Learn why guinea pigs sneeze and what you should do about it.
When I brought my first guinea pigs home, I remember being worried about pretty much every sound they made. Guinea pigs are pretty sensitive animals and any signs of an illness can quickly turn into a major health issue.
If you’ve noticed one of your guinea pigs sneezing a lot you might be wondering what it means if it’s serious, and what you need to do next. Today I’ll be covering all of that so you can help your piggy back to top health.
I am not a vet – if you think your pet is sick, please get them to an exotic vet as soon as possible!
This post contains affiliate links, which means we may make a commission off purchases at no additional cost to you. Check out our Disclaimer for more information. As an Amazon Affiliate I earn on qualifying purchases.
Guinea Pig Sneezing
If you’ve noticed your guinea pig sneezing, there are a few things I’d do right away.
The first is not to panic. It can be scary when small pets get sick, but freaking out is not going to help. Stay calm so you can do your research and figure out all the symptoms that are going on.
Next, observe your guinea pig to see what all signs of illness they are showing. Are they only sneezing occasionally? Are they showing other signs of being sick? Are they still eating like normal? All of these things will be important to know to decide what’s going on. They’ll also be things your vet will want to know.
If I have any questions about whether my pets have an illness going on, I usually go ahead and make a vet visit. Sometimes it can be hard to get an appointment with an exotics vet, especially if they are the only one in your area. Making the appointment right away can avoid panic if things start to get worse.
I’ll then just observe my pets for about 24 hours (unless it’s obvious there is a serious illness that needs immediate treatment). If I need to cancel the appointment I can, but it gives me peace of mind knowing I can get in as soon as possible.
READ MORE >> How to Find the Right Vet for Your Guinea Pigs
Why Is My Guinea Pig Sneezing A Lot?
There could be a few reasons why your guinea pig sneezes. Your guinea pig could have a respiratory infection or they could have allergies.
My first thought about sneezing would be an upper respiratory infection (which is a type of bacterial infection). Guinea pigs generally have pretty sensitive respiratory systems. They can easily be irritated by a whole range of different things. You can spot respiratory infections if there are other signs of illness as well, which we’ll talk about in a second.
Some guinea pigs can have an allergic reaction as a result of dust or other things in their environments as well. Some guinea pigs may have an occasional sneeze if there is a lot of dust in the air or if you just filled hay racks. Just like humans, things can irritate their noses that cause them to sneeze. This will be more of an occasional thing rather than a consistent sneeze.
Signs of Illness in Guinea Pigs
You want to also keep an eye out for any other signs of illness your guinea pig might be showing. If you think you have a sick guinea pig showing signs of a respiratory infection, you need to get them into an exotic vet as soon as you can.
Common signs of respiratory infection are sneezing, watery eyes, nasal discharge (aka runny nose), and crusty bits at the corners of the eyes. They may also wipe their face a lot more often and seem a little less active than normal. In severe cases, they could have constant sneezing and even difficulty breathing.
Other common signs of illness are hunched posture, weight loss, loss of appetite, and not pooping like normal. If you see any of these signs you have a health emergency and need to see a vet immediately. Doing regular health checks is really important because they can help you spot signs of illness like weight loss or additional symptoms earlier.
What To Do If Your Guinea Pig is Sneezing
So, you think your guinea pig may have a respiratory infection – what do you do?
First, as I mentioned before, your guinea pig needs to get in to see a vet as soon as you can get them in. Guinea pigs will hide signs of illness as long as they can and respiratory illnesses can get bad pretty quickly. If they are showing any symptoms it means they need to be treated as soon as possible. If your guinea pig seems to be having trouble breathing or more severe symptoms, you may want to get them in for emergency treatment.
Treatment for upper respiratory tract infections is usually some type of appropriate antibiotics given to you by your vet. It’s also important to keep the environment clean and dust free as well. If the infection is more severe it could be a lower respiratory infection or even guinea pig pneumonia. This may require more intense treatment and supportive care. Your local vet will be able to guide you on the appropriate treatment.
While you wait for your vet trip, you can do a few things to try and make your guinea pig more comfortable. First, I’d clean up their cage and make sure it’s nice and clean. You don’t want any dust or poops to be further irritating their system.
You can also give your guinea pig recovery food – especially if they are not wanting to eat much. It’s important for your guinea pig to continue to eat every few hours. Syringe feeding some critical care is a good idea to keep their digestive system from also becoming an issue. And you want to make sure your guinea pig is still drinking water and getting enough vitamin c.
Finally, see if you can figure out what caused the infection. Some guinea pigs are just more sensitive and are more prone to respiratory problems without any obvious direct cause. But there may be something in their environment you can change to improve things.
How to Prevent Respiratory Infections
The best way to take care of a respiratory infection is to prevent it from happening in the first place. This isn’t always possible, but understanding what can cause infection can help you avoid one.
First, make sure you are keeping your pets’ cage clean. If you are using fleece, that means spot cleaning daily and changing out any wet areas on a regular basis. You don’t want them sitting in piles of poop or on wet fleece. If you use bedding, make sure you are doing cage cleans on a regular basis. You don’t want your cage to be wet and smelly. You also don’t want to be spraying any air fresheners around your piggy’s cage.
Make sure your water bottles are working properly. Leaking bottles can cause a wet environment really quickly. Wet hay leads to mold, and mold leads to respiratory disease. Make sure the space your guinea pigs live in has good ventilation.
You can also reduce the amount of dust in your guinea pigs’ environment. I like to use an air purifier to remove as much hay and bedding dust from the air as possible. If you use disposable bedding, try to find a brand that is dust free or has as little dust as possible. Also, make sure you are using good-quality hay that will have fewer dust particles. Clean air will keep your piggies healthier.
And make sure the type of bedding you are using is safe for your guinea pigs. Cedar and pine wood shavings (unless they are kiln-dried) are not safe options for piggies and should never be used with small animals. They have too strong of an odor and can easily cause respiratory issues. Paper-based bedding or aspen shavings are a better option.
Again, some piggies are just more prone to respiratory infections. You won’t be able to prevent every illness with your piggies, but keeping all these things in mind will definitely help out!
Final Thoughts on Guinea Pig Sneezing
If you think your pet may be sick, it’s important to get them in to see your exotic vet right away. Small pets can have a minor illness turn serious very quickly, so it’s better safe than sorry.
Keeping your pet’s environment clean and dust free will help prevent respiratory issues and stop sneezing from happening! Get into a regular routine of tidying cages and picking up an air purifier – your piggies will thank you!
Learn More About Guinea Pig Health:
- Essentials You Need In Your Guinea Pig Health Kit
- All About Guinea Pig Teeth
- Why Do Guinea Pigs Poop So Much?
- What do Guinea Pigs Eat?