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How Does A Guinea Pig Get Pneumonia? (Causes & Treatment)

Tim Rhodes
Written by Tim Rhodes Last Updated: November 20, 2021

Guinea pig pneumonia is a dangerous and life-threatening condition that can cause sudden death.

Common signs of pneumonia in guinea pigs are difficulty breathing, sniffling, discharge from the nose, and sneezing.

Also, fever, loss of appetite followed by weight loss, and conjunctivitis can be signs of pneumonia.

Guinea pig pneumonia is often fatal for guinea pigs and can pose a danger to their owners.

What Causes Pneumonia in Guinea Pigs?

Pneumonia in guinea pigs usually is a bacterial infection that causes the inflammation of the lungs’ air sacs.

Streptococcus pneumoniae, Streptococcus zooepidemicus, and Bordetella bronchiseptica are bacteria that mainly cause pneumonia in these small animals.

Occasionally, adenovirus can be responsible for guinea pig pneumonia.

Guinea pigs living alone are at low risk of developing guinea pig pneumonia because it spreads from droplets released into the air during coughing and sneezing.

However, guinea pigs living in groups have higher chances of an outbreak of the disease.

Besides overcrowding, other factors that might increase the chances of disease development are stress and pregnancy.

Diagnosis of pneumonia in guinea pigs is challenging because some guinea pigs are asymptomatic carriers of bacteria.

Which Bacteria and Viruses Cause Pneumonia in Guinea Pigs?

Pneumonia in guinea pigs can be mild or acute inflammation of air sacs (bronchi).

The lungs fill up with fluid and pus, which makes breathing difficult.

Apart from shortness of breath, a guinea pig will usually have a fever, start coughing and sneezing.

Streptococcus Pneumoniae

Pneumococcus is a gram-positive bacteria and is responsible for community-acquired pneumonia.

Streptococcus pneumoniae is an unhealthful bacterium known as one of the causative agents for respiratory disorders in guinea pigs.

Guinea pigs stricken by streptococcus pneumoniae might not show any visible symptoms of ill health initially.

The infected guinea pig seems to be healthy and so suffers what seems to be a fulminant onset of disease symptoms.

The guinea pig might seem to be stressed or can suddenly stop intake, which may quickly result in death.

This infection is extremely infectious to others, and one guinea pig will infect another by direct contact or by sneezing or coughing.

An initial diagnosis of streptococcus may be created by observing your guinea pig’s physical symptoms.

So, you may have to give an intensive history of your guinea pig’s health leading up to the onset of symptoms.

To substantiate an indication, your doctor has to conduct laboratory tests, taking samples of mucose discharge (from the lungs and nasal passages), blood, and urine to check these body fluids for the presence of the streptococci microorganism.

These bacteria will cause fulminant malady in antecedently healthy guinea pigs once they become stressed or stop eating; this could cause death.

One guinea pig will infect another by direct contact or coughing.

Signs of streptococcosis are usually respiratory: wheezing, discharge from the nose, and coughing.

Infection may also cause inflammation of the center ear, which might cause a head tilt.

Antibiotics are for treating the infection and limit transmission to alternative guinea pigs; however, guinea pigs that don’t appear sick should be infected.

Bordetella Bronchiseptica

Bordetella bronchiseptica is a rod-shaped, gram-negative bacteria of the genus Bordetella.

Bordetella bronchiseptica is a commensal microorganism in many species, including guinea pigs, rats, rabbits, dogs.

It’s considered the main causative agent of pneumonia in guinea pigs among other bacterias, i.e., streptococcus and Adenovirus.

Bordetella bronchiseptica has a specific pilli on their body, which helps them attach to the ciliated epithelium and the respiratory tract.

Guinea pigs not having signs of disease could carry Bordetella bronchiseptica bacterium within the nose or throat.

Infection is often transmitted from one guinea pig to a different, once droplets are sprayed into the air by unconditioned reflex or coughing.

The infection can even be transmitted by sexual contact.

Different animals, like dogs, cats, rabbits, and mice, are also infected with this bacterium while not showing any signs of disease; therefore, pet homeowners should avoid their guinea pigs’ contact with different animals.

For diagnosis, you will have to provide a thorough history of your guinea pig’s health, onset of symptoms, and potential incidents that may have happened to cause the present condition.

Such as recent diseases of different guinea pigs within the home or current sexual contact.

Guinea pigs have tiny pectoral cavities in proportion to their abdomen size, and the power to cough and take away exudate appears inefficient.

Your vet will make an initial identification of respiratory illness from a physical examination of the guinea pig.

Extra laboratory tests can ensure or rule out a case of respiratory illness.

Samples are taken of the fluid that’s oozing from your pet’s eyes or nose or from blood samples to analyze for the precise microorganism organism that’s inflicting the infection.

X-rays or ultrasound pictures may be used to examine the lungs for signs of respiratory illness.


Adenoviruses are known to be a rare causative agent of pneumonia in guinea pigs.

They are non-enveloped viruses containing icosahedral nucleocapsids with a double-stranded DNA genome.

This is a sort of animal virus that’s specific to guinea pigs.

It could cause respiratory disease; however, several guinea pigs have this virus with no signs of unwellness and can be considered carriers.

Carriers will suddenly become sick as a result of stress or anesthesia.

This happens a lot, usually in guinea pigs who are young, old, or have immune systems that don’t seem to be operating properly.

Guinea pigs don’t typically die from this virus; however, those who do die usually die suddenly while not superficial sick.

What Are the Signs of Guinea Pig Pneumonia Caused by Adenovirus?

Signs of disease are just like those seen in different infective agents or microorganism infections and embody respiratory difficulties, discharge from the nose, and weight loss.

The extant guinea pig adenovirus (GPAdV) has been suspected on the premise of histopathologic findings.

Research has discovered adenovirus-like inclusion bodies within the lungs of animals with clinical unwellness; the infection prevalence is unknown.

Symptoms Of Pneumonia

Asymptomatic guinea pigs don’t have visible symptoms despite carrying and spreading microorganisms.

For that reason, guinea pigs, asymptomatic carriers of pneumonia, pose a danger to other guinea pigs and humans as well.

To avoid the loss of your pet, you’ll have to observe your guinea pig for any unusual changes in their health or behavior.

This could help diagnose the disease at the initial stage of the disease’s onset and save its life.

Some of the prominent symptoms are exudation from the nose, oozing, sternutation, trouble while breathing, inflammation of the eyes (conjunctivitis or pink eye).

Also, fever, weight loss, dull appearance, stress, decreased appetite, lethargy, arthritis, large lymph nodes, and abortion can all be signs of pneumonia.

Guinea pigs with pneumonia might be suffering from ear infections, characterized by neck twisting and shaky movement.

If your guinea pig has all or some of the above symptoms, it means that something’s wrong and that your pet is already at an advanced stage of the disease.

Therefore, you’ll have to take your pet to the veterinarian to keep the infected organism and healthy ones safe from this infectious disease.

Veterinarians diagnose pneumonia after examining or from a test of discharge from the nose or eyes.

Other ways of diagnosing pneumonia are radiography, microbiology, cytology, bloodwork.

How to Prevent Pneumonia in Guinea Pigs?

There is plenty you can do to try to prevent guinea pig pneumonia from developing among your pets.

The first and most important thing you can do is to maintain the habitat of your guinea pigs clean and safe for them.

Regularly clean your guinea pig’s cage to prevent bacterial infections and the spread of diseases to other guinea pigs.

If you keep more than one guinea pig in a cage, as soon as you notice that something is odd with one guinea pig, separate it from others and monitor it carefully.

How to Treat Guinea Pig Pneumonia?

The problem with treatment is that medicine doesn’t treat the illness but the signs and symptoms of diseases.

Thus, any medication will try to eliminate the symptoms of pneumonia instead of pneumonia itself.

Administering fluids (to prevent dehydration), forced feeding if needed, and oxygen therapy to alleviate breathing problems are common treatment approaches.

Vitamin C is also very important.

Additionally, a vet can prescribe antibiotics to your guinea pig, although some of them are toxic to guinea pigs.

However, some are safer than others and the vet will do whatever possible to save your guinea pig’s life.

Monitor your ill guinea pig and watch for diarrhea.

If your guinea pig with pneumonia taking antibiotics has diarrhea, contact the vet immediately.

Also, if you own more than one guinea pig, you can prevent and control outbreaks of pneumonia if you keep your guinea pigs separate and maintain hygiene in guinea pig cages at all times.

You will also have to separate the sick guinea pigs from the company of others.


It would be best if you keep your guinea pig in “incubation” mode to stop spreading the illness.

Take good care of your guinea pigs.

Keep them under observation as long as they are getting medications.

Force-feeding is challenging but essential to increase your pet’s energy so that it can beat the illness and survive.

Keep your guinea pigs safe and consult a vet for the best way you can take care of your pets.


Control the spread of the disease.

Because the bacteria responsible for causing pneumonia are carried by your pet dogs, cats, and rabbits.

It’s hard to find who carries the bacteria or the virus, as all living organisms can have them without showing any signs or symptoms of illness.

Poor husbandry, poor nutrition, overcrowding, and social stress, improper surroundings, temperatures, and humidity, as well as toxic chemicals within the environment, bedding with aromatic oils, cleanup chemicals, poor hygiene, and ventilation, can cause problems in your guinea pigs such as allergic reactions, digestion problems, respiratory issues, and behavioral changes.

The outbreak of pneumonia in a group of guinea pigs can cause severe destruction because respiratory particles spread through cough and sneeze and infect other guinea pigs living in the same habitat.

Final Тhoughts

Pet guinea pigs are easy to manage.

They are cheerful and cute, and that’s why they make great family pets.

Just as all living beings, guinea pigs can get sick too.

Pneumonia can be fatal for these small animals.

The bacterias get transmitted through coughing and sneezing and are commonly found in dogs, rabbits, and cats, so keep your guinea pigs away from other pets.

A pet owner must take care of their pet guinea pigs and keep them under keen observation.

If you notice some unusual changes in previously healthy guinea pigs, immediately separate the infected guinea pigs from others to stop the spread of the illness.

Removing guinea pigs that don’t show any sign of illness from the affected guinea pigs is the best thing you can do at that moment.

Keep the infected guinea pig in a separate room and clean the cage more often, and you should immediately go to an expert vet for further treatment.


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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