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First Aid Kit: Easily available non-medication support products for an emergency

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Wiebke

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The following list contains items and things that you likely have already at home or that are easily available from a pharmacy. Please check the use by date regularly!

The advice in this guide DOES NOT REPLACE A VET VISIT or any medical diagnosis and treatment!
None of the mentioned support products in this guide is a medication. They DO NOT HEAL!
They only help to make your guinea pig more comfortable and – if it is not eating or drinking – hopefully help you to keep your guinea pig going until you can access vet care and appropriate treatment at the soonest!
Please make a vet appointment first for a clearly ill, apathetic, not eating or suddenly a lot thinner guinea pig before starting a thread.


We strongly recommend to always keep a strong disinfectant, syringes, recovery powder sachets, probiotics and electrolyte powder sachets at home in case of an emergency, as well as styptic powder in case of heavy bleeding.
Weigh and health-check your guinea pigs once weekly during their lives in order to catch any more slowly developing problems early on.

Weight - Monitoring and Management


This list is part of our Emergency and Bridging Support Care guide to help you cover the period until your vet appointment:
Emergency and Bridging Care until a Vet Appointment


General
  • Disposable gloves, kitchen paper, cotton pads, clean old towels, bandage; scissors and tweezers
  • A vet grade disinfectant like F10 (recommended) or internationally available virkon
  • 1 ml needle-free syringes for syringe feeding and medication
  • Kitchen scales for weight/food intake monitoring
Comfort for a very ill guinea pig
  • Microwaveable snugglesafe pad
    Please heat only half the maximum time but do it more often so the pad is only warm but not hot.
    Always allow a guinea pig to move away on its own account from any source of warmth if they start overheating.
  • Comfortable fleece cosy and/or blanket, ideally with change in order to keep your guinea pig clean, dry and warm
  • Please keep your ill guinea pig as much as possible in its familiar surroundings and in the company of their friends unless you are dealing with a highly infectious disease.
 

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Illness and recovery support care products

Recovery foods

  • Mushed up pellets: Use hand warm mushed up pellets if you haven’t got any formula powder at home or if your guinea pig refuses to accept the formula mix. In some cases it can help mixing formula powder into mushed up pellets to cover the unfamiliar taste. If your guinea pig is completely off its food, anything goes that goes in!
  • Recovery formulas: There is now a range of recovery foods in powder form available. If you can, please opt for a timothy hay based product.
    Oxbow products can be ordered online worldwide.
Information on available products and preparation (including mushed pellets) in our syringe feeding guide:
Complete Syringe Feeding Guide


Digestive aids: ‘Poo soup’, probiotics and fibreplex
  • ‘Poo soup’ is made by soaking poos that have literally just dropped out of the bum of a healthy companion in a little water. You then syringe the water.
    Mimics natural behaviour and very effective with really fresh poos. You need to make it with totally fresh poos every time in order to make sure that the microbiome is still alive when they reach the gut of the ill piggy in order to work.
  • Probiotics are widely available powders to help digestion.
    A pet shop is often the best place to get some in a hurry.
    The effectiveness of probiotics is still somewhat contested. They are a food supplement and not a medication, and are therefore not prescribed by vets in many cases.
    Follow instructions or give a pinch either 1 hour before any antibiotic (US recommendation) or 1-2 hours after the antibiotic (UK recommendation). Either way is OK.
  • Fibreplex: A probiotic high fibre paste. Proven to be effective with digestive problems and loss of appetite from an antibiotic.
  • Metatone (UK brand) from a pharmacy can sometimes help as short-term pick-me-up in ill or recovering guinea pigs. Not recommended for regular or long term use! It does not replace proper medication.
    Give 0.2 ml to a 1000g guinea pig twice daily for the first week, then only once daily.
More information on available recovery and probiotic brands in this link here: Probiotics, Recovery Foods And Vitamin C: Overview With Product Links


Rehydration

Electrolyte powder to mix with water can help with any guinea pigs struggling with massive digestive problems and total loss of appetite, but especially with diarrhea. Runny diarrhea always needs to be seen by a vet within 24 hours.
Offer as much as your piggy will take, but see a vet for a sub-cutaneous fluid injection if your guinea pig is getting very dehydrated.
Dioralyte (UK) and pedialyte (US) can be got from any pharmacy.


Accident and injury

Disinfection of open wounds

  • Saline solution:
    In an emergency you can make it easily at home by stirring 1 teaspoon of salt into 250 ml / ½ pint of boiled cooled water.
    Sterile saline solution is available in any pharmacy
  • Hibiscrub
  • F10 Disinfectant
Bleeding
  • Styptic powder is available from any pharmacy.
    Any bleeding should stop within 10-15 minutes. If it continues or if the bleeding is very heavy, please contact a vet ASAP.
Eyes and ears
  • Sterile eye wash without additives may help to wash out an eye. It does NOT replace a vet consultation and antibiotic eye drops.
    Do not use it if you are seeing a vet within 24 hours.
    Eye injuries and infection can deteriorate in a matter of hours. The damaged area can be much wider than visible to the naked eye. Only a vet can properly assess and treat the eye issue.
    See a vet ASAP if the eye is bloody; promptly if the eye is cloudy or there is a bluish dot or film on the eye surface (ulceration).

    Milky white fluid is normal eye cleaning fluid and nothing to worry about. It can sometimes not drain away properly and dry into a white substance.
  • Artificial tear gel: For rehydration and as support in the healing process in combination with antibiotic tear drops. Does NOT heal on its own!
    Gel is longer lasting than drops and easier to apply, but if gel is not available then artificial tear drops will do perfectly well if you ally more often. Apply 3-6 times a day, but wait for at least half an hour after treating with antibiotic eye drops.
  • For ears please always see a vet promptly if your guinea pig develops is repeatedly shaking its vigorously, pawing at the ear, developas a head tilt, suddenly walks in circles or starts fitting/has balance issues.
    NEVER pour any oil etc. down an ear!
    If you also keep rabbits or there are rabbits close by, please ask your vet to check for rabbit ear mites and the possibility of e.cuniculi.
Breathing problems

You need to see a vet as a life and death emergency if your guinea pig is apathetic and breathing with its sides heaving. It is generally a sign of a build-up of fluid either on the lungs or the chest cavity. Ask your vet for a diuretic in any case to help drain the fluid an ease the breathing as quickly as possible.
  • If you have a dog or cat with a cough or have been visited by a coughing dog, please ask your vet to consider bordetellosis ("kennel"). It can also be transmitted by guinea pigs living together with rabbits.
    Dogs, Kennel Cough And Guinea Pigs - An Important Consideration.
  • A bowl of steaming water next to the cage may help ease the breathing a little if you are dealing with a potentially lethal respiratory tract infection (URI), but please see a vet promptly as your guinea pig will need an antibiotic to recover.
    You can add 2-3 drops of olbas oil safely, but vicks contains ingredients that are noxious to guinea pigs and should never be used around them!
More information on respiratory tract infections in this link here: New piggy problems: URI - ringworm - skin parasites


Skin problems

In the early stages a fungal skin infection and parasitic hair loss can look very similar. By far not all outbreaks are textbook and appear in the typical areas. Misdiagnosis is very easy.
Please NEVER home treat on spec and see a vet as you can very easily make things much worse by treating wrongly or undertreating – and you spend a lot more extra money if you see a vet promptly and you are putting your guinea pigs through weeks or even months of unnecessary suffering that at the worst can be deadly!
Please note that fungal lab tests usually only test for ringworm. Ultraviolet light is not reliable for ringworm nor is looking for the presence of near invisible mites with a sticky surface. However, the majority of vet diagnoses are correct. the success rate is the higher the more experienced with guinea pigs your vet is.

Information on guinea pig specific skin parasites as well as fungal skin infections in this link here: New piggy problems: URI - ringworm - skin parasites


Fly strike and maggots
Please have your guinea pigs vet checked asap if you notice white maggots in your cage, and as a life or death emergency if you notice slightly red bumps on your guinea pig's genitalia when bringing them in from the lawn, which then develop into swollen genitalia and white dots.
Please be aware that occasionally bottle flies can come indoors and lay their eggs on frail and elderly guinea pigs that are unable to clean their genitalia!
More information here: Fly Strike
 
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