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Guinea Pigs/Guinea Pig, Benny, puss filled sore


First started leaking
First started leaking  

Hole after puss drained
Hole after puss draine  
Benny had a cyst/tumor type spot on his face. I took him to an exotic animal vet who wanted to charge hundreds of dollars to perform surgery. I do not have that type of money so my mother suggested I put a warm compress on the spot and lightly rub it. After a few moments of this I smelled this horrendous smell and I looked to see a small amount of puss coming out. I was told to drain the spot as best as I could. A friend volunteered to help because the smell was so bad we would have to take breaks and rotate draining the puss. After a while the top part of what looked like infected skin fell off. Now Benny has a hole in his face that is bright red. Benny is currently on an antibiotic and pain med after I explained to the vet what had happened. My questions are: Is this common? What caused the spot in the first place? What tips can you give me to make sure it heals and it doesn't happen again? Any advice and tips will be greatly appreciated.  AJ

Ethel day 5
Ethel day 5  

Day 10 healing
Day 10 healing  
What Benny had was an epiglottal cyst. It's an abscess caused by a break in the skin, usually from their toenails scratching themselves. We all carry staphy aureous on our skin. So do animals. When an injury or simple scratch happens to break the skin the staph takes over and causes this kind of abscess. It happens to humans as well.

The cheeks or under the chin are the most common places for these abscesses to occur on a guinea pig. The good news is it is healing. The pus inside is foul smelling as you discovered. That's a classic character of staph. You and your friend did a good job, and without realizing it you did exactly what should be done.

I'm assuming the vet gave you the antibiotic, and hopefully is aware that guinea pigs cannot tolerate any kind of penicillin. Typically we use Bactrim or Baytril, which are sulfa based. As for the pain medication, it's not necessary. This is not causing him pain.

The skin around an abscess in full bloom as his was, dies and the result is it falls off. This is what we call necrotic tissue. It is dead and needs to fall off. The wound needs to stay open as it is and it will heal from the inside out. I've treated dozens of these abscesses and they are sometimes difficult, but eventually they heal.

What you need to do now is to flush this open wound out every day. You don't want it to close over. If there is any pus left in there and it closes up the whole thing starts over again. In most cases it's not discovered until it breaks open, especially with a longhaired pig. Before it breaks open it feels like a water balloon. It's soft and mushy. What you feel is the foul smelling pus that is from staph.

The bright red is a GOOD sign. That means the skin is alive and will heal itself. Dead skin is gray/black in color and will not bond the wound back together. It has to be removed. Since it fell off it has taken care of itself.

He will grow new skin over the wound. If you have a small syringe that's the best thing to use to flush the inside. You can get one at the drug store where they sell medications for babies. They're built to put into an infant's mouth to get their medication in.

Get some Betadine Solution at the drug store. You might ask the pharmacist where it is. It's an iodine solution made for cleansing wounds such as this. It's also what is used to scrub the skin before surgery to help remove as much staph as possible before the surgeon makes his cut. Not scrubbing it can cause a staph wound in a surgical site.

Put a teaspoon of Betadine in one cup of warm water. Suck is up with the syringe, then squirt it right inside that hole.  Use about six or seven flushes each time you flush.  Do it twice a day, morning and evening.  It will not hurt, so don't be afraid you're causing him pain. The idea is to keep it clean inside while it heals.

There is a medical saying that you don't find in the medical books:  The solution to pollution is dilution. In other words flush it, flush it, flush it. That's always the first thing you do with any wound.

I've attached a couple of pictures of a pig that was brought to me by a Kindergarten teacher who was the class pet. Ethel had the largest abscess I have ever seen. It was larger than a ping pong ball. The class didn't have the money for a vet and asked if I could save their beloved pet. I did exactly what I'm instructing you to do. Within 3 weeks Ethel went back to school. The kids sent me an enormous thank you card with all their handprints on it. The most treasured thank you card I've ever received.

The bottom line is that Benny will be fine. This is not a tumor. There isn't any way you can prevent it from happening. And yes, it's common. They get poo on their toenails and scratch themselves. It's just what they do. Of course keeping the cage and bedding clean and fresh helps, but we never know when it might happen again.  I can tell you however, that I've had only one pig that had a recurrent cyst, and that was months after her first one.

In a caviary of 65+ pigs that's not a bad average.

The first picture of Ethel where I am wearing gloves was taken about a week after she came to me. As you can see, the pus was still draining somewhat and the dark tissue inside as well as the gray surrounding skin is necrotic dead skin. And yes, it was foul smelling. The second picture was taken ten days after she arrived. The skin is fresh, pink and healing well. The white stuff over the hole is just her hair. Within days the wound was closed and healed.

Typically the hair will grow back and you may feel a little scar over the site, but that's about all. In hairy pigs like Abyssinians, which Benny is as well, you can't tell where it was.

You did a good job and did what the vet would have charged you hundreds of dollars to do. Do find out about the antibiotic. If it has a penicillin base discontinue it. Please let me know how things go.  If you have any other questions don't hesitate to ask.

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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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