Worst Guinea Pig carer in the world or the unluckiest?

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Post   » Thu Jul 05, 2018 1:54 pm

My First post, I wish it was a little brighter story but I am hoping some of the members here can give me some pointers as a new Guinea Pig carer as I seem to be having a rough time at the moment.

My wife turned up with a Guinea pig (from Petco i think) out of the blue around March 28th this year, we called her Mu Mu. I had only ever had Rabbits as a kid and had avoided having pets since then as I get ridiculously attached to them and devastated if anything happened to them.

Mu Mu seemed very quiet when we got her and so I did some research and read that they are social animals and need company. So the following day I picked up another one from a local pet store (Chunkita) and they advised me to get a slightly older one so that they weren't vying for alpha status.

Things seemed to be going well. We got a pen set up with plenty of space and they seemed happy enough but my wife and daughter were getting concerned that Chunkita (Chunky for short, she is about 1Kg) was pushing her around too much so she needed company more her size.

So both of them, independently, picked up another Guinea Pig each on April 17th. Siouxsie/Suzi and Nala.

All 4 were female.

They all seemed to settle in but then on the 19th I noticed that Mu Mu was very quiet and seemed to be having difficulty breathing so my daughter took her to the vet on the 19th and she was diagnosed with a URI, along with some sort of mass in her stomach and a possible liver infection and we were given a nebulizer with saline solution and Cipro to administer orally.

We started her treatment right away and the following morning she seemed a bit better but then later in the day wouldn't eat and wouldn't take any critical care. She got worse the following day and wouldn't eat anything but would sit on my lap on the sofa with her paws resting on my hand. I decided to try and get her to eat some critical care but as my daughter went to get the food she climbed up on to my shoulder and then felt like she was going to jump to I quickly grabbed her (it would have been a 3 -4 foot drop) and she freaked out. I put her back in my lap but she was exhausted. I tried to syringe feed her (in hind sight I should have just let her rest but I was scared that she was running out of strength as she hadn't eaten for about 24 hours at that point) but she wouldn't take it and seemed to be gasping for air, I tried to make sure her mouth was clear but she passed away in my hands. I was heart broken and have been blaming myself ever since. My wife and daughter were also devastated.

We had only had her a short time but she was a sweet heart and had found her way in to our hearts very quickly.

Skip forward to June and my Wife and daughter went away for 4 weeks (my wife's mother is very ill so she had to leave the country to go and see her). Suzi (the smallest) had been taken to the vet for a check up about 1.5 weeks earlier (she was underweight at around 355g) so we had been feeding her critical care. Chunky and Nala were taken to the vet the weekend before they were due to leave for a check up and both seemed fine.

The day after she left (June 13th) my wife arranged for a friend of hers to come in and do some tidying while I was at work but unfortunately she left the back door wide open when she left so there was a cold breeze coming in though the kitchen to where the pen is in the dining/living room (There is no door between the kitchen and living room) for several hours before I got home and realized. The Pen had originally been in a front bedroom but we moved it from there in April after Mu Mu died so they weren't as isolated from us and we could keep a better eye on them.

The next day noticed that Suzi was a lot quieter than usual and when she was still very quiet the next day I arranged to take her to the vet (June 15th) they did blood tests, a stool test and an X-Ray and said that she had a slight bit of Gas in her stomach and upper intestine and gave me Simeticone to give to her.

However on the next day she was shaking her head quite vigorously and fell over. This happened a few times so I took her to the emergency vet. They said it was probably an ear infection and gave me a 10 day course of Baytril for her.

This seemed to help and I took her to the regular vet on June 23rd and she suggested i stop giving her the Simeticone even though she hadn't completed the 10 day course, she also wanted me to continue with the Baytril for 3-6 weeks. I also set up a follow up appointment for July 14th.
A few days later I noticed that her weight wasn't going up and her poop was looking smaller and contacted the vet who suggested I take her off of the Baytril and put her back on the Simeticone which I did.

On the night of June 29th Nala started coughing badly (she had done it a couple of times the previous night), it sounds like a baby coughing so I took her to the emergency vet they said she had a URI and gave me Meloxicam, Doxyciline and Sulfatrim (SMZ-TMP) for her and this seemed to help. I was there until 4am on the 30th. When I checked on her around 6 am she seemed better but Chunky was now making an odd whooping noise as well. I called the vet and arranged to take both in. They checked Nala and confirmed she had noisy breathing but said that Chunky seemed ok (She had stopped making the noise at that point) I asked if I should keep Nala separated but she said it shoudl probably be OK and just in case she also gave me a list of the doses require for Chunky of the same medication Nala had in case things got worse.

I am glad she did as on the night of July 2nd Chunky started coughing violently, her whole chest and stomach were heaving 5-6 times before each cough and she was making the whooping noise with every breathe quite loudly. I decided to give her the medication using the does that the vet had given me and that stopped the violent coughing and the whooping noise has gradually subsided but is still there from time to time and she still coughs (which stops the noise for a while) but not as loudly or as violently as before.

I am now concerned in case Suzi (the smallest one) also starts having breathing issues but so far (fingers crossed) she seems to be OK.

I am looking after all 3 sick piggys by myself until the wife and daughter get back on July 9th and have to be up early enough to give all 3 their medication, and give Suzi critical care, before I go to work (where I find it hard to concentrate, worrying about the little ones). And then when I get home I have to give them medication and syringe feed Suzi again, then clean their cage (We have been using Guineadads exclusively since the start of June instead of paper bedding, but they still need spot cleaning everyday), then Sort out veggies for them and then Syringe Suzi again before bed time. It all gets done but it takes all of my time and I am getting about 5 hours of sleep per night and I am absolutely shattered.

What is it I am doing wrong? Why do all of them have issues? Could it all be due to the door being left open or is the URI/Pneumonia too long from then for it to be the cause.

The only other things I changed were the laundry detergent ( I switched from Seventh Generation to Arm and Hammer, both Free and Clear brands) and also started adding Distilled White Vinegar when I wash them both changes to try and help with the odor that was still present after washing. Could the vinegar be reacting with the baking soda in the detergent and cause issues? I have stopped using the vinegar and have hung the washed and dried Guineadads outside in the sun to air. I may well switch back to the other detergent as well.

I just want to try and find out if it is my fault that they are all sick or if i am just having a bad run of luck.

Any suggestions and advice gratefully received.

As I said I wish I could have started on a happier note with my first post but really need some help and advice.

Thanks in advance

And got the T-shirt

Post   » Thu Jul 05, 2018 2:13 pm

Sorry you're having such problems.

In no particular order...

I doubt that the door left open had anything at all to do with any illnesses. Ditto the detergent/vinegar/baking soda.

It's not your fault -- you've just unfortunately found out the hard way that it's never a good idea to get a guinea pig from a pet store. They're bred and raised in horrible conditions, and are often sold sick, missexed, and the baby sows are pregnant. And you're not doing anything wrong. You just haven't yet hit the combination of drugs that will wipe out the infection.

You can almost NEVER let a guinea pig not eat (the ONLY exception is if they have an intestinal blockage and aren't pooping at all). Their systems are engineered to require food moving through their gut at all times, and if not, they'll develop painful, even fatal, stomach ulcers, and/or bloat. As the saying goes, a guinea pig that's not eating is a guinea pig that's dying. If they don't eat, you force feed, and it DOES often require force. They'll think you're killing them, but what you're really doing is saving their lives.

Don't separate anybody. Whatever they've got, they've all been thoroughly exposed by now, and the stress of being alone may make them sicker.

Is this an exotic vet you're seeing? Small animal vet means dogs and cats, not exotic pets, and small animal vets get almost no education and training the care of exotics.

Coughing, IMO, far more often has to do with the fact that they've eating too large a bit of food and it's partially blocking their airway than it does with a URI. I don't think I've ever heard a pig with a URI cough.

When you give an antibiotic of any kind, always give a probiotic about 60-90 minutes after each dose. Most of us use Benebac. It may help them tolerate the antibiotic long enough to finish the required course of treatment. Without a probiotic, you may wind up having to discontinue the antibiotic.

If the respiratory stuff hasn't cleared up, you may want to ask for a nebulized antibiotic. Gentamycin, which is way too strong for their digestive tracts, can be given that way, and I've used it several times.

Good luck, and keep us posted on how things are going.


Post   » Thu Jul 05, 2018 2:53 pm

Many thanks for your reply and advice

I just got off the phone with the vet and will be going to see them later to pick up some more Doxycicline as I will not have enough to treat both Nala and Chunky with the amount I currently have. She said I should try separating her but if it stresses her too much to put her back with the others. I am also going to take Suzi so she can weigh her to get the dosages right in case she does need meds.

The Vet is The Bay Area Bird Hospital in San Francisco who have Guinea Pig specialists we got their details from the recommended vet list here on GuineaLynx

The Emergency vet is Animal Emergency Services, also here in San Francisco. Sometimes they have vets who are familiar with Exotics but not always but they are 24/7 so sometimes it is the only option.

The good news is that all three still appear to be eating although Nala seems to need some encouraging sometimes but generally eats anything put in front of her when she is in the hidey and does come out to eat some times (I am not her most favorite person at the moment so she tends to be wary of coming out if she can see me). If i put a tray of wheat-grass (Wheekgrass?) in for them they all chow own on it. Chunky would eat the syringe the medication is in given half a chance. I have also made sure there are a couple of piles of hay available as Suzi seems to prefer that to the hay rack (Ikea Bag holder).

I did get some Benebac but it seems to be powder rather than a gel. I must have got the wrong stuff. The vet didn't mention it an dthey do still seem to be eating.

I have been weighing Suzi daily as per the vets instructions and again on the positive side she does seem to be putting weight on quite steadily, around 39g since she saw the vet on June 23rd (about 12 days)

When the wife and daughter get back on Monday I should have a bit more help in terms of Vet visits and syringe feeding although I will probably still need to continue with the meds as I now have the routine down.

Until they do get back I am a 24/7 Guinea Pig Nurse.

PS I hope this was the right forum to put this in. Since it was medical related it seemed the logical place to put it


Post   » Thu Jul 05, 2018 3:39 pm

Just a few other bits of information

They have plenty of pellets. Oxbow Adult and Baby brands however they were also getting some by Kaylor of Colorado, Guinea Pig and More, which the wife bought which they really liked but I have been cutting back on that this week as I was worried about all the bits in it and the fact that I couldn't see Vitamin C listed in the ingredients.

They also get a selection of Red Lettuce, Escaroles, Edvives, Cherry Tomatoes, Cucumber, Chard, Lacinato Broccoli leaves, and Dandelion with a few others occasionally for variety including Wheat Grass trays, However looking at other threads We may be giving them too much. We haven't been measuring amounts just putting some out in the bowl in the morning and evening. They aren't big Bowls

There are 3 water bottles (no Vitamin C added based on the vets comments) but they dont seem to drink much at all. I also put a bowl out, when Chuky isnt tipping it over, which seems to go down a bit but i dont know how much is from them drinking as opposed to evaporation.

Temperature where they are is a pretty steady 70-71F and I have an Air purifier set up in the room near them.

We also have Hamsters in cages in the same room and they use some of the same run space but not at the same time.

I hadn't been letting the Guinea Pigs out to run this last week as I wasn't sure if it was something else in the room causing the issues (We just let them run around the living room but have a fence around the sofa to stop them getting under it and peeing and pooping) plus it adds about another hour to my day trying to get them back in the cage.


Post   » Fri Jul 06, 2018 12:58 pm

Can someone please give me a pointer on which Benebac I should be getting for Guinea Pigs. There seem to be a number of options and I want to make sure I get the right one.
Thanks in advance

And got the T-shirt

Post   » Fri Jul 06, 2018 1:44 pm

There's only one Benebac. It comes in gel or powder, and either is fine.


Post   » Fri Jul 06, 2018 2:53 pm

OK thanks I think I have the right one now. Should arrive Sunday.

As I said i already have the powder which it says to sprinkle on their feed but only 2 of the 3 are on antibiotics the other is on Simeticone, Fortunately they all seem to be eating OK for now.

Thanks for the help

And got the T-shirt

Post   » Fri Jul 06, 2018 3:11 pm

They can all have the probiotics.

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Post   » Sat Jul 07, 2018 10:16 am

As for the spilling of the bowl of water: I used to use a 9" pyrex pie plate for the water dish. The pig's weight wasn't enough to tip the bowl, so unless I spilled it while putting it in the cage, the floor stayed dry. I suppose I should see if either of my 2 babies would drink out of it, now. I had one pig who absolutely loved his bowl.

One thing: the water does tend to get dirty quickly so would need to be changed throughout the day.


Post   » Sat Jul 07, 2018 6:51 pm

So far so good

The two on Antibiotics (Chunky and Nala) seem to have stopped any sign of coughing that I have noticed there is the odd sniffle and sneeze here and there though. Nalas breathing is still a little crackly and Chunky still can be quite noisy at times but she then sneezes and it settles down and it seems to improve a bit after medication.

Siouxsie seems to have avoided having any breathing issues so far I dont hear any noise when she breathes other than what sounds like her chewing, she seems to be eating a lot more hay now I have put a couple of big piles out in addition to the Hay Rack.. She also seems to be putting weight on slowly but surely. I have dosages from the vet on how much Sulfatrim and Doxycycline to give her if she does have issues though. She has a scheduled vet appointment next Saturday morning (14th).

All 3 still seem to be eating well with no issues so far as well. Still not seen any of them drink but that has been the case pretty much since we got them. Maybe they are getting enough water from the veggies and/or the critical care?

Thanks for the advice on the water bowl, I am using a 3-4 inch ramekin at the moment as it is harder to tip over plus 3 water bottles. I did have a wider diameter dish for a while but they kept walking through it as it had a shallower lip. I will keep an eye out for a pyrex dish like you suggest, the problem is usually Chunky who is over 1Kg so her weight on the rim of a bowl seems to be able to tip most of the ones I have tried.
I change the water in the bowl in the morning before work and in the evening when I get home. I change the bottle water once a week and give the bottles a thorough rinse with hot water when I do and check and flush the nozzles. I check they are all working 1-2 times a day.

Fingers crossed that things continue to improve with all 3 of them. I should have more help when the wife and daughter get back in two days

Many thanks for the advice. I wish i had discovered this site sooner.


Post   » Mon Jul 09, 2018 10:37 am

Slight change of events

I got the BeneBac yesterday and gave some to Nala who is on Day 9 of her 10 day course and she now seems to be eating less and sleeping more. Is that usual?
She isn't coming out as much and while she will eat hay and a bit of tomato or blueberry if it is put in front of her she doesn't seem to be coming out to eat pellets and greens as far as I can tell. She took about 10ml of Critical this morning plus similar amount last night as well.
Can Benebac have that effect or is it more likely that it is because she has been on Antibiotics so long and it is just coincidence that her change in appetite coincided with the first dose
of BeneBac?

I am also curious why vets don't mention or recommend BeneBac when they prescribe Antibiotics.

Chunky seems fine and she had some BeneBac as well but she is an eating machine, She still makes the odd whooping/cooing noise now and then but then coughs and it seems to clear up.

Siouxsie is still slowly putting on weight thankfully.

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Post   » Mon Jul 09, 2018 10:46 am

No, benebac would not have that effect. Probiotics generally only have to do with intestinal bacteria and would not cause sleeping more and eating less. Are you weighing daily right now? What you are describing concerning Nala may indicate she is not doing well and may be going downhill.

And got the T-shirt

Post   » Mon Jul 09, 2018 11:11 am

Some vets don't believe in probiotics. Others do. Most of us with experience in giving them to guinea pigs swear by them.

Since my gastroenterologist recommended probiotics for me when we could't clear up a weeks-long bout of diarrhea that caused me to lose 40 pounds, and it worked within just a day or two, I'm a big proponent of them.


Post   » Mon Jul 09, 2018 12:29 pm

I hadn't been weighing her but just did. Our scales say 667g but we know they are 17g low compared to the vets scales (we need scales you can calibrate if anyone has any recommendations) so that would put her at 684g and she weighed 690g when she was at the emergency vet 10 days ago but their scale only has a resolution of 10g not 1g. So it doesn't look like there is much change but will keep monitoring it.
Maybe she is eating just not when I am there.

I will keep monitoring.
Last edited by rjespicer on Mon Jul 09, 2018 12:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.


Post   » Mon Jul 09, 2018 12:30 pm

FYI I have call in with the vet and may take her in later today for a check up.

I had also stopped Nalas Meloxicam after Friday as the 7 days was up, I don't know if that would also have an effect.


Post   » Mon Jul 09, 2018 4:57 pm

Vet wasn't available today so have an appointment at 4:15 tomorrow. She seems to be breathing ok but there is a slight pop each time she does.

Appart from just being quiet and not coming out she is still taking critical care when ever I offer it. About 30-40 ml so far today. She will take so much then stop. So I give it an hour or two and try again.


Post   » Mon Jul 09, 2018 8:00 pm

I gave Nala some BeneBac again around 1pm when the vet called. They said it shouldn't be a problem just that they didn't carry it.

4 hours later and she has been munching through some Kale and Endives I put in front of her. Will keep topping her up with Critical care as well. Will give her more BeneBac about 60-90 mins after her evening meds.


Post   » Mon Jul 09, 2018 11:05 pm

Interesting developments, not sure what it means but I am pleased with the results.

I picked up a couple of trays of wheatgrass at the supermarket.

I put one in near Nala was she perked up right away and worked her way through about half of it in a matter of minutes.

I then did her medication and she was reluctant to finish the Doxycycline so I picked her up to make sure she did (Usually her and Chunky will take their meds without needing to be picked up) and she was quite quiet. When I finished her meds I decided to weigh her again and her weight had gone up from 667 to 711 since this morning so either it was the critical care, hay and veggies I had been feeding her or she had been out eating when I wasn't looking. She seems much perkier and was out eating hay a little earlier. Lets hope she keeps it up.

What was also interesting is that I had put a little bit of BeneBac in with Siouxsie's critical care yesterday evening, as she wouldn't take it from the syringe. She has been underweight since we got her (She was 355g originally just after we got her) She has been on Simethicone for an issue with gas and we have been feeding her Critical care on a regular basis for weeks to try and get her weight up. Usually her weight fluctuates a few gras either way but in general tends to go up steadily, it has gone up about 30g from the start of the month but today she seemed to be eating like a champ and her weight is up 19g from yesterday to 555g.I hope she keeps that up between now and her vet visit on Saturday (Nalas visit is tomorrow.) but maybe that little bit of BeneBac was the kick start she needed. Will see what her weight is like tomorrow.

Its a real learning experience with these girls.

And got the T-shirt

Post   » Mon Jul 09, 2018 11:49 pm

Bear in mind that a teaspoon of water weighs five grams, so it doesn't take much food or water going in, or not going out, to look like a weight gain. What a pig gains in one day doesn't mean much -- what you're looking for is an upward trend.

On the other hand, a pig can lose significant weight in a day, particularly if it has diarrhea or is urinating excessively.


Post   » Tue Jul 10, 2018 5:23 pm


Siouxsie is the only one I have been weighing on a daily basis because of her GI Issues and low weight and she has put on about 200g since she was first weighed at the vet 11 weeks ago.

The others weren't very cooperative about being picked up to be weighed and would dash off or jump out of the scales.

I am also concerned that the scales I have are not that accurate and register 17g lower than the vet scale. It is a Escali 157dp.

I could really do with more accurate scales preferably that can be calibrated as well if anyone has any recommendations

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