Posted: March 21, 2014, 8:00 p.m. EDT
© Gina Cioli/I-5 Studio
A guinea pig that stops eating or drinking needs to visit a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Q: My guinea pig sounds like she has a cold. She isn’t moving around a lot and isn't eating or drinking very much. I'm worried, but we can't afford to take her to the vet. What should I do?
A: Guinea pigs are like most of our small mammals in that once they are sick, the first sign you may see is not moving and not eating or drinking. Just about every disease process can cause this to occur. This makes things very difficult for us as owners and veterinarians to determine exactly what is wrong if the signs for many different diseases look very similar.
Respiratory disease is very, very common in guinea pigs. Upper respiratory disease can cause signs that look very similar to what people suffer when they have a cold. Eyes are runny and red, there is discharge from both nostrils, and they even sound stuffy. These signs can get worse if not treated.
Guinea pigs are like us when we get a head cold —- they feel so bad that they do not want to eat. With people, that may not be a bad thing but in guinea pigs, not eating can lead to other serious issues and the cause of the head cold should be addressed quickly.
The question is what to treat for. Guinea pigs are prone to both viral and bacterial infections in their upper respiratory system. For the most part, we do not have any medications that combat viral infections. We do give antibiotics even if a viral infection is present as we assume that in severe viral infections, a secondary bacterial component is present. Even in these cases, we worry that even if we can successfully treat the bacterial component, the viral component can remain in your guinea pig for a lifetime. Every so often, the virus may flare up and cause these same respiratory signs to occur again.
Until you can visit your veterinarian, keep your guinea pig in a safe area, away from other guinea pigs, and encourage as much eating and drinking as possible.
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