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What To Do If Your Guinea Pig Has A Runny Nose (Treatments)

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Tim Rhodes

Attending to your guinea pig’s runny nose is a pretty simple task.

It may however develop health problems that need a veterinary doctor’s attention, or you may sometimes manage the complications without necessarily involving a vet.

These may include respiratory infections caused by several bacteria like Bordetella brontiseptica and Streptococcus, diarrhea, scurvy caused by vitamin C deficiency, tumors, abscesses, urinary problems, parasites, and skin problems.

Other problems may include bumble-foot, shown by sores developing beneath the hoofs of the pigs, as a result of too much pressure.

Another is barbering, whereby the guinea pig chews its own hair or that of its cage mate, usually as a result of boredom.

What To Do If Your Guinea Pig Has A Runny Nose

Wondering what to do if your guinea pig has a runny nose?

Keep reading to find out what you can do about it.

Causes of Runny Nose in Guinea Pigs

A case of guinea pig runny nose is sometimes caused by first, a condition known as Atrophic Rhinitis (AR) which is common in piglets.

It causes inflammation in the nasal cavity lining and a lot of irritation which results in sneezing, occasional bulging of the snout, and a runny nose.

It’s caused by a variety of irritants and two common bacteria, namely Bordetella brondiseptica, and Pasteurella multocida.

Secondly is Sinusitis, which is a condition of inflammation of the nasal sinuses.

It’s caused by a bacteria known as Streptococcus.

Infections can also occur due to dental disease that results from overgrown tooth roots that affect the sinuses, therefore leading to upper respiratory infections.

These irritations lead to discharges from the nose.

Mycoplasma and Pasteurella pneumonia are infections that occur in the lower respiratory tract and the lungs.

Mycoplasma pneumonia is majorly caused by a slow-growing bacterium known as Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae.

Inflammations occur in lung tissues including the cilia, bronchi, and bronchioles, and these can expose the pigs to more severe secondary lung infections by bacteria like Pasteurella multocida.

This bacteria is responsible for the advancement of the infection into Pasteurella pneumonia.

Severe infections by these bacteria cause discharges from either one or both nostrils, at times signaled by unproductive hacking and dry coughs, especially when you wake the pigs up.

Treatment For A Runny Nose

Full recovery for guinea pigs is a slow and gradual process that needs to be taken with caution to avoid further complications of the condition that the affected pig(s) is in.

Among the recommended courses of action is;

  • performing diagnostics to check guinea pig runny nose
  • administration of medicine
  • providing appropriate health care
  • continuous monitoring of the pig’s activity
  • providing appropriate diet
  • frequent follow-ups by a veterinary doctor
  • performing diagnostics

You’d have already known what to do with the pig based on the physical examination and its history before deciding the next course of action, like medication.

For a healthy guinea pig, breathing is quiet and easy.

If you notice rattling, clicking, and wheezing sounds when breathing, these are signs that show your pet might be having respiratory distress.

Respiratory stress may cause a sickly feeling to the guinea pig, which in turn leads to loss of appetite.

The pig might eat less or fail to eat at all.

This could help perform a diagnosis.

Discharges from the pig’s eyes and nose could be a sign of respiratory problems.

If the discharge is colored, say yellow or green, this is a sign that there is a bacterial infection to the respiratory system.

The conjunctiva, the inner part of the eyes, may also turn red.

The pig’s nose may turn red and sore as a result of itching and scratching due to contact with allergens.

Since there are no tests that predict the advancement of upper respiratory complications into more severe illnesses like pneumonia, it’s necessary to diagnose the extent of the damage caused by the bacteria to evaluate the possible step to take.

Treatment options and prognosis solely depend on what is gotten from diagnosis through conducting x-ray checks when there’s suspicion of pneumonia or lower respiratory infection.

On suspicion of dental disorders or overgrown tooth roots, it’s crucial to have an x-ray diagnosis done on the skull of the pig, to make informed decisions on the next step to take.

Administration of Medicine

The medications below are only intended to give general information on how the infected pigs are medicated and are subject to approval from a qualified veterinary doctor.

Antibiotics

Antibiotics should be carefully administered to the ailing pig depending on the nature and culture of the bacterium causing the infection.

This includes putting into consideration the advancement and extent of damage to the affected tissues on the pig.

Antibiotics can also be harmful to the bacteria keeping the digestive tract healthy, and is, therefore, necessary to watch out for signs of distress.

The sensitivity of the pig to the antibiotics should also be put into consideration, to avoid the introduction of new allergens to the system of the already ailing pig.

This is achievable through sensitivity testing and should be conducted whenever possible.

Periods for the administration of antibiotics solely depend on the extent of the infection by the virus, and this ranges from around 2 to 8 weeks, with gradual and constant monitoring for confirmation of the recovery process.

Compared to pets such as cats and dogs, there’s a very limited number of antibiotics that are safe for the treatment of respiratory issues in guinea pigs.

It’s crucial to note that most of the antibiotics that are administered orally and would prove efficient in curing these respiratory issues like runny nose, can also kill the bacteria that keep the intestinal tract healthy.

This doesn’t however mean that all orally administered antibiotics pose a danger to the tract’s health and normal functioning.

Some of the most commonly used, effective, and safe oral antibiotics include trimethoprim-sulfa, metronidazole, enrofloxacin, doxycycline, chloramphenicol, and ciprofloxacin.

Anti-Inflammatory Agents

Several anti-inflammatory agents are used in curing inflamed sinuses in pigs.

However, it should be noted that most of these may be painful and should be administered with care.

Examples are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and the commonly used ones are carprofen and meloxicam.

The extent of their effectiveness varies in different pigs, depending on the nature and extent of damage of the inflammations

Antihistamines

Antihistamines are majorly used against allergens that cause guinea pig runny nose.

Common signs and symptoms of allergies are shown by a stuffy and runny nose.

Persistent cough and shortness of breath may indicate an asthmatic infection which is responsible for the difficulty in breathing.

Itchy and inflamed eyes may also show conjunctivitis, which is an infection of the eyes.

For your guinea pig, allergy shots are highly recommended.

Commonly used antihistamines include diphenhydramine and hydroxyzine.

The pig’s response to the shots might be gradual and slow and requires patience to monitor recovery.

They may, however, not be 100% effective, but note that they can help a lot.

1. Providing appropriate healthcare

Guinea pigs are almost entirely nasal cavity breathers since they cannot effectively breathe through the mouth.

Therefore, in an instance whereby the nasal cavity is fully clogged by mucus, puss, or the sinuses are fully swollen, efficient breathing may become a challenge and this could be life-threatening to the guinea pig.

Immediate hospitalization with enough oxygen supply is highly recommendable in instances of severe distress to the respiratory tract.

2. Keep nostrils clear of discharge

Having a functional air humidifier around the little pigs can play a crucial role in mobilizing the nasal discharge from the pigs.

During winter, it could be a bit hard to keep the home or cage environment of the pig at its optimum temperature of around 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

The air humidifiers are responsible for keeping the conditions around the pig optimal to avoid catching a cold, that can lead to nasal discharge.

Home nebulization using normal saline can also help in air humidification to avoid a runny nose.

This is attainable using a home nebulization unit or could be performed at the hospital.

Moldy and dusty hay and litters around the guinea pig’s cage could be responsible for the introduction of environmental allergens and irritants that may pose a threat to its health.

It’s advisable to fill the hay racks in the open air space and make sure to put only the required amount, to avoid dust accumulation in the cage.

It’s also very necessary to have a functional air purifier around the little pet to ensure maximum purification and circulation of air around the pig’s cage.

It’s therefore advisable to give enough air space, and clean bedding for the pig to avoid this problem.

A wire mesh cage is more preferable to a solid glass cage in this case.

3. Continuous monitoring of the pig’s activity

It’s highly advisable to watch the guinea pig’s activities, especially after being given any medication as most antibiotics may cause diarrhea to develop.

Also, watch out for blood in the urine or droppings, for this could be a warning sign that there are other infections in the body.

If this happens, the guinea pig needs treatment with another antibiotic, and it’s advisable to immediately inform your vet.

4. Constantly check eating behaviors

Guinea pigs love to eat, and can constantly do this for a prolonged time over the day.

If it fails to eat over a long period, this means that there might be a problem and you should instantly inform the vet.

5. Check its breathing patterns

In cases of illness where the little pet has been given antibiotics, you should constantly check for improvement in breathing and loss of the signs of the respective illness.

If symptoms still persist over a long time, this may need the vet’s attention for a change of mediation.

6. Monitor the eyes

Healthy guinea pigs have shiny, clear, and alert eyes.

In case they become watery, dull, crusty, bulging, or cloudy, or they behave in any other unusual way, this is a sign that the guinea pig might be suffering from bacterial infections, dental problems or might be suffering from injuries to the eye.

It’s advisable to immediately see the vet.

7. Provide an appropriate diet

Vitamin C

Like humans, guinea pigs do not produce their own vitamin C.

It’s, therefore, necessary that they acquire these nutrients through their diets.

Vitamin C is essential for the prevention of respiratory complications in guinea pigs.

Examples of vitamin C-rich vegetables are parsley, mustard greens, broccoli, and green peppers.

A healthy guinea pig requires about 10-30 mg of vitamin C per day.

The demand is however higher for ill, young, pregnant, and nursing pigs.

Alongside vitamin C-rich vegetables, supplements, like tablets, are also available when a high deficiency arises.

The choice of supplements should be advised by the vet.

Pellets

Guinea pigs do not over-eat pellets.

They should however be fed daily unless the pig becomes obese.

Pellets lose the vitamin C potency over time, that’s why it’s recommendable to choose a high-quality and stabilized pellet for your pig to ensure freshness.

Fresh vegetable and fruits

Leafy green vegetables and fruits should be given to guinea pigs daily to supplement their nutrition needs.

Good choices of vegetables include kales, turnip greens, spinach, parsley, dandelion greens, and lettuce.

Apples, bananas, carrots, blueberries, strawberries, tomatoes, and grapes can also be given to the pigs.

These vegetables and fruits help the guinea pigs a lot when they are sick, by providing the body with the necessary nutrients for recovery.

They should however be introduced gradually to the pigs to avoid digestive upset.

Sufficient water

Ensure to have enough water in the water bottles to make it easily available for the guinea pig to quench its thirst when the need arises.

Since vitamin C tablets are soluble in water, people often make the mistake of dissolving them then giving the solution to the guinea pig.

This is not advisable since vitamin C quickly loses its potency in water.

The pig might also reduce its water intake due to a change in the taste of water, and this might also lead to other health issues.

Frequent follow-ups by a veterinary doctor

Have the vet examine the dental formula of the pig and do necessary corrections when a need arises.

This is to avoid possible respiratory problems that may arise due to elongated tooth roots that cause stress to the sinuses.

This may involve surgery for desired corrections, and the doctor may prescribe pain medication to help your guinea pig in the recovery process.

Other dental complications such as fractured teeth and teeth that are too long are common for guinea pigs and are easy to spot.

The pigs may however choose to eat less or softer food, lose weight, and or salivate due to other health conditions.

In cases of extreme sickness, it’s advisable to hospitalize your pig for intense treatment such as oral or injectable multivitamins until it’s strong and stable for home care.

Prevention Of Runny Nose

Keep cages away from doors and windows

Since so much cold air slips through the frames in windows and doors, the air around gets so cold that the pig might catch a cold, and this may pose a threat to respiratory health if the pig.

Keep cages away from heating vents, since this might also expose the pigs to the stress of too much heat and other complications

Do not mix rabbits and guinea pigs

Housing both rabbits and guinea pigs together might expose the pigs to Bordatella, since rabbits are natural carriers of the bacteria.

The rabbit might also bully the guinea pig, leading to stress if the pig cannot find a safe spot to escape to.

It’s therefore advisable to have rabbits and guinea pigs in separate cages.

Cover cages at night using a blanket or a towel to avoid exposing the little pets to cold. However, remember to keep one side of the cage open to give room for ventilation

Avoid overcrowding

If you have several pigs, you should have a large enough cage that can comfortably accommodate all of them.

Overcrowding can easily be a means of transmitting respiratory viruses, since the stress weakens their immune systems, and makes them vulnerable to infections.

For instance, if you have two guinea pigs, their cage should be as wide as 1 meter by 1 meter.

Wash your hands and apply antihistamine before handling the guinea pigs, to avoid the risk of transmitting allergens to the cages and exposing the guinea pigs to its dangers.

A good vacuum cleaner fitted with HEPA filters can also be crucial to ensuring that the environment around the pigs and even the general home is spotless and free of dust and other allergens.

Remember to constantly replace the carpeting around the guinea pig’s cage, or shampoo it thoroughly to avoid instances of a dusty environment to the pig.

Always make available high fiber foods especially good quality hay to prevent dental disease.

Periodic trimming of overgrown teeth is also necessary.

Constantly and periodically brush your guinea pigs to manage itches and stress that might be persistent on the fur and skin

Final Thoughts

Some guinea pig runny nose will become completely clear and be free of bacterial respiratory infections only by responding to antibiotic treatment and therapy.

Others may however develop on and off infections for their entire lifespan, while others may relapse and get ill again as soon administration of medication is discontinued.

Chronic infections can be frustrating to both the owner, the vet, and the guinea pig itself, since they may now require life-long therapy and treatment.

For a guinea pig, a runny nose shouldn’t be ignored or taken for granted at any time, but rather be considered a basis for visiting a vet, to ensure the well-being of the respiratory system of the pig.

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