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Bumblefoot in Guinea Pigs (Pododermatitis): Causes, Signs & Treatment

Bumblefoot in Guinea Pigs (Pododermatitis): Causes, Signs & Treatment

Bumblefoot means that the guinea pig feet heel has become swollen. Veterinary surgeons tend to refer to this condition as bumblefoot, though this condition is named as pododermatitis in medical terms. Bumblefoot in guinea pigs can be life-threatening if not treated on time. So, immediate medical attention is a must.

The most common cause of bumblefoot in guinea pigs is walking on a hard surface, odd surfaces such as tiles, carpet, and wire netting. These surfaces are very hard, as compared to grass, sand, and soil. Also, arthritis and fatness can make the condition worse.

The severity of Bumblefoot can range from average to very serious. It can get severe as Pododermatitis could grow into ulcerative pododermatitis, and in the end, cause deep infection.

If you find your guinea pig has bumblefoot, then you are doing the right thing by involving yourself.

What does bumblefoot look like in guinea pigs?

Bumblefoot is a footpad infection of guinea pig, which is very much painful.

Pododermatitis is a condition in which heels of guinea pigs become red or swollen and develop inflammation.

The Bumblefoot looks similar to small tumors or calluses of the foot.

What causes bumblefoot in guinea pigs?

If the living environment is not suitable for guinea pig’s delicate feet; that is why they get bumblefoot. Guinea pigs are different from other animals, as they do not have footpads.

If you want to understand it in layman’s term then it is like walking on rough surface with no shoes on. As guinea pigs don’t have paw pads, walking on a rough surface is going to hurt them right!

Rough surfaces mostly cause Pododermatitis, but there are other explanations as well.

Long nails

If your guinea pig’s nails are too long, then this can force them to drop down too slowly into their heels when they are very active.

Also, this can place very much pressure on the bumblefoot and cause pressure ulcers.

Also read: Guinea pig nail broke off


Guinea pig not eating and losing weight

Those guinea pigs who are overweight are more likely to develop bumblefoot as compared to guinea pigs who have a healthy weight.

Because when a guinea pig tries to be active, then more pressure is placed on their bumblefoot. 

If an overweight guinea pig lives in an enclosure with the flooring of wire-netting, then it will undoubtedly lead to bumblefoot.

Improper bedding

Health problems can be caused by dirty bleeding. Those guinea pigs who sit in soiled bedding will be more likely to develop urine scalding. 

If their foot gets burned with urine, this will leave the tender, skin aching, and exposed to flystrike.

And, when the urine-burned skin presses against the ground, then this may tear up the skin, and will likely cause bacterial infection.

Missing fur

The fur, which is on the bottom feet of your guinea pig, protects them from the outside world. Many different factors lead to missing fur at the bottom of the legs.

For example:

  • Rough carpet 
  • Urine scald
  • Genetic factors
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Mange mites
  • Allergies

The terrible cases of pododermatitis mostly arise when various risk factors happen at the same time.

Also read: Why is my guinea pig missing a patch of fur

How common is bumblefoot in guinea pigs?

Bumblefoot in Six Year Old Guinea Pig

The most common analyzed condition in guinea pigs is bumblefoot. Hundreds of guinea pigs showed the symptoms of pododermatitis.

Most guinea pigs have a mild form of bumblefoot, which is still a part of the concern. Mild pain can surely be developed into ulcerative pododermatitis if it is not treated early.

Signs of bumblefoot in guinea pigs

Bumblefoot can range in the condition of being severe from regular to very serious. To think of this condition in four stages of seriousness is best.

The development of pododermatitis is explained in detail below:

Irritation in feet

Bumblefoot is always developing at the heel end of the foot and will expand towards guinea pig’s paws if it is not treated. 

You will find the initial symptoms of irritation and pain in the first stage. Though, to miss the early stage of pododermatitis is easy. Symptoms are:

  1. Loss of fur on the feet, especially around the heels.
  2. The calluses formed in the feet may look a bit painful and red.
  3. Formation of calluses on one or both bumblefoot
  4. It is possible to have no noticeable signs of pain. Your guinea pig can be less active than usual, but equally, they may not show any such signs as well.


Guinea pig’s feet become provoked and painful. Most of the guinea pig’s owners will notice the signs of the second stage of pododermatitis, even if they do not check the bumblefoot daily.

Symptoms are:

  1. Your guinea pig will be less active than normal.
  2. Peeling and scabbing skin
  3. The calluses will be provoked, red, and painful.
  4. There may be some bleeding.

Skin infection

The connective tissues and deeper cells become provoked. Also, there could be internal or external skin disease at that point. Symptoms are:

  1. Making high-pitched sound or crying
  2. Blister or Ulcer
  3. Your guinea pig will not walk around much
  4. A discharge that may smell or may not.
  5. Your guinea pig may refuse the water and food.
  6. Bleeding and scabbing

Tissue and bone infection

The infection can swell the joint tissues, as they go more in-depth and start the infection towards the bone marrow.

The blood supply to the bones will be cut off. There will be:

  1. Bleeding
  2. Smelly discharge coming from the injury
  3. Intense pain and paralysis, which is probably accomplished by grinding of teeth.

As this is a severe condition and can be a life-threatening stage of pododermatitis.

Can guinea pigs die from bumblefoot?

Bumblefoot must be identified and treated early, and usually not a cause of life-threatening.

If you still wait until your guinea pig is at the third or fourth stage of this infection, then it will become very tough to treat the bumblefoot.

That is because the infection begins to set in your guinea pig at these stages. Guinea pigs are tiny and delicate animals, and infections can be tough to treat, even with antibiotics.

If you doubt that your guinea pig has bumblefoot, early identification is essential.

How do I know if my guinea pig has bumblefoot?

Every guinea pig owner should recognize the signs of bumblefoot. Also, they should have to know when it is essential to take a guinea pig to the veterinary surgeon.

We will explain to you through the four stages of the identifications below.

Inspecting their feet

Get into the routine of scanning your guinea pig’s feet at least once a week, whether you have a feeling of this condition or not, regarding your guinea pig.

Usually, heels are the first visible signs of bumblefoot, so the owner needs to pay close attention to this area.

You might be very worried, but do not try to put pressure or tension on your guinea pig during the inspection process.

For example, do not pull the legs of your guinea pigs. Or else you can set some time separately to carry out the inspection.

In the best possible way, please wait for your guinea pig to move towards you and spend some time playing with your guinea pig as you usually do.

When they feel casual and comfortable, gently lift them with the help of another family member to examine the foot. 

If you notice any injured or ulcerated skin, then make sure to wash your hands thoroughly after touching them.

Look for signs

It is essential to inspect your guinea pig’s foot, but you need to understand that for what reason you are looking.

As we have mentioned earlier, there are four stages of pododermatitis, so keep this in your mind while looking at your guinea pig’s feet. 

The foot should be coated in a sufficient amount of fur. The fur is to be clean and dry. Staining of fur is normal, but moist, urine-soaked hair is uncommon in guinea pigs.

Calluses on bumblefoot are very common for guinea pigs, as there is no need to be worried about it. You need to keep an eye on them, as they can become extremely painful and aggravated over time.

If you see any signs of bleeding, redness, irritation, and injuries, you must contact a veterinarian.

Keep a close eye on their behavior

When bumblefoot becomes painful or aching, it is reasonable to change guinea pig’s behavior.

Keeping an eye on your guinea pig’s response is the right way of observing their health. As the condition going forward, you may notice it: 

  • Refusing water and food
  • Becoming uncommunicative and avoiding all contact
  • Making high-pitched sound, crying, or teeth grinding
  • Not becoming active around as much as usual
  • Spotting more pressure on the forefoot while jumping

All of the above specifies a possible health problem, so they must visit the veterinary office.

Get a vet checkup

Guinea pig pain medication

Your veterinary surgeon will have a look at the foot to see that they are infected or injured.

Your veterinarian may also conduct radiography, as it is not always possible to see the infected area with the bare eye.

If your guinea pig is not having a severe case of bumblefoot even then also you need to see your veterinary surgeon.

As they will be able to suggest the best treatment for your guinea pig. Or else, if you try to deal with this condition at home, then you might end up making things more dangerous.

Also check: List of 200+ Reputed vet all around US, Canada and UK.

How to treat bumblefoot in guinea pigs?

Bumblefoot is a severe disorder, so the owner should not try to deal with this on their own.

Owners can always take an active part in the guinea pig’s treatment by supervising their veterinary surgeon.

For pododermatitis, here are the most common forms of treatment for guinea pigs:

Keep the infected area clean

Your veterinary surgeon will need to clean the infected area if the skin has become broken or ulcerated. That is not something to try at home, except if your veterinarian permits you to proceed.

Usually, the guinea pig’s feet will be soaked in a guinea pig-safe antibacterial solution.

Sometimes, Epsom salts are suggested as an excellent natural treatment, but this needs to be performed only if your veterinary surgeon permits you to do it. 

If the cleaning of the infected area is done wrongly or performed unnecessarily, it can cause more harm.

Protect it

Protecting the infected or injured area with a lotion or cream is the next stage of the process. Neosporin or Bepanthen is the antiseptic creams that may be applied to the infected area.

If the infected area is very much dangerous, then your veterinary surgeon will put bandages.

If the dressing does not appropriately cover the antiseptic cream, then the owner should keep an eye on the guinea pig to make sure that they do not lick it off.

Use antibiotics and topical medicine recommended by vet

If your guinea pig has developed an infection, antibiotics and topical medicines will be given through a syringe.

Some of the antibiotics are not good for guinea pigs and need to be used as a last opportunity. Sometimes, the veterinarian will also suggest probiotics to reduce the negative impacts of the antibiotics.

Your veterinary surgeon can ask you to repeat some of the stages at home, depending on the type of treatment your guinea pig suggested.

After touching your guinea pig’s bumblefoot, you need to clean your hands properly and practice proper hygiene.

Immediately throw away the used bandages and use the plastic gloves while applying any cream. Also, do not affect the cream directly from the container as this will infect the container too.

Keeping their cage super clean

You can keep your guinea pig enclosure clean by changing the bedding of guinea pig’s enclosure every day, as a clean enclosure means a healthy and happy guinea pig. 

Also, the owner can keep the guinea pig’s enclosure clean by:

  • Removing loose hay bunches and put fresh hay
  • Replacing wet bedding
  • Keeping fresh water in the water bottles
  • Picking up poops from fleece with a brush
  • Washing the fleece with a clear detergent and
  • Removing excess waste and food daily.

Also, you need to clean the full enclosure once a week to make it free from bacteria.

Learn more about: How to keep cage clean and free from bad smell

Can you treat bumblefoot at home?

If you find this condition, then it is suggested to take your guinea pig to a veterinary surgeon. Also, to prevent bumblefoot, there are some treatments that you can attempt to do at your home. 

  1. Provide them at least 10 milligrams of additional Vitamin C every day. You can serve fruits like strawberries and oranges.
  2. Soak the infected area of the foot in Epsom salt water ( ask the guidance from your veterinarian).
  3. Put your guinea pig on a diet, as overweight guinea pigs can cause bumblefoot.
  4. Trim the nails of your guinea pig.

How to prevent bumblefoot in guinea pigs?

Treatments of bumblefoot can be expensive, time-consuming, and can also cause further health problems.

So, the owner needs to try their best to avoid this condition in the first place. Here are the 8 tips to prevent bumblefoot in guinea pigs:

Use a good quality cage

If you currently have an enclosure with the flooring of wire netting, then try to change them.

Though netting-bottomed enclosures are easy to clean, they are not the right choice for guinea pigs because this surface is very hard for their feet.

A plastic-bottomed or wooden (which is free of the splinter) enclosures could be the best choice.

Appropriate bedding

Guinea pigs want to stay comfortable, warm and reflect their natural behavior. That is why they need bedding.

But unfortunately, some of the bedding can be harsh on guinea pig’s bumblefoot. Cardboard, Rough Carpet, Cardboard, Linoleum, Cat Litter, and Woodchips are the bad bedding choices.

So the best options of bedding that you can choose are:

  1. Fleece
  2. Paper bedding
  3. Wood shaving-like aspen

If your guinea pig lives inside, you can put some loose bedding in part of its enclosure. That will allow them to dig holes and take the weight off their feet. For example, a pile of hay at some part of the cage will be a great alternative.

Keep their nails trimmed

As we have mentioned, having very long nails can place a guinea pig to put too much pressure on their heels, whereas trimming the nails back to a regular length can stop your guinea pig from putting too much pressure on their heels. 

But do not trim the nails of your guinea pig too short. Before attempting to trim your guinea pig’s nail, take some guidance from your veterinary surgeon.

Keep the cage clean

It is essential to keep the enclosure clean of your guinea pig because urine-soaked fur leaves guinea pigs endangered to bumblefoot and flystrike. 

Daily, change the bedding, and replace it with a fresh underlying layer. Also, do not try to use stained hay again. You can compost the hay in the yard.

Keep your guinea pig’s fit and healthy

Those guinea pigs who are overweight, are vulnerable to bumblefoot due to the excess pressure that they spend when they are very active.

Your veterinary surgeon will surely tell you if your guinea pig is overweight, and they will suggest to you how to proceed for weight loss, if relevant.

When putting a guinea pig on a diet, it is unnecessary to give them less food; it is about to change the type of food you are giving to your guinea pig.

Usually, this means not adding the treats and pellets in the diet but providing plenty of water and grass hay.

Provide them enough floortime

All domestic guinea pigs should go outside for some time. In most of the cases, it is safe to allow your guinea pig to move freely out. 

Allow them to run on the garden or soil, not on a hard surface. That will allow your guinea pig to come into contact with the ground that they had encountered in the wild and enable them to be freely active as naturally as possible.

Check for other health issues

Arthritis is a cause of bumblefoot in older guinea pigs. Also, other health problems, for example, allergies and mange, can be caused by bumblefoot. 

Now it is understandable that bumblefoot is very common in domestic guinea pigs. But don’t be confused with words normal and common.

As it may be normal for guinea pigs to have some calluses on their bumblefoot, it is not healthy for the bumblefoot to become inflamed, red, ulcerated, or injured.

Pododermatitis can cause severe pain and illness, so it will be better to treat them earlier. Guinea pigs are very delicate animals, so do not try to deal with this condition at home.

To prevent this condition, you should have to keep the environment of your guinea pig clean. Also, make sure that you provide soft and comfortable bedding for your guinea pig to burrow in.

Conclusion: Guinea Pigs And Bumblefoot

Bumblefoot (also named as pododermatitis) is the infection of the heel of the guinea pig’s feet, which is caused by walking on a hard surface.

That could be a severe infection, as they expand to ulcerative pododermatitis. Bumblefoot can be caused by a rough surface such as carpet, wire-netting flooring of guinea pig’s enclosure, or lino.

Also, long nails, overweight, improper bedding, and missing fur are the cause of bumblefoot. 

Pododermatitis is the most common condition in guinea pigs, and the signs of bumblefoot in guinea pigs are irritation in feet, skin infection, bone or tissue infection, and inflammation.

Usually, bumblefoot is not a cause of life-threatening but is extremely painful. The four stages that need to be followed by the owner of a guinea pig are inspecting their feet every day, keeping an eye on their behavior, looking for signs, and getting a checkup from the vet.

You can also treat the bumblefoot of a guinea pig by keeping the infected area clean, protecting the injured area with antiseptic cream and using topical medicines, and antibiotics suggested by the veterinarian.

To avoid bumblefoot in guinea pigs, use a suitable quality enclosure, keeping their nails trimmed, appropriate bedding, keeping your guinea pig fit, keeping the enclosure clean and allowing them to go outside freely.

Sources: All about bumblefoot, Bumblefoot treatment, VCA guide, Disease Problems of Guinea Pigs.

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