Diarrhea in Guinea Pigs
Domestic guinea pigs (Cavia porcellus) are rodents belonging to the suborder Hystricomorpha. They are strict herbivores, feed primarily at dawn and exhibit coprophagy (eating their own feces) several times during the day. Guinea pigs establish their food preferences early in life. Dietary and environmental changes can be challenging for this species and they may refuse to eat if their food is changed in type or presentation. Fiber is fermented in the hindgut and serves as their main source of energy. Coprophagy is essential for optimal fiber digestion and protein utilization. When this natural behavior does not occur, guinea pigs lose weight, digest less fiber and excrete more minerals in the feces (Johnson, 2012).
Watery diarrhea is not common in guinea pigs, but soft stools are a frequently observed. A diet with an excessive amount of carbohydrates or without enough fiber can cause soft stools. Some animals may present soft stools intermittently without an obvious cause. Parasites and bacteria are also common causes of diarrhea in guinea pigs.
Bacterial causes of diarrhea
Bacterial enteritis is a common cause of diarrhea. Some causes of bacterial diarrhea include Yersinia pseudotuberculosis, Escherichia coli, Clostridium perfringens, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Citrobacter freundii, and Listeria monocytogenes, Clostridium piliforme and Salmonella typhimurium and Salmonella enteritidis. Infected animals may present with lethargy, anorexia, diarrhea, weight loss, dehydration, and death. Young, stressed, or immunocompromised animals are particularly susceptible to infection.
Parasitic causes of diarrhea
Coccidiosis is a very common disease in recently weaned animals. It is caused by a protozoan parasite called Eimeria caviae and is characterized by lethargy, anorexia, pasty stool, diarrhea of 4 to 5 days of duration, and death in young guinea pigs. Constipation may follow diarrhea. Good sanitation will disrupt the life cycle of the parasite and the administration of an antiparasitic drug will be needed.
The protozoan Cryptosporidium wrairi causes cryptosporidiosis in guinea pigs. Infected animals show failure to gain weight, weight loss, potbellied appearance, diarrhea, and death. Affected animals may have a greasyappearing hair coat. Contaminated water or food is the main cause of this disease. Some animals are able to recover without treatment within 4 weeks and will become resistant to a subsequent infection. Prevention through hygiene measure is key because there is no effective treatment to kill this parasite.
Paraspidodera uncinata, the guinea pig roundworm, is part of the normal flora of the cecum and colon; however, heavy infections may cause diarrhea, weight loss, and unthriftiness. Transmission occurs by ingestion of eggs, and it can be treated with ivermectin (an antiparastic drug).
Regardless of the underlying cause, diarrhea is a serious problem in guinea pigs and it should be treated immediately. Dehydration should be prevented through the oral administration of fluids. A good source of fiber and probiotics are also helpful in the treatment of diarrhea. Hygiene and sanitation is key to prevent bacterial and parasitic infections and to keep your guinea pig healthy.
Guinea Pig Diarrhea Treatment
Treatment should include the administration of warm fluids, assisted feeding, and supplemental heat. An adequate amount of dietary fiber should be provided. Your veterinarian will probably prescribe antibiotic treatment. Guinea pigs are very sensible to antibiotic toxicity, for that reason, you should never administer an antibiotic without the prescription of your veterinarian. Probiotic supplements may be useful to repopulate the beneficial gut flora, which may be lost due to diarrhea and antibiotic treatment. Reduction of stress, good sanitation, and thoroughly washing fruits and vegetables prior to feeding are essential prevention measures.
Read this guide about the proper feeding for your guinea pig.
Johnson, D.H. (2012). The Gastrointestinal Tract of the. Guinea Pig: Health and Disease. Avian and Exotic Animal Care, Raleigh, NC, USA
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