Upper Respiratory Infections
URIs are deadly bacterial infections that can result in death if untreated.
Bacterial respiratory infections are a common problem among pet store pigs (a good reason to adopt your pet instead of purchasing one from a pet store). New pet owners are often unaware of how quickly guinea pigs can go downhill and how vital prompt veterinary care is to the health of your new pet.
Untreated URIs are almost always fatal. Guinea pigs do not get cold viruses. Allergies/asthma is very rare, though they may produce similar signs.
Signs of a URI:
- Refusal to eat or drink (anorexia)
- No feces (as a result of not eating)
- Labored breathing, wheezing
- Sneezing, coughing
- Crusty eyes, eyes that are almost sealed shut
- Discharge from eyes or nose (read about normal Eyes)
- Dull and/or receding eyes
- Rough or puffed-up coat
- Lethargy, hunched posture
See a vet immediately if you see any of these signs. Because URIs are so deadly and fast moving, it is imperative that the vet rules out a URI before considering the possibility of an allergy.
WHAT YOUR VET MAY DO
- The vet will check for hydration.
- A stethoscope can be used to listen to the lungs and heart.
- An x-ray may be taken to check for fluid in lungs.
- The vet may culture the bacteria to help determine which antibiotics are most effective.
A vet will prescribe a safe antibiotic like Bactrim or Doxycycline to treat these bacterial infections. Baytril, another frequently prescribed medication, is usually not given to young guinea pigs because it can cause arthropathies (bone abnormalities) although it can be an effective treatment.
Unknowledgeable vets may prescribe medications like Amoxicillin that can be deadly to your pet so be sure to review the Dangerous Medications list before seeing your vet.
And if your guinea pig is not eating, you must hand feed to keep your pet alive while the antibiotic works. Get a scale and follow the guidelines on the hand feeding page.
Be sure to ask your vet how long it will take for the antibiotics to work. Call your vet if you see no improvement in the specified time period (generally a day or two). Read the advice about giving antibiotics.
Recurrent URI's may be a sign of heart problems. Older guinea pigs are more likely to have heart issues than young ones and they may also develop dental problems.
Talishan finds a well-set-in URI can sometimes be treated using a combination of doxycycline and baytril for up to a month or even longer if it's being tolerated well. This mix can also be nebulized. Another method is the "pulse" treatment (a few weeks on, a few weeks off). Well-set-in URI's can take weeks to fully resolve and stopping the antibioitics too soon can result in relapse ("too soon" having no set definition, but longer at least than the standard 2-week course).