Posted: January 27, 2012, 4 a.m. EST
Q: My guinea pig, Ghini, is shedding more than usual. When she sneezes, mucus comes out. Should I take her to the veterinarian or is there anything I can buy in terms of medicine to make my guinea pig better?
A: Respiratory disease is very common in guinea pigs. Many veterinarians believe the primary cause in many guinea pigs is not a bacterial infection, but a viral infection. It is impossible for you or your veterinarian to look at your guinea pig and determine if this is a bacterial or viral infection. The signs of both types of infections look exactly alike.
No tests exist that can be used to make the determination between a bacterial or a viral infection in live pet guinea pigs. That is why guinea pigs that are treated with antibiotics for a respiratory infection sometimes do not improve. If the cause is viral, and not bacterial, the antibiotic may have no effect on the progression of the disease condition. Viruses will not respond to antibiotics.
If a veterinarian chooses the correct antibiotic and a guinea pig is suffering from a bacterial infection, then the guinea pig should improve once the correct amount of antibiotic is in the guinea pig’s body. Your veterinarian will do a complete physical examination and then determine if there is a reason to start antibiotics.
Unfortunately, there are no easy answers to your question. One of the best things you can do at home, even before you visit your veterinarian, is to make sure the environment is as clean as possible. Remove any objects that can increase particles in the environment, such as dust and litter. If your guinea pig is in a glass tank, move the guinea pig to an enclosure that has better airflow, as this decreases irritation on the mucous membranes. If there is a high ammonia odor, as can be found with urine accumulation, this irritates the nasal mucous membranes.
Finally, if it is the time of year when household heaters are first starting up, make sure the filter on your furnace and the air ducts are cleaned to prevent dust from being spread into the air around your guinea pig.
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