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Diarrhea and Coccidiosis

Diarrhea in guinea pigs requires prompt treatment and monitoring and can cause dehydration and death (severe dehydration or another underlying cause) if left untreated.

Home First Aid:

If your guinea pig comes down with diarrhea no matter what the cause is the following products will be of use and are recommended to purchase and administer.

 HYDRALYTE (Rehydration/Electrolyte Replacement). Can be purchased over the counter from your local chemist. If your guinea pig is losing fluids it can quickly become dehydrated. Symptoms of dehydration include sunken eyes and lethargy and death if diarrhea is severe. Mix 1 satchel of Hydralite in a glass of water and administer 5-6mls or more if your guinea pig will take it, every 2 hours. If you are unable to purchase Hydralite your local Vet should have LECTADE or VITRATE re-hydration fluids available upon  consult.

Vitamin C and Critical Care/Pellet Mash: If your guinea pig has lost interest in food you will need to administer a nutritional 'mush' every 2hrs or so to your guinea pig to prevent their digestive system from failing which in turn will lead to death. Crush 1 Vitamin C Tablet and mix with Critical Care (can purchase from Albany Creek Vet, Brisbane Birds and Exotics Macgregor, Camp hill Vet or Brighton Vet Surgery in Brisbane) or if you are unable to purchase Critical Care make a pellet mush by soaking your guinea pigs pellets from their guinea pig mix and crushing them with a spoon then mixing with water. Alternatively purchase some apple, pumpkin or banana baby food. Once a nutritional high fiber mush is made  Administer 8-10ml of the mix orally to your guinea pig via a 1ml syringe every 3-4hrs. Tip! - Chop the tip of the syringe off with a pair of scissors if you are unable to get the mush up the syringe.

Probiotics: To help boost your guinea pigs immune system you can also supplement with a probiotic to help promote good bacteria/flora and to help fight infection and improve digestion of nutrients. Inner Health Plus Capsules can be purchased from your local chemist. Mix a quarter of a powdered capsule with a quarter of a glass of water and administer via syringe twice daily. You can also purchase PROTEXIN antibiotics from your local vet upon consult. As a last resort the human/supermarket probiotic YAKULT can be administered.

Remedies to help ease symptoms of Diarrhea:

- Mylanta (The human brand of Mylanta has safely been tried and tested in guinea pigs. 1ml three times a day for 24hrs should help. Do not use this product for more than 24hrs if symptoms continue as it may cause constipation if overused.

- Activated Charcoal. Charcoal Tablets crushed and mixed with water and administered orally have been proven to help remove toxins from the body and help treat diarrhea. Crush 1 quarter of a tablet and mix with a small amount of water. Administer over the course of the day. Charcoal can be used for several days it will not harm the body but can affect how the good nutrients from some foods are absorbed so it is best to only use for a couple of days.

- Natural Herbs can be mixed mixed with boiling water like a tea and then left to cool. Natural herbs that are safe for guinea pigs include Ginger, Raspberry leaf and Marshmallow root, Peppermint and Chamomile.

Common causes of diarrhea and symptoms.

Diet Related: One of the most common causes of Diarrhea in guinea pigs is due to overfeeding of high water content leafy green vegetables.

Particular vegetables that can cause Diarrhea if fed in excess include: Iceberg Lettuce, Cabbage, Broccoli, Bok Choy, Spinach. Icerberg lettuce and Cabbage in particular are recommended to only feed very rarely or to not feed at all. Cos Lettuce on the other hand is ok to feed regularly. Cos Lettuce is high in nutrition and Vit C and low water content.

How to Treat: Take your guinea pig off any green vegetables for at least a few days and reduce intake of any other high water vegetables. Replace the majority of your guinea pigs diet with lots of fresh hay and guinea pig mix. Fast improvement should be noticeable. If your guinea pig does not improve within 24hrs or continues to go downhill seek veterinary attention urgently as their may be another underlying cause.

Mouldy Hay/Feed: Hay or guinea pig feed always need to be storey in a dry well ventilated space or in sealed bins. This will prevent the chances of hay or feed getting damp or wet at any time and in turn getting mouldy. If your guinea pig ingests any food that has become mouldy your guinea pig may develop quite an upset stomach.

How to treat: Clean your guinea pigs cage and remove any old bedding and all old feed from the enclosure. Replace with clean bedding and fresh uncontaminated foods. Monitor your guinea pig closely over the next 24hrs and replace any fluid loss with HYDRALITE every few hours.  If your guinea pig slows or stops eating or shows any signs of becoming more ill seek veterinary attention urgently as the condition may have become bacterial and may require antibiotics.

Antibiotic Related:

If your guinea pig has recently been prescribed Antibiotics for a medical condition they may be having a bad reaction to the medication. If this has occured only as a result of starting Antibiotics contact your vet immediately and stop treated and monitor your guinea pig closely. Make an appointment with your vet asap to change the treatment plan/try another antibiotic and do a check-up on your guinea pigs health.

It is worth noting that guinea pigs CANNOT be given Penicillin or Amoxyllin. The only Antibiotics that are safely used for guinea pigs are Baytril, Bactrim and Pssittavet. If your vet has prescribed something else get a second opinion from another vet who specialises in small exotic animals.

Coccidiosis: Until recent years Coccidiosis was not often seen in guinea pigs. We are unsure of the reason but due to poor hygiene and inbreeding this highly contagious and deadly disease is now flourishing and becoming more widespread in guinea pigs around Australia. The Australian Cavy Sanctuary has had many confirmed cases of surrendered guinea pigs in 2009 showing symptoms of the disease on arrival to the shelters and testing positive for Coccidiosis. These animals came in to the shelters from various backgrounds including large backyard breeding cases, several pet shops and produce stores around the Brisbane area which has only confirmed that the disease is widespread. Coccidiosis needs URGENT medical attention, strict sterilisation of surroundings and anything your guinea pig has come in contact with, and is highly contagious to other guinea pigs.

Pictured Left: A guinea pig found close to death in the severe stages of Coccidiosis.

What is Coccidiosis?

Coccidia are a microscopic single celled organism that infect the intestinal track of many different species of animals. Many species of animals can contract a strain of coccidia which can only be carried by their species. Coccidia spores produce at a rapid rate once an animal is infected. Coccidia live and reproduce within the cells of an animal. Coccidiosis a parasitic disease of the parasite which occurs in the intestinal track of the animal.

How is it spread?

Coccidiosis is considered contagious particularly if you have other animals living with an infested animal. It is contracted through infected feaces by ingestion either orally of one animal could walk through infected feaces or contaminated ground where the feaces have been and contract the disease by then licking or cleaning an area of themselves where they have touched the infected area.

Once an animal is infected the oocyts will sporalate and rapidly produce in large numbers. The intestinal cells inside the animal will rapidly become infected as the spores grow in numbers. Within a short time span thousands of cells can become infected and destroyed. Do to the destruction internally the intestinal function of the animal will be disrupted greatly. An animal only needs to swallow a single oocyt in the environment in order to contract the disease.

Guinea Pig Coccidiosis

The stain of Coccidiosis that guinea pigs contract is called Eimeria caviae. The guinea pig strain will not affect people or other larger companion animals such as cats or dogs although some other strains other animals can carry, can.

Symptoms of Coccidiosis:

- Sudden onset of very runny diarrhea. The diarrhea will have a strong foul smell and often will have blood in it.

- Rapid weight loss and noticable protrusion of the guinea pigs hip bones.

- Rapid Dehydration / Sunken eyes as a result of dehydration

- Your guinea pig may sit hunched in one corner and not want to eat or pick at food and appear very depressed with a ruffled coat in severe cases.

- Death if left untreated. Death can result within as little as 48hrs if your guinea pig is in a poor condition to begin with. Healthier guinea pigs may live for longer although immediate treatment is essential for your guinea pigs survival.

Treatment:

Treatment of Coccidiosis in guinea pigs is by use of a product called BAYCOX. The Piglet form of Baycox is what is used in guinea pigs. The dosage rate is .4ml per kilo once a day for three days then repeat with another single dose in 10 days time.

In order to confirm Coccidiosis you will need to take your guinea pig to a vet. The vet will do a fecal float, culture or sample under a microscope to confirm the disease. The oocyts are microscopic and cannot be seen with the naket eye. The vet will confirm the diagnosis using one of the above methods. You will need to take a fresh stool sample with you to the vet in order for the vet to confirm the diagnosis. From here if the diagnosis is confirmed the vet will prescribe BAYCOX for treatment of the disease.

If your guinea pig is confirmed as infected with Coccidiosis you will need to also be administering rehydration fluids, probiotics and food supplements orally in order to help build your guinea pigs immune system to fight the disease.

While in treatment make sure that all food and hay in your guinea pigs enclosure is kept off the ground as much as possible to prevent your guinea pig from re-ingesting any oocyts.  Make sure your guinea pigs bedding is kept very clean. If your guinea pig is housed with other guinea pigs you will need to treat all other guinea pigs aswell.

Sterilization: The Coccidia Spores/Ooccyts can remain in the environment for many years and are difficult to eradicate as they are resistant to most forms of sterilisation including burning. If you have a guinea pig that has carried coccidiosis the only confirmed method of killing off coccidia spores is by thoroughly sterilising your guinea pigs enclosures and any other items in contact with it with first with a strong 'Bleache' solution and then with 'Ammonia'. You can purchase Ammonia or Cloudy Ammonia from most chain supermarkets. Wash and soak everything the guinea pig has come in contact with the diluted Ammonia as per instructions on the bottle. Leave to dry for a couple of days and then rinse off with water.  Wear gloves and do not get the product on your skin or near your eyes. If you do wash off thoroughly.

If you have other guinea pigs in separate housing to infected guinea pigs and their enclosure/accessories you will need to sterilise your hands and clothing when handling your other guinea pigs to prevent them from becoming infected. It is highly recommend to treat all your guinea pigs with BAYCOX as a preventative measure and to do a similar clean of other guinea pigs enclosures etc if they are close-by or have come in contact with your infected guinea pig/s.

 

(c) Copyright 2006, Australian Cavy Sanctuary. All rights reserved.