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Why Is My Guinea Pig Coughing? Is My Guinea Pig Sick?

Tim Rhodes
Written by Tim Rhodes Last Updated: November 14, 2021

Are you paying close attention to your pet guinea pig every day and have you ever noticed your guinea pig coughing? 

Let’s make it clear: as soon as you notice your guinea pig coughing, consult a vet immediately.

Not necessarily, but the chances are that these are signs of cold and, if you leave your pet untreated, the problem might grow into a serious respiratory infection, which can be life-threatening.

Early diagnosis is essential; hence, do observe new symptoms every day.

This could be a mild allergy too, but you should know precisely what the cause is so that you can control and manage the symptoms.

Why Is My Guinea Pig Coughing?

In this article, we will present you with valuable information about your guinea pig health, so let’s take a look.

Your Guinea Pig is Coughing

If your guinea pig is coughing, look for a few more symptoms too.

And any of the below signs are present, and then chances are it has caught the respiratory infection.

Of course, immediate medical attention is required if you notice clicking or wet breath sound, wheezing, sneezing, heavy or trouble breathing, watery eyes or nose, tired eyes, laziness, and less interest in food.

So, guinea pigs cough can be a severe problem if it starts to happen daily.

Guinea pigs do generally not cough or usually sneeze, and if yours is doing this, please do take necessary action.

Consider the fact that guinea pigs are unlike human beings.

Guinea pigs cough usually will not go away after one week.

Instead, it requires treatment; otherwise, the infection will increase considerably.

If you notice any of the above symptoms, isolate your guinea pig from others in the same cage so that the whole crew doesn’t get infected.

You can put it in a bathroom so that your steamy shower can improve your guinea pig’s breathing a little.

If it has already lost appetite, then make it eat via syringe.

Keep in mind that guinea pigs cough can be a sign of specific allergies as well.

To know this, do a self-assessment by replacing the below-mentioned things for a few days and observing guinea pig response.

Such as home cleaning products, air fresheners, Aspen and Pine bedding, washing detergents, perfumes, or any scented products.

Reasons For Respiratory Infections

Pay attention to your pet and note any signs of guinea pig cough, sniffing, or sneezing, as these could be early signs of infection.

The upper respiratory infection spreads quickly as it will be expected on the first day, the next day might be a little flush discharge from the nose and then sneeze, and then the trouble breathing leads to pneumonia and causes death within 48 hours.

Since this transition from being ordinary to critical condition is rapid, early consultation with an expert is recommended at the first sign of illness.


Upper respiratory infection infections in guinea pigs could be transmitted from other species, like dogs; rabbits are very active carriers.

Therefore it is always recommended to avoid guinea pig interaction with dogs or rabbits because not only species is symptomatic.

It would be best if you also washed your hands before interacting with every pet at home as you can be carrying the germs from one pet to another.

Clean Environment

Clean and safe bedding is vital; an open window or no care of giving baths can also be the reason.


Like in humans, in guinea pigs, certain types of microorganisms are the main causes of upper respiratory infection.

A bacteria called “Bordetella bronchiseptica” and “Streptococcus pneumonia” are common infections in guinea pigs.

Please understand that some guinea pigs will not show any sign of these infections, but the conditions will grow inside their body silently.

And any minor illness, food change or routine change, pregnancy, or climate change will trigger the existing disease, and it will die within hours.

Lack Of Vitamins

While most animals can produce vitamin C in their body via intestinal bacterial flora, guinea pigs and other primates cannot do this.

We know that vitamin C is essential for boosting immunity against upper respiratory infection, skin, joints, gums development, and wounds.

Observe other signs for vitamin C deficiency like swollen feet and joints, ulcers in gums, frequent fevers, etc.

Look for vitamin C deficiency reasons, like the guinea pig pellets are quite old, and vitamin C has been washed off from it, or your guinea pig is not drinking the required amount of water.

Other Reasons For Upper Respiratory Infection

Other reasons cause respiratory infections, such as stress or contact with others already infected.

Stress caused by overcrowding, bullying, pregnancy, or other existing health conditions can trigger respiratory infection.

Direct contact with infected animals, airborne particles, or contaminated hands can carry the infection to them.

Diagnosis Of Upper Respiratory Infection

There are certain things that you can consider while diagnosing respiratory infections.

So, let’s take a look at them.

Listen To Your Guinea Pig Breathe

You can notice that respiratory infection causes breathing problems.

Listen to the sound of your guinea pig breathing; if the sound includes wheezing or any clicking sound or noises, then it’s a sign.

Typically their breathing is easy and without any noises.

In case of allergies, too, guinea pig breathing is a little louder than average, but there won’t be any breathing trouble; hence observe the difference.

Observe Your Guinea Pig’s Nose

Notice if any discharge is coming out from the nose.

In case of upper respiratory infection, sneezing will be followed by discharge from the nose.

The color of discharge can be green or yellow if there is a respiratory infection.

If the nose is red and is always rubbing or scratching it, it means the nose is sore, and allergies cause this nose soreness.

Observe Your Guinea Pig’s Eyes

Respiratory problems can affect your guinea pig eyes.

For example, a discharge from eyes or swollen eyes, red eyes, or an inflammation in the inner eyelid.


Your guinea pig might not feel like eating when sick.

Observe how much it is eating daily out of what it is eating what you place in his cage daily.

You will notice either it has stopped eating or eating little.

Activity Level

We know that guinea pigs are usually very active.

If there is a respiratory problem, it will be less active.

It might be moving very little or slowly inside his cage or might be less social and playful than his usual routine.

Look For Any Stressful Events

Such events directly attack the little soul’s immune system making it sick.

When immunity is low, the chances of catching respiratory infections, especially (and any other disease generally) is very high.

These situations cause many changes in behavior.

Examples of stressful events are pregnancy, new teammates, bullying, change in diet, cage crowding, cedar or pine bedding, etc.

Getting A Veterinary Diagnosis

Now it’s time to get expert advice.

This respiratory problem can be mild now, and the chances are that it will spread in a few days.

Therefore, when the first sign is observed, get an opinion.

You will not regret taking early advice.

Look for a small animal exotic veterinarian in your locality, since they have enough experience working with animals like guinea pigs.

Give The Vet A Detailed History

Providing all the information about your guinea pig will help him diagnose and give your guinea pig the right treatment.

The vet might ask you questions about your guinea pig history.

Detailed Examination Of Your Guinea Pig

This will be a physical examination.

They will almost do the same things you have already done at home, like nasal discharge, eyes discharge, etc.

They might also look for mouth signs for dental diseases if any.

To our surprise, yes, dental diseases also cause respiratory infections in guinea pigs.

The dental problems include misaligned teeth and swellings, and the node is a pocket of infection.

Your vet will listen to the sound of your guinea pig’s lungs.

X-ray Of Your Guinea Pig

There are several types of x-rays that help to diagnose the problem as well as its intensity.

If the guinea pig has dental issues, then your vet will take a skull x-ray to have a detailed look at the jaw bones and all oral structures.

If the suspension is pneumonia, chest details are required.

X-ray gives all the details, so it is always advised in respiratory infections.

Identifying The Type Of Bacteria Causing Infection

Bordatella bronchiseptica or Streptococcus pneumonia are the causes of respiratory infections in guinea pigs.

The vet will advise tests to identify which bacteria is causing the problem.

He will take small samples in a tube for tests from your guinea pig’s body.

The sample will be collected via nasal swabs or a tracheal wash in which a fluid is taken from your guinea pig trachea.

Treatment Of Respiratory Infection

Once a guinea pig is diagnosed with an infection, it requires immediate treatment to prevent fatal situations.

It is recommended to take the advice from an expert i.e.

They are getting veterinary treatment.

Immediate Attention

Yes, this is vital as the sooner you treat him, the more chances of recovery will increase.

Hospitalize If Required

Sometimes the condition is already deteriorated or requires observation, or the vet wants to keep him hospitalized for intense treatment and observation.

In the hospital, the staff will provide assisted feeding, oxygen if required, injectables, and an eye on every treatment.

Hospitalization is recommended until the guinea pig is stable enough for home care arrangement.

In hospitals, multiple treatments can be given together, which we can not manage at home.

For example, for labored breathing, oxygen given is humidified first.

Injectables are given, which work quickly compared to oral medicines.

Energy boosters are also given in hospitals for general well-being.


They are given based on which bacteria caused the infection in your guinea pig.

Your vet will advise tests to diagnose the cause and select antibiotics based on test results, which will effectively treat the respiratory infection.

The important thing is to follow the vet’s instructions very carefully to ensure that all infections and the bacteria causing this are treated and killed.

Antibiotics Doses Management

In your guinea pig’s mouth, liquid antibiotics are given with medicine droppers to give prescribed numbers of medicine drops.

Of course, he can be resistant to it; after all, it’s medicine, not his favorite food.

As a baby, he uses the trick to put the drops on his favorite food and serve him.

Monitor The Sickness

It would be best if you kept a close eye as some antibiotics will cause diarrhea.

This happens because the antibiotics will kill the healthy bacteria which is present in our digestive tract.

This is not a good sign and requires your vet’s intervention immediately.

He may change the antibiotics or change the doses.

Give Vitamins (C)

You can give a vitamin C supplement every day named Oxbow’s GTN50 to avoid vitamin C deficiency at any stage.

This is very important that your guinea pig takes 10-50mg of vitamin C daily to avoid any infections and boost immunity.

This dose depends on guinea pigs’ health conditions and status like old, young, pregnant, or other health issues.

How To Prevent Respiratory Infections in Guinea Pigs?

There are some prevention options that you can consider to reduce infections.

Therefore, let’s take a look at some of them.

Cage Cleaning Regularly

This option is required pre and post-infection, but of course, once it has it, you will try your best to avoid another episode.

Get it complete treatment first, and once it is recovered, train yourself to keep its cage clean so that this never happens again.

Clean your guinea pig cage by removing all substances inside it, and do discard the existing bedding.

You need to wash the cage with hot soap water, rinse the cell and dry it in sunlight.

You should do this cleaning twice a week, but you need to remove the leftover food, dirty bedding, feces, etc., every day.

Proper Bedding

This will prevent respiratory infection, and proper bedding means dust-free bedding.

To replace the bedding when it is soiled or wet.

Keep in mind that if the bedding is damp, it will become moldy, increasing the risk of infections.

Never use cedar or pine shavings, as they contain oils that irritate the guinea pig’s respiratory system, even if it is not sick.


Cage ventilation is vital, and fresh air circulation is essential for preventing all kinds of infections, especially respiratory problems.

A solid glass cage will allow less ventilation; hence a wire cage is better.

Also, don’t keep the cage exposed to direct air, as constant cool air could also be dangerous and make the little soul fall sick.

Do Нot Оvercrowd Тhe Cage

Don’t keep many guinea pigs in the same cage.

Make the cage large enough to make your guinea pigs live comfortably together.

In small cages, if you keep more than one or two guinea pigs, they might develop respiratory infections because of overcrowding.

This is also stressful for them to live in a small place without comfort.

This stress weakens their immunity and hence catches infections quickly.

Researchers and vets recommend a cage size 30 * 50 inches (76 * 127 cm) cage size for two guinea pigs.

Do Not Mix Them With Rabbits And Dogs

As they are active carriers of the same bacteria, which causes infections in guinea pigs.

Also, rabbits are observed bullying guinea pigs, which creates stressful situations for victims and others in the same cage.

To avoid this, keep them in different cages.

The stress weakens the immunity and the chances of respiratory infections increases.

Adequate Supply Of Vitamin C

It is essential to prevent respiratory infections in guinea pigs.

As we discussed earlier, they cannot produce vitamin C internally; hence, the external supply is mandatory.

You can add foods rich in vitamin C to your guinea pig’s diet, like parsley, green peppers, mustard greens, or broccoli.

Dietary supplements can also be given in the right dose, so your vet can better guide you about brand and quantity.

You can find pellets made of vitamin C in the market, although they are not very durable since they oxidize very soon.

Therefore, do replace them within 90 days of their manufacture.

If you notice any sign of vitamin c deficiency despite all these doable, then you need to take him to the doctor as soon as possible.

Final Thoughts

If your guinea pigs are sneezing or coughing, this can be a cause of concern.

Your guinea pig’s health depends on you, so pay attention to your pet.

When caught at an early stage, the upper respiratory infection is treatable, but once things have gone critical, treatment becomes a challenge.

Therefore the key is an early diagnosis and treatment, and prevention is better than cure.


Tim Rhodes
Tim Rhodes

Hi there! My name is Tim Rhodes and I'm a guinea pig enthusiast through thick and thin. My mission is to teach others useful tips and tricks about these cute creatures. When I'm not writing, I enjoy kickboxing and work as an animal trainer.

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Last update on 2023-05-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API