Salmonella Toxicity in Guinea Pigs

PetMD Editorial
Jul 22, 2010
3 min read
Image: Photo Grapher / via Image Bank

Salmonellosis in Guinea Pigs

Salmonellosis is an uncommon bacterial infection in guinea pigs, usually the result of ingestion of the salmonella bacterium. While infection is typically related to the ingestion of food and water that is contaminated with infected feces, urine and bedding material, salmonellosis infection can also be acquired by direct contact with infected guinea pigs, or contact with wild mice or rats that carry the salmonella bacteria.

An infected guinea pig that is being treated for salmonellosis may still continue to infect other animals even though it does not appear to be sick. It is important to note that this disease has known zoonotic potential, and an infected guinea pig can act as a source for the spread of salmonellosis to humans as well. Hence, salmonellosis needs to be managed with caution.

Symptoms and Types

  • Dull and depressed appearance
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Enlarged spleen and liver, and swollen lymph nodes around the neck
  • Inflammation of the eye
  • Fever
  • Dehydration
  • Rough body coat

Causes

Salmonellosis is caused by infection with the salmonella bacterium, which is typically transmitted via ingestion of contaminated food or water. It can also be spread via direct contact with infected guinea pigs or by contact with infected wild rodents (i.e., rats, mice). Additionally, infected guinea pigs can spread salmonella infection to humans through direct contact.

Diagnosis

You will need to provide a thorough history of your guinea pig's health leading up to the onset of symptoms. A complete blood profile and urinalysis will be conducted. Your veterinarian will begin by observing the clinical symptoms exhibited by the infected guinea pig, which may allow your veterinarian to make an initial diagnosis. Fecal samples will be collected for laboratory culturing and identification, the results of which will clarify the specific bacteria that is responsible for the infection so that a confirmatory diagnosis can be made.

Treatment

Treatment of salmonellosis is usually not a viable option, but supportive care may be given to aid recovery. Supportive therapy with fluids and electrolyte supplements may be administered, and in some cases, broad-spectrum antibiotic drugs may be used to help eradicate opportunistic bacterial infections.

Living and Management

Segregate any guinea pig that is affected with salmonellosis from others. During the recovery period, and perhaps even for sometime after, follow the appropriate sanitation measures for avoiding contact with the salmonella bacteria, such as wearing disposable gloves and washing hands and clothing thoroughly. It is important to keep in mind that the salmonella infection can be transmitted not only to other animals, but to the infected animal's human handlers as well.

A pet guinea pig that is recovering from salmonellosis infection will be very weak and will need attentive care and in many cases a temporary diet change. Consult your veterinarian regarding the appropriate foods to be fed to your pet guinea pig during the recovery period.

Prevention

Fresh vegetables may be a source of salmonella bacteria. Therefore, care should be taken in the thorough cleaning of all fresh raw vegetable before they are fed to the guinea pigs in order to avoid a potential infection. In addition, thorough and regular cleanings of your guinea pig's cages -- removing any feces and urine, and changing soiled bedding material -- is essential.

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Laurie Hess, DVM, DABVP
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PetMD Editorial