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Guinea Pig Common Diseases

At times, the usually healthy guinea pig falls ill. How will you know if your guinea pig is sick? By close attention. Signs that your guinea pig may be ill include runny nose, sneezing, difficulty breathing, diarrhea, constipation, weight loss, lethargy, loss of appetite, excessive scratching, hair loss, bloated belly, or dull eyes. If you notice any of these signs, or anything else unusual for your guinea pig, consult a vet right away.


One common health problem with guinea pigs is malocclusion. This is when the guinea pig's ever-growing teeth do not wear properly, usually because of misalignment, and can grow into the opposite gums causing abscesses and infection. If the problem is left untreated, the guinea pig cannot eat and loses weight, eventually becoming very ill. A competent veterinarian can correct the problem by regularly trimming the teeth and, in some cases, removing the problematic ones.

Diarrhea and Constipation

Diarrhea and constipation can be troublesome to guinea pigs. Diarrhea caused by viruses, bacterial infections, internal parasites, or poor diet must be diagnosed and treated promptly. A guinea pig with diarrhea usually has a messy rear end and runny stools. Constipation can be the result of several factors such as poor diet, hairballs, or illness. The constipated guinea pig has a bloated belly or may be lethargic. Veterinary attention is necessary.

Tapeworms and Roundworms

Like dogs and cats, guinea pigs can be afflicted with internal parasites such as tapeworms and roundworms. A bloated tummy, rough-looking coat, and evidence of worms in the feces or crawling around the rear end are good indicators of an infestation. Your veterinarian will prescribe medication to eradicate these internal pests.

Smooth-haired self-colored cream red-eyed guinea pig
Smooth-haired self-colored cream red-eyed guinea pig
Photo by Larysa Johnston

External Parasites

On the outside, the guinea pig can be bothered with fleas, mites, lice, and flies. All four conditions must be treated by a veterinarian promptly. Fleas leave their brown-black waste that look like dirt. Lice cause the guinea pig to scratch and lose hair. Mites cause red, scabby patches. Flies can lay eggs on the guinea pig's soiled rear end, which hatch into maggots that burrow into the animal's skin. A clean environment and minimal contact with other animals who carry these pests go a long way toward preventing infestations.

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The average weight of a mature guinea pig is right around 2 pounds. A healthy animals receiving good nutrition and exercise feels firm in the body. An overweight guinea pig feels soft in the belly. Guinea pigs can become obese if fed too much of the wrong food. Pellets are usually the culprit, so be careful not to overfeed. A cutback in food, as directed by your vet, may be necessary to get your pig back to fighting weight.

Vitamin Deficiency

Hind end paralysis can occur in guinea pigs and is often the result of a traumatic fall or severe vitamin C deficiency. Veterinary attention is essential to determine the cause and possible treatment. Because guinea pigs do not manufacture vitamin C, they can be prone to a scurvy if they are not fed foods high in this vitamin. Scurvy is a disease that causes bleeding gums, poor appetite, and sore joints. Prompt treatment is necessary.

Skin Problems

Sore hocks, red swollen skin, and hair loss on the guinea pig's hind legs are usually seen in pigs kept in wire cages. Constant sitting and walking on the wire irritates the animal's hocks. Offering a guinea pig a cage with solid flooring can prevent this. When this type of irritation occur, the veterinarian may prescribe an antibiotic ointment to heal the sores.

Similarly, bumblefoot is a condition that is usually the result of wire caging and poor hygiene. Bumblefoot causes swollen feet. This condition often affects the front feet, which can become infected, abscessed, and ruptured. Antibiotics are necessary when infection occurs. A clean cage is essential to preventing and healing bumblefoot.

Heat Sensitivity

Heat prostration can be an emergency situation. The ideal temperature for guinea pigs is 65 to 75° F. The normal body temperature of a guinea pig is 99.3 to 103° F. Guinea pigs are sensitive to overheating, so do not expose your pet to extreme heat. If you choose to keep your guinea pig outside, make sure the hutch is properly shaded. On hot days, keep your pet inside your air-conditioned house, out of the view of sunny windows. Be on the lookout for panting, rapid breathing, and a stretched-out body position. This means your guinea pig is too hot. Move the animal to a cool area and wrap a cool, wet towel around its body.

Respiratory Infections

Guinea pigs can be affected by respiratory infections. They prone to colds and can develop pneumonia. Sneezing, runny nose, and eye discharge are all signs of respiratory infection. A guinea pig with a cold must be treated promptly by a veterinarian. To prevent colds, wash your hands before handling your pig, and if you have a cold, avoid contact until your are well. Keep your guinea pig free from drafts, as stress-free as possible, and feed it plenty of foods high in vitamin C.

Alaska Tuesday, April 12, 2016
        My guinea pig is such a vocal creature. But why does she make high pitched squeals?

SeaPearl Friday, April 12, 2013
The average guinea pig makes a many types of noise, each is meant to communicate something to her buddies and to humans.  The squeal of a guinea pig is unmistakable. Its high-pitched sound pierces the air, unlike the sweet sound of a mother guinea pig cooing to her babies which is very pleasant. In the wild, cavies use squealing as a warning to let their herd mates know a predator is approaching. It is also a sound for pain and fear and is often a cry for attention. The squeal is also used to beg for food, but only with humans.

sydney5205 Wednesday, June 14, 2017 8:45:43 AM
The high pitch squeaking just means that your guineapig is happy and wants to get your attention.

gpa_team Wednesday, February 8, 2017 8:29:05 PM
        Urinary tract stones (calculi) is a common problem in ginea pigs. Middle-aged to older females (older than 2.5 years old) are particularly predisposed. Calcium oxalate stones are more common. Urinary tract infections  involving E.coli, Streptococcus pyogenes and Staphylococcus bacteria are associated with urinary stones. Most often the stones are located in the bladder or urethra, but they are also found in the kidneys, ureters, or vagina. affected guinea pigs are  more likely to be fed a diet high in pellets, low in hay, and lower variety of vegetables and fruit. Alfalfa-based pellets  and hay contain higher concentration of calcium; it has been suggested that this may contribute to urinary stones in guinea pigs. Clinical signs include blood in the urine, urinary disorders, lethargy, appetite loss and weight loss.

gpa_team Tuesday, January 31, 2017 12:29:05 PM
        Guinea pigs originate from mountainous areas of South America, where the vegetation is tough, fibrous, and contains soil dust. Therefore, it has been suggested that highly abrasive food, of little nutritional value should be eaten in large quantities to encourage correct dental wear. However, guinea pigs in captivity often receive concentrates in the form of pellets or muesli, and may have limited access to outdoor grazing. Guinea pigs with access to the outdoors are significantly less likely to have clinical signs of dental disease. Access to natural grazing may promote more effective dental wear than unlimited access to hay. Excess of vitamin C can cause eye abnormalities in guinea pigs. Kidney disease occurs most commonly in older guinea pigs. Clinical signs include depression, dehydration, weight loss, increased thirst and urination, and unexpected death.  Acute kidney failure is infrequent, but usually fatal, disease of guinea pigs. Causes include oxalic acid poisoning following ingestion of oxalate-containing plants, such as beetroot, spinach, and rhubarb.

samuel Saturday, February 18, 2017 6:49:16 PM
I purchased my guinea pig from Petco in Sept of 2014.  I assume they're no more than a month or two old at that stage, but for all I know Sparky could have been a couple of years old at that time.
Lately, I've noticed two disturbing signs.  1. Visually, he looks "boney" to me, with his hip bones sticking out underneath his skin.  2.  Orally, I frequently hear a soft, regular wheezing, or "tooting," sound while while he's resting or sleeping (occasionally, isolated ones when he's more active).
He's still active and has an appetite but for different food.  He used to slurp up parsley like spaghetti strands, one after the other.  And he was demolish a wheat grass plant in short order.  Also, he managed to empty his hay rack.  Now he has an aversion to all of those foods.  Suddenly he's shown an interest in cherry tomatoes, eating as many as I give him (a year ago he had no interest in them).  Apple slices are also of interest to him--and perhaps some lettuce.
I plan to look for a vet for him.

gpa_team Thursday, January 5, 2017 12:29:05 PM
        Copper supplementation of guinea pig food led to increased Mycobacterium tuberculosis killing. Guinea pigs given vitamin supplements are more likely to have dental disease than a guinea pig not given vitamin supplements. Giving guinea pigs a vitamin C supplement specifically is related to an increased likelihood of dental disease. Supplementation the diet with omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids can diminish behavioral and physiological stress.

cassanova336944 Wednesday, April 22, 2016 6:16:41 PM
        hi there my husband and i have 2 guinnea pigs in which in april had 5 babies, one died at birth, one died all of a sudden with just being 2 weeks old now like 3 days ago another one just died. and now i have another one that lost the use of his higne legs and will not eat or drink..he just wants me to hold him and when i pick him up he is ice cold. does anyone know what is wrong and or how to treat it....i want my baby to survive this...Thanks

ryan2298 Saturday, June 22, 2016 2:58:07 PM
We have two guinea pigs. They were playing and very active yesterday,  but today they seem very lethargic and their back legs are not moving. Their diet has not changed and we're not even handled yesterday. We did clean their cage out, but did not use any chemicals to do so. I called a vet , but the soonest they can see them is Fri. I'm really worried about them. We have only had them for about 6weeks. They were very small when we purchased them. Please help

kristen99090 Monday, October 10, 2016 8:45:32 PM
I have 2 baby pigs that has been bottle feed after mom died they are a month old now and both can't move back legs today can someone please help

guineapigdood Friday, June 17, 2016 12:29:05 PM
        Depending if you want tiny little cavies running around, yay for you! What you are talking about is guinea pig pregnancy. I know from my own experiences

humptydumpty Monday, May 5, 2016 7:33:15 AM
        Guinea pigs are sensitive to vitamin D. I read somewhere about guinea pigs who died after they were fed commercial food contaminated with excessive vitamin D that caused a fatal kidney disease.

eleveni Tuesday, April 19, 2016 5:58:08 AM
        My guinea pig, tiny's feces is very sticky and viewable spot of blood. I'm worry. Please advice.

taralynette Wednesday, December 10, 2014 5:46:00 AM
        Oranges are not good for guinea pigs as it doesn't agree with their digestive system.

tonimoran Tuesday, September 23, 2014 9:02:30 AM
        Yes I have a question, would if your female guinea pig is 2 months old bloated with a stiff stomach? Is it possible for her she be pregnant?

lollypopgirl1 Saturday, September 6, 2014 11:46:56 PM
        My guinea pig ears are ruff and crusty are they ment to be?

jenifer Friday, May 30, 2014 9:40:03 AM
        My sons guinea pig was suffering from heat so we moved her to a cooler place and she was eating playing ext.. after about 24 hours of relaxation. Then all of the sudden she died not sure what happened please help me.

zulietasapaya Tuesday, May 20, 2014 6:58:47 AM
        i have two-year old abyssinian cavy. having bloated tummy and lethargic. what's wrong with it?

ponky,katie Monday, April 21, 2014 9:21:33 AM
        We'll I think it is breathing problems like my pig but don't worry it should be alright  just keep an eye and take it to the vet  it should be alright which is the same for my one  I hope that she will be alright.

lovelymama82 Tuesday, March 4, 2014 5:52:00 PM
        My guinea pig has been laying around not eatting and tonight he had bubbles attached to his poop. Hea about 3 year's old. What could be wrong with him.

Guest Wednesday, December 4, 2013 8:50:20 PM
        my guinea pig is 2 and he is shivering from the rear  end and to the fornt end what is wrong with him Im super scaredand I don't know what to do.
ps: I took him a bath and he was fine and the I gave a bowl of food and water and put a blanket in his little pen and then I was gone and I went to a cousins party and then iv came back at like 6:00 and he felt warm and he was shivering I don't know whats happinig and he's going through his chewing faze and hes chewing more than he should what is happinig and who can I solve the problem help me plz I am scared. 

cocoa33 Thursday, January 12, 2017 1:47:04 PM
My Guinea pigs always start vibrating after a bath, I think it's just their way of warming up

Monday, November 25, 2013 1:54:19 AM
        my little scrbby gums are bleeding what do i do

mtcharmon Sunday, October 20, 2013 11:36:35 AM
        My guinea is having the same symptoms. Were you able to figure anything out?

Piggy pop Monday, September 16, 2013 2:41:06 AM
I have a 3 and a half year old piggy and noticed today one side of her tummy is very swollen and she jumps when I stroke her any one had this problem before ??

Zoila Tuesday, September 3, 2013 8:18:14 PM
        What does it mean if my guinea pig is breathing rapidly and lethargic limbs and body shaking?

guineagod Sunday, April 9, 2017 5:52:02 AM

LoveMyGuinea Monday, July 1, 2013 11:07:24 PM
        I have a guinea pig named Rodney. We got him about 2 and a half years ago when he was 2 years old. So hes practically 5 years old. My parents smoke in the house, but the smoke doesn't get to him directly. I give him 2 orange slices every other day and a small dish of pellets. I think he may be a bit overweight however, so i must cut him back on food. Although, earlier today, Rodney sneezed 4 times in 2 minutes, and is kind of grunting when he breathes. I'm very scared for him. I searched up the symptoms and there were so many different things that could be wrong with him. He could have an upper respiratory infection, and that's what I'm most afraid of. I don't have the money to pay for antibiotics, nor do my parents. Do you know of any home remedies? He just started showing signs today, and I just need to know how to stop this from progressing any further. Thank you so much.

footballrn Sunday, January 10, 2016 10:46:07 AM
aspirated fluids or her own vomit into her lungs leads to rapid death.

cocoa33 Thursday, January 12, 2017 1:50:10 PM
Guinea pigs don't usually live for very long so that is a long time so he is quite old. Also Guinea pigs need a lot of food so I wouldn't recommend cutting his diet down

conore Friday, June 28, 2013 4:10:18 AM
            My male Guinea Pig is almost 5 years old now and has always been really healthy until the past few months.
At first he lost nearly all his fur at the sides which we thought might of been lice/mites so got treatment for that and he seemed to be ok for a while.
But now everyday he's having clogged up with sticky green faeces which were having to use cotton buds to get out and frequent baths but it doesn't seem to alleviate the problem. Tried cutting down on greens but he never eats much of the dried food so it's hard. Other than this he's still acting as normal just the clogs everyday! Any advice?

Professor Lion Sunday, June 23, 2013 5:43:30 PM
        To Piggypoo: if you suspect ringworm, there's a very simple test that veterinarians use. Shine a "Black" light on the infected area. (An Ultraviolet Light tube that looks black when off, and a "fuzzy" purple when on.) Ringworm will glow under UV light. If the affected area doesn't glow, chances are your Cavy has a parasitic infestation, such as Lice. In any case, you should see a Veterinarian as soon as possible.

Professor Lion Sunday, June 23, 2013 5:24:33 PM
        Fresh water-washed veggies are a MUST for Cavies, as they are needed for vitamin C. BUT, Iceberg Lettuce IS NOT good for them! Instead, feed them ROMAINE lettuce. As with ALL treats, Feed Sparingly. Greens high in Oxalates (Such as Spinach) should be fed VERY sparingly. ANY TIME your Cavy falls ill, It can be VERY serious! You should have a Veterinarian who is willing to give emergency service. A Cavy who is fine one day, and suddenly becomes ill, CAN DIE IN AS LITTLE AS 3 DAYS! (I've had this happen twice. Became ill, (started showing symptoms) Friday evening, and was gone by Sunday evening.)

icefairy Sunday, May 26, 2013 4:59:09 PM
            Yesterday, suddenly, my 3 year old Guinea Pig, Thor, lost the use of his hind legs. I increased his vitamin C intake and hoped he'd improve. Today, it got worse :( he started getting Diarrhea, lost bladder function, and just say on the towel all day pretty much. He still eats, and I've given him cucumber so he doesn't get dehydrated, but I'm worried about him. I've read to possibly cut the veggies for a few days, and just give him his dry food and hay. I was going to start doing that tonight since he started getting worse this afternoon. 
I'm at a loss. The vet doesn't open until tomorrow and I'm afraid he's just going to put him down :(

shooting_star Monday, April 22, 2013 11:08:36 AM
        I have a 4 yo female cavy. She was passing bloody urine so I took her to the vet. The vet prescribed antibiotics, and for a while my cutie was OK, but then all of a sudden she stopped eating. The ultrasound test showed she had bladder stones. The vet recommended a surgery to remove the stones. Female guinea pigs older than 3 years are predisposed to bladder stone, which can be caused by too much supplements and vitamin D in your guinea's diet. Your cavy needs a soft diet like carrots and salad to help her urinate to flush excess calcium. Do not feed alfalfa because it is high in calcium. She should always have fresh water. 

rusty Friday, April 19, 2013 10:15:36 AM
        Hi, Piggypoo. It could be ringworm, which is a fungal infection. It is contagious, so I suggest you take your cavy to the vet. He will prescribe an antifungal drug, sch as grisefulvin for your pet. The treatment might take up to 6 weeks. It is a pretty nasty drug and very harmful for pigs less than 3 months of age, but for older animals it is OK. A skin cream like tolnaftate 1% may be used directly on the skin. Make sure your cavy gets lots of fresh food with vitamin C to help her recover quickly. 

Piggypoo Friday, April 19, 2013 9:15:36 AM
        A couple of days ago I noticed a few bald spots and flakes around my cavy's face. There were also some pimple-like bumps and the hair could be easily plucked from them. Is this some kind of bacterial infection? What should I do? Help!

TheFluffMaster1 Tuesday, April 02, 2013 6:58:02 AM
        Very Cool! Helpful too!

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