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Dr. B.
Dr. B., Board Certified Veterinarian
Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 22463
Experience:  General practice veterinary surgeon with extensive experience in a wide range of species.
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My guinea pig is breathing heavily and not eating

Customer Question

My guinea pig is breathing heavily and not eating
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Vet
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 3 years ago.
Hello & welcome, I am Dr. B, a licensed veterinarian and I would like to help you with your wee one today. I do apologize that your question was not answered before. Different experts come online at various times; I just came online, read about your wee one’s situation, and wanted to help.

First, I must say that I am very concerned about Polly. L
abored breathing is very serious in itself but her secondary anorexia is another major red flag that you need to be pro-active about and act quickly with her. I suspect it will likely seem that this has happened suddenly but we do have to appreciate that as a prey species, cavies often hide when they are unwell until their condition is quite advanced and can no longer be hidden (since telling the world you are unwell will make you a target for predation). Therefore, if her breathing is labored, this is a red flag that her lung situation (most likely a respiratory tract infection) is becoming advanced and breathing is a severe struggle and she needs help as quickly as possible.

Furthermore, we do have to appreciate while her lack of desire to eat is a secondary trouble, anorexia is actually very serious in this species (in fact it is one of the few emergencies for this species). Guinea pigs are designed to be eating all the time, as they have a gastrointestinal tract that is like conveyor belt and needs to be moving/digesting all the time. And if they aren't, then their guts ground to a halt, this can lead to serious consequences. Namely, the bacteria naturally in the system overgrow and release gas (painful!!) and toxins, which cause a pig to get even sicker and less keen to eat or drink.

Therefore, in light of her very serious signs, I would strongly advise seeing her vet urgently (even an ER one if yours is not open just now). Ideally, we'd want her lungs listened to and if she is really struggling then she may need to be hospitalized in an oxygen tent. Once her breathing is more stable, the vet can start treatment with antibiotics for lung based infections, provide hydration is she cannot drink, promotility drugs (to restart gut movement), and pain relief. Once these take effect, they will be able to restart feeding (often we need to syringe feed hourly until they are willing to eat for us again) to give her the best chance of surviving this situation.

Overall, Polly's is showing two sets of signs that are emergency signs for this species. Therefore, I would advise urgent care right as soon as possible, since home treatment won't likely be enough with signs this advanced. And j
ust to note in case you were keen to have her seen today, some veterinary practices in our country have Sunday office hours. As well, I wanted to mention that most veterinary practices here do have contingency plans for emergency care for their patients even when they are not open. Therefore, it is worth ringing the practice. If they are open, you can get her seen today. If they aren't, then they will likely have a message to direct you on how to contact their out of hours service. And if you don't have a vet you can find one local to you, you can check you can check the RCVS Register (HERE) to find your local Vets Now (LINK) who are open all nights/weekends. In any case,to give her the best chance there are options to get he seen today.

I hope this information is helpful.

If you need any additional information, do not hesitate to ask!

All the best,

Dr. B.


If you have any other questions, please ask me – I’ll be happy to respond. Please remember to rate my service once you have all the information you need. Thank you and hope to see you again soon! : )