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Guinea Pig Losing Weight Despite Treatment

What should you do if your guinea pig loses weight despite medical treatment?

Karen Rosenthal, DVM, MS
Posted: June 17, 2014, 4:50 p.m. EDT

guinea pig being petted
© Gina Cioli/I-5 Studio
Guinea pigs that suddenly begin losing weight must be taken to a veteninarian as soon as possible.

Q: Fluffy is a 2-year-old, female guinea pig with no illnesses previous to what she is currently experiencing. I give her two handfuls of oaten hay for breakfast, half a cup of vegetables  —  bok choy, capsicum, apple, carrot, parsley, corriander, tomato — and three teaspoons of Oxbow guinea pig pellets with vitamin C. She gets this twice daily. She eats at least half of each serving of vegetables and about one handful of hay twice daily. I think she is drinking. Fluffy has been on broad-spectrum antibiotics for the past two weeks. She is on her second course now, and it finishes in a little more than a week. I initially took her to the veterinarian as she had a reduced appetite, was heard squealing while urinating and had lost about 10 grams of weight. Her cagemate died of gut stasis suddenly about a month earlier.

The day she started the antibiotics, her teeth and abdomen were X-rayed to check for bladder stones, malocclusion, blockages etc., but nothing was found. They said she might have an infection/virus in the gut. She was put on Enrotril, Flagyl and Protexin and hydrated overnight at the vet. She returned home and as her appetite was reduced, I was supplementing her meals with Critical Care. For about three days, she developed diahrrea. I took her back to the vet. They said she seemed to have a lot of gas in her stomach and needed another course of antibiotics and hydrated her overnight. She returned home and then she appeared to improve. However she became constipated for over 24 hours, so two days ago I gave her 2 x 0.5mls of olive oil. She did a lot of grainy, soft, clumped poops overnight on the first day and seemed to be eating very well yesterday morning. I also gave her 4 mls of dry Critical Care mixed with 10mls of pure watermelon juice yesterday to prevent further weight loss. Overnight she did very little poo — about four small, formed pellets, despite giving her 0.75mls of olive oil yesterday (0.35mls and then 0.4mls). This morning I gave her 0.5mls of olive oil. She did about another three or four small pellets.

Fluffy has started losing weight. Since returning from the vet almost a week ago, her weight was 919g for two days, then 912g, then it was 902g, yesterday it was 854g and today it was 845g. I stopped giving Critical Care since returning from the vet, but I will be giving her Critical Care twice daily from today to supplement her intake. Her appetite seems to have improved since yesterday. She seems to be very enthusiastically eating oaten hay, pellets and vegetables and drinking water. Do you have any suggestions about what is going on with her?

A: I think the most significant finding in your very detailed history is that despite your great care, your guinea pig is still losing weight. From your description, your veterinarian did a very thorough job investigating all possible causes of disease and nothing unusual was found.

Your veterinarian placed your guinea pig on medications to treat the signs of disease. Unfortunately, your guinea pig did not respond as well as you might have hoped. In cases like this, it is very important that you return to your veterinarian. First, the fact that she is not responding as well to treatment as you would have wanted can tell your doctor a lot about what could be causing her signs of disease. Second, the diagnostic tests veterinarians employ to determine if your guinea pig is well or sick are not always as sensitive as we might want. Sometimes, the disease has to progress some before our tests will pick up that your pet is sick.

With your guinea pig, it could be that now some of those tests that were normal during the last visit, might start showing some abnormalities and help point your vet to a specific diagnosis. As you know, guinea pigs cannot afford to lose weight, so the sooner the disease is diagnosed, the sooner specific treatment can be started.

Like this article? Check out:
Common Guinea Pig Health Issues, click here>>
Tips For Finding The Right Veterinarian For Your Small Animal Pet, click here>>
A Guinea Pig Health Issue You Can't Ignore, click here>>

See all veterinary Q&A about guinea pigs, click here>>
See veterinary Q&A for all small animal pets, click here>>

Posted: June 17, 2014, 4:50 p.m. EDT


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