Diseases in pet guinea pigs: a retrospective study in 1000 animals

Dental and skin diseases most common health problems in Czech guinea pig study

Source: Minarikova, A., K. Hauptman, E. Jeklova, Z. Knotek, and V. Jekl
Veterinary Record Volume 177: 200, July 2015

A study by a team from the University of Brno, Czech Republic, of records for 1,000 pet guinea pigs taken to a vet clinic from 2008 to 2013 has found dental and skin diseases to be their most common health problems. The guinea pigs were divided into three groups, less than two years’ old, from two to five, and more than five years’ old. Dental problems affected 363, or 36% of the guinea pigs, with males and guinea pigs of middle age most likely to be affected.  A third (33.3%) of the guinea pigs had skin problems, mainly due to mites and other parasites, with males and the youngest group most affected. They may have been infected at pet stores, where guinea pigs from different sources are mixed, making it more likely that infections can spread. Female guinea pigs more than two years old were more likely to suffer from  reproductive disorders, in particular, ovarian cysts. Reproductive disorders affected 16% of the total, or 158 guinea pigs, of which only ten were males. Fatty eye, and other eye problems were also common, affecting 150 guinea pigs. Other diseases included gastrointestinal problems, and osteoarthritis.

These guinea pigs appeared to be generally well-cared for, so there were only 40 cases of respiratory problems, which tend to be linked to poor housing. Scurvy arising from lack of vitamin C, was also less common than other researchers had previously found, in fact these owners often fed Vitamin C supplements and risked overdosing their pets.   More vet checks could help avoid undetected conditions becoming serious, and this especially applies to guinea pigs just bought from pet shops, which could have skin infections. Preventive neutering of female guinea pigs, involving removal of the ovaries, would avoid ovarian cysts. Fresh fruit and vegetables, pellets, grass and hay, can also help keep guinea pigs healthy. The calcium-phosphorous ratio is important for teeth and bones, as is exposure to UVB light or natural light, to help with metabolising Vitamin D.