Same as you, your guinea pig occasionally expels air from its nose and sneezes as you do. Usually, sneezing is not something you should worry about because it could just be a case of inhaling something like dust particles or smelling a strong perfume (allergens). The same happens if you give your small pet fresh hay. This is why we highly recommend that you opt to purchase dust extracted hay to avoid irritation.
But, the story is different if the sneezing becomes constant because this could already be a sign of an underlying health issue. Let us now dig deeper as to why your guinea pig is sneezing a lot.
When Should You Worry?
If sneezing comes with other symptoms like a runny nose, teary eyes, lethargy, labored breathing, coughing, drooling, and a hunched posture, then that is the time you should seriously think of taking your guinea pig to the vet. These symptoms, along with constant sneezing are signs of an upper or lower respiratory infection.
If not addressed right away, the problem could escalate to pneumonia which is harder to treat.
What Are the Causes of Respiratory Infection?
In most cases, the cause is a bacterial infection, either Bordetella or Streptococcus even both, for some cases. A lot of normal guinea pigs carry these bacteria in their systems but are asymptomatic. They pass on the bacteria to those who are not carriers. In fact, all guinea pigs may be carriers of either of the two (2) bacteria.
Normally, the bacteria do not pose any danger to your pet even if it is a carrier. The problem begins when your guinea pig gets stressed. This is because stress lowers down their immunity which then allows the bacteria to cause respiratory issues. That said, you must do your best to avoid stressing your small pet.
The Common Things That Can Stress Your Guinea Pig:
- Moving from where you bought it (pet store or breeder) to its new home.
- Getting too much attention from you to the point that it does not get its much-needed rest and sleep.
- If you have two guinea pigs, the aggression of the dominant one can stress the more timid one
- Crowding or too many guinea pigs in a small cage.
- The cage is not cleaned frequently.
- You may be using the wrong types of beddings. For example, cedar and pine have volatile oils that irritate your pet’s respiratory tract.
- Recent spaying or neutering.
- Unfavorable indoor air quality. For example, tobacco smoke and the use of air fresheners.
- Deficiency in Vitamin C.
- Dental problems because of the proximity of molar teeth to the nasal passages of guinea pigs.
What Are the Complications of Respiratory Problems?
If you observe that your guinea pig sneezes a lot, have it examined to avoid further health issues such as the following:
- Both the nasal and eye discharge can cause skin irritation
- A simple cold can lead to pneumonia
- A sick guinea pig loses its appetite which could result in digestive tract issues.
- Vitamin C deficiency due to lack of appetite.
- The tissue in the respiratory tract can get inflamed. This can cause the persistence and relapse of respiratory infection symptoms.
What Are the Treatment Plans?
Once the diagnosis is done (skull and chest x-rays), the vet will create an individual plan for each guinea pig. The treatment plan may be any of the following:
- Oral antibiotics
- Giving Vitamin C supplements
- Dental treatments
- Eye medication
- Hospitalization for injectable meds and oxygen therapy
- You’d be advised to clean and sanitize its cage more often
- Get another cage to stop overcrowding and bullying
- The use of an environmental humidifier
- Correcting of bedding problems like using aspen shavings
Though it may be normal for your guinea pig to sneeze once in a while as a result of allergens, what you have to watch out for is if the sneezing becomes too much. It could already be a respiratory tract problem.