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Post   » Fri Jan 03, 2003 11:26 am

All antibiotics will affect the gut flora of a guinea pig. Some are toxic to guinea pigs and can cause a deadly and fatal enterotoxemia. All penicillin based drugs are toxic to pigs! Amoxicillin (Clavamox) is one that is frequently and mistakenly prescribed by unknowledgeable vets. Please ensure your pig is not being prescribed any penicillin based drugs. A vet experienced in treating guinea pigs should never prescribe any of these medicines and should be able to provide you with a more complete list of toxic medications or find that information. If not, find another vet.
DANGEROUS ANTIBIOTICS (a list of some of the most deadly antibiotics)
  • amoxicillin (Clavamox)
  • bacitracin
  • cephalexin * (derivative: Cefadroxil)
  • chlortetracycline
  • clindamycin
  • erythromycin
  • lincomycin
  • oxytetracycline
  • penicillin
  • streptomycin
  • * -- derivatives of any of the above drugs
The following antibiotics are commonly used to treat a variety of problems in guinea pigs. Most antibiotics are prescribed in oral form for the pet owner to administer at home, though several can be administered by subcutaneous or intramuscular routes. For a more complete list of antibiotics, check Louise Czupryna's Medications for Guinea Pigs/Cavies at Note, Cephalexin appears on this list as an intramuscular medication only. Given orally it can be deadly. Some vets will avoid its use entirely. Tetracycline also appears on this list. It is not a good choice for a respiratory bacterial infection. Doxycycline does not appear on this list but has been successfully used by members of this forum.

Commonly Prescribed Antibiotics
  • Bactrim (SMZ-TMP; trimethoprim sulfa; tribressin; sulfamethoxazole trimethoprim)
  • Baytril (Enrofloxacin)
  • Chloramphenicol (Chloramphenicol sodium succinate, Chloramphenicol palmitate)
  • Doxycycline (Vibramycin)
BACTRIM -- (aka trimethoprim sulfa; SMZ-TMP; sulfamethoxazole trimethoprim; tribressin)
Oral Dose: 30 mg/kg q12h (i.e. a dose of 30mg/kg is given every 12 hours, for a total of 60 mg/kg in 24 hours)

Bactrim is a commonly used human and veterinary antibiotic and generally comes in a standard suspension. Each 5.0 ml of this pediatric oral suspension (one of the drugs sometimes referred to as "the pink stuff") contains 200mg sulfamethoxazole and 40mg trimethoprim/5ml for a total of 240mg active ingredients/5ml or 48mg/cc. A dose of 0.625 cc would provide 30mg bactrim for a pig of one kilo (2.2 pounds).

It is considered by some to be the drug of choice for urinary tract infections (UTI's). Squeak Pig notes it is used for urinary tract, ear and lung infections and kills the following: P. carnii, E. coli, Enterobacter, Klebsiella, Streptococcus, Staphylococcus, Pseudomonas cepacia, Pasturella, Clostridia, Proteus, Salmonella, Shigella, Brucella

BAYTRIL -- (aka Enrofloxacin)
Oral Dose: 2.5-5.0 mg/kg q12h
Baytril can be administered by oral, subcutaneous or intramuscular routes.

Baytril is considered one of the "big guns", frequently used to treat guinea pigs with bacterial infections. Squeak Pig notes it kills: E. coli, K. pneumoniae, P. mirabilis, S. aureus. Baytril can affect the appetite, more likely when given orally. Ideally baytril should only be used on adult pigs as it is believed to interfere with proper growth, particularly in long term treatment. Bactrim (Tribrissen) and Doxycycline (Vibravet) are safe alternatives for young pigs.

CHLORAMPHENICOL -- (Chloramphenicol sodium succinate [Subcutaneous, Intramuscular], Chloramphenicol palmitate [oral])
Oral Dose: 50 mg/kg q12h

Squeak Pig notes it kills: H. influenzae, S. typhi, Rickettsia, Neisseria, Mycoplasma which cause lung infections.

DOXYCYCLINE -- (Vibramycin)
Oral Dose: 5mg/kg q12h

Pinta has noted, "The Doxy dose that has worked the best for us is 5mg/kg twice a day. This is the same as the rat dose. We have found the usual dose of 2.5mg/kg just doesn't totally knock out a URI."

Is it the right antibiotic? Ideally, bacteria should be cultured to ensure that the correct antibiotic is being used. If a culture is taken, the bacteria can be identified and the appropriate antibiotics suggested. Labs will list all drugs and their sensitivity but it is up to your vet to make sure the drugs listed are safe for guinea pigs. -- Pinta This can be especially helpful with an abscess or infection on any part of the body where more than one bacterial infection may be present, requiring treatment with multiple antibiotics. With a respiratory bacterial infection, there may be little time and an antibiotic must be prescribed for treatment in the hope it will be effective.

How do I know if it's working? Ask your vet how soon you should see results. Once the pig is on medication, you should be able to see an improvement within 2 or 3 days (especially important if your pet has a respiratory infection). Sometimes you will see an improvement as quickly as within 12 hours. The pig should NOT get worse. -- Pinta If your pig is not responding, have the vet SWITCH TO ANOTHER DRUG. Do not take no for an answer! In treating pigs, time is of the essence. Often the vet will have to take an educated guess at which drug to prescribe and just as often the infection can turn out to be resistant to the drug selected. And review the article on What the Vet Will Do ( ) before you see the vet.

What is antibiotic intolerance? For a few guinea pigs, antibiotic use affects the appetite and they may stop eating. If a loss of appetite, diarrhea or lethargy develops while on the antibiotic, it may be an indication that the pig is intolerant to it, or the infection is resistant to it, requiring a change in medication. If the pig remains on a drug it is intolerant to, the results could be fatal. -- Pinta If your cavy develops any of these symptoms, call your vet! Read Pinta's article on antibiotic intolerance for more information ( ).

How long do I give antibiotics? Your vet will most likely provide you with sufficient medication for a course of treatment and ask that you give the full amount. Baytril is typically prescribed for no less than a week at a time. When treating a urinary tract infection, antibiotics may need to be given for 2 or more weeks while the irritation heals. If symptoms recurr after completing a course of treatment, contact your vet immediately. In some instances, an antibiotic like baytril may even be prescribed for two consecutive days a week for an extended period of time to prevent a urinary tract infection from developing.

What are probiotics? All antibiotics affect the normal gut flora to a greater or lesser extent. Dangerous antibiotics like penicillin are deadly because affects the normal flora of the gut, causing a fatal and irreversible diarrhea. But even recommended antibiotics may affect the flora.

A half of a dropping from a healthy cavy dissolved in a small amount of water and added to the food is reportedly the best way to re-inoculate the good bacteria and boost appetite, especially if your cavy is on antibiotics. Other people feel the addition of a small amount of powder from an acidophilus gel tablet will help to restore gut flora. Yogurt has live acidophilus cultures but is not the best choice as it is a dairy product. Since cavies are herbivores, milk products are not recommended.

The probiotics would be given an hour or two after administering the antibiotic. Acidophilus cultures can be given freely (sprinkle a part of the contents of a capsule on wet vegetables). They will only help.

Mite and Lice Treatments
  • Advantage
  • Ivermectin
Advantage -- (imidacloprid) for lice only [it does NOT kill mange mites]
Dose, topical 10mg/pound; yields ~0.1cc/pound

One application lasts for 30 days, unless it is washed off (detergent shampoo).
Concentration: 91 mgs/ml. The dosage for all animals is 10 mg/pound of body weight. Advantage can be used on pregnant cavies and newly weaned young. It is a stable drug with no expiration date. Read more:

Ivermectin -- for mange mites (hairloss, scratching, pain)
Dose (oral or intramuscular) 0.2mg/kg -- (oral, see: )
Dose (topical) 0.5mg/kg -- (topical, see: )

Ivermectin is the treatment of choice for mange mites. All routes of treatment are effective. If mange mites are suspected (they are not visible to the naked eye) DO NOT DELAY TREATMENT! THESE MITES CAN KILL! Read more:

Topical treatment may also kill lice and fur mites. Ivermectin is safe to use on pregnant sows. The young are best treated after they reach 12 ounces (340 gm) in weight. Treatment must be repeated at least once, 7 to 10 days later to kill the emerging mites (ivermectin does not kill the eggs).

For complete information on treatment using ivermectin, read:

Commonly Prescribed Nutritional Supplements
  • Critical Care (see article on Hand Feeding)
  • Lactated Ringers Solution
  • Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)
Critical Care -- (dietary supplement)

Critical Care has received high praise from those who have used it. Available by mail order, the Oxbow Hay Company ( ) prefers that you contact your veterinarian (who should examine and diagnose your pet's illness) to order it. They provide a phone number for emergencies. Find information on Hand Feeding:

Lactated Ringers Solution -- (fluids and electrolytes given subcutaneously, by prescription only)

Josephine has mentioned that there are different types of fluids for different conditions. The most common is LRS (Lactated Ringer's Solution) which is an RX only product.

Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid) -- (See article on scurvy)
Oral Dose: 50mg/kg to treat scurvy, 25 to 50mg/kg for ill pigs, 25mg/kg for healthy pigs

Chewable flavored C can be found in 100 mg tablets which when quartered will add 25 mg to a guinea pig's intake. Some people have good luck with liquid vitamin C, which can be found at some health food stores. In cases of deficiency, providing small amounts of vitamin C several times during the day when hand feeding or administering medications may help treat scurvy more quickly.

Vitamin supplements, if used, should only contain ascorbic acid. "Multivitamins should not be used because of the potential for toxic overdose of vitamins other than C." (Harkness and Wagner)

Medical Terminology

The most accurate and easy to understand terminology for describing when to administer drugs is q24h, q12h, q8h etc, where a dose is given and the next dose is given "X" hours later (24 hours, 12 hours, 8 hours, etc.). Since older terminology may mislead the lay person into the belief that doses need not be spaced evenly over a given period of time, I suggest avoiding the old terminology:

SID = daily
BID = twice daily
TID = three times daily
QID = four times daily

And instead use:

q24h = every 24 hours
q12h = every 12 hours
q8h = every 8 hours
q4h = every 4 hours


Liquid oral medication is generally administered in a 1cc needleless syringe, in the correct measured amounts. Shaking the medication will help ensure the active ingredient is in suspension. After giving your pet his medication, disassemble the syringe, rinse and allow to dry/air between doses. For tips on how to administer oral meds (with illustration), see:
Pills Try to get the pill in the back of the mouth (from the side) to the molars. A hemostat (a scissor-handled clamp used for compressing bleeding blood vessels, available at a medical supply store) is perfect for dosing pigs with pills, as they can be inserted down to the molars where it is much harder to eject.
Subcutaneous fluids A butterfly catheter is the easiest method for administering subcutaneous fluids (use new needles every time). Your vet can show you how. A description (with illustrations) of one person's experiences learning to give fluids to her ferret may be helpful. See: Be sure to view all the instructional pages by using the right pointing arrows at the bottom of the page.

Note: Antibiotics and other medications should NOT put in drinking water. This is a very ineffective and inaccurate method of treating your pet. If your vet gives you a medication to administer in this fashion, find another vet.

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