Sometimes, they show few to no outward symptoms.
DEAR PAW'S CORNER: Our guinea pig, "Trixie," died suddenly yesterday. She was fine, then she took short and deep breaths, and wouldn't eat or come out of her igloo. A couple hours later we found her passed away, lying on her side. We don't understand what happened. Unfortunately it was Sunday, and we have no small-animal vet in our town. Just curious if you have any idea what may have happened. – Diana, via email
DEAR DIANA: I'm sorry to hear about the death of your pet. Sadly, guinea pigs can fall victim to a number of different illnesses, and can do so shockingly fast. Sometimes, they show few to no outward symptoms. Respiratory illnesses, especially pneumonia, strike guinea pigs hard. Adenovirus, an illness that doesn't always directly cause death, can lead to pneumonia as the guinea pig's immune system weakens.
Guinea pigs also can suffer a stroke or heart attack at any age, often for no apparent reason.
When a guinea pig (or hamster, or other pet rodent) begins to show signs of distress – such as weight loss (more than 2 ounces is cause for an immediate vet visit), hiding away in her igloo or refusing to eat – getting help quickly is important, and that means getting your pet to the vet within hours or even minutes to give it the best chance.
In this case, a veterinarian wasn't available right away. Wheek Care Guinea Pig Rescue lists a few first-aid items to keep on hand here: http://www.wheekcare.org/first-aid.html, as well as extensive tips on health signs to watch for. Daily monitoring of your pet is your best bet to combat the threat of sudden death.
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