If you pass by your guinea pig’s cage one day and hear her coughing, it’s time to call the vet -- any untreated cough, cold or upper respiratory infection can kill her. Some symptoms to look for include a runny nose, that troubling cough, crusty eyes, loss of appetite and irregular breathing. Don’t delay seeking treatment -- get your cavy to the vet as quickly as possible.
Cough is a Problem
When you hear your guinea pig coughing, put your ear against her chest. If you hear odd sounds, such as clicking or wet breath sounds, you’ll know she has a cold. From the time she first gets sick, she can go downhill very quickly and, if her illness is left untreated, she could die. Your guinea pig cannot get a cold virus, although she can quickly develop an upper respiratory infection. Her symptoms might look like asthma -- which is rare in these animals.
Go to the Vet
When you first adopted your guinea pig, you probably found a vet experienced in small-animal care. Your vet is well equipped to examine, diagnose and treat your guinea pig. He will check your cavy for hydration because, if she isn’t eating, she will become dehydrated. He’ll use a stethoscope to listen to your guinea pig’s lungs, and, if he hears breath sounds that indicate an upper respiratory infection, he may have your guinea pig X-rayed. Once he confirms an upper respiratory infection, he’ll prescribe an antibiotic safe for your pet. These include doxycycline or Bactrim. Some antibiotics can be deadly to your guinea pig, so discuss these with your vet during the examination. Once your pet has been taking her medication for one to two days, she should start showing some improvement.
Infections Can be Fatal
Your guinea pig will instinctively hide her illness, so you may not realize right away that she's sick. Because of this tendency to hide symptoms of illness and because of your guinea pig’s general inability to get over illnesses without veterinary help, even symptoms that seem minor can quickly kill your cavy. Don’t delay calling your vet and taking your pet in for an immediate exam -- the sooner your vet can examine and treat her, the better.
Guinea Pigs are Vulnerable
Your guinea pig is vulnerable to bordetella, or kennel cough, which is commonly known to infect dogs and other companion animals. Your flu or even a bad cold can lead to an upper respiratory infection in your pet. Avoid coming into physical or even close contact with your guinea pig if you are sick. Before you feed her, even when you are healthy, wash your hands with soap and warm water. It is possible for humans to transmit viruses to their guinea pigs, so take precautions to keep your pet healthy -- ask a healthy family member to feed and water her. That family member should also clean her cage and spend time with her until you are healthy.
- George Doyle & Ciaran Griffin/Stockbyte/Getty Images