Diarrhea in guinea pigs may be defined as an increase in the water content of fecal pellets with or without an increase in the frequency or volume of the bowel movements. Contrary to diarrhea in many other species, any changes in the normal appearance of a guinea pig's fecal pellets are a concern and should be addressed with some urgency. Diarrhea should not be confused with the normal, soft cecotropes (night feces) that are produced and ingested by the guinea pig primarily at night.
Diarrhea can cause dehydration and electrolyte disturbances. It can also alter the normal fecal and intestinal pH (acidity or alkalinity) leading to disruption of normal bacterial flora that leads to abnormal bacterial growth and subsequent septicemia.
What to Watch For
Veterinary care is aimed towards determining the cause of the diarrhea so that proper treatment recommendations may be offered. Some cases of diarrhea are short lived, but unless the cause of the diarrhea is elucidated, serious consequences may occur.
Diagnostic testing includes a very thorough history and physical examination by a veterinarian experienced with chinchillas. Additional tests may include:
Treatment is based on the cause of the diarrhea and may include:
Home Care and Prevention
Administer only medication prescribed by a qualified veterinarian and provide fresh water at all times.
Do not change the diet unless prescribed by a qualified veterinarian and encourage your pet to eat frequently. Closely monitor fecal output to ensure adequate food consumption. Observe your chinchilla's activity and appetite, and notify your veterinarian immediately if improvement is not noticed in a couple days or if symptoms worsen.
Always keep the diet consistent by offering a free choice of timothy or grass hay (fresh and free of molds) and a limited quantity of fresh, high quality chinchilla food (no seeds or nuts). Avoid abrupt changes of brands or pellets. Make all changes or additions of foods very gradual. Keeping your pet on a consistent and regular diet is imperative. Avoid feeding only pellets.
Have all new pets checked by a veterinarian, and then annually or biannually thereafter, and maintain a stress free environment.
There are many causes of diarrhea in guinea pigs. Diarrhea may be caused by diseases directly affecting the gastrointestinal tract, or by metabolic disturbances in other organs such as the liver or kidney. Be prepared to provide in-depth information to your veterinarian including diet and contact with other animals and environment. Some causes of diarrhea include:
Veterinary care is aimed towards determining the cause of the diarrhea so appropriate treatment can be initiated. Many cases of diarrhea are short lived, but unless the cause of the diarrhea is elucidated, serious consequences may occur. Diagnostic testing includes a thorough history and physical examination by a veterinarian experienced in guinea pig care, who will recommend specific tests depending on the severity of the diarrhea and the condition your pet.
The veterinarian may recommend any combination of the following tests:
Diarrhea is a symptom that can be caused by many different diseases or problems. The diagnostic tests described above should elucidate the cause of diarrhea so that proper therapy can be instituted. Pending the results of the diagnostic test, the therapy is directed toward preventing further consequences such as dehydration, loss of appetite and spread of disease to other parts of the body.
Optimal treatment for your pet requires a combination of home and professional veterinary care. Follow-up can be critical, especially if your pet does not improve rapidly.