I´d appreciate getting some additional input on this topic:
We´ve been having a lot of problems in our area recently with outbreaks of respiratory infections in guinea pigs. Even more than would usually be expected. Some of us are beginning to wonder if it´s worthwhile (and if it´s safe) to vaccinate our guinea pigs. At least one cavy knowledgeable veterinarian in the area has recommended vaccination for guinea pigs.
According to the Provet (UK) site, Bordetella is the most common bacteria causing respiratory disease in guinea pigs. Vaccination against Bordetella is usually recommended for pet cats and dogs, yet few guinea pig owners have their animals vaccinated against this potentially fatal disease. Bordatella is also a disease with zoonotic potential, i.e. it can be transmitted to humans from animals.
The Provet site (UK) notes:
Guinea pigs : Bordetella bronchiseptica is the most common bacteria causing respiratory disease in guinea pigs. It results in abnormal respiratory sounds, sneezing, a nasal discharge, inappetance, depression, weight loss and in severe cases death.
Therapy is often unsuccessful even when started early. Broad spectrum antibiotics are otherwise indicated e.g. chloramphenicol 20mg/kg body weight intramuscularly twice a day, OR chloramphenicol 50mg/kg body weight three times daily by mouth. Unfortunately animals that survive the acute stages become carriers of the infection.
Use of pig B.bronchiseptica vaccine and the use of an autogenous vaccine have both been tried in guinea pigs - with success. Unfortunately vaccinated animals become carriers of the infection.
The bacteria can remain present in the environment for several weeks and continues to be shed for up to 4 months by infected animals after their recovery.
What exactly does it mean when an animal is a "carrier"? Does it mean that a vaccinated animal is able to spread the disease, or merely that the organism is present in the body with any outward signs? Under what circumstances could a "carrier" transmit the disease to an unvaccinated animal? I´m not clear on how this works.
The risk is probably the same risk as with humans and vaccines and dogs and vaccines for that matter. A tiny percentage might have a problem.
Does anyone know if the type of vaccine, or method of administering it, have a significant influence on the risks?
I don´t believe it would be worth vaccinating guinea pigs that are unlikely to be exposed to potentially infectious animals, but perhaps in a rescue or shelter situation it might be worth considering.
Does anyone know about the "carrier" status and what risk for spreading disease that implies? Josephine, maybe?
Bordatella is an airborne disease. It is very easily transmissible from one animal to another, even if they don´t come into contact with each other. Transmission through contact is possible as well, because sneezing is usually involved, and those little buggers stay around for a bit, so it would be very probable to give bordatella to lots of animals just by touching them.
As with a lot of viral diseases, if the animal´s immune system is good enough they can have the infection, yet not show any symptoms from it, but still pass it on to someone else. This means that the animal is a carrier.
As for vaccinating...these are our reccomendations for dogs (my clinic doesn´t do cats yet):
*most boarding facilities require a bordatelle vaccine before boarding
*for the best effectiveness, it should be given at least 3 days before boarding.
*there are 2 routes of vaccinating (at least in the dog world), intranasally and injection. There has been a debate going on as to which one is better. Currently my clinic uses the intranasal because we believe that it works better that way. It also eliminates the possibility of a reaction at the injection site...because there isn´t one.
*As with any vaccine, there´s always a chance for some sort of reaction, even if it´s intranasal. We´ve seen dogs develop symptoms of kennel cough (bordatella) within a few days of getting the vaccine. It´s usually not quite as nasty as the full round of it.
*When a dog has kennel cough, they are isolated as much as possible. Our clinic doesn´ t have the ability, but it´s great if the air supply was separate from the rest of the clinic, since it is an airborne disease. Each time a person touches anything to do with the dog, they are to wash their hands and spray themselves down with a disinfectant...we use A464.
We try not to vaccinate animals that don´t board often (we booster every 6 months), because we don´t like to overvaccinate. As for the guinea pig world, I would think that most people wouldn´t need to worry about it....but then again, most people don´t have a lot of guinea pigs, either. Maybe increasing air flow into the room, daily disinfecting....a round of antibiotics for everyone, isolating new pigs....could possibly eliminate the problem for a household. Maybe the shelters should consider it, though, unless there´s room for a sort of isolation ward.
Well, I hope I didn´t completely confuse anyone, and I hope that I answered questions.... :) I´m sure I could find out more information if needed.
Remember all my information came from dealing with dogs....I don´t know what kind of vaccine is available for guinea pigs.
- Little Jo Wheek
-Possible problems from stimulation of immune system.
-Vaccines are different for various species. There are no studies of vaccines available now in cavies.
-Side effects are not uncommon, including contracting a form of the disease. Injectable vaccines must be boostered and are not as effective (we use in caution animals). Intranasal vaccines work better.
Yes, I am not extremely clear about the physiological problems with the animals being carriers, but it does mean they have a weakened form of the microbe. This could potentially be passed on to other animals, although I do not know how viable it is.
Another good thing to note is the vaccine is not 100% effective against bordetella or URIs. There are many causes for URIs and a cavy may be infected against one of these other organisms OR the bordetella that infects the animal could be one that is a different strain (serovar). Microbes are very good at adapting, which is why they will be here after all other life on earth is gone.
I´d love it if anyone else has any more input. This issue comes up from time to time and I did consider it some time ago. I have since irradicated URIs from my herd. I adopted strict cavy quarantine regimens and better husbandry. I haven´t had a URI in my pigs for more than 3 years (I rescued one pet store pig with a URI), and the most recent case other than that one was more than 7 years ago. A lot is definitely environmental, which is why shelters (even very well run ones) have epidemics of Bordetella and intestinal parasites.
Carrier means a species which carries the microorganism and shed it, but never will be ill from it. The carried organisms are harmful to other species.
Carrier also that individual, who had the infection, and recovered, but carries the microorganism just for a sort time period, not all in the whole life time, as the "real"carriers do.
Although Billy Bob did not have any side effects, the vet that I use now (an excellent cavy vet) called the other vet "a quack," shook his head at the news of the bordetella shot, and called it "ridiculous." He said exactly the same thing as Josephine, that it probably didn't do the pig any good and might very well have made him sick.
On the rabbit issue, I've had many dwarf rabbits and their diet is significantly different. Aside from the vitamin C issue, there is the problem of veggies. It has been my experience that rabbits, especially the purebred dwarfs with their not-so-great immune systems, cannot tolerate as much vegetables as guinea pigs.
While guinea pigs love to munch a cup a day (or more) of veggies, rabbits seem to get diarrhea much more easily, especially the babies. Can't tell you how many times someone came back into the pet store where I worked (many years ago) telling me that they gave their baby dwarf a whole carrot then it got diarrhea and died. My own dwarfs at home tolerated a lot less veggies than my piggies do.
These are just some things to think about. How will you make sure that the guinea pig gets enough fresh vegetables and vitamin C while keeping the rabbit on its own diet?