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Guinea Pigs/Sick guinea pig


Hi, hoping you can help me, I have about a 2 1/2 month old female guinea pig, she has been fine up until last night. She is displaying a twitch and a little clicking in her nose. I am a vet tech and did take her in for an xray, her chest is clear. She is making this movement with her mouth almost like a cat dose when they have a hairball. My vet knows nothing about guinea pigs and there is not an exotic vet around here. Does this sound like an uri and if so besides antibiotics is there anything else I can do.

Guinea pigs often make odd sounds that can sometimes mimic respiratory issues. But most of the time they are treated without the benefit of a real diagnosis.  Your x ray has already confirmed she has clear lungs.

The twitch and gag reflex could indicate an ear issue. Have your vet look into the ear on the affected side to see if there is anything that could cause it. Ear mites are rare in cavies. I would not put any drops in her ear without knowing what the issue is.

Do not get tempted to treat her with antibiotics. They do not tolerate them well and if given any kind or form of penicillin they will develop a secondary infection, as the pcn destroys the natural flora in the gut. Too often an antibiotic is prescribed more to comfort the owner than to benefit the pig.

The only antibiotics a cavy can tolerate is Baytril or Bactrim.  But in this case I would NOT treat with anything, since you have no working diagnosis. Guinea pigs are typically misdiagnosed with URI's because they make funny sounds. If you took 10 pigs and put their chest wall to your ear you would hear a sound that may lead you to think it is a wheeze or a click. It's a normal sound. My herd of 65 all had that same quirk.

Since this started only last night I would not recommend getting too aggressive with treatment. A wrong treatment can do more damage than no treatment. Give her a day or two to see if this resolves on her own. You have an advantage as a vet tech to ask your vet for help.

Please let me know what your vet says. I realize that few vets are cavy experienced. That is not their fault. Cavies are one of the lesser known and studied exotic pets and because there are so few of them that come in as patients most vets rarely have the opportunity to gain the experience.  Rabbits on the other hand are a far greater 'patient base' and more study has been done on them than on the average guinea pig.

I had the good fortune to have breeder/exhibitor friends who were veterinarians and who had a good working knowledge of cavies in general. But the majority of their experience was had by trial and error on their own animals.  They specialized in exotic pets for that reason.  Unfortunately there just aren't enough of them.

Please keep in touch and let me know how she does.  

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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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