Understanding Respiratory Infections In Guinea Pigs

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Respiratory infections in guinea pigs tend to be caused by bacteria and are relatively common. A strain of bacteria known as Bordetella bronchisepta is often the culprit and can be passed between guinea pigs via coughing and close physical contact. Respiratory infections can be fatal for guinea pigs, as the infection places extreme stress on their lungs and can quickly cause dehydration.

Guinea pigs displaying signs of a respiratory infection should be isolated from other guinea pigs immediately to prevent an outbreak. However, as some guinea pigs can be carriers of the bacteria that cause respiratory infections without actually developing an infection themselves, it's not possible to completely prevent your guinea pig from contracting this illness. Here's an overview of the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment approach for respiratory infections in guinea pigs:


In the early stages of infection, your guinea pig may not show any symptoms, but as the condition progresses, you may notice their breathing becoming strained, and they may pant or take shallow breaths. Nasal discharge, loss of appetite and lethargy are also common symptoms of a respiratory infection. As the condition worsens, your guinea pig may develop a fever and experience organ failure. It's also common for pregnant guinea pigs to miscarry if they do not receive prompt treatment for a respiratory infection.

Diagnosis And Treatment Approach

Your vet will diagnose your guinea pig by carrying out a physical exam and asking about their living environment and contact with other guinea pigs. A blood sample will also be taken to check for raised inflammatory markers, which is an indicator of infection. Additionally, a swab of your guinea pig's nasal discharge can be analysed to determine the strain of bacteria present, which will allow your vet to formulate an effective treatment plan.

Your guinea pig will receive treatment as an inpatient, and treatment will include a course of antibiotics. If your guinea pig is dehydrated or malnourished due to loss of appetite, they will be given intravenous fluids and oral or intramuscular vitamins. When you are able to take your guinea pig home, you should allow them to fully recover in a quiet, calm environment. You will also need to ensure their living environment is thoroughly disinfected before they return home to protect against reinfection.  

If your guinea pig is displaying any of the symptoms associated with a respiratory infection, or if you have any concerns about their respiratory health, schedule an appointment at an animal hospital as soon as possible.