Guinea pigs – health

Information about disease prevention and signs of illness in guinea pigs.

Approved activities Category
topical — spray 3
oral — supplements (ascorbic acid) 3

Disease prevention

Disease control methods and internal and external parasite control programs should be developed in consultation with a veterinarian. All activities must be documented in appropriate records.

It is rare that internal parasites and fleas are a problem in guinea pigs but they can suffer from bacterial and fungal diseases, lice, mites and mange mites. Any itching, scratching or skin irritation should be documented and treatment sought.

Remember that guinea pigs require vitamin C in their diets. This can be provided by feeding vitamin C enriched pellets (these must be fresh), cabbage, kale, green feed, carrots and pumpkin or by administering an ascorbic acid supplement.

When using animal chemicals, care must be taken and noted about the following:

  • Reading all labels
  • Noting the expiry date of the product
  • Maintaining appropriate storage
  • Adhering to withholding periods
  • Determining the weight of the animals to be treated
  • Determining the correct dose rate
  • Using protective clothing if required
  • Using the correct equipment for application
  • Disposal of chemical containers
  • Documenting the dose, chemical name, batch number, expiry date, withholding period, Identity of animal(s) administered to and date of administration.

Signs of illness

The first sign noticed is a change in the animal’s natural demeanour. It may be listless or lethargic. Closer examinations may show:

Variations in:

  • Body temperature
  • Gastrointestinal functions such as diarrhoea, weight loss or loss of appetite
  • Urogenital functions, e.g. abortion, infertility or abnormal discharges
  • Respiratory functions, e.g. persistent coughing, gasping or panting

Or evidence of:

  • Skin condition such as lesions
  • Abnormal growths
  • A tucked up appearance, stiff gait, or abnormal posture, patchy coat or loss of hair
  • Excessive scratching or rubbing
  • Swollen joints or limping
  • Dribbling.

Failing to thrive or grow is also a sign of illness. Guinea pigs have extremely fragile health that can quickly decline. They will rarely recover from illness unless treated, and even a minor illness can be fatal.

If unable to identify the problem and begin suitable treatment, assistance should be sought immediately from a veterinarian. Any illness identified and treatments given must be recorded appropriately.


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