Emergency and Illness
Well here is the third installment of our Are Piggies The Right Pet For Me?
This one is more of a what to do in an emergency with a piggy and covers most of the basic health issues. Details for this were found on Guinea Lynx and in the book ‘Guinea Pig’ by Peter Gurney, published by Collins.
Us piggies don’t get sick often but when whee do it can be bad. This covers pretty much all of the common illnesses. This should not be used to diagnose a piggy, just as a basic guide. If your piggy is sick, you need to get them to a vet.
The purpose of this part is to see whether you could afford the care a piggy needs and come up with funds for vet treatment with little or no notice. Whee aren’t going to wait for pay day to get sick.
Nibbles, Nutty, Buddy & Basil
A-Z of Basic Medical Problems in Piggies and what to do
These are common around and under the jaw on piggies and are easy to treat as they are in the skin tissue. A vet will probably need to lance the abscess or perform minor surgery.
Abscesses in the jaw bone are very rare and far harder to treat.
Also known as not eating – this is extremely serious, as it means your piggies system will be shutting down, leading to serious complications. After as few as 16 hours of not eating, your piggies liver cells begin to break down and from then on, the piggy will only get worse. You need a vet urgently to determine the cause and treat it.
Signs and symptoms include a bunny hopping walk (though that can also signal a vitamin deficiency), swollen or painful joints, less movement than usual and the piggy generally seeming off colour. Ways to help can be a heatpad or water therapy (whee have tested both with Nibbles with some improvement) and a vet can provide anti-inflammatory medication to help with the pain and manage the condition. There is no cure, it is just part of a piggy getting older and some get it, some don’t.
If your piggies tummy looks swollen and distended you will need to get to a vet. Bloat is a build up of gas which is extremely painful and can be fatal in some cases. If when you tap lightly on tummy and it sounds hollow, then it is almost certainly bloat.
BLOW FLY STRIKE
This only happens late in Summer, usually to elderly or unwell piggies. It is caused by a fly laying eggs, usually in the anus of incontinent animals but can be in the skin. With twenty four hours the larvae will have hatched and be growing and multiplying at shocking rates. A vet trip is need immediately.
First signs are swelling and sometimes icky ulcers on the pads of the feet. In the earlier stages it can be very painful for piggies to walk but over time the adapt to it. Whee are going to keep saying this but you probably need a vet trip.
Heat exhaustion or heat stroke is common but completely preventable. Keeping guinea pigs shaded and hydrated in hot weather can protect your piggy. However if your piggy does get it symptoms include; the piggy being unable to stand and heavy and fast breathing. You should wrap the piggy in a towel which has been soaked in cold water, but only for a short time as you don’t want to take it to the other end of the scale and have it catch a chill. As soon as it begins to stir you should take it out and keep it cool. DO NOT REPEAT THIS PROCESS. Do not try to give the piggy water straight away. A piggy in this state will have difficulties swallowing and could end up with the water getting into it’s lungs. Wait until it is alert and recovering then carefully let it sip from it’s bottle or, if you know how to do so safely, syringe feed. During the next twenty four hours you need to get as much fluid into the piggy as you can. But most importantly, get to a vet (see our post here for more heat stroke information)
Heavy, laboured breathing and blue tinged lips are signs of a heart or circulatory problem. When Nugget suffered from at heart attack this was one of the first things Mummy noticed. A vet can give oxygen and check for fluid in the lungs using an x-ray but it is important to act fast.
Diarrhoea is especially serious if accompanied by the pig looking ill and sitting with its coat puffed up: get to a vet. If it is black, watery and smells yucky then it is probably an intestinal problem like a bacterial infection caused by eating off hay or vegetables. Diarrhoea can be caused by antibiotic (when it kills off intestinal bacteria). Many vets don’t seem to realise that piggies should have a pro-biotic supplement, just as a precautionary measure to prevent this.
Other forms of diarrhoea can be caused by too many fresh fruits or vegetables or a change in what pellet food they are being given. This is also serious, and needs treatment. Replacing fresh vegetables with lots of hay is best, if there is no improvement, the piggy will need a trip to the vet.
If your piggy is having difficulty walking or holding it’s head tilted on one side, see a vet immediately. This can be a sign of a bacterial infection of the inner ear. A vet will also check for parasites and other conditions. Treatment is needed for complete recovery. Bad infections can cause the ear drum to be destroyed, sometimes permanently, as happened with our little Bingo. Whee cannot emphasise quick treatment enough. If there is a discharge inside the ear then it is a very good idea to get a swab taken to work out what is the best anti-biotics to fight the infection.
These are quite common and are mainly caused by getting something in the eye or hay poke injuries. The first sign will usually be the eye running with the lid partially closed. If you know what you are doing then (You probably aren’t reading this!) you can flush it with a saline solution but otherwise a vet can do this and make sure everything is ok. If there is any sign of infection such as bulging eyes, redness or pain then clearly you need a vet.
Mite and fungal infections are extremely common. Symptoms include; dry, scaly skin, open sores, scratching, and pain when touched. Fungal most often appears on the face but can be on any part of the piggy. Sometime there will be a flaky or crusty edge to the ears, sometimes there will be nothing. Fungal spreads quickly and the infection ‘ringworm’ can be passed to hoomans and other animals. Usually anti-biotics and a topical cream, dip or shampoo will be prescribed by your piggies vet. Recovery is slow and it usually does get worse before it gets better. Piggies can have both fungal and parasitic infections at the same time.
Injuries are not common and can be frightening for you and the piggy. It is important to stay calm and assess the following. Is your piggy alert? Can it move around? If there is a cut, is it deep, possibly requiring stitches and antibiotics? Examine the lips and mouth to see if they are a healthy pink indicating good blood circulation or instead pale or bluish. If your guinea pig has been dropped, then a vet check is definitely needed.
Mite and fungal infections are extremely common. Symptoms include; dry, scaly skin, open sores, scratching, and pain when touched. If it is mange mites (a parasitic infection) it can even be fatal and usually requires two or more ivermectin treatments 10 days or so apart. Piggies can have both fungal and parasitic infections at the same time.
The signs of poisoning vary widely. If you think your piggy has been poisoned, contact your vet quickly.
Guinea pigs require vitamin C in their diets daily. As someone reminded us we have not yet mentioned this but it is soo important! They can develop scurvy if they don’t get enough of this necessary vitamin. Scurvy symptoms include; difficulty walking, diarrhoea, dehydration, weight loss, listlessness, discharge from eyes and/or nose. Because the diarrhoea can be life threatening and have other causes, never assume it can be cured by giving vitamin C. See a vet for a proper diagnosis and treatment.
UPPER RESPIRATORY INFECTIONS (URI)
Symptoms include; laboured breathing, crackling sound from the lungs, eyes that are almost sealed shut, discharge from the eyes and/or the nose, sneezing, coughing, and wheezing. A vet will prescribe antibiotics to treat this (guinea pigs do not get cold viruses). Untreated URIs are almost always fatal. Occasionally allergies can produce the same signs – but URIs are deadly and fast moving, so you must get your vet to rule out a URI before considering the possibility of an allergy.
URINARY TRACT INFECTION (UTI)
Symptoms such as blood in the pee, pained squeaking while peeing are all signs of this condition. A vet check is needed.
VITAMIN OR MINERAL DEFICIENCY
Some piggies with a vitamin C deficiency may hop rather than walk. A calcium deficiency can also affect the ability to move.