Treating guinea pigs requires specialized knowledge. While they’re similar to rabbits and other mammals (including humans, in important ways), they are a distinctive species. They can’t be given some of the medications that work well with others. They require some that are used chiefly with cavies.
Penicillin is one drug that makes the top of the ‘harmful’ list. Some vets, not having treated guinea pigs before, may prescribe Amoxicillin (Clavamox). This penicillin-based drug is toxic to guinea pigs and may be fatal.
In many instances, killing off the normal flora that resides in the gut can do far more harm than good. Digestive bacteria are as necessary as other bacteria can be harmful. Killing off the good organisms can lead to unstoppable diarrhea. Ultimately, the result can be irreversible and even fatal.
Allergic reactions to some medications is common and the first sign of trouble. Ampicillin, cefadroxil or cephalexin, and streptomycin are only some among many that can produce one.
The method of treatment is equally important. Some medications are safe only when given by injection, but not orally. Others are designed to be used only topically. That basic distinction is, of course, known to all vets. But its application in the case of guinea pigs, again, requires specialized knowledge and experience.
On the other hand, not surprisingly, there are a host of medications that are extremely beneficial for treating different guinea pig conditions.
Stye, a common anti-inflammatory, is a handy thing to have around. Available at any pharmacy, it’s useful for treating a range of common guinea pig eye inflammations, such as various forms of conjunctivitis.
Bactrim is used for both humans and guinea pigs as an antibiotic. It’s effective for treating many types of urinary tract, respiratory or ear infections.
Doxycycline is similar to tetracycline, a broad-spectrum antibiotic. It’s useful for treating forms of staphylococcus, bordetella and others. Sold as Vibramycin, it can be given orally, 5 mg per kilogram of body weight (1 kg = 2.2 lbs).
There are also a number of analgesics or pain relief medications that are safe for guinea pigs.
Ordinary aspirin, acetylsalicylic acid, is safe in the proper dosage. Err on the low side and give no more than 50 mg/kg. Rimadyl, a common NSAID (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug) used for dogs, is also safe for cavies. Give 4 mg/kg, but seek veterinarian guidance as well.
Even prednisone is sometimes prescribed for reducing inflammation, which can reduce pain and alleviate symptoms. But as a steriod it should never be given together with an NSAID. Gastrointestinal problems are sure to result if they’re administered together.
Always consult a professional before giving your guinea pig any kind of medication. Even an anti-fungal shampoo can produce a reaction, though this is rare. A brief telephone consultation, or if necessary a vet visit, can save you grief and money.