Common Guinea Pig Health Problems

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A guinea pig is easy to care for and makes a great family pet if you handle them right. 

Generally, they are healthy animals but are susceptible to certain health problems. You can help to keep them healthy by being strict with their diet and not overfeeding them, or giving them the wrong food.  

Respiratory Infections

The most significant respiratory infection a guinea pig suffers from is pneumonia.  It can be caused by several bacterial like Streptococcus and Bordetella.  A guinea pig can harbor these bacteria naturally and just be a carrier.  The bacteria will infect a susceptible animal, multiply, and then cause pneumonia if the opportunity arises.

The chance of your guinea pig catching this respiratory infection increases if they become stressed, is pregnant, live in an overcrowded cage, or another illness.  The ones most affected are the young guinea pigs.  The bacteria are spread by airborne particles or on contaminated objects.  They may not be eating, have a discharge from the nose or eyes, and have trouble breathing.

This is taken care of by giving them antibiotics but some may need to be hospitalized for additional care.


Another name for this is vitamin C deficiency.  Guinea pigs cannot make their own vitamin C so they have to get it through their diet.  Having vitamin C in their system is necessary for the maintenance and development of joints, skin, and mucosal surfaces.  Lack of vitamin C can also make their body more prone to develop other diseases.  

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Some of the signs of vitamin C deficiency can include rough hair, swollen joints or feet, reluctant to walk, ulcers on their skin or gums, not eating, and others.  They need 10-50 mg of vitamin C each day.  You can get pellets that contain vitamin C or there are many vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, which have vitamin C you can give them as treats.

If you see the signs of scurvy, you should get them to the veterinarian as soon as possible.  They can give the guinea pig a supplement of vitamin C in liquid or pill.

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A guinea pig has a sensitive gastrointestinal tract and needs very specific natural good gastrointestinal bacteria to maintain good bowel function.  When their natural bacteria becomes unbalanced or altered, the bad bacteria can overgrow and produce painful gas.  It can also slow down food passage and digestion through the intestinal tract.  This can release toxins, damage the intestinal tissue, and cause severe diarrhea.  It can also lead to death.

If they start to have diarrhea, you should see your veterinarian.  Do not give them over-the-counter antibiotics as some can do more harm than good.  Only give them what your veterinarian prescribes.

Urinary Problems

A guinea pig is very prone to developing stones, and most of them form in the bladder.  Some may form in the tubes that drain the urine from the kidneys to the bladder or in the kidney.  If the stone gets caught in the tube it becomes a life-threatening situation.  

Some of the signs of having stones can include not eating, straining to urinate, blood in the urine, and small, frequent urination.  If you notice any of these signs, you should see the veterinarian right away.  Some guinea pigs may need to be hospitalized and given intravenous fluids and feeding by a syringe.  Surgery is most likely to remove the stones.

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Tumors And Abscesses


The tumors most commonly found on guinea pigs are breast or skin tumors.  Some are cancerous while others will be benign.  You should take your guinea pig to the veterinarian if you feel any type of mass.  They may have to surgically remove it.

guinea pig is a doctor


This is an accumulation of fluid that results in a swollen lump that contains bacteria and pus.  You will usually find them on the skin, muscles, lymph nodes, bones, internal organs, and teeth.  Guinea pigs forms thick pus that does get reabsorbed easily or drain so if your guinea pig gets an abscess, the veterinarian will most likely remove it surgically and then give them antibiotics.  

When the abscess is in the teeth or jaw, the affected bone and teeth will likely have to be removed along with the soft tissue that is affected.

Skin Problems And Parasites

Young guinea pigs are very susceptible to ringworm.  This is a fungal infection of the skin and does not involve a worm.  Some guinea pigs do not get this but are carriers and will infect other guinea pigs.  The skin will be itchy, they may lose hair, and will develop scabs that are crusty looking.  They are mostly found around the head, ears, and face but can spread to the legs or back.

You will need to see your veterinarian to get a fungal mediation.  A guinea pig can also get lice and fleas.  If you think your guinea pig has either one, take it to your veterinarian for a diagnosis.  They will prescribe anti-parasitic mediation to put on your guinea pig.  If there is a secondary bacterial infection, they will prescribe antibiotics.

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This can happen if their diet is not monitored and are given too many sugary treats or unlimited pellets to eat. It can also happen if they do not have enough room to play and run around.  You should spend at least thirty minutes a day to let them walk around out of their cage or playing with them.  Being obese can cause a lot of problems like heart problems, diabetes, back pain, inability to walk.


  • Guinea pigs are generally healthy animals but can develop various health issues
  • Pneumonia is a common respiratory infection for guinea pigs
  • You must make sure that your guinea pig is getting the supplemental vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that it needs.
  • You need to be very observant around your guinea pig so you can catch any signs or symptoms of an illness or disease.
  • Have regular checkups with their veterinarian to help ensure that your guinea pig is healthy and stays that way.
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