Background: My guinea pig Alleria has had on and off noisy breathing over the past year or so. We've been to the vet multiple times, but so far we can't figure out reason for it. It's very bizarre, sometimes it's wheezy, sometimes it's more like a soft rattle, and sometimes she has tiny little adorable sneezes and other times (like this morning) she will sneeze/cough at the same time so loud it almost sounds human and it rocks her forward so hard her face hits the ground and my heart seizes for a moment! But it will be may 60 seconds then go away for hours or days. Or last for 2-3 minutes and then be gone for weeks. I have tried tracking it with no rhyme or reason I can see to the issue. We've had something like a dozen vet appointments this year over it?
So far there's no sign of infection, no enlarged heart, no crusty nose. As far as we can tell, nothing lodged in the nose (like a hay seed) but I'll have them check that again when we go in on Monday. There was an 'inconclusive' lump in her chest - could just be the image, could be a fatty cyst, or could be a lung issue. We had x-rays in mid-November and we go in for follow up on Monday to see if it's changing.
Anyway all of this to say, we've ruled out so many things, that I'm wondering if it's environmental. Here is our current setup/situation:
- 4 girls in a large, 2-level cage with ramp (2x5 lower, 2x4 upper)
- We use fleece bedding and we sweep 2x a day, with a full cage clean every 5 days
- 1 flake of hay at a time is stored in a loosely closed box under their cage
- We mostly use timothy hay, but also use orchard grass when the timothy isn't good quality/too stemmy
- I generally avoid any seed pods in the hay, but from time to time a bit of it will sneak into timothy hay. I pull the pods out by hand when I see them, because they also make my husband's allergies worse
- EDIT to add: We also use unscented, dye-free laundry detergent, and we dry with wool dryer balls, no fabric softener.
Also, I ordered an air purifier with true HEPA filters and asthma/allergy certified, which arrives this weekend and her vet and I are both hoping it will help.
Another thing I thought of was using a fabric hay bag and swapping that out every cage clean to wash it and use a new one. Does anyone have experience with this? My concern is 4 girls, are the openings large enough, can the hay drop down well enough, that they would have enough hay while I"m at work? Particularly if it's a day I work later and they are longer without someone home.
So, any and all advice/guidance on hay types, hay delivery systems, or other ways you've helped reduce allergens and environmental issues in your home to help your guinea pigs with any issues, particularly with respiratory issues?
Thanks so much!