Common Mistakes in Treating Sick Cavies


Post   » Sat Jan 08, 2005 4:13 am

Although guinea pig illnesses can never be reduced to simple formulas, there are common medical conditions which make frequent appearances on Guinea Lynx, and those conditions are accompanied by common obstacles in treatment.

I thought it might help new owners to see what kind of serious mistakes people often make when dealing with their sick guinea pigs. It helps to see your situation as shared by other people, and one is more likely to heed warnings if you know that it has led to misfortune in the past.

The primary objective is to reduce the number of preventable deaths that we see happening every day.

So Pigglies and I chose 7 very common but serious health problems that occur with guinea pigs, and tried to think of the mistakes that we have seen owners make time and time again. We limited ourselves to 5 "common mistakes" for each illness. At the beginning we wrote a list of general mistakes that could be applied to any of the listed health problems.

We based the lists on our observations and involvement with the Emergency and Medical forum over the past few years (2 for Pigglies, 2 1/2 for me). And, not being fools, we ran the lists by Josephine first.

So here they are.


Post   » Sat Jan 08, 2005 4:16 am

Most Common Mistakes -- General

1. Dismissing medical signs as non-medical

2. Waiting to see a vet

3. Seeing a non-exotics vet

4. Accepting veterinary diagnosis/treatment without question or research

5. Failure to get proper diagnostic procedures done

6. Mistaking secondary signs of illness as the primary cause

7. Mistakes with medications – wrong medication or insufficient dosage or duration


Post   » Sat Jan 08, 2005 4:20 am

URI (Upper Respiratory Infections)

1. Dismissing signs as allergies. The result is worsening of the illness and increased danger to the pig.

2. Neglecting to get antibiotics. Bacteria flourish and the illness progresses.

3. Wrong antibiotic. Even some exotic vets only treat cavies with Baytril. But not all bacteria are sensitive to this antibiotic.

4. Not considering a heart condition as the culprit. In cavies a heart condition may appear in the form of repeated URIs that do not respond to antibiotics.

5. Not making use of other drugs besides antibiotics. A severe URI can lead to pneumonia. In severe cases Diuretics, Bronchodialators, or even oxygen may be required to save the guinea pig.


Post   » Sat Jan 08, 2005 4:23 am

Urinary Tract Problems

1. Neglecting to treat signs of a stone as an urgent situation. Many guinea pigs have died from urinary blockage.

2. Dismissing squeaking while pooping or attributing this as something not related to bladder problems. It almost always is.

3. Not getting X-rays to rule out stones when bladder problems are suspected.

4. Opting for non-surgical treatments for bladder stones (such as using injections or hoping that a stone will pass). Passing a bladder stone is rare, especially for boars.

5. Not giving intensive postoperative care to guinea pigs who have had a stone removed. Swelling after surgery can cause urinary blockage. Some problems with the genitourinary tract may affect the G.I. system, causing bloat, diarrhea, or other conditions that need immediate treatment.
Last edited by Charybdis on Sat Jan 08, 2005 4:25 am, edited 1 time in total.


Post   » Sat Jan 08, 2005 4:25 am


1. Not using antibiotics to kill the organism that is present. Guinea pigs are very susceptible to infection.

2. Not flushing the abscess site to keep it open and the infection reduced.

3. Not getting drains inserted, in which case the abscess may seal up but still contain infection.

4. No pain medication, in which case the guinea pig may stop eating from pain.

5. Aspirating without removing encapsulated abscesses, such as those caused by cervical lymphadenitis, causing infection to return.


Post   » Sat Jan 08, 2005 4:29 am

Hair Loss

1. Dismissing parasites because they are not visible to the naked eye.

2. Treating with sprays, dips, or shampoos, instead of ivermectin or other Avermectin compounds -- the only known medication to properly treat guinea pig mites.

3. Improper dosing of Ivermectin by not giving at least 3 doses or by using inaccurate methods such as the "just a few drops" method or "toothpick" method with paste.

4. Not treating all pigs in the household, regardless of contact.

5. Relying on skin scrapings for diagnosis. They often give false negatives. [See Ciaytee's account -- Lynx]


Post   » Sat Jan 08, 2005 4:32 am

Teeth Problems

1. Not getting the molars examined. Teeth problems in guinea pigs almost always originate with the molars.

2. Not using the proper tools – Namely, buccal pad separators, to examine the molars properly.

3. Trimming the incisors but not the molars. Especially with Resco nail trimmers, a common veterinary tool but one that can do significant damage to cavy teeth.

4. No x rays. This is a good way to miss an underlying problem in the jaw.

5. Not thinking teeth first! Often a guinea pig will waste away while even a good exotics vet looks for other causes. The resulting weight loss can be fatal.


Post   » Sat Jan 08, 2005 4:34 am

GI Disturbance – constipation, diarrhea, bloat

1. Not treating constipation as an emergency. This often means G.I. stasis, very difficult to reverse.

2. Not looking for bloat in the case of diarrhea, constipation, or not eating. This is a leading cause of death in guinea pigs.

3. Dismissing diarrhea as “stress” when it is almost always medically related.

4. Using/abusing only anti-diarrhea medication as treatment, or using improper over-the-counter diarrhea medication. These don’t treat the cause and can make the condition worse.

5. Not using motility drugs to help get the G.I. tract moving once it has slowed/stopped.


Post   » Sat Jan 08, 2005 4:38 am

Not Eating

1. Waiting to hand feed. Waiting even 24 hours can spell disaster for a guinea pig’s GI tract.

2. Not hand feeding often enough or at all – if you are going to save the pig you need to give it your full effort, around the clock.

3. Not feeding appropriate supplements. Baby food and pureed vegetables lack the fiber of critical care or pellet mash. The result may be bloat.

4. Not weighing the pig. Without a scale you won’t notice weight loss until it is too late.
5. Neglecting to hydrate the pig, as well as hand feed. GI stasis needs hydration to correct itself.

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Post   » Sat Jan 08, 2005 10:36 am

This is great, Charybdis! I made this a sticky and added a link to Ciaytee's sad tale of misdiagnosed mites. Hope that's okay with you.


Post   » Sat Jan 08, 2005 1:19 pm

I'm glad you like it. Pigglies worked very hard researching too.

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Post   » Sat Jan 08, 2005 2:14 pm

I added a link to this information on what a vet will do in the guide, and on my help page:

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