Baldness isn’t just a human problem – guinea pigs get it too. It can be caused by ringworm, mange or bad diet. Ringworm cause scaly patches on the faces whilst mange looks itchy. In the case of bad diet causing baldness, it is best to reduce the amount of dried food and increase the hay and fresh fruit and veg in the diet.
Guinea pigs can get colds from humans, so if you have a case of the sniffles, it is best to stay away from your pigs if possible.
Constipation and diarrhoea
Guinea pig poo is firm, slightly damp and dark brown/black in colour. Any changes should be noted carefully, as this is often the first sign of any problems in animals. A guinea pig suffering from constipation is probably getting too much dried food, whilst diarrhoea can be caught from bad or rotten food left in the cage. In addition, frozen food can be bad for the pig. Diarrhoea is dangerous, as it invariably means the animal is dehydrated.
Flystrike affects rabbits and longhaired guinea pigs and is often deadly. This happens when faeces gets caught in the hair around the animals anus. Subsequently, flies lay eggs in the faeces, which hatch into maggots. In turn, the maggots will eat their way into the animal’s flesh. You need to check your animal regularly, especially in the summer when flies are more prevalent, and where necessary clean your animal. Keeping the cage clean will help, as will good diet.
Vitamin C deficiency
Guinea pigs need Vitamin C as part of their diet, and cannot live on just dried (rabbit) food. Without Vitamin C, guinea pigs will suffer from scurvy (like humans), which makes them very vulnerable to other illnesses.
Loss of balance
A guinea pig that appears to be holding its head to one side and walks around in circles probably has a problem with its ears. You need to take your pig to the vet if this happens.
It is unlikely that guinea pigs suffer from parasites unless dogs or cats infect them. It is possible to get lice from hay or straw, although washing the animal with medicated shampoo can treat this. The hutch should be cleaned thoroughly and the bedding burnt to avoid repeating the infestation. You should also try to find out where the lice have come from, and if necessary change your bedding supplier.
This is a variation on the salmonella that can affect humans, and can be deadly to guinea pigs. In addition, this can be dangerous to humans and care must be taken when cleaning the animals or hutch. Salmonellosis affects guinea pigs very quickly and it is unlikely that much can be done for the infected animal. It is important to take ill guinea pigs to the vet as professional help is necessary. Some animals will survive an attack but can act as carriers, so again, care must be taken.
Guinea pigs can suffer from cold-like symptoms, especially if their living conditions are cold, damp or draughty. Cleaning the hutch regularly will help keep your guinea pigs healthy. Should one of your pigs become ill with a cold or similar, keep them warm and dry (probably indoors for a while) and you should see an improvement in your pig. If not, you need to take your animal to the vet.