Posted: November 27, 2011, 5 a.m. EST
Q: My guinea pig is very hyper and perfectly fine, except she is sneezing and she keeps rubbing her nose. She also is laying down a lot, which she doesn't do often. Does she have a medical problem?
A: It is difficult to tell if there is a serious medical problem with your guinea pig based on your description. A medical condition is likely because sneezing and rubbing her nose is not normal, but the big question is, what is causing your guinea pig to sneeze and rub her nose? Usually, for a condition like this, two overall categories are considered -- infectious or environmental. This could be a respiratory infection or this could be a reaction to something in the environment.
Respiratory infections are very common in guinea pigs. Typically, bacterial infections or a combination of viral and bacterial infections occur in the same guinea pig. Respiratory infections can look much like you describe, with the guinea pig sneezing and rubbing its nose. Guinea pigs rub their nose in an effort to stay clean because they may have nasal discharge due to the respiratory infection. Sometimes, you can look at a guinea pig’s front legs and paws and actually see discoloration of the fur due to the constant cleaning of the nasal discharge.
The other cause of sneezing and rubbing could be due to an irritant in the environment. Although this may be termed an “allergy” it is more correctly called an environmental irritant. This could be anything from very dusty hay or litter to a carpet cleaner or even a cleaning detergent used in the proximity of your guinea pig.
How can you tell if the sneezing and nose rubbing is due to an environmental problem or an infection? It is difficult without a visit to your veterinarian. Until you can get your guinea pig to a veterinarian, make sure the air around your guinea pig is always moving, that your guinea pig is not kept within a glass aquarium, that the litter is changed frequently, that ammonia from urine does not build up in the cage, and that any cleaning products are not causing any possible irritations to your guinea pig.
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