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Sneezing guinea pig.

Species: Other
Breed: Guinea Pig
Age: 2-5 years
My guinea pig is sneezing and wiping her nose more frequntly than she did previously. Although never an active pig, she is even more lethargic than normal as well. Over the past 3 months, she has slowly lost a bit of weight (50 g) and has had both a URI and bladder stones. She is no longer squeaking while peeing, but I think I can hear clicking when she breathes. I have taken her back to the vet, who said her breathing sounds clear. I asked why I heard clicking, and was told that guinea pigs often have lots of fluid in their mouths, and the sound could be "anything". I also asked if he could at least review the X rays that were taken of her while she had the stones, which I was told were "meaningless" unless there were other obvious symptoms she exhibited. Frankly, I would like to send you the X rays so that I can get a second opinion. In particular, I would like to make sure there is no fluid on her lungs and that her heart does not look enlarged. If you think there may be something there, then I will take her in to another exotics vet.


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

It sounds like poor little Caramel has been through a lot lately.

I'll start with the stones that she had. When a guinea pig has bladder stones I generally don't do anything unless there are clinical signs. With dogs and cats we can often dissolve stones by feeding a special food but with guinea pigs we can't. Sometimes a piggie will pass a stone on their own but otherwise the only way to get rid of the stones is to do surgery.

I can see the vet's point that the previous radiographs wouldn't really tell us too much about how to treat her today. Let's say the xray shows some obvious stones. Well, if she has no symptoms today then it means that the stones are either not bothering her or she has passed them. In either case, there really isn't much that we would do.

Now, if she starts to develop signs of discomfort when urinating again then we could consider surgery or putting her on antibiotics. It's possible that the stones that are there could cause repeated urinary tract infections.

I'm more concerned about her respiratory signs though, especially because she is doing more sneezing and has more nasal discharge now. There are a few things that can cause these symptoms in guinea pigs. Guinea pigs can commonly get bacterial infections in their upper respiratory tract. Often the culprit is something called Bordetella or a type of Staph or Pasteurella. The best way to find out if this is what is happening is to have your vet do a culture and see what is growing there and which antibiotic would be best to use. However, some guinea pigs never seem to fully get rid of an upper respiratory tract infection. Vitamin C supplementation sometimes helps with these types of problems.

There are other things that can cause respiratory symptoms in Guinea pigs such as heart disease or a lung problem. But neither of these would be expected to cause sneezing or nasal discharge. Also, it is true that a clicking sound could mean a number of different things in a guinea pig. It doesn't really point to anything specific.

If this were my case I would likely base what I do on how your little girl is doing. If she is continuing to lose weight and we keep seeing sneezing and nasal discharge then I would likely do a culture and start her on some antibiotics. Sometimes guinea pigs with an upper respiratory tract infection can have dental problems as well, so I would maybe consider some xrays to look at her teeth.

If she didn't have worsening symptoms (i.e. her weight was staying the same and there wasn't too much nasal discharge) then I would make sure she has a good vitamin C supplement and just keep an eye on her.

If you think that she is getting worse then it's not a bad idea to have another vet take a look at her. But, it does sound like the vet is doing all of the same things I would.

I hope she does well!

Dr. Marie.



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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. AskAVetQuestion.com and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

Customer reply:

The stones were not why I wanted the vet to look at the X rays, I was concerned about her repiratory symptoms. She has already had a round of baytril, and gets a vitamin C supplement each day in addition to vegetables high in vitamin C. I have checked her front teeth which look fine, but of course I cannot check the back teeth. The X ray that was taken captures her whole body minus her head. She looks rather bloated to me on it, but of course, I am not a vet. Would you be able to take a look quickly? I understand you have never seen Caramel and cannot diagnose her, but you could at least tell me if you see something that is very out of the ordinary.


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

I definitely don't mind looking at the xray, but legally I'm limited in what I can say. I can't give you a diagnosis over the internet. If you've got a digital copy/photograph you can email it to me at photos@askavetquestion.com.

Thanks!

Dr. Marie.



Customer reply:

I have sent the photos to you. I understand that you are not allowed to diagnos my guinea pig over the internet. If you see anything that strikes you as out of the ordinary on the x rays, and are legally able to tell me those areas that hypothetically might have been of concern if this was your patient, then I will feel much better.

Thank you,

Shirelle


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

OK, thanks for the photos. I've reposted them here:

guinea pig xray

guinea pig xray

These photos do show the bladder stones. They kind of look like they are in the urethra which means they could get passed.

However, the chest is hard to assess. On the second photo the heart shape looks normal to me. It's really hard to say if there is fluid though.

Again, an upper respiratory infection is the most likely culprit here. I think a second opinion would really be a great idea. I really hope things improve!

Dr. Marie



Customer reply:

The stone that is visible on that X ray has since passed. I forgot to explain why I was concerned about fluid. Although her weight has not dropped a great deal, I can feel that her spine and back leg bones are sticking out a lot more than when she was "only" 25-50g more. She has a very tiny cage mate who is only 980g on a "fat" day. I have never been able to feel her cage mates spine and back leg bones as well as I can feel Caramels,which was another reason I was worried that the "slow" weight loss might be more drastic than I think.
She has been eating and drinking normally, which again baffles me as to why she would be losing weight. With her intake if anything, she should be gaining.

Thank you for looking at the X rays. I will look into taking her to another vet, since the sneezing has only gotten worse over the past couple months if anything. She is still very alert, and would not want things to progress to a point where she is no longer functioning. This is my 5th guinea pig, so I know how fast they can go down hill!

Thank you for your help!


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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.