Sickness is not something to be anticipated because guinea-pigs are tough little creatures. However, one cannot ignore the fact that illness may strike despite careful attention to feeding and hygiene. The typical signs of ill-health are a bedraggled coat, listless behaviour and absence of appetite. At the first signs, the animal should be separated from any others you may have and moved to warm quarters. Healthy guinea-digs have no need for artificial warmth but an ill animal :an derive benefit.
Place the animal in a box from which he cannot escape, together with a thick layer of hay or wood-wool. Make a depression so that he can snuggle down. A centrally heated room would be best but, if this cannot be managed, place the box before a fire or radiator but be careful not to overdo the warmth. If the temperature is too warm for you, then it is to warm for the patient. A hot water bottle inserted in the side of the box can be helpful. Replace the bottle frequently, before it cools off too much.
The two most troublesome diseases are colds and diarrhoea. Colds (discharge from nose and eyes, chesty breathing and husky coughing) can vary in severity and be due to various causes. Musty hay can be a major cause and the affliction usually clears up upon removal of the offending material. The hutch should be examined for damp and draughts and rectified if necessary. A more severe form is due to a contagious virus and is often fatal. The only “cure” is the natural resistance of the guinea-pig and this should be given every encouragement in the form of warmth and tempting tit-bits of his favourite food.
Mild cases of diarrhoea are usually caused by the Guinea-pig eating something which has disagreed with it. Soiled, excessively wet or frosted green food are the main sources of trouble in this respect. All green food should immediately be withheld when diarrhoea is noticed. Only dry food should be fed until the diarrhoea ceases. Mash and water should be continued if your pet has always had these. If the diarrhoea does not stop within one or two days, discontinue the mash and water.
Little can be done for severe cases of diarrhoea. This is due to a disease to which few guinea-pigs can offer resistance. The diarrhoea is more persistent, messy and smelly. The animal goes off its food and becomes thin. The thinness is a bad sign and the disease is nearly always fatal. The hutch should be thoroughly disinfected with a strong solution of Lysol before other guinea-pigs are allowed to use it.
Minor wounds and injuries usually heal themselves provided they do not become infected. However, infection is uncommon, if the hutches are properly looked after, for the natural grooming of the guinea-pig ensures that the wound is kept clean. Should infection develop, the animal should, be taken to a veterinary surgeon for treatment.
All animals with major wounds should be taken to the vet, without delay. The risk of infection is high in these cases and a severe infection can be more dangerous than the wound itself. The vet. May be able to comfort the animal and hasten the return to good health by closing the wound with stitches.