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Guinea Pig With Head Tilt

Diagnosing the cause of a head tilt in guinea pigs is critical to determining the treatment needed.

Karen Rosenthal, DVM, MS
Posted: November 20, 2014, 2:25 p.m. EST

guinea pig portrait
© Gina Cioli/I-5 Studio 
If a guinea pig develops head tilt, the cause could be from any one of the following:  bacteria, viruses, neoplasia, parasites and trauma.

Q: My friend in Holland has a 2-year-old guinea pig, Cava, that her daughter loves very much. The last day and a half, Cava has been holding his neck cock-eyed and tips over. He's eating and drinking OK. Is this from an ear infection? I don't know about vets in Holland or their prescription laws, but I am guessing that antibiotics are needed. But which one (amoxicillin?) and how much?

A: One of the amazing things about practicing medicine in the 21st century is that expertise is just a computer click away. Even if there is no veterinarian in your friend’s town who has a special interest in guinea pigs, there are veterinarians who can help the local veterinarian and walk him or her through the procedures and treatments that are needed to help your friend’s pet. 

Given all of that, our colleagues in Europe and Asia are as knowledgeable about our small mammal pets as veterinarians in North America. A person with a guinea pig in Holland is just as likely to find a veterinarian with expertise in guinea pig medicine as a pet owner in the United States. [The Association Of Exotic Mammal Veterinarians has a listing of veterinarians both inside and outside the United States. — Ed.]

What you describe in your friend’s guinea pig is a "head tilt.” There can be many causes of head tilt in guinea pigs, including bacteria, viruses, neoplasia, parasites and trauma. It is very important that the correct cause of the head tilt be found so treatment can then begin. If treatment is guessed at (for example, using antibiotics without an examination and the cause is not bacterial), then precious time has been wasted and the disease could progress to the point that treatment is no longer practical or even possible.

Like this article? Check out:
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See all veterinary Q&A about guinea pig health
See veterinary Q&A for all small animal pet health

Posted: November 20, 2014, 2:25 p.m. EST

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