreds of pigs and rarely had respiratory infections in my caviary.

Constant treatment with antibiotics will compromise the immunity system of any animal, even humans. To have that many infections in that short of time makes me wonder if there was really anything that needed treatment at all.

There should not be any reason for your pig to have that many URI's in such a short time. If he truly does then maybe he's allergic to the bedding. However, it doesn't sound to me like he has any reason to be treated so often other than a vet that is just giving you an answer because you expect to hear something from him that sounds like he knows what he's doing and is treating appropriately. He's making money by selling you treatments for what may be nothing other than normal breath sounds.

I'm afraid I'm very skeptical about whether or not your little guy is really ill at all. If he had that poor of an immunity system I would think he would have not survived this long. I can't see anything that you're doing wrong that would cause him to be ill.  

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QUESTION: Four times he was close to death. All four times symptoms started like this: first he would eat less and his faeces would become smaller, then he would be very lethargic and would stay in corner of the cage in hunched up position. I know antibiotics can be bad, so i took him only when he would stop eating at all for a couple of hours. I have seen it four times and i know he was really sick. The last two times i had to hand feed him because even antibiotics couldnt make him eat. I cant stand seeing him suffer like that. Im afraid i am doing something wrong.

Answer
No, you're not doing anything to cause this. Something else is going on to that keeps causing him to become so ill.  If he were that close to death he was indeed very very sick. It's very unusual for a guinea pig to suffer so many illnesses so close together.

If he needs to go on antibiotics again you also need to be giving him some probiotics. The trouble with antibiotics in many small animals is that they destroy both the bad bacteria and the good bacteria that is so necessary to maintain proper digestion and also prevent a secondary infection caused by the antibiotics.

It sounds to me like he has a severely compromised immunity system and is not able to fight off whatever is attacking him. You might want to sit down with your vet and have a serious conversation about what else might be going on.  

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Pat VanAllen

Expertise

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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