By Karen Rosenthal, DVM, MS
I just got a guinea pig yesterday, and it’s been sneezing a lot. Its habitat is clean, as well as all of its toys and bowls and everything else. Nothing else seems out of the ordinary. Is this constant sneezing something that I should be worried about?
Guinea pigs are very prone to upper respiratory diseases, and one sign of this is sneezing. But guinea pigs are also sensitive to particulate matter in their environment, such as dust.
How did the guinea pig look before you took it home? Was it sneezing? Was there discharge around the nostrils? Was there hair loss around the nose? Were any other guinea pigs sick in the facility that you got your guinea pig from?
If the answer to these questions is no, then I would be concerned that the new environment surrounding your guinea pig is causing significant irritation, even though it appears clean to you. What type of litter is on the bottom of the guinea pig’s cage? Are there dusty wood chips or other material that puts particulate material in to the environment? Are fecal and urine wastes removed quickly so the smells do not irritate the respiratory tract? Are carpet cleaners or air fresheners used in the room where the guinea pig is housed? Is there any evidence of dust in the room where the guinea pig lives? Have air conditioner or central air filters been changed recently to keep particulate matter to a minimum?
As always, it is a good idea to visit your veterinarian with your guinea pig to determine exactly what is wrong. Before you can make that appointment, however, it is important to review all husbandry practices at home to be sure that the air is as clean as possible.