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Anna, Pet Expert/Biologist
Category: Pet
Satisfied Customers: 11545
Experience:  40 yrs.: herps, pocket pets, rabbits, poultry, dogs, horses. Biology degree. Vet assistant.
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A friend gave my daughter a rescued guinea pig who is about

Customer Question

A friend gave my daughter a rescued guinea pig who is about 12-18 months old. I noticed quickly that he is very thin, wobbles like he's drunk, often face planting when set down, and He holds his head up and to the left when held. After I have him a bath because he was dirty, I think I saw a white bug on him as well as what looks like white, flaky, bumpy skin on his genitals.
JA: I'm sorry to hear that. Have you looked to see if there is a wound on their foot?
Customer: I saw no wounds on his feet.
JA: What is the guinea pig's name?
Customer: Bert
JA: Is there anything else the Veterinarian should be aware of about Bert?
Customer: My friend rescued him from Petco two days ago. They said an owner surrendered him and his pregnant litter mate. Bert is eating well and drinking well but he's not active.
Submitted: 1 month ago.
Category: Pet
Expert:  Anna replied 1 month ago.

Hello and welcome. My name is ***** ***** I'm a biologist with over 40 years of experience raising guinea pigs and rabbits. It was kind of your friend and family to rescue this guinea pig. I'm sorry to hear that he isn't well. From your description, it sounds like he is in horrible shape. He is going to need to be seen by a vet.

The head tilt and lack of balance indicates vestibular disease, also called head tilt, torticollis, or wry neck. This is a complex and serious illness, but it can be treated successfully in many guinea pigs.

Vestibular disease can originate in either the ear or the brain stem. There are many things that can go wrong in these structures that will cause the symptoms you are seeing. There are protozoal infections, bacterial infections, a disease spread by raccoons, strokes, tumors, and injuries, to name a few. You are going to need an experienced guinea pig vet to figure out exactly what is going on and begin an appropriate treatment. Here is a link to a directory of guinea pig vets:

The sooner treatment begins, the better the prognosis. In the meantime, put Bert in a place where he'll be safe. It's easy for an animal with this condition to injure itself, so place padding on the bottom and sides of his enclosure. You may need to hand feed him and give him water from a syringe if he's unable to eat or drink well. The following sites will tell you about vestibular disease, including how a vet may treat it, and what you can do at home to increase your guinea pig's chances of recovery. The site is geared toward rabbits, but the same information applies to guinea pigs.

The white bug may be a louse or a mite. Such parasites can cause flaky skin and bumps and sores. Some cause mange. There are also bacterial and fungal infections that can cause the symptoms. Here's a site where you can read more about skin conditions:

It's also not uncommon for guinea pigs to have more than one skin problem at a time, for example, a fungal infection and mange. Both will then need to be treated. The remedies you can buy in pet stores are ineffective, and sometimes even dangerous, so they're not a good choice.

To support Bert in his present condition, you can give him vitamin C. Lack of vitamin C can cause a variety of problems. You can use children's chewable tablets or liquid vitamin C that you can buy in human health food stores. If you use the liquid, place it in the side of his mouth using a syringe. He needs 50 mgs. a day while he'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. This won't cure Bert's present problems, but it can give his immune system a boost and help prevent even more problems from developing.

I know you would like a home remedy, and I would love to give you one. Unfortunately, Bert's problems are too severe to be handled without a vet's help.

If you have further questions, just let me know by clicking on REPLY. I hope you will be able to nurse Bert back to health.


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