Guinea pigs are good pets, but they can become ill quickly and need treatment just as quickly. However, since they are prey animals, their instinct is to mask illness in order to survive.
A responsible pet owner will look for the following signs of illness in his or her pet guinea pig.
- Lack of appetite is a major sign of illness. Make sure you put careful consideration into the guinea pig's diet. Piggies love their grub, and when they won't eat a favorite treat or their regular food, chances are, something is wrong. There will be days when your pet will not eat as much as on other days, but a noticeable lack of appetite for more than a day or so should always ring an alarm bell. Make sure you are also giving your pet the right kind of guinea pig food.
- This may sound odd, but changes in bowel habits may be another sign of illness. The owner should check the cage bottom to see if there is diarrhea in the cage or on the animal's fur. Fecal pellets should be firm and well-formed. If there seem to be no fresh fecal pellets, the animal may be constipated and the owner should keep an eye on the cage for a couple of hours to see if any appear. Both constipation and diarrhea require immediate medical attention.
- Is your pet drinking water? Dehydration is a frequent sign of illness in guinea pigs. They may stop drinking before they stop eating, so monitoring the water bottle is always a good idea.
- Lethargy. Guinea pigs have periods of inactivity throughout the day, but if the animal seems uninterested in its surroundings, doesn't respond to treats or other stimuli, or just "looks" sick, it may be ill. Keep an eye on the animal and call the veterinarian for advice.
- A small amount of discharge from the eyes is common, and may be an allergy. However, crusty eyes and nasal discharge is a sure sign of an upper respiratory infection, to which guinea pigs are prone. The animal will probably need treatment with antibiotics, so immediate medical attention is a must. These infections can rapidly develop into pneumonia.
- Lumps. Guinea pigs will develop harmless fatty tumors, but they also are prone to lymphatic tumors. As in humans, lumps under the chin, behind the legs or in the groin area are always worrisome. A vet will have to do a needle aspiration on the lumps to find out if they are malignant or benign. Benign tumors can usually be left alone unless they are getting larger.
Now that you have more information about guinea pig health, hopefully you'll be able to spot a common illness if it strikes your piggy and be able to treat it properly.