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Treating Abscesses In Guinea Pigs

The causes of abscesses in guinea pigs and how to treat them.

By Karen Rosenthal, DVM, DABVP
Posted: June 27, 2008, 10 a.m. EDT

Q: I’ve got two female guinea pigs that are 2 1/2 years old. We adopted them from my daughter’s primary school. One just had an abscess removed that was on the outside of her neck down her jaw line. It was quite a nasty one that was cut and drained. She had anaesthetic and didn’t come around naturally and was given the reversal injection six hours later. By the next morning she was walking around. She wasn’t able to eat for about a week before they operated, and she has lost quite a lot of weight. She finished her antibiotic four days after the surgery.
She is still not able to eat solids (four days later). She is keen to try, but doesn’t seem to have the strength in her mouth to rip and tear. I’m syringe-feeding her with fruit and veggies that I’ve juiced. She feels very sorry for herself and is very quiet. I introduce her sister for a few hours in the evening but then separate them day and night as her sister wants to lick the wound. At the moment I’ve got the poor guinea pig on blankets and towels in her indoor hutch in the house so I can keep an eye on her. Am I expecting too much too early, or should she be able to eat solids by now? The vet isn't a small pet vet but thought my guinea pig should be eating, although she did say it was a big abscess.
A: Most abscesses in guinea pigs cannot be treated like those in dogs and cats. The abscesses in guinea pigs need to be entirely removed, not just opened and drained. This is because the material in the guinea pig abscess is very thick and won’t easily come out on its own. If it is not removed entirely at surgery, it often just stays in the guinea pig and continues to cause problems. The guinea pig still has an infection at the site of the abscess, it is still painful, and the abscess still needs to be entirely removed at surgery.

Unfortunately, antibiotics will not cure this problem, even with drainage at surgery. The entire abscess should be removed and then the antibiotic given to the guinea pig.

Two other issues might concern your guinea pig. First, abscesses near the jaw can be associated with abnormal teeth. Dental disease is common in guinea pigs. If a tooth is diseased, this can cause an abscess along the jaw. In these cases, to best help the guinea pig, not only should the abscess be removed but the diseased tooth should be removed, too. If the tooth problem is not addressed, then the abscess never gets better.

Finally, the other issue is not of the abscess itself but of the liver. When a guinea pig does not eat for a couple of days, liver disease might occur. This is technically termed “hepatic lipidosis.” This means that fatty tissue invades the normal liver and causes disease. When a guinea pig does not eat, the liver becomes abnormal. These changes to the liver can make a guinea pig not want to eat.

So, right now, your guinea pig might not be doing well because:
1. All of the abscess was not removed
2. A diseased tooth is also present
3. The liver is abnormal

The best thing I can tell you is to find another veterinarian who knows guinea pig medicine so that person can determine which of these problems exist in your guinea pig.

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Treating Abscesses In Guinea Pigs

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Reader Comments
Hello I have a similar problem and thought you may like to try porridge just the plain oats and hot water my gp has come good on this I keep renewing the porridge in a tiny bowl with hot water and he is now looking for it also I fine grate strawberries he licks them up. Thanks for your post. Caroline.
Caroline, Perth, WA
Posted: 8/8/2012 10:28:31 PM
Hi Donna, I'm sorry that your guinea pig is ill. I'll forward your question to Dr. Rosenthal to possibly answer in future months. Meanwhile, you might want to consider getting a second opinion from another guinea pig-savvy vet. You can check this link for some LINK or try looking up on the Association of Exotic Mammal Veterinarians website. Best wishes.
Marylou, Irvine, CA
Posted: 4/26/2012 1:17:05 PM
my 4 year old guinea pig has had conjunctivitis in his right eye. the problem is that i found an abscess on his lower jaw and the vet keeps draining it and has given him antibiotics. it just keeps filling up. i myself want the vet to remove it but they keep saying it would stress him out, all the draining is stressing him out. what should i do to help him please help.
donna, scotland, WV
Posted: 4/25/2012 1:24:04 AM
i am a dentist and i also have a 2 years old female , and i discovered this morning that she has a big abcess in the left side of her jaw to his going up to his ear... i live in a remote city where the only veterinarian knows how to treat dogs, cats, cows and horsess... i have knowledge about what i have to do with this problem , but at humans... not at guinea pigs... if any1 can tell me what kind of anesthetic should i use, treatment andd procedures i'll be thankfull. at this time the only measure i can take iss to drain the abcess... please help me with info as soon ass you can. thanks in advance. my email
gabriel, husi romania, AL
Posted: 1/23/2011 3:52:44 AM
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