Will she get better on her own?

Q:

My guinea pig is eating and pooping normally, wheeking and running around as normal. However, she is also sneezing a lot, sometimes gets crusty eyes and a chest rattle. I did some research online, and the advice was conflicting. I can’t afford to take her to the vets at the moment as I lost my job during the lockdown. Does she have a cold, similar to a human cold? She doesn’t look like she’s suffering and hasn’t been getting any worse. Will she get over this on her own?

A: Dr Alison Wills

It sounds like your guinea pig may be suffering from a respiratory infection that will not resolve on its own. It is positive that she hasn’t deteriorated further, but she may be entering a chronic disease course (where the problem goes on for a long time), which won’t get better without treatment. It would be cheaper and easier to treat this respiratory infection now rather than leave it, and the problem becomes persistent. You may find that she is intermittently ill for the rest of her life, which would not be a nice way for her to live.

 Unfortunately, she could die from this, and it is not uncommon for guinea pigs to die from respiratory infections even if veterinary care is sought straight away. It might be the case that you can take her back to the pet shop you purchased her from (if you acquired her recently), and they may cover the costs of as much treatment as she needs to get her better. If you have had her longer, it might be the case that the veterinary care she needs is not as expensive as you think. 

Perhaps phone a local vet and ask how much a small animal consultation is and what they estimate it could cost with some medicines on top of that. Pets do, unfortunately, cost some money in terms of vet bills throughout their lives. 

So whilst it is very sad if this is something you are unable to afford, it might be best to relinquish your guinea pig to a charity or rescue centre who will look after her and get her the veterinary care she needs. I wish you all the best and hope you can get your pet to a vet and that she gets better.

A: Wiebke Wiese Thomas

Please have your girl vet checked. She needs an antibiotic to get on top of her well-developed bacterial upper respiratory tract infection (URI), which she is obviously not getting on top of on her own. 

A human cold is viral, so they are not the same at all. Not all untreated URIs are deadly, but they can leave permanent scarring in the airways and a reservoir of bacteria which can flare up much worse again later in life.

 I have looked after a guinea pig with upper and lower lung disease due to an undertreated UTI earlier in life before I adopted her. It was not fun, and it was a lot more expensive than the appropriate initial treatment would have been. I wish she could have been spared her breathing problems in later life! In newly bought guinea pigs where exposure and infection have happened at the pet shop, you can reclaim any vet fees from the pet shop based on a diagnosis and by presenting the vet bill together with your purchase receipt. 

US chain pet shops will cover illnesses in the first month after purchase; this goes for 2-3 weeks in the UK. It is part of your regular customer rights for having been sold damaged ware. The right to medical care is part of the five basic animal rights (the freedom from pain and suffering). Please always save up for a vet fund as part of the weekly/monthly maintenance cost. 

When things go wrong with guinea pigs, they very often do very suddenly and very badly. I hope you will give your little piggy the care she needs right now and a happy and healthy long life. All the best!

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