Do you have a guinea pig as a pet? Guinea pigs, also known as Cavia porcellus by scientists, are becoming more common as pets each year, however, many people are treating them as cats or dogs and many times forget that they are a completely different species and require different care. Guinea pigs are simple to take care of, when compared to other pets such as hedgehogs, for example, but this does not take away the fact that they require different needs and must all be tended to.
If you find that your guinea pig is experiencing pain or haematuria (blood in the urine) read on and ask yourself if your pet has any of these symptoms, If they do, be ready to set up an appointment with the veterinarian ASAP.
What is a urinary tract infection in a guinea pig?
Female guinea pigs have shorter urethras than other mammals and for this reason, it is very common for them to develop urinary tract infection. The anus is also in very close proximity to the urethra, so this facilitates transmission of bacteria into the urinary tract and into the bladder. Urinary tract infections can cause cystitis (Schuhmann, et al., 2015).
What causes this disease?
Urinary tract infections can be caused by multiple bacteria, however, some of the most common cause cystitis as well, which is the inflammation of the bladder. Escherichia coli is frequently found in patients with cystitis and sometimes even found to have a certain degree of resistance. Bacterial resistance happens when a strain of bacteria is exposed to small doses of antibiotics and begin to produce proteins in the cell that help them become immune to an antibiotic. This is why it is important to conduct a culture and antibiogram of the bacteria because it will tell the clinician if the strain is immune to an antibiotic and if it is necessary to use a stronger one. Pasteurella species, Staphylococcus haemolyticus or Streptococcus are also known to cause this disease.
Signs and symptoms to look out for.
Common signs when a guinea pig has a UTI can include a fever of up to 104ºF, inappetence, squeaking when urinating, lethargy, blood in urine, dehydration and signs of pain when touching the lower abdomen.
How is this disease diagnosed?
A veterinarian might think your guinea pig has either urinary calculi or a urinary tract infection and will conduct a series of tests to help figure out what is the root cause of the issue. Ultrasound is a diagnostic method that will help visualize the structures in your guinea pig’s abdomen and identify any increase or decrease in size of organs or presence of abnormal structures such as calculi or solid objects. This is important because it is also very common for UTIs to occur at the same time as urinary calculi. Radiograph may also be offered to rule out any abnormal structures inside the abdomen.
What available treatments are there for the treatment of UTI?
Veterinarians will prescribe antibiotics such as enrofloxacin, meloxicam for a couple of days or weeks, depending on the severity. Antibiotics depend on the strain present in your guinea pig’s bladder or urinary tract. Some bacteria may be resistant to a couple of antibiotics so it is very important for your veterinarian to take a sample and send it to the lab to make sure they use the right antibiotic. Antibiotics can temporarily decrease the function of the immune system so this is why it is very important to know which one to use immediately and not have to use other ones first. After an adequate and consistent treatment, guinea pigs have a good prognosis and survival rates are high.
Never give your guinea pig over the counter medicine and always ask a veterinarian before giving them any medication. Guinea pigs are especially delicate in their metabolic pathways and many of the medications that are used in humans can potentially harm them if not given in the right way.
It is also important to encourage water intake by using different forms of environmental enrichment by always providing fresh and clean water and offer more than one bottle of water in their cage. Fruit or vegetable infusions can be used such as cucumber or watermelon.
How can I prevent this disease?
There are many things you can do to help prevent a guinea pig, especially a female which are more vulnerable to this disease. Make sure the hairs around the genitals (anus and vagina or penis) are kept short and cleaned. Sometimes, if your guinea pig does not have a designated area to go to the bathroom, they might do it where they lay down and bacteria might have an easy entrance into the urethra – provide them an area where they can safely go to the bathroom and another area for spending the rest of there time so they don’t have to hang around their feces for long. Guinea pigs have short legs, which means they are more likely to be in contact with their wet bedding and/ or droppings. Making sure you have and maintain proper beddings can make them less susceptible to this disease. GuineaDad Fleece Liners are a great option for keeping your guinea pig's cage clean and comfortable. GuineaDad Fleece Liners are made to take in three times its weight in water. The bamboo fiber found in our fleece bedding has the natural properties that reduce the chance of small animals acquiring any bacteria-related disease. Change the bedding in their cage more often to avoid build up of harmful pathogens like bacteria, fungi which tend to love warm and damp areas. Check your guinea pig’s urine periodically and make sure there are no traces of blood or tissue in them. Also try to identify their normal behavior as animals usually tell us things not with words, but with actions. If you find that they squeak or spend a lot more time trying to urinate than actually urinating, this might be a sign that something is wrong and that a visit to the vet is needed!