Guinea Pigs/Sick Piggy


My guinea pig has been ill we took her to the vet Friday and was diagnosed with an inner ear infection. She was prescribed antibiotics, critical care & intestinal meds, she seemed to be on her way to recovery. However on Monday she lost complete loss of her motor skills. She is still gaining weight and started eating on her own but can't control her head or walk without falling over. Can she recover?

  The head tilt is caused by an inner ear infection. Inside the ear all mammals have a little water ball inside the ear that acts as a level. If you've ever seen someone working with wood, hanging pictures, etc. you may have seen them use a water level. It's a little tube filled with water. When you tip it the water will always stay level.

The best way to see it is by putting some water in a glass about half full.  Tip the glass and the water will stay at level until you tip it over and gravity makes it fall out. We have a similar thing inside our ears. If it is damaged we lose our balance and would tip over.  We're not aware of it, but the earth is always spinning and this little body part keeps us upright and standing. Without it, or with damage to it we get dizzy and tip over.

That's what's happening to your pig. Many times they will recover from the infection but not always return to normal as the head continues to tip. When you pick her up she tips her head because to her that is now her 'normal.'  

As long as she is eating normally she will be okay. It will require you to make some adjustments for her. When you pick her up do it slowly or she will feel like she's falling. Hold her at whatever position is comfortable for her, even if she still tips head. When you return her to her cage she falls over because the mechanism in her ear hasn't leveled off. Given a minute or two she should be able to get upright.

Continue her medication as directed. I'm am assuming the vet did not give her any type of penicillin antibiotic.  Guinea pigs cannot tolerate penicillin. Hopefully she will get through this without too much stress.  Just be aware that the head tilt may stay.  

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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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