Guinea Pigs/URI


Both my new 3 month old guineas have a mild URI, I self diagnosed this and then went to the vets; the vet agreed but did not seem at all concerned about it. She prescribed an extremely small dose of Baytril (0.08) twice a day and I started 2 days ago, I have not seen any improvement they are still sneezing and wheezing. There never was any lack of appetite, but all they seem to do is eat and sleep though they're very active if I get them out for playtime. Should I have seen an improvement by now? Is there anything extra I can do to help them recover? I got them 2 weeks ago so I'm still discovering what their favourite veggies are - constant supply of hay as usual. Please help!

It's not my intent to contradict your vet but I'm wondering what criteria was used to diagnose these pigs with a URI?  

In most cases a guinea pig's state of health is directly connected to his appetite. If they're eating and drinking normally it's safe to assume that they feel fine and are not in need of treatment for something that is not broken.

Sneezing in and of itself is not a symptom of a URI infection. Many things can cause sneezing, bedding being number one. We also have to consider how often is this animal sneezing? If it's more frequently than every ten minutes there's a causative factor. Anything less than that is simply clearing the nose of dust.

If you notice, babies in a stroller will frequently sneeze when taken out into direct sunlight. Many grown people do the same thing. About 30% of the population is affected. It's transient and is not a sign of infection. It's called photic sneezing aka sun sneezing. Some call it the ACHOO Syndrome which stands for Autosomal Dominant Compelling HelioOphthalmic Outburst - which is a fancy name for sun sneezing! But many people are happier if their doctor gives their symptoms a big name.

When we humans have a common cold, or more commonly an allergic type reaction to the environment we sneeze. Do we need antibiotics? No. A common cold is a virus and is not responsive to antibiotics. Baytril is a good choice for cavies, but will it work on a virus? No.

As far as wheezing is concerned I've found that out of my 75 pigs I can pick up nearly every one of them and put their chest to my ear and hear what sounds like wheezing. It's a normal respiratory sound in a guinea pig. Would I treat them for that? No. When you have a true URI you do not feel like eating, mostly because it's difficult to breathe comfortably and eat at the same time.

It has been my experience that nearly every guinea pig that goes to a vet will be diagnosed with an URI, upper respiratory infection.  My personal opinion, and it is only that, is that vets give out antibiotics to appease the owner, not necessarily because they are indicated. That way we feel like we got our money's worth. Who wants to pay for an office visit to be told there's nothing wrong?

Many human physicians will do the same thing. If a patient presents with symptoms of a cold they will not be satisfied until they get a prescription for an antibiotic, even though it is useless when treating a virus. A cold lasts 10 days. Patient comes in after a week asking for antibiotics. They start them and are then convinced that the cold was gone 3 days later only because they were on antibiotics. Then they stop taking them. Antibiotics don't work that fast, with the exception of Azithromycin.

This is one of the reasons that we have so many antibiotics that no longer work, they've been over used and over prescribed. Our resistance is lowered because we don't give our bodies a chance to fight infection. We want a 'quick fix'.  Methycillian Resistant Staph Aureus, aka MRSA is a prime example. It's world wide now and has become deadly because we've over treated things that shouldn't have been treated with antibiotics in the first place.

As for their activity level, eating and sleeping, that's what guinea pigs do. They're not high energy pets. They're much like newborn babies in that they eat, sleep, pee and poo. That's what their day consists of. Granted they have short bursts of energy when they will run around like crazy, popcorning all over the cage, then they flop down after a couple of minutes and sleep again.

I don't mean to say that your vet did anything wrong, but I question the need for antibiotics when there are no true symptoms. I'm sure your vet will disagree with this opinion, but if she thought there was truly an infection I doubt she would have prescribed a sub-therapeutic dose of Baytril.

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Pat VanAllen


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.


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.

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.

Graduate in nursing. Certified in emergency medicine.

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