A Medical and Care Guide for Guinea Pigs


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Diarrhea Requires Prompt Treatment

See a vet immediately if your guinea pig has severe diarrhea, especially if your pet looks ill and is sitting with its coat puffed up. A black, foul-smelling watery mess indicates a very serious intestinal problem.

For diarrhea resulting from antibiotic use, consult your vet immediately. See treatment advice below (Antibiotic Associated Diarrhea).

Milder forms of diarrhea (too many fresh fruits or vegetables or a change in feed) are also serious, require immediate treatment (generally replacing fresh vegetables with lots of timothy hay), and with no rapid improvement require a trip to the vet.

Your veterinarian may perform these tests:


To reestablish a good balance of gut flora, use a Probiotic. Especially helpful may be caecal pellets from a healthy pig. Avoid yogurt and milk products. Hand feed to keep food moving through the system. See also Antibiotic Associated Diarrhea treatment suggestions below. Syringe fluids, as diarrhea is very dehydrating. A vet can give subcutaneous fluids. Simethicone can help with mild gas. Coccidia can cause excessive gas. A second fecal float may find coccidia not initially present.

*Coccidia. Apparently coccidia can be present in a guinea pig without causing signs of illness. Some pet owners only treat when a guinea pig is experiencing diarrhea.

Antibiotic Associated Diarrhea

One of the most serious mistakes an inexperienced veterinarian can make is to prescribe a deadly antibiotic such as amoxicillin to treat a bacterial infection in a guinea pig.

Brown and Rosenthal describe antibiotic associated diarrhea in guinea pigs, a significant danger when using Gram-positive spectrum oral antibiotics, which can "seriously alter the sensitive balance of bacterial flora in the cecum." As a result, bacteria like clostridia spp. and escherichia coli can overgrow as the normal flora is killed off.

The enterotoxins produced by these bacteria are absorbed systemically. "The result of the cecal dysbiosis and enterotoxin production is diarrhea, systemic toxicosis and ultimately death."

They describe the PLACE rule as a rough guideline for antibiotics to avoid. [PLACE -- penicillin, lincomycin, ampicillin, amoxicillin, cephalosporins, clindamycin, erythromycin]

Brown and Rosenthal note that the most commonly prescribed antibiotics (baytril, bactrim, and chloramphenicol) are "rarely associated with GI disturbance" in guinea pigs.

Treatment for antibiotic associated diarrhea:


If the animal is still eating and acting normally:

If the guinea pig is not eating, much more aggressive therapy will be required. Brown and Rosenthal also advise fecal Gram stains to check for clostridial spores if the diarrhea persists or the animal goes downhill. If found, treat with metronidazole (flagyl) @ 20mg/kg PO q12h. If no clostridial spores are present, do a fecal culture and treat with baytril while waiting for results. Give fluids IV SC or IO if the animal is systemically ill. Guinea pigs with profuse watery diarrhea have a poor prognosis.


Equine Bio-Sponge, which contains Di-tri-octahedral smectite, is reasonably priced and very effective.     "Bio-Sponge is an intestinal protectant designed to help support healthy intestinal function. Bio-Sponge has substantial capacity to adsorb and absorb toxins, viruses, bacteria and free radicals. A university study showed that Bio-Sponge™ adsorbed 99% of clostridium difficile and clostridium perfringens toxins in vitro."

Dosage information received via email from Allyson at Platinum Performance, Inc. who consulted their staff nutritionist:


Di-tri-octahedral smectite possesses the ability to bind C. difficile toxins A and B, C. perfringens enterotoxin and endotoxin in vivo while having no effect on bacterial growth or the action of metronidazole.


Self-Assessment Color Review of Small Mammals by Susan A Brown and Karen L. Rosenthal [Iowa State University Press -- 1997] p. 9-12

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