Guinea Pig Illness Warning Signs

living guinea pig allergies

An Ounce of Prevention...

A cavy's health can deteriorate very quickly. By the time problems become apparent, illnesses may be life-threatening. Find a cavy-knowledgeable exotics vet soon after adopting a guinea pig so you know whom to contact in an emergency. Prompt, competent veterinary care is crucial to saving the life of a sick cavy. When caught early, most illnesses can be cured fairly easily with a course of antibiotics safe for cavies.

A responsible guardian will learn the warning signs of illness and be willing to seek veterinary care when necessary. See a vet immediately if your cavy shows any of these signs:

  • Refusal to eat or drink
  • Labored breathing, wheezing
  • Crusty eyes, sneezing
  • Rough or puffed-up coat
  • Dull and/or receding eyes
  • Lethargy, hunched posture
  • Drooling
  • Watery diarrhea
  • Blood in urine
  • Limping
  • Hair loss, excessive scratching
  • Loss of balance
  • Any behavior unusual for your pig, e.g. facing a corner and being slow to respond

To help monitor health, be sure to weigh your cavy weekly. A two- or three-ounce loss may indicate the onset of a problem. If your cavy has lost four or more ounces, see a vet immediately. A guinea pig who is not eating is seriously ill and must be seen by a vet for treatment and must be hand-fed. Be observant!

Your vet should know that some medications that disrupt the intestinal flora, like penicillins, are deadly to cavies. Do not allow your vet to prescribe Amoxicillin! If your pet is prescribed antibiotics, ask how quickly the medication should take effect. If your cavy does poorly on a particular antibiotic and stops eating, call your vet to discuss changing antibiotics.

Lyn Zantow maintains an informational cavy care website and active message board at She lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, with her two guinea pigs, Nina and Snowflake.

Reprinted from ASPCA Animal Watch, Spring 2004 Vol. 24, No. 1, with permission from The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, 424 East 92nd Street, New York, NY 10128-6804