If you have a sick guinea pig, there are certain steps you will want to take in order to ensure quick recovery. In addition to providing proper care, the real key in aiding piggy recovery is consistently monitoring their condition. The sooner you notice a worsening of symptoms or a failure to thrive, the faster you can get help for your pet before the condition becomes life threatening.
Remember, the advice below is supplemental for people who have already taken their guinea pigs to see a veterinarian. Do not attempt to self treat any serious condition without help from an expert.
Supplies You Will Need:
- Digital kitchen or postal scale
- Hot water bottle or Thermacare wraps – Can be found at your local drugstore. Thermacare wraps are used for the relief of pain and muscle aches. The wrap will produce heat for up to eight hours when exposed to air. Keep in mind the contents of this product are not meant to be eaten so supervise pets and children.
- Food pellets for sick guineas pigs (like Oxbow Critical Care) – Available through veterinarians. Avoid low fiber foods at these times as this can increase digestive discomfort and bloating.
- Small syringe without needle for feeding food and water
- Probiotics (if your piggy is on antibiotics) – Can be found in gel capsule form at health food stores. Remember, guinea pigs should not consume animal products so do not substitute yogurt.
How to Take Care of a Sick Guinea Pig
Step 1: Move to a Separate Cage
A sick guinea pig will benefit from space from rowdy cage mates. It will also make it easier for you to monitor their condition and determine exactly how much they are eating.
Step 2: Weight Your Guinea Pig
This is important for two reasons – one, it will help you track whether they are losing, gaining, or maintaining weight. If your guinea pig appears to still be healthy enough to eat on his or her own but over the course of a couple days starts to lose weight, this is an indicator that supplemental hand feeding is needed. Two, you will use the weight of your pet to calculate how much food they should be eating. This is especially useful if you are going to be hand feeding as it is always difficult to tell if your piggy is getting enough food.
Step 3: Monitor Urine and Stool Output
Consider keeping your sick guinea pig on folded towels instead of their standard bedding. This may be more comfortable for them AND it makes it easier for you to see if they are passing waste normally. A lack of urine or stool output can be an indication of further health problems or dehydration.
Step 4: Keep Them Warm
A sick guinea pig need extra warmth. Extra warmth can really be helpful for guinea pigs that are not feeling well. Using a warm water bottle wrapped in a towel will work quite well just be sure not to put scalding water in and replace when the temperature cools. A self heating pad will also work well provided you don’t have any problems with your pet trying to chew on it (not too likely if he or she is sick.)
Step 5: Prepare the Food
If your sick guinea pig is not eating on his or her own, you will want to prepare a pellet mash. All you need in order to do this is to soak the pellets in liquid until they become soft and you can mash them into a soft paste. Some piggies also enjoy the mixture if warmed slightly (be sure to test on the inside of your wrist.) If you do not have the time to soak the pellets until they are soft, you can grind them using a food processor or coffee grinder and then mix with water. Some people also like to add baby food or juice for extra nutrition or flavor. Another alternative is to use the existing fresh foods you had on hand already and cooking them until soft and then blending into a paste. The key when making the hand feeding paste is to keep the mix on the thicker side as liquid is easier to accidentally inhale. Try one part water to four parts feed and see how that works.
Step 6: Feeding
Take the small syringe you purchased and remove the end if it is super small as you will need food to be able to pass through. Be sure to sand off any rough edges.T ry to hold your guinea pig in a vertical position. You may find it easier to wrap them up in a cloth first for better grip. Fill the syringe with your mix and gently insert into your piggy’s mouth. Push until you feel the back teeth. Now gently push a little food into his or her mouth and see if your guinea pig reacts by chewing a little. This is a good sign. Wait for the chewing to stop and then feed a little more. Continue until food is gone. Follow up with water as well. Add vitamin C supplements if you think they are needed. Be sure to keep regular solid food available in the cage as well as you want your pet to go back to a regular routine of self feeding as soon as possible.
Optional Step: Probiotics
If you piggy is on a course of antibiotics, supplemental probiotics could aid digestion. Try adding a little probiotic powder to your guinea pigs food or water a couple hours after each dose of medication.
Guinea Pig Illnesses
Below are some brief outlines of guinea pig illnesses:
#1 Extremely Soft Stool or Diarrhea – A guinea pig can die within hours from suffering from diarrhea. Sometimes this condition can be caused by feeding your pet guinea pig too many wet or vegetable foods. A good way to correct this digestive balance if you feel it is food related is to feed it more hay. Another thing you can do is go to a health food shop or even a chemist and buy some lactobacillus acidophilus in capsule form. You should easily be able to get this as you do not need to have a prescription. It can be purchased at the counter.
#2 Losing its Hair – There a quite a few reasons your guinea pigs hair may fall out. One of these is that it might have mites. A guinea pig with a cut or bit will lose its hair around the affected are. This condition is completely normal and nothing to worry about unless the wound gets infected. If your bit suffers from tremendous hair loss this could be caused by ringworm. Another cause of this can be ovarian cysts. Unless you know that the hair loss is due to a cut or mites you need to call your vet to see how to proceed.
#3 Eyes That Water – Watery eyes are usually because you guinea pig has irritants in the eye. These could be excessive dust or bits of hay. Another cause of watery eyes could be allergies. In this case it is best to call you to find out directions on how you might best rinse the irritants from your guinea pigs eyes eye. On occasion these eye sores can be from eyelid cysts. These will irritate the eye and should be removed by a qualified vet as they can be quite serious and cause a lot of pain for your guinea pig pet.
#4 Stiff Joints – This usually comes about because of scurvy. Scurvy is just a severe lack of Vitamin C. It should be treated immediately. Call your veterinarian to make an appointment to see them. To ensure this does not happen to your pet guinea pig make sure he is taking at least 10 mg of calcium per day!
#5 Tilting Head Often – Sometimes a guinea pig will tilt its head to one side. This is usually accompanied by having trouble walking. These symptoms indicate a middle-ear infection. You should take your pet to the veterinarian quickly as this condition has been known to damage if not deafen guinea pigs hearing. You must get him treated, do not put it off.
#6 Seizures – Two types of seizures can be described. If his body is aligned normally with head in the hair straight (that is head is not tilted to one side.), this is just mites. Mites can burrow under the skin and this can affect the nervous system. Take him to a veterinarian to take care of this, and he will be ok. If however your guinea pig pet is tilting his head to one side or his body is curling during the seizure it is a more serious guinea pig illness and could come from any number of things. In this case take him to the vet quickly to get some blood tests done.