It is extremely important that you know how to recognize the signs of an unwell pig. This could mean life and death for your beloved pet.
Bare in mind that, guinea pigs are herbivores, thus prey animals in the wild. They live in a herd, and have to be on constant alert of predators. A sick cavy is a weakness in the group, and will be shunned because of its vulnerability. Thus, guinea pigs will instinctively try their hardest to hide their illness, unless they are really, really ill! This means that by the time your pig LOOKS sick, it IS very sick, and can be in a critical condition. Learning to spot the signs is crucial in ensuring your cavy's health and well being.
The following is for reference only, for more detailed and accurate medical information, please go to Guinealynx.info
You may also want to check out Peter Gurney's Health pages. The man devoted 2 decades of his life promoting the health and well being of guinea pigs
Signs of a sick cavy:
- Listless, fatigue
- Oblivious to activity in the cage - sitting still in a corner
- Irritable, may snap at other pigs
- May be in a hunched position, signifying pain and discomfort
- Not interested in hay or pellets
- Not excited about his "favorite foods" such as carrots, lettuce...
- Weight loss
- Loose, or very small poops
- Makes a great effort to urinate or excrete, may raise bottoms high up. May squeak in pain.
- Blood in urine, most likely bladder stone
- Shivering or trembling
- Uneven or labored breathing
- Acting "out of sorts"
- Constant scratching, can be a skin problem
- Head tilt, can be an ear infection
- Wet chin or drooling, may be malocclusion, preventing normal chewing
- Wet nose
- Discharge or crust around the eye
The above list is just a brief summary. I am not a medical expert. For more medical issues, please refer to http://www.guinealynx.info/
The guinea pig on top is hunched, it is clearly not comfortable. In comparison, his little daughter below is alert and curious - signs for a healthy cavy.
Does this piggy look relaxed and at ease to you?
Now there's a stretched out, comfy pig!
Taking care of a sick cavy:
Take your pig to a competent exotics vet as soon as you notice something "off". Guinea pigs go down hill very quickly once they are ill and are in need of medication, antibiotics, treatment, etc.
What the vet will do:
The vet should do a physical examination of your pet. Listen to his heart and lungs with a stethoscope, check his teeth (remember the back molars), check his eyes and ears. She will then make a professional diagnosis, provide the appropriate treatment. Your piggy may be put on a course of antibiotic, given painkillers (make sure you are given cavy-friendly medication, consult this list and safe antibiotics) or further tests may have to be performed to look into the matter further.
Most sick cavies will have a reduced appetite. Guinea pigs are herbivores and must constantly munch on hay to keep their digestive systems working. If they stop eating, it will be detrimental to their health. At this point, you need to hand feed your guinea pig as it is crucial to get food moving through their tummies.
Soak some of their pellets in warm water until they dissolve and form a mushy paste. Get a syringe (your vet can provide you with this) and start hand feeding! Cavy mouths are delicate and small, I usually use the 1cc syringes, the max size for a piggy mouth is a 3cc syringe.
Oxbow's Critical Care is a nutritional supplement that is very beneficial to sick cavies. It can only be prescribed from your vet, so be sure to ask for some! It is a powder form, dissolve it in twice amount water and it should form a mush. Then you are ready to syringe feed! Do not feed more than 25cc at a time, you don't want your pigs feeling too stuffed! 2-4 times a day should be sufficient.
Here is our Puffy Boy, ready for his daily Critical Care! Does he look happy about this....
Hold your piggy with his back facing you, be sure to firmly grasp his front paws so he won't struggle!
Give him at least half a minute to nyom nyom nyom before giving more!
Here is our Snowy,
"Is that for me, ma?"
Stick the syringe about a centimeter into your pig's mouth, behind it's front teeth. Stick it into from the side, not directly in the front! Push on the end of the syringe slowly, make sure you don't choke your pig.
In a nutshell:
1) Administer medicine correctly
2) Eat veggies, they need the Vitamin C
When your pig is sick and off his food, try offering some of his favorite veggies. At this time, anything he eats will be a good thing.
3) Receive 50mg of Vitamin C a day
The best way to administer VC is by gently pushing a tablet into the back of the cavy's mouth. If you don't push it far back enough, he will push it back out with his tongue.
4) Eat high quality fresh hay
Some sick cavies will still munch on hay, so make sure you give a big handful of sweet smelling hay right under his nose!!
5) Drink water
Drinking water is important. If your pig is not drinking, syringe feed water.
6) Eating pellets, otherwise Critical Care
When they are not feeling well, the first thing they stop eating will be the pellets. You know your cavy is on the road to recovery when he takes an interest in the food bowl once again!!
7) Keep warm and comfortable. Use soft towels as bedding for comfort.
make sure to keep your baby warm and snuggly (not too hot!) while he is feeling unwell. Do not make any loud noises and keep the room quiet.
8) WEIGH DAILY!!
Weigh your sick cavy EVERYDAY, maybe even 2 times throughout the day, to make sure he is keeping his weight, and not plummeting!
Even a healthy pig's weight may fluctuate a little in the day, but a weight loss of 50g or more is cause for alarm!
Puffy would like to say...
"Please keep a constant eye on us when we are unwell. We are vulnerable critters and depend on your care and love. ♥ I hope your ill piggy perks up soon! Like ME today! I woke up all sunshine and cheerios"