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THE PIG SHED

PROBLEM PAGE
ABOUT ME
THE PIG SHED VIDEO
PIGGY HISTORY & INFORMATION
SETTING UP HOME
CHOOSING & TAMING YOUR GUINEA PIG
DIET & NUTRITION
PIGGY DIGESTIVE SYSTEM
ALTERNATIVE REMEDIES
THE GUINEA PIG SALON
WHAT'S MY PIGGY?
THE CIRCLE OF LIFE
PROBLEM PAGE
GUINEA PIG INFORMATION
GIRLS ALBUM
THE REST OF THE GANG- RABBITS
THE REST OF THE GANG- CHINCHILLAS
LINKS PAGE

THIS PAGE HAS INFORMATION ON COMMON GUINEA PIG DISEASES AND AILMENTS

INTRODUCTION TO PROBLEMS

         With any illness a guinea pig has there are always symptoms. Guinea pigs tend to have the theory of "Oh dear I dont feel very well, I will hunch myself up in the corner and wait to die". This is a problem if you dont pay enough attention to your pigs. They may just look like they are having a rest but upon close examination you will find that they may be seriously ill. Here I have compiled a list of the most common problems which guinea pigs have. For your benefit I have categorised them A-Z so that the problem you are looking for is easy to find. When I made this list from my own personal knowledge I decided that the best thing to do was to be entirely honest about the outcome of all these ailments. Vets will tell you what you want to hear and give you false hopes of your pig pulling through, but speaking from experience I always like to know the worst and make the decision to see that my pigs dont suffer. I decided to just state the important tell tale signs of these problems, what may cause them and what to do if the inevitable happens.

ABSCESSES

         These are very common in small animals, especially when they are paired with a companion. They are lumps of raised tissue usually found in the neck and throat area. Sometimes they can be mistaken for Lymph Nodes, which may be swollen. Although these may return back to their normal size after a few days, it may also be an abscess, which could be very dangerous if left untreated. So why take the risk! When guinea pigs fight they usually attack the neck and throat area as defence. Their sharp teeth may either puncture or tear the skin leaving the wound open to infection. If the area isnt kept clean then a bacterium may enter, causing the wound to fill up with a yellow substance. This substance contains white blood cells, which are combating the infection. The abscess must be lanced to release pressure otherwise it may pop and cause even more severe problems.
         The first thing you should do is consult your vet immediately after finding the lump. This will minimise any other stress that the pig may have to suffer. The vet may have to anaesthetise the pig in order to carry out an accurate lancing. This is always a risk for small animals as they can be very hard to monitor, but if you are visiting a well-known and respected veterinary practice you wont have to worry. Once the operation is complete the vet may send you home with some antibiotics which you will either have to place on the wound if it is a gel or a liquid into the mouth, or even both. If you are unsure about syringe feeding anything please refer to the Syringe Feeding section of this page.
In the long run I have no problems when abscesses are concerned, if they are caught in time then your pig will be fine.

ANAEMIA

         This is due to a reduction of white blood cells in the circulatory system. It can cause symptoms such as weakness, lethargy, and a loss of appetite. One sure way of diagnosing anaemia is by examining the mucus membranes in the gums. They appear to be pink in colour and if you press them lightly they should turn a creamy colour and instantly return back to pink. This is known as the Capillary Refill Time (CRT), and is the reaction that occurs when the blood returns back to the gums after pressure. If this time is fast then they are fine but if it is slow or none at all then they are anaemic and require veterinary attention immediately. A blood sample will be taken to determine the white blood cell count and depending on the severity of the problem they will treat it with therapy and supplements. If the problem is severe a blood transfusion may be necessary but if you can catch it quickly then less stress will make it easier on the pig.

ANAL IMPACTION

         This can either be serious or just another common problem. You may notice that your guinea pig is passing less or no droppings at all and may be straining. This is most common in older boars and can cause a lot of pain if not treated. The anal muscles known as the Anal Sphincter become weakened causing the softer droppings to build up in the fold of skin, known as the Perianal Sacs. This can be recognised as small lump formations around the anus. The cure for this problem is unknown but the best prevention is to expel the lumps yourself. Ask the vet for advice if you are unsure. Use some mineral oil to lubricate the anus and hold the pig over the toilet and gently ease the lumps down and out. If this is done on a regular basis your pig will be fine if not then he may become ill or even die.

ATROPHY

         This disease is otherwise known as Wasting Disease and is characterised by loss of weight, which is noticed more in the hind legs and flanks. This could then progress into paralysis and a scurfy coat and next excessive salivation. Even though the guinea pig continues to eat the disease will still progress. This is due to a deficiency in Vitamin C and it could also be caused by overgrown teeth. This can be remedied by feeding the pig a balanced diet, which contains hard food in order to ware down the teeth. The treatment would be to check the teeth for overgrowth, if they are they can be clipped and filed. Vitamin C supplements can be given to improve the diet and therapy is also an option. There have been cases where the severity has been bad, so the best thing was euthanasia, but if you are observant towards your pig you will catch it easy.

BALD PATCHES

         The cause for bald patches on the skin can be many things. Either your pig is very stressed about something and is pulling it out; he is being bullied by another pig, has Alopecia, is pregnant or has a skin parasite or fungal infection. For the most common skin parasites see the External Parasites section.
The guinea pig may be very worried or stressed about something; this causes them to carry out a typical stereotype behaviour. Other behaviours such as excessive grooming could also cause loss of fur but this is usually due to stress.
         One of my guinea pigs had produced a litter of three. I was very worried about her because she was more than a year old and at this age the pelvis drops and narrows making birth very difficult. After the birth she started to pull her fur out on her stomach which lasted up until the babies were taken away. After this her fur grew back, and within two weeks she was back to normal. I sometimes wonder if it was the babies who were chewing her fur as I never noticed her doing it to herself but seeing as there were three of them, two could be suckling while the other was chewing.
If you think that the companion your pig lives with is chewing his fur then separate them for a while to see if the fur loss continues. Its not very common for guinea pigs to chew each others fur, as they will usually fight instead. 
Another reason for fur loss is most commonly parasites. Some of these parasites you can see but others are so small that you cannot. Parasites can cause a lot of discomfort for your pig so you should take him/her to the vets immediately and they will do a skin scraping to determine what sort of parasite it is and how to treat it. If you feel that you are able to treat it yourself with a shelf product then feel free. They work just as well as the prescription medicines but remember to read the labels first. Sometimes just a bath using an anti-parasitic shampoo will do the trick. If not then the infestation is worse than you thought so I recommend the vet treatment.
Also dont mistake the bald patches behind the ears as a problems as they are always there.


BUMBLEFOOT

         This problem is a cause for concern as it is extremely common in most guinea pigs. It is caused by un-healthy living conditions, such as wet and soiled bedding, making the perfect breeding ground for a bacterium known as Staphylococcus aureus, and can be fatal. It is the swelling of the foot which may cause some pain, after a while the pig may become accustomed to the new shape of their foot and not notice it as much. At this time the skin on the foot may begin to break and peel off forming new skin. It will need veterinary treatment immediately.

CALCIUM DEFICIENCY
 

         The reason for this problem is because the pigs diet is over supplemented with Vitamin D, and isnt getting enough Calcium. This causes the calcium to be absorbed from the bones which in turn causes weakness of the bones. The symptom of this illness is a sudden paralysis of the hind-legs. As long as the guinea pig is receiving the correct amount of Vitamin D and Calcium then the chances of this occurring are minimised. The pig should not be denied any sunlight and I recommend giving them hay which has been sun-dried. The treatment is to supplement the diet with extra Calcium and stop the intake of Vitamin D for a while.

 
CATARACTS

         Cataracts are quite common in guinea pigs, especially females. The pupil in the eye which is usually black in colour, turns white. This is common in elderly guinea pigs and unfortunately there is no known cure. Operations are available but the guinea pigs quality of life needs to be considered. A guinea pig which has a cateract in one eye will usually develop one in the other eye, and will eventually become blind. At present I have two three and four year old females with a cateract in one of their eyes, but I am not concerned as I know that they will be able to cope with the blindness. They will carry on as normal and adjust to their disability. Feel free to take your piggy to the vets but im afraid there's probably nothing that they can do.

CONSTIPATION

         This can be very serious in small animals such as guinea pigs. It can be caused by a number of reasons, a disease, not enough roughage or too much dry food, which hasnt been given with water. This can be recognised as you will see the faeces sticking out of the pigs bottom and he/she may appear to be straining. I usually give my pigs liquid paraffin which I obtained from the vet after a visit when one of them had constipation. I gave him 2.5mls twice a day for three days. This usually clears it up as well as giving plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.

CONJUNCTIVITIS

          The eyes will seem very red and swollen and there is usually a yellow or white discharge from under the lid. Abnormal teeth growth, a respiratory disease or an allergic reaction to something could cause this. Hopefully if there is no damage to the cornea then it is treatable a topical treatment such as Fuzithelmic is put into the eye three to four times a day. If it is a teeth problem these are usually linked together. Sometimes the teeth will push on the tear ducts making them empty into the eye. This can be treated by taking an x-ray of the mouth to determine the problem. If they are growing abnormally then the vet will file them down to the correct and comfortable size. If it is an allergic reaction a steroid eye lotion is given. These can all be obtained from the vets.

CYSTITIS

          This is an extremely painful problem for all animals and is caused by an infection of the urinary tract or bladder. The animal will show signs of pain when passing water, the genital area will smell and if left for a while sores may appear from urine burns. Guinea pig urine is prone to bacteria. The urine is very alkaline so by giving it cranberry juice in the water this will make it acidic and repel the bacteria. They may be soreness in the urinary tract and sometimes lesions, which can cause a lot of pain when passing urine. By giving barley water it will ease the pain while it is healing. The barley water must be made from scratch, as the supermarket brands are not strong enough. By boiling up some barley and adding this to water this should do the trick. If after a few days your pig is still in pain then visit the vet and he will give you some antibiotics.

DIARRHOEA

         In my personal opinion unless this is caught early then the survival rate is extremely low. It can be caused by a number of reasons, bacterial infections, cold or frosted vegetables, mouldy dry food or a sudden change in diet. The symptoms are runny droppings, your pig may appear lifeless with its fur puffed up and when you pick him up he may squeal in pain. The problem with diarrhoea is that the pig will feel very ill and be unwilling to carry out its normal behaviour. These behaviours include eating, drinking and movement. When the pig refuses to drink the body will become dehydrated very quickly and this is the killer. Unfortunately I am not going to sugar coat the outcome if you were to find your pig too late, the only thing that I can say is that the faster you get him to the vets the more chance he will have. The vet should put him on a drip, which will force the fluids in. This is probably the only way he can be saved. There are many ways to prevent diarrhoea such as watching what sort of food you give to your pigs. Foods with a high water content such as lettuce, cabbage and cucumber, I recommend should be avoided. Make sure that when you feed any fruit and vegetables to your guinea pigs that they havent come straight from the fridge and are not rotten. Try to keep the hutch free from maggots, which may infest the bedding and food, as well as keeping the food bowls clean. Lastly keep the dried food away from any contaminants, such as mice, insects, birds and the weather. If the food gets wet throw it away immediately, as the moisture will help bacteria to grow. Also make sure that the water bottles are clean to get rid of the algae, which grows on the inside. I recommend a bottle-brush and some hot soapy water but make sure that the soap is washed out properly as this could poison the pig.
Remember if you observe your guinea pigs behaviour at least twice a day as diarrhoea can occur anytime in the day, then the chances of catching it early will help your pig in the long run.

EAR PROBLEMS

         Guinea pigs dont tend to suffer from many ear problems and most can be treated easily by using medications, which can be bought from a pet shop. One of the problems may be Ear Mites which is recognised by the guinea pig shaking and scratching its head a lot and he may have black crustaceans upon examination in the ear. To cure this you could try putting a drop of oil inside the ear and massage it or keep the ear clean regularly so the mites dont have anything to feed upon. The alternate method is that you take the pig to the vets and her will give you some treatment.

EXTRNAL PARASITES

         There are several types of external parasites which can all cause severe pain and irritation. The most common are lice, mange and fungal complaints.
Lice are also known as Running Lice and can be recognised as small pin sized bugs, which are white and about half a centimetre in length. Sometimes they can be found in large groups on the neck or the centre of the back. Other times there may be just a few scattered around. You are able to see them wriggling around and this is what causes the itching. There are several anti-parasitic sprays and shampoos available in pet shops which all work fine. If you want to seek proper veterinary advice feel free and they will give you a course of Ivermectin to kill the lice. 
   
          Another problem is mange mites. This cannot be seen with the naked but the symptoms include bald patches, which appear sore and reddened. The pig will also be scratching a lot and irritated. The best treatment is to take the pig to the vets and he will do a skin scraping to determine the problem. The treatment I suggest is to use what the vet will give you, speaking from personal experience the over the counter medicines dont tend to work they only minimise the discomfort. You should use the treatment that the vet gives you in order to clear it up.

EYE PROBLEMS

         These are usually the cause of a foreign body such as hay sawdust or wood shavings getting into the guinea pigs eye. This may cause the eye to appear cloudy and reddened. Try not to use hay with the young guinea pigs, as they are prone to this sort of problem. Also never use sawdust as this can easily get into the eye and cause an irritation. The best treatment for this is to take to the vets and he will give the pig an antibiotic which within a couple of days should clear it up

FLYSTRIKE

         This is a very serious problem and especially occurs within the hot and humid months between April and September. This is because the amount of flies increases, they then lay their eggs in the bedding. When these eggs hatch maggots will infest the bedding, they will then crawl up into the pigs anus and slowly munch away and basically kill them. I know it may sound absolutely foul but it happens. Fortunately if you are a good and caring owner then you will notice the maggots in the bedding while you are cleaning them out. If you do then check the pigs bottom for any maggots and if you find any immediately take him to the vets and they will deal with it. Just remember if you see any flies in the hutch area then you probably have maggots, which need to be exterminated immediately.
 
HEAT STROKE

         Heat stroke can be a killer among guinea pigs, so rapid action is necessary. If your guinea pig shows signs of heat stroke it would be lethargic, panting, hotter than usual to the touch and irritable. As long as this is detected straight away then there will be a high chance of survival.  Submerge your piggies in cool water for a minute to bring down the body temperature, but not for too long as they may be too small to withstand the cold. Another method would be to keep a fan on the cage/hutch. Put them in a run which has a very shallow bowl of water in for them to dip in when they get too warm. Also you could put some ice blocks under a blanket in the cage or under the actual cage if it is plastic bottomed. They should also be provided with lots of fresh cold water. The main cause of death with guinea pigs is dehydration. This is because when a guinea pig becomes ill they will lie back and wait to die. Water should be given immediately, and if they won't drink then force them to otherwise they won't pull through. On the other hand if you feel that you cannot cope or they arent getting any better, take them to the vets and they will put them on a drip which will force fluids into them.

MUSCULAR DYSTROPHY

         This is due to a deficiency in Vitamin E of which causes a great problem in guinea pigs. As long as the guinea pig is given a well balanced diet which includes the correct amount of Vitamin E. The symptoms of this illness are commonly severe stiffness and the pig is reluctant to move and in some cases the pig may suddenly show weakness in the hind-leg and paralysis. Treatment includes supplements of Vitamin E in the diet and wheatgerm oil, which is a liquid form of Vitamin E. Unfortunately in the long run this problem could affect the fertility of a guinea pig. So if the receive a balanced diet then there shouldnt be a problem.

RICKETS

         This condition although extremely rare is also due to a deficiency in Vitamin D. It is rare because the diet that you are feeding the guinea pig contains an adequate amount of Calcium, Phosphorous and Vitamin D. Problems may occur if the guinea pig is kept in an area where there is poor sunlight. This is because guinea pigs require sunlight for the production and stimulation of Vitamin D in the skin.

SCURVY

         This disease is due to a deficiency in Vitamin C. A guinea pig needs at least 10-30mg per day and it can be supplemented by using dissolvable tablets in their drinking water, as well as making sure they have lots of vegetables that contain vitamin c, such as orange, carrots and red peppers. The symptoms of this disease are mainly gait, pain when moving, bleeding from the gums, swollen joints and lack of weight gain or wasting. Vitamin C supplements should be administered and food with added vitamin c should be given at all times.

VITAMIN K DEFICIENCY

         Obviously this problem is due to a lack of Vitamin K in the guinea pigs diet. The main signs include bleeding from the nose and a bloody discharge from the genitals. This is commonly seen in guinea pigs which are fed stale hay and dried food. To treat this problem an injection of Vitamin K or an oral dose can be given or put in the food. The diet should also be improved by keeping the food correctly and feeding them fresh hay.