Yersinia Infection in Guinea Pigs

Yersinia infection in guinea pigs

What is Yersinia infection? 

Yersiniosis is the technical term that is used for the infectious condition that occurs when guinea pigs have been exposed to a bacteria called Yersinia pseudotuberculosis. This is different from Yersinia pestis infection which causes plague (famously known as the Black Death), but they are related.

It’s unfortunate, but once a guinea pig has become infected with yersinia, regardless of the different ways that the disease will affect the guinea pig and the different courses that it takes, the results of infection usually aren’t good.

GuineaDad Premium Fleece Liner for guinea pigs

Generally, yersinia infection can spread quickly and the overall diagnosis can be tricky. This is because symptoms aren’t visible in the early stages of the disease, and the best way to get a proper confirmation of whether the disease is present. 

This, of course, means that yersinia can be difficult to detect until the later stages, giving the disease an optimal chance to spread throughout the guinea pig’s body. By the time that diagnosis is confirmed, it’s usually too late for treatment. 

What causes yersinia infection in guinea pigs?

The transmission of yersinia infection usually can occur by way of contact with contaminated food, bedding, and other materials, including contact with or accidental ingestion of infected urine or feces, inhalation of yersinia cells in the air, or infection through cuts or scrapes in the skin. 

What are the symptoms of yersinia infection in guinea pigs?

Guinea pig using the GuineaDad Crunchy Condo

As mentioned previously, there are many cases where guinea pigs will be infected without showing any symptoms, especially in the early stages of the disease. However, in other cases where guinea pigs do show symptoms, they will have swollen lymph nodes in their back or their shoulders, diarrhea, and weight loss, as well as bacteria in their bloodstream.

The presence of the bacteria in their bloodstream is called bacteremia, and this can cause sudden death if not caught and treated promptly. For those who have diarrhea as a symptom, these guinea pigs usually die within three to four weeks of infection.

You may have noticed that these symptoms are commonly occurring in many other different types of guinea pig infections. This is why it’s so incredibly important that we as guinea pig parents are constantly being vigilant and taking immediate action whenever we notice any changes in our guinea pigs’ behavior, eating habits, waste output, and their overall health. 

Always call and consult your veterinarian whenever you notice any changes, and be ready to take your guinea pig in for a visit and a thorough examination. 

How is yersinia infection diagnosed in guinea pigs?

It’s important, as mentioned previously, to consult with your veterinarian as soon as you notice any changes in your guinea pig. They will be able to perform tests and diagnose your guinea pig early so they can get them the treatment they need early, before it’s too late. 

In order to diagnose yersinia, your veterinarian should perform a full and complete blood profile, which is also known as a full blood count (FBC). This is a test that checks the type and number of cells in your guinea pig’s blood, including red and white blood cells, and platelets.

Knowing this information will help give your veterinarian a good indication of your guinea pig’s health, as well as lead them in the right direction for infection and disease diagnosis.

Your veterinarian will also perform a urinalysis, which is used to detect and check for a wide range of health issues, including things like urinary tract infections, kidney disease, etc. This will also involve checking the urine for its appearance, concentration, and urine content. Your vet will also perform a full physical examination, which will help them check for weight loss and the swelling of the lymph nodes we mentioned earlier. 

How to prevent yersinia infection in guinea pigs?

Generally, yersinia infection is identified as a common infection in small animals, including our furry friends, guinea pigs. Because of this fact, it’s important that we can do what we can to prevent it from happening in the first place. 

At GuineaDad, we always emphasize how important it is that guinea pigs are living in a clean, sanitary and healthy environment. This means their cage should be cleaned regularly, as often as spot cleaning once or twice daily and immediately wiping up any fluids, including urine, that make an appearance on the cage walls. 

In fact, disinfection should be done in an intense manner to eliminate all types of bacteria from the walls like we mentioned, the cage floor, their food dishes, and anything else that your guinea pigs have regular contact with.

When it comes to their bedding it’s vital that their urine is being properly absorbed. Otherwise, your guinea pig will be walking through their pee, tracking it around and spreading bacteria, giving it a chance to grow and fester in their cage. 

What treatment is available for yersinia in guinea pigs?

As mentioned before, too often yersinia is diagnosed too late in many guinea pigs, and therefore treatment usually isn’t a viable and realistic option for them. However, when caught earlier, your veterinarian will prescribe oral or injection antibiotics, along with some other medication and treatment for support. However, the outcome isn’t usually positive and many guinea pigs pass away from this disease.

While a guinea pig is dealing with yersinia, there are a few measures that can be taken to help them recover and deal with the disease. 

It’s vital that your guinea pig is living in a clean and sanitary environment, as we’ve mentioned before. Make sure they are kept in a separate cage or area away from other guinea pigs, and utilize a cage that can be cleaned and sanitized fully.

Offbeat Piggy Condo guinea pig C&C cage

This is a case where a wooden hutch is not recommended, as oftentimes the wood of the hutch is not properly coated in materials that will make it not absorbent. Therefore any lingering urine and bacteria present in the urine will be allowed to grow and can breed secondary infections that will cause your guinea pig to suffer even more.

Use of a C&C guinea pig cage is ideal, as the coroplast bottoms and walls can be sanitized, and so can the C&C grids. Make sure both are thoroughly cleaned before placing your guinea pig in the enclosure. 

Offbeat Piggy Condo guinea pig c&c cage

It’s also vital that your guinea pig is using bedding that is effective and won’t cause urine to linger and grow harmful bacteria. This is a case where hay bedding, paper bedding, and wood shavings are not good choices for bedding. 

Generally, we wouldn’t recommend those types at all, as they don’t effectively absorb your guinea pig’s urine and cleanup can’t be as thorough or as quick as it needs to be. Bedding that can be washed should be utilized for sick guinea pigs regardless of what they are suffering from, as the washable nature and the ability to sanitize them already makes them a healthier option for them

However, it isn’t as easy as simply laying down some fleece fabric or some towels, as these options just aren’t going to cut it. It’s important that what you use is meant to be utilized as bedding.

The GuineaDad Premium Liner and GuineaDad Liners are the two healthiest and best options for guinea pig fleece bedding, especially in cases where a guinea pig is sick. The GuineaDad Liners are made with  patented, super absorbent bamboo fibers that are coated in an antibacterial agent that inhibits and prevents bacterial growth, which means it can prevent the development of infection. 

Guinea pig using the GuineaDad Fleece Liner

Not only is the absorbent layer ultra-fast at doing its job, the liner itself will also dry quickly. This means your guinea pig will never walk around in their own urine and worsen any minor wounds and cuts they may have. As mentioned previously, yersinia can be transmitted through minor injuries, and we want to make sure to prevent any further infection in an already-sick guinea pig.

Due to its fast-drying nature, this means that cleaning and laundering the GuineaDad Liners is also a quick process that can be done at least once a week, ensuring that your guinea pig has clean and sanitary bedding faster and easier. 

Stay observant of your guinea pig and their health

This is the recurring theme when it comes to virtually everything when it comes to your guinea pigs’ health. It’s vital that you’re taking note of any and all changes, no matter how minor they may seem! Don’t wait too long to consult your veterinarian, and don’t be afraid to call and consult them even for these minor things—it’s their job to care about your guinea pig. 

Want to read more about your guinea pig’s health and how to prevent them from getting sick? 

Check out these blog posts to learn more. 

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