Guinea pigs suffer from many of the same diseases that afflict other mammals, including humans. Pneumonia, skin diseases, and parasites are among the most common guinea pig illnesses. Guinea pigs are also very susceptible to heat stroke. In many cases, they do not show their discomfort until the disease or condition is well established; it is important for guinea pig owners to be aware of symptoms and to take their pets for regular veterinary checkups.
A guinea pig that consumes a substandard diet and lives in a dirty cage is likely to develop pneumonia as a result of a respiratory bacterial infection. Symptoms include nostrils or eyes that are draining fluid and refusal to eat. A guinea pig that is breathing rapidly and won’t move around inside or out of the cage should be rushed to the vet immediately, or death is the likely result.
A skin disorder is likely present in guinea pigs that scratch and nibble at themselves, shed fur to the point of baldness, or exhibit red or irritated skin. Unless such an animal is seen by a vet, the skin irritation can develop a malodorous crust or become thickened. Guinea pig illnesses of the skin can be the result of insufficient diet, underlying disease, or parasites. Treatments include ivermectin, medicated shampoos, and guinea pig-safe powders or ointments that are applied to the affected areas.
Many parasites feed on guinea pigs. Ciccoidoses, spread by a one-celled parasite, causes severe diarrhea. Lice, which also seek human hosts, are responsible for balding patches and open sores. Ringworm, a human parasite, causes balding around the nose and head as well as irritated skin in guinea pigs.
Guinea pig owners should be aware that a vitamin C deficiency commonly contributes to guinea pig illnesses. Animals that appear weak or exhausted, bleed from the gums, or display deformed teeth need veterinarian intervention. Injections, supplements, and a dietary change that includes plentiful vitamin C-rich foods can reverse the condition.
Other guinea pig illnesses that are more common in older pets include ovarian cysts and some types of cancer. About three fourths of guinea pig females over a year and a half have ovarian cysts. Certain patterns of fur loss as well as a decrease in fertility can indicate the disease is present. Ultrasound is the diagnostic tool of choice, and spaying an ill pet is the most common treatment.
A low percentage of guinea pigs develop cancer, and those that do are usually older pets. Skin, breast, and blood cancers are more common than other types. Treatment can be undertaken to make the animal more comfortable.
Guinea pigs are highly susceptible to heat stroke. The condition exhibits symptoms that include drooling, pale gums, and panting. Heat stroke will progress to death rapidly if the affected animal is not immediately treated.