Cavy Health

Cavy Health

Last updated: 10 Sep 96

Precaution: Isolate any animal showing signs of illness.

Heat Stroke

One of the major reasons for death. Guinea pigs do not tolerate heat well. Their internal body temperature is about 103 degrees and they overheat rapidly. If the guinea pig is left in direct sunlight it can suffer heat stress/stoke and die within minutes. When the outside temperature is 85 degrees, precautions must be taken to keep your guinea pig cool. A good way to help is to freeze water in a plastic container and place it in the cage on hot days. The guinea pig will lie next to it and find some relief from the heat. Keep cool drinking water available at all times.

Remember - Heat kills!

Symptoms: Listless, head raised & breathing rapidly. Wet around nose, mouth & chest. May be bloody mucus around nose. Guinea pig goes completely limp and dies.

Treatment: Dip guinea pig in COOL water - Too cold and the shock could be fatal. Or, wrap guinea pig in a damp, cool towel. You can also use a spray bottle filled with cool water to wet the animal. Cool Gatorade or sugar water or Pediolyte should be given by eyedropper if the guinea pig is unwilling or unable to drink on their own. Liquids restore necessary electrolytes to the system. Continue treatment until guinea pig responds. Offer cold lettuce.

Colds/Respiratory Infection

Guinea Pigs are very susceptible to the human cold/respiratory virus. If the caretaker has a cold or virus, precautions need to be taken to safeguard your guinea pig. Increase the Vitamin C intake of the guinea pig and avoid all contact if possible. If you cannot delegate the care of the animal, avoid breathing, coughing or sneezing on or around the guinea pig and do not handle the animal. Wash hands before handling any food or equipment. If the guinea pig has a discharge from the nose or eyes, has labored breathing (sides appear to sink in and out with each breath), has little or no appetite, you must start using an antibiotic available from your vet.

Treat immediately - Life threatening!

Good Husbandry/Sanitation

Guinea pigs cannot tolerate damp, unsanitary conditions and will not thrive. Keep cages and utensils clean and sanitary. Clean cage with soap and water and sanitize with one ounce of household bleach to one quart of water. After cleaning the cage, wipe it with the bleach water and allow it to dry. Feed crocks and water bottles should be cleaned and sanitized once a week. Soak them in the bleach water solution. Rinse and dry feed crock. Rinse water bottle before refilling. Most bacterial and respiratory infections can be avoided by good husbandry/sanitation practices.


Overfeeding greens can cause diarrhea. Stop feeding greens until condition clears up. One leaf of Romaine lettuce or four to five Spinach leaves or 2 sprigs of parsley, etc., are sufficient per cavy. Any fruits or vegetables left in the cage after 15 minutes should be removed. Spoilage occurs rapidly and harmful bacteria will cause intestinal upset. If your guinea pig has diarrhea you can treat it with Kaolin-Pectate. Use an eyedropper or a needleless syringe and give guinea pigs 1/4 teaspoon 3 to 4 times daily. Cut back dosage as condition improves. Reintroduce greens gradually.

Bacterial Infection

Diarrhea can also indicate a bacterial infection which will require an antibiotic. If you suspect a bacterial infection you can purchase some water soluble antibiotics called Terramycin Soluble Powder at feed & pet supply stores. Another good treatment is a Sulfa drug called Sulfamethazine.

Never give your guinea pig any drugs containing penicillin - It will kill them!

Broken Tooth/Teeth

If your guinea pig suffers a fall and breaks a front tooth or teeth they should grow back normally in about 2 weeks. In the meantime, the animal will not be able to grasp and bite its food in a normal manner. Offer crushed pellets, cereals, scraped fruit and vegetables, wheat bread & milk pap, etc. The important thing is to keep the guinea pig eating so their back molars do not over grow and to insure that the animal does not go down in condition. A guinea pig in poor condition is susceptible to secondary infections.


A hereditary trait, but may be caused by not eating enough to keep the back teeth ground down. This often happens when the front teeth have been broken and the animal is unable to grasp/bite food. Most common site for malocclusion is the open rooted cheek teeth, usually the premolars. Over grown molars cause trauma to the tongue and mouth. The guinea pig will slobber (wet under chin, neck and chest), lose weight due to inability to eat. See vet as the teeth will have to be trimmed or filed. Do not breed animals with hereditary malocclusion.


May be caused by bites from fighting, falls, scratches, etc. Clip hair around wound. Clean wound with hydrogen peroxide. Apply antibacterial ointment such as Neosporin, Panalog, Bag Balm, etc. Apply ointment twice daily until wound is healed. Proper care of wounds is necessary to prevent bacterial infections/abscesses.


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