If your guinea pig is breathing fast, you are bound to be concerned about their health. But before you can do anything about it, you need to first understand why is your guinea pig breathing fast?
There can be a wide range of reasons leading to rapid breathing in guinea pigs. Physical exercise(floor time), Fear & anxiety, Rise in body temperature & Upper respiratory infection are some common reasons to look out for. Please pay attention to your guinea pig’s behavior to find the right cause for it.
If your guinea pig is making some weird noises(wheezing) while breathing or is breathing from their mouth, then it definitely an alarming situation.
As guinea pigs are nose breathers and breathing from mouth indicates their nose is blocked or they have some serious respiratory issue.
A well made first aid kit can always come in handy if some serious medical condition arises. Check out our guide on How to assemble the perfect first-aid kit for your guinea pig.
Let us first begin by learning how does normal breathing look like in guinea pigs.
What does normal guinea pig breathing look like
According to research done by Physiology, the breathing rate is directly proportional to the size of the animal.
Small animals like guinea pigs have a faster breathing rate than cats & dogs. A regular breathing rate for a guinea pig is between 40-150 breaths per minute.
The average lies around 80 breaths every minute. A standard resting heart rate is between 240-350 beats every minute.
If you sit quietly nearby, you will hear your guinea pigs breathing. Listen carefully; as long as you don’t catch them wheezing, it is completely normal for them.
Guinea pigs are nose breathers, and they will usually breathe with their nose until and unless they have a respiratory disease.
If you find them breathing from mouth, then it probably means they have some respiratory issues.
What does it mean when your guinea pig is breathing fast?
If your guinea pig is breathing fast due to exercise or just out of fear, then it is entirely reasonable.
Sometimes running around the enclosure and exercise can lead to exhaustion and rapid breathing.
If your guinea pig got frightened due to sudden noise or movement, then it can also trigger rapid breathing in guinea pigs.
However, if there is some other health issue, then you might need to look closely to identify some other symptoms of the same.
Guinea pig breathing fast not eating
Rapid & labored breathing, accompanied by an improper diet, is a sign of Upper respiratory infection in guinea pigs.
If you find your guinea pig is breathing fast and have not been eating their food out, then it means that they are having trouble consuming the food.
Other symptoms of URI include frequent urination, blood in urine & a hunched posture.
If you notice such symptoms in guinea pigs, then it is recommended to visit a vet soon. They might need a prescribed antibiotics to get rid of the infection.
If your guinea pig is not eating vegetables only then there can be other reasons behind it as well. I have written an in-depth article on why do guinea pigs stop eating veggies and how can we fix the same.
Guinea pig breathing fast and not moving
If your guinea pig is breathing fast and not moving, it might be a sign of overheat or heatstroke.
Look out for other symptoms like if the body temperature is high, shallow breathing, restlessness, confusion, etc. If you find such signs, you might need to move your guinea pig to a cool place immediately.
Never splash cold water over them as it can come as a shock for their bodies.
It is recommended to wrap them in a cold, moist towel and reach out to the vet immediately.
Summer temperature can go extreme in some places and it can be tough to keep our guinea pigs cool during that period. I have been through the struggle so, I have created an in-depth guide on how to keep your guinea pigs cool. You will definitely find this helpful.
Guinea pig breathing fast and wheezing
Rapid breathing, followed by wheezing, is often a sign of Upper respiratory infection in guinea pigs.
It is accompanied by an improper diet, lethargy, frequent urination & blood in the urine. If you notice such signs in guinea pigs, you might need to visit a vet soon.
URI can get fatal quickly and even cost the life of your guinea pig if left unchecked.
Guinea pig breathing fast after surgery
Guinea pigs can sustain pain for several days following surgery. If your guinea pig has gone through surgery recently, then breathing fast can be the symptom of pain they are experiencing.
Other symptoms may include grinding teeth, reluctance to move, refusing to eat or drink, shivering & squealing.
It is recommended to consult the vet who has operated your guinea pigs for a possible solution.
You can try playing some music for your guinea pigs to keep them calm. However, be aware that some music can further stress them out. If you are unsure about which music is best for them you can learn more about the same from our guide: Which music do guinea pigs love the most?
Guinea pig breathing hard
Guinea pig breathing hard or heavy could be a sign of pneumonia infection in guinea pigs.
It is usually accompanied by other symptoms like loss of appetite, sneezing, dull or depressed appearance, inflammation of joints, rise in body temperature, etc.
If you notice such symptoms, then it might be due to pneumonia.
Sometimes, Upper respiratory infection also leads to difficulty in breathing in guinea pigs. It would be wise to visit a vet to understand the cause and treat the same.
How do you know if your guinea pig has a respiratory infection?
Guinea pigs are prone to allergies and respiratory infections. Even a simple dust allergy can trigger sneezing, followed by pneumonia and other fatal illness in guinea pigs.
The health condition can go from healthy to critical in a span of 1-2 days. Thus, it is necessary to pay close attention to your guinea pig’s behavior to look out for any minor symptoms.
So, now with that out of the way, let’s learn about a few signs of respiratory infection in guinea pigs.
- Troubled breathing, wheezing & clicking noises from the nose are some early signs.
- Red or crusty eye, yellow or green discharge from the eyes.
- Sore or itchy nose, green or yellow discharge from the nose
- Rough coat, depressed or sick look
- Lethargy, unwillingness to move
- Loss of appetite and weight is a strong indicator, as well.
If you see any of those signs in your guinea pig, then it is recommended to visit a vet ASAP. Your guinea pigs might have some serious respiratory diseases, which can be fatal for their lives as well.
Please note: A significant issue with guinea pigs is they hide illness very effectively. By the time they start showing some significant symptoms, the condition gets critical for any further delay and decision making. Thus, you should look out for those early signs of illness in guinea pigs and consult a vet if you see any symptoms.
What causes respiratory problems in guinea pigs?
Respiratory problems are common in guinea pigs. There can be a lot of factors that trigger respiratory issues in guinea pigs. Some of the most common factors are:
- Bacterial infection
- Vitamin C deficiency
According to a report published in the US National Library of Medicine, Upper respiratory infection is one of the most common bacterial infection in guinea pigs.
It is commonly caused by a bacteria called ‘Bordetella bronchiseptica.’ This bacteria is even found on healthy guinea pigs and can live for a long time in their respiratory tract without causing any distress.
However, once the bacteria is triggered, it can outbreak respiratory illness very quickly.
Change in routine, the introduction of a new cage mate, pregnancy, or even a new enclosure setup can trigger the bacteria leading to respiratory infection.
Allergies are another major factor that leads to respiratory diseases in guinea pigs.
Using pine bedding, smoke from cooking or fire, or dusty hay are some common problems that trigger allergies in guinea pigs.
Always ensure you get good supplies for your guinea pigs and maintain a neat and clean living environment for them. These steps can help you prevent allergies in guinea pigs.
Vitamin C deficiency
Lack of Vitamin C is one of the most common problems among guinea pigs.
Guinea pigs need Vitamin C for the smooth functioning of their bodies, strengthening their immune system, healing of the wound, and maintaining the overall health of the guinea pigs.
Lack of Vitamin C in guinea pigs can trigger various diseases, including respiratory diseases.
If you are unsure about how much vitamin C do guinea pigs need or how you can supply them with it? check out our in-depth guide on the same.
Stress can also cause respiratory issues in guinea pigs. Guinea pigs are susceptible to breathing fast if they feel frightened.
Apart from that, prolonged stress can weaken the overall immune system of the guinea pig, which makes them vulnerable to bacterial infection.
If your guinea pigs show signs of anxiety for a longer duration than it would be wise to have a closer look & find the cause to avoid serious health issues in the future.
Treatment for rapid breathing in guinea pigs
The treatment for rapid breathing is dependent upon the cause of the problem.
In most cases, it would be wise to visit a vet if you see any of the signs we discussed above. Guinea pigs will need an antibiotic if the breathing problem is due to infection.
And for the respiratory issue caused by stress and exhaustion, you can calm them down and let them rest for a while so that they feel normal again.
In most cases, a vet would be the right person to guide you forward. You can always followup with some preventive measures to decrease the risk in the future.
Here are some tips to keep in mind to make sure your guinea pigs remain healthy:
- Make sure you have a guinea pig set up with all the essential supplies needed by them.
- Provide them a balanced diet with hay, vegetables, fruits, and pellets so that they have healthy and robust growth.
- Use good quality Hay and bedding as these are the major culprits behind respiratory diseases in guinea pigs.
- Make sure your guinea pig has enough hiding spaces so that they can get away whenever they feel stressed out.
- Avoid actions or loud noises that can make them stressed out.
- Maintain a healthy living environment for your guinea pigs.
Sources: CARING FOR YOUR GUINEA PIG, RESPIRATORY INFECTION, Dyspnea in guinea pigs, Viral Pneumonia in Guinea Pigs, Respiratory Bacterial Disease in Guinea Pigs, Mechanics of Respiration in Unanesthetized Guinea Pigs