Guinea Pigs

Guinea Pigs Basic Care

Guinea pigs are wonderful companions for many people.  They have a rich range of noises they make to communicate with each other and their human family.  Since they are so social, it is important to keep them in pairs or larger groups.  However, some guinea pigs do best by themselves if they spend a lot of time out with their owners.

Caseous Lymphadenitis

Caseous lymphadenitis, or lymph node abscessation, is most commonly caused by Streptococcus equi subspecies zooepidemicus, but can be caused by other Streptococcus species of bacteria. It manifests as encapsulated abscesses within the cervical or submandibular lymph nodes in guinea pigs. Guinea pigs often show no other signs of disease, but in cases where the bacteria spreads systemically, other pathologies can arise. These can include, but are not limited to pleuropneumonia, ear infections, septicemia, or sudden death.

Ovarian Cysts in Guinea Pigs

Ovarian cysts are fluid filled structures that develop on or near the ovary. There are many types of ovarian cysts and their prevalence in guinea pigs ranges from 58-100%. The two main types are 1) serous cysts, also known as nonfunctional or rete ovarii cysts, and 2) hormone producing follicular cysts. Rete cysts are non-hormone producing and typically do not cause clinical signs unless they are large and pushing on other organs. Follicular cysts develop from follicles on the ovary that fail to ovulate. When these types of cysts develop, the classic sign is non-itchy flank hair loss.


Ringworm is not actually caused by a worm, it is skin infection caused by a fungus. While lesions alone can lead to high suspicion of an infection, definitive diagnosis is made by culturing the fungus or by PCR testing. Because the culture test can take 2-3 weeks to complete, treatment is typically started immediately in suspect cases. The PCR test is more commonly used and results generally take 3 days. If the test is positive, treatment should continue and cultures or PCR testing should be repeated every 3 weeks until two consecutive negative results are obtained for the fungus.


True seizures are rare in guinea pigs.  If your guinea pig cries out, falls to one side, and starts twitching, it is most likely infected with a skin parasite known as guinea pig mange (Trixicara cavis).  The seizure-like behavior is due to the intense itching sensation caused by the mites burrowing through the skin.  Some guinea pigs may have mites and a normal coat of hair.  Other guinea pigs will develop patches of hair loss.  In the span of a few weeks, a guinea pig may become bald over most of its body.

Respiratory Infections

Guinea pigs are very sensitive to infections of the upper respiratory tract and lungs.  A seemingly minor sniffle or sneezing episode may be an early sign of a much more serious disease.  A guinea pig may appear normal one day, have a nasal discharge and sneeze the next day, and develop labored breathing (their abdomen moves instead of their chest) and have pneumonia and even die within 48 hrs of the first signs of a problem.  Some other signs of a respiratory tract infection are poor appetite, weight loss, ruffled fur, and crusty eyes.  Due to the speed at which a guinea pig can go from he

Giving Fluids

An ill guinea pig may not drink enough water on its own to do well.  Your guinea pig may be dehydrated if you see any of these problems: thick sticky saliva, crusty eyes, poor appetite, small amounts of dark colored urine, or hard dry fecal pellets.

In order to correct dehydration, extra water must be given to your guinea pig.  Sometimes this can be done by helping the guinea pig drink using a syringe.  Some guinea pigs need to have fluids given by other methods, either by subcutaneous fluids, intravenous fluids, or intraosseous fluids.

Dandruff & Mites

Does your guinea pig have dry scaley skin?  Does it scratch itself constantly and make noises like it just can't get comfortable?  Does it sometimes fall on its side and seem to be twitching like a seizure?  Chances are your guinea pig is suffering from skin mites or some other skin parasites (ectoparasites).  A few of the mites can actually cause itching and rashes in people, so if you and your guinea pig are itching, a visit with us is a must!