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Anna, Pet Expert/Biologist
Category: Pet
Satisfied Customers: 11508
Experience:  40 yrs.: herps, pocket pets, rabbits, poultry, dogs, horses. Biology degree. Vet assistant.
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My guinea pig has loss of appetite, can't breath well,

Customer Question

My guinea pig has loss of appetite, can't breath well, wheezing, bulging veins, her eyes are normally bright red, now they're almost brown, urine stains on her belly,not keeping eyes completely open like useual, decrease in weight, not active at all & sneezing. What can I give her to help her?
Submitted: 12 months ago.
Category: Pet
Expert:  Anna replied 12 months ago.

Hello and welcome. My name is ***** ***** I'm a biologist with over 40 years of experience raising guinea pigs and rabbits. I'm sorry to hear that Poppy is so sick. I know this isn't what you want to hear, but I believe you deserve honesty. The best thing you can do for her is take her to a vet. However, if you will give me some additional information, I may be able to tell you a few things to do.

How is her appetite?

What do you feed her - both basics and any treats?

What kind of litter/bedding do you use?

How long has she been this way?

Thank you.

Customer: replied 12 months ago.
Her appetite is not good. We feed her Timothy hay and guinea pig pellets. We tried feeding her vegetables once, but she wouldn't eat them, so we haven't given her any. When we first got her, we used clean & fresh bedding which came with the Kaytee starter kit. It was like shredded toilet paper. But it was getting stuck in their private areas, and it was about 8 times more expensive than the other beddings. So we started getting the natural pine bedding from Walmart. But lately, it has been getting in her private areas as well as the last bedding. She has been acting this way for about a week now. She'll go up to the food but she won't eat it, she'll just sit there. We gave her the first bath on September 6th but we forgot about oils being essential for them, and only used shampoo. The vet was going to be almost $300.00 just to check her today! I hope I didn't spend $40.00 for just saying I should take her to a vet.
Expert:  Anna replied 12 months ago.

Thank you for getting back to me. I'm working on some information for you now and will post it as soon as I have it typed up. I appreciate your patience and will be back shortly.

Expert:  Anna replied 12 months ago.

Thank you for waiting. Poppy is critically ill, and that is why I said a vet would be the best thing to do. It's incredible to me that vets in some parts of the country charge so much to see a pocket pet. Where I live, it would be about $50 to check her over. I'm going to give you several things to try, but first I want to mention that if Poppy has actually not eaten anything for several days, there will be nothing you or even a vet can do to help her. Loss of appetite in guinea pigs is extremely serious. It is called anorexia. If they go for a number of hours without eating, a condition called ketosis develops and the guinea pig cannot recover. Regardless, we will try.

First of all, you need to get rid of that pine bedding. Any cedar or pine is not a good bedding. I realize that pet stores recommend it because it keeps odors down, but it has been solidly linked to a number of health problems. Most of these health conditions don't show up right away, but take weeks to months to develop. The occur in all small mammals, including guinea pigs, rabbits, gerbils, hamsters, and rats and mice. Kidney failure, liver disease, and tumors are some of the possibilities. Animals kept on pine and cedar will seem fine for a length of time, but by the time these problems develop, it is usually too late to treat them.Guinea pigs that are particularly sensitive may develop skin irritations and fur loss, and respiratory problems. The following links will give you more details on the cedar and pine problems:

The best litters/beddings are paper-based ones, such as CareFresh.

Next, it is imperative that you get some food into Poppy. You will need to feed her from a syringe. You can make a slurry of crushed pellets, water, and pureed (baby food) vegetables. This can be more difficult than it sounds, so I'm giving you a link to a page that describes it in great detail, including variations on what to feed, and how often to feed:

There is a product called Oxbow Critical Care, available in pet stores, that would be even better than the homemade slurry, but if you can't find that, the homemade one is better than nothing. Be sure to put the syringe in the side of Poppy's mouth, not straight down her throat.

I'll give you this much right now, and will be back again in a few minutes with more.

Customer: replied 12 months ago.
Ok, thank you very much!! :)
Expert:  Anna replied 12 months ago.

If Poppy isn't drinking, she may be dehydrated. I would give her Pedialyte (yes, the kind for human infants). It can be mixed into her slurry.

The symptoms Poppy is exhibiting are consistent with advanced scurvy - severe vitamin C deficiency. Guinea pig pellets claim to have vitamin C in them, but as the pellets sit on the shelves in the store, the vitamin degrades. Guinea pigs who don't eat vitamin C rich produce often end up with scurvy. You need to give her supplemental vitamin C. It will be easiest to use children's liquid vitamin C that you can buy in human health food stores. You can also crush the chewable children's tablets. Either way, add it to the slurry you are force feeding. She needs 50 mgs. a day while she's ill. It works faster if you divide that dose into more than one time, for example 25 mgs. twice a day, or 10 mgs. five times a day. If Poppy has scurvy, you should see improvement in about a week.

It is almost never a good idea to give a guinea pig a bath. I know the internet is full of tips and videos on how to do it, but it very often leads to health problems, especially respiratory infections and irritations. It can be necessary to wash just the back end, for example, if they have diarrhea, but a full bath is almost never needed. We have to remember than anyone can post information and videos. Those people often have no qualifications, but just assume it's necessary to give baths, or some of them just think it's cute to give guinea pigs baths. As for oils, I'm not sure what has been suggested to you, but putting oil on a guinea pig is not good. Some of the essential oils are even toxic.

I'm going to give you a reputable site for information on guinea pigs. I would rely on it for information.

You may even be able to find a less expensive vet on their list:

One more thing you can do for Poppy is run a vaporizer in the room where she lives. It will help her breathe easier. If her eyes seem irritated, you can put in a couple drops of saline solution (the kind for contact lenses) 2-3 times per day.

In summary:

Remove the pine bedding.

Begin slurry feeding, with Pedialyte added.

Give her vitamin C - this is of the utmost importance.

Use a vaporizer if you have one.

Use saline eye drops.

If you have more questions, just let me know. If you do all these things for Poppy, you can be assured that you are doing all you can. I wish you success.


Customer: replied 12 months ago.
Thank you, ***** ***** forgot to tell you that she is getting pee stains on her stomach which I don't think is normal. Is there anything abnormal about that or is it ok for that to be happening?
Expert:  Anna replied 12 months ago.
It can be normal if she is lying where there is pee. It can also indicate a urinary tract infection. I would clean it off as best you can with a warm damp cloth. The vitamin C may help. If it's an actual infection, only prescription antibiotics will help.
Customer: replied 12 months ago.
Ok, thank you very much. This helps a lot.
Expert:  Anna replied 12 months ago.
You're welcome. If you need anything else, just let me know.AnnaMy goal is to provide you with excellent service – if you feel you have gotten anything less, please reply back, I am happy to address follow-up questions. Please remember to rate my service after you have all the information you need. I will greatly appreciate a positive rating as that is the only way I am compensated. Thank you!
Expert:  Anna replied 12 months ago.
Hi Machelle,

I'm just following up on our conversation about Poppy. How is everything going?