ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Guinea Pig Illnesses: Prevention, Treatment, Hospice

Updated on February 22, 2013
Curious Guinea Pig
Curious Guinea Pig | Source

Guinea pigs are wonderful pets for all ages, especially for children. Whether you already have a guinea pig or are thinking of purchasing one, however, it’s important to realize that the happiness they bring can be easily tainted by sickness and even death. After caring for more than 20 guinea pigs over the years, I have pretty much seen it all. Thankfully, some illnesses can be prevented or treated successfully, with many guinea pigs living 5-6 years or more; in fact, that is considered typical. So, I’ll leave you with those positive thoughts as we get into examples (this is not a full listing) of what can go wrong.

Child Holding Guinea Pig
Child Holding Guinea Pig | Source

A Sensitive Nature

Changes you consider small can be catastrophic to guinea pigs, both physically and emotionally. Adjustments in feeding, for example, such as eliminating their pellet diet, can cause a guinea pig to stop eating with death following close behind. If you end up force-feeding, you must be careful not to cause aspiration. Feed through the side of the mouth, pushing in 1/2-1 cc at a time through the syringe.

Regulating temperature is also important. A chilled guinea pig can easily get a cold, which is very dangerous; overheating is just as worrisome. They don't like location changes either but will usually adapt. Teach proper handling to children, too; I once heard of a child whose guinea pig died from a hug that was too tight. Guinea pigs should be held firmly, but not tightly, in the crook of the arm.

Finally, they get scared very easily. I once had a guinea pig literally drop “dead” of fright after I made a sudden move. Vigorously rubbing her limp form revived her, but it was quite a scary experience and an important lesson.

Overgrown Nails and Teeth

Thankfully, this problem can be prevented easily. Guinea pigs' teeth and nails grow continuously, so providing their hard pellet diet is essential, as well as cutting their nails every 2-3 months. You can buy guinea pig nail cutters and do it yourself, but be sure to ask your vet for a demonstration first to avoid cutting into the quick. The light-colored nails are pretty easy, but the dark nails can be tricky; if you do make the nails bleed, don't panic. Apply Kwik-Stop powder to the bleeding nail; a soap bar or dry flour can work just as well.

Guinea Pig Bedding Ideas
Guinea Pig Bedding Ideas


When 2-year old Cocoa took a nap and never woke up, it was a total shock. Although there were multiple professional opinions on the cause, one view was that he died from the bedding being used at the time. Cedar bedding in particular and Pine to a lesser extent has dangerous toxins, so please only use Aspen. After experimenting for a while, I finally settled on a newspaper spread and shredded paper for my guinea pigs; it was less expensive, didn’t cause injuries, and best of all, they loved it! There are also some foods that are dangerous, including potato peels, iceberg lettuce, raw beans, cabbage, and whole nuts.


This very common illness is caused by a vitamin C deficiency. To help prevent scurvy, supplement your guinea pig's diet with vitamin C. There are various forms available, so talk to your vet. If you’re advised to add Vita-Drops to the water, make sure your guinea pig drinks it; you might have bigger problems otherwise. If you face rejection, keep trying frequently, and s/he will likely get used to it quickly. If prevention doesn't work, scurvy can thankfully be easily treated; the sooner it's caught, the sooner it's cured.


While common, too, they are basically untreatable and death is inevitable. However, guinea pigs react differently to being sick. Most of them rapidly give up the will to live, but this is not always the case. When Chaviv was diagnosed with a brain tumor, he didn't give up at all. Despite frequent seizures, he continued to drink normally and eat as much as he could. Chaviv ate cherry tomatoes by the box (not recommended under normal circumstances) and seemed to think that he could eat his way out of being sick. He was indeed a trooper who fought until the end.

Giving Ora a Bath
Giving Ora a Bath

Greasy Fur

Caused by an over production of oils in the body, these extra oils can eventually make the hair mat and cause infections later on in life. Giving frequent baths and brushing talcum powder (formulated for guinea pigs) through the fur can be very helpful. Using corn starch instead of guinea pig talcum powder is acceptable but will only eliminate some of the extra oils.

Cocoa, taken at his new home with my friends.
Cocoa, taken at his new home with my friends.

Final Message

The most important message to take from all this is that if your guinea pig is acting strange, take him/her to your vet immediately! What may not seem urgent might be fatal. In addition, please don’t regret having gotten your guinea pig or decide you’ll never have one; the positive aspects really do outweigh the risks. With an armory of prevention techniques I discuss above, along with some luck, you might end up with a healthy and happy guinea pig for many years!


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Chava Drummond profile imageAUTHOR

      Chava Drummond 

      5 years ago from Richmond, VA

      Thank you so much Eric!! I had never heard of diatomaceous earth, but Wikipedia even talks about its blood clotting function. So, thank you for teaching me something new!!

    • Eric Calderwood profile image

      Eric Calderwood 

      5 years ago from USA

      Great advice! I have some friends with several Guinea Pigs who would benefit from seeing this article. I'm going to share it on Facebook. Also, I wonder if using diatomaceous earth instead of talcum powder would work the way talcum powder does to get rid of extra oils in the fur. DE would also get rid of fleas and can be eaten as well to get rid of parasites. If you try it, just make sure the Guinea Pig doesn't breathe the dust when you apply it.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)