If your guinea pigs are making strange noises while breathing or they are coughing all of a sudden, then it is evident for any guinea pig owner to be concerned. Most owners often wonder why is my guinea pig coughing? Are they ill? Is it an allergy? So, I decided to do some research, and here is what I have learned.
Coughing in guinea pigs is triggered by irritation in their windpipe. Strong odor, eating too fast, foreign particles in the nasal passage, & upper respiratory infection can be the possible causes. An occasional cough can be ignored, but constant coughing needs immediate medical assistance.
Coughing in guinea pigs can be either due to a simple allergy, gulping food, or sometimes due to severe respiratory problems.
These can be a life-threatening situation, and thus we need to understand the cause of coughing and treat the same accordingly.
Do guinea pigs cough?
According to research conducted on guinea pigs, Guinea pigs do cough, and coughing is a defense mechanism of the airway in guinea pigs.
If some foreign material is accumulated in their airway, then guinea pigs would cough to ingest the same and clear the airway.
However, an irritating, nonproductive cough caused by various environmental factors and diseases, including inflammatory reactions, needs immediate medical assistance as it could be life-threatening for our guinea pigs.
For example: If your guinea pig is wheezing, coughing, and tilting its head, then it means they are facing difficulty in breathing and need immediate attention.
However, if they were munching on their favorite vegetable and coughed once or twice, then it could be because the food got stuck, and they can’t vomit, so they tried clearing it by pushing it in leading to such sounds.
What does guinea pig coughing sound like?
It can be really difficult to put the sound into words but here we go.
Guinea pig coughing sounds like a short choking noise. It is more like the sound of human coughing but very short.
Sometimes the cough is accompanied by a sneeze or wheezing sound, and it may indicate labored breathing. Thus it requires immediate medical assistance.
Why would a guinea pig cough?
Coughing in guinea pigs is rare. While some guinea pigs do cough while they eat as they are impatient with food and tend to munch it quickly, resulting in a short coughing sound.
Others tend to cough because of some other reasons. Determining the cause of coughing is crucial to deal with the same.
So, let’s check out some of the common reasons for coughing in the guinea pig:
- Eating or drinking too fast can obstruct the windpipe and thus you guinea pigs will try to push the food or water in and ends up making such noises
- Irritation in the windpipe caused by dust, allergens, fumes, odor, etc. can also lead to some coughing. These usually happen when we use dusty bedding or hay, scented floor cleaners or fleece detergents, etc.
- An upper respiratory infection can also be the cause. Sometimes it also leads to pneumonia where the lungs get filled with watery discharge leading to serious health complications.
- If there is a Nasal passage blockage due to foreign objects, then this requires a thorough vet examination followed by treatment to clear the obstruction. For example, a piece of cardboard gets stuck in the nasal passage, etc.
Guinea pig coughing a lot
Guinea pigs don’t get cough often. An occasional cough is common due to their eating habits and environmental allergens like dust and fumes.
However, if they are coughing a lot, then it could be a sign of severe health issues.
Upper respiratory infection, Pneumonia are some of the common health problems that can lead to severe coughing in guinea pigs.
How often do guinea pigs cough?
If your guinea pigs cough while eating or drinking or an occasional cough once or twice a day could be safely ignored.
However, if your guinea pigs show other signs of illness accompanied by the cough, then you must show some concern and further investigate the cause of the same.
Should I be concerned about my guinea pig coughing?
You should not be concerned if your guinea pigs have an occasional cough. Just like human beings, it could be due to some allergen or irritation.
However, if your guinea pig is continuously coughing and showing other signs of a respiratory problem, then you should be concerned for them.
Some of the common symptoms you need to look out for includes:
- Labored breathing: If they are breathing less than 30 breathes every minute.
- Breathing fast: If they are breathing more than 60 breathes every minute.
- Tilting their head: Struggling to breathe.
- Discharge from nose and mouth: Could be a sign of infection.
- Wheezing noises: Continuous wheezing sound is a sign of severe distress.
- Lethargy: Accompanied by hiding a lot.
- Not willing to eat or drink: Severe case of URI can have similar symptoms. Needs immediate medical help.
Guinea pig coughing after eating or drinking
If your guinea pig is coughing after eating or drinking, then it is probably because they tried gobbling the food too quickly.
As guinea pigs can’t vomit food out, they need to ingest the same, and while they try to push the food down from the throat, it creates a sound similar to coughing.
You should not be much corned about the same if they do cough occasionally.
However, sometimes guinea pigs end up in a bad situation as they gulp a large slice of food, and the same gets stuck in their throat.
If you see them struggling to breathe and continually coughing after eating, then it would be wise to rush them to an emergency vet.
Guinea pig coughing and sneezing
Guinea pigs don’t catch the flu or cold as we humans do.
So, if your guinea pigs show flu-like symptoms by coughing and sneezing constantly, then there is a high chance that they are suffering from Upper Respiratory Infection.
URI is a severe health condition and can only be treated by using antibiotics prescribed by the vet.
So, taking your guinea pigs to an exotic vet nearby would be the best bet for you.
Guinea pig coughing when picked up
Some guinea pigs make a coughing or sneezing noise when you try to pick them up(a rare problem).
This could be because they are allergic to something that you have worn.
It could be some fragrance or your body moisturizer or anything similar. Guinea pigs have a sensitive sense of smell that can get irritated very easily.
Thus, make sure you find out what is causing the problem and get rid of the same while handling your guinea pigs to avoid such issues.
Guinea pig constantly coughing
If your guinea pig is continuously coughing, then there is a high probability that there is a foreign object stuck in their throat.
They are trying to clear that up. I remember last time it happened with one of my guinea pigs when a floret of Broccoli got stuck.
She took a good 15 minutes before she coughed it and swallowed the same.
If, by any means, they are unable to clear it within 10-15 minutes, then you might need to take them to an emergency vet immediately.
Guinea pig coughing no other symptoms
If your guinea pigs started coughing all of a sudden and have no other symptoms, then it probably means they had some allergic reaction, which is causing the issue.
Look out for possible allergens in their living environment. A dusty bag of hay, dusty bedding, or dust around the room could be the probable cause.
You can prevent the same by maintaining a healthy and clean living environment, using good quality bedding(avoid pine or wood shaving), and provide excellent quality hay to your guinea pigs.
How to get rid of guinea pig cough?
Getting rid of cough in guinea pigs depends upon the cause of the same.
If the cough is due to gobbling food or water, then there is nothing much we can do about it, and you shouldn’t be much concerned about this.
However, there are a few tips you could follow to prevent cough and get rid of the same:
- Clean the cage regularly: Cleaning the cage daily can help prevent waste buildup as excess waste raises the ammonia level, which leads to respiratory problems in guinea pigs.
- Use good quality bedding and food: Using good quality bedding is essential to prevent health issues. If the bedding is not super absorbent, then guinea pigs might remain wet for an extended period. Such living conditions harbor a lot of bacteria and also lead to serious health problems.
- Avoid using scented cleaning supplies: Using floor cleaners or scented cleaning agents while washing your guinea pigs cage or cage accessories can also lead to irritation in them. Thus use only non-scented products for cleaning the cage.
- Slice vegetables into small pieces: Large slices of vegetables can get stuck in the windpipe of our guinea pigs. It can also lead to choking and coughing in guinea pigs. Thus, slicing the vegetable to appropriate size is crucial.
- Placement of the cage: Placing a cage near a window or door can lead to temperature fluctuations as the air passes through the drafts in them. Make sure your guinea pig is kept at a place where there is no direct sunlight, and the temperature is stable throughout.
- Consult a professional Vet: It is crucial to consult a vet if you see any sign of illness in your guinea pigs. Guinea pig’s health can deteriorate in no time leading to life-threatening conditions. Thus, taking good care of them is really important.
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