Posted: August 22, 2013, 7:15 p.m. EDT
Provide the best diet possible, one that includes the right amount of vitamin C, to prevent gastrointestinal upset in guinea pigs.
Q: I live in India and have three female guinea pigs, a mother and two sisters. One of the sister pigs, who is about 1.5 years old, developed a UTI a little over three weeks ago. She was given Baytril and Flagyl for this. Three days afterward, she went anorexic. I started hand-feeding and slowly she got back on food. But after antibiotics her stools became abnormal and discontinuous, sometimes being small, stringy and mushy. After some days, she started selectively eating — having only a stem of spinach and leaving leaf or eating French beans and then spitting it out. We took her again to a veterinarian, who put her on medication for bloat, but it was to no avail. Now she eats even less. I keep feeding her time and again, but she has lost 100 grams since then, and I’m still confused whether it is an infection or malocclusion. Please help. I love her a lot.
A: Both Baytril and Flagyl are two of the safest antibiotics we can give to guinea pigs. And by safe, I mean those antibiotics typically cause the least amount of disturbance to the population of normal bacteria that inhabit the gastrointestinal tract of guinea pigs while attacking the bacteria that are causing disease in your pet. When the normal bacteria population is overly disturbed, it can lead to diarrhea, weight loss, bloat, loss of appetite, loss of nutrient absorption and, eventually, even death.
It is possible that your guinea pig had a bad reaction to one or both of the antibiotics and that has led to a disturbance of the normal gastrointestinal bacteria. At present, there is no simple method to "repopulate” the gastrointestinal tract with normal bacteria. There are products that you can feed that contain some bacteria, you can provide stool from normal guinea pigs and you can support your guinea pig with fluids and food. But in many cases, providing the best diet possible, including the correct dose of vitamin C, is the ultimate in prevention of this problem.
You are also correct that dental disease could lead to a poor appetite and weight loss. Malocclusion is very common in rabbits, guinea pigs and chinchillas. Because it is so common, dental disease has to be considered for every guinea pig that has signs such as yours is showing.
The only way to know for certain is to revisit your veterinarian and have him or her do a complete physical examination that includes an oral examination of all of the lower and upper cheek teeth.
See all veterinary Q&A about guinea pigs, click here>>
See veterinary Q&A for all small animal pets, click here>>