Yes, they do, and quite a lot at that. Therefore, people with a weakened immune system should consult their doctors before getting a cavy as a pet.
Like most pets (and well, humans and all living things), guinea pigs come with a chockfull of harmful illnesses that their owners can catch too.
That said, cavies do not carry as many diseases as other small pets like mice and raccoons do.
Nonetheless, it’s good to know all the possible medical complications that can come from keeping a guinea pig as a pet.
However, if you take precautionary measures and keep your furry friend vaccinated, you can avoid catching harmful diseases from them.
Diseases Guinea Pigs Carry
While there are a bunch of ailments guinea pigs can transmit to their human companions, some are more likely to affect a guinea pet and its owner.
Salmonellosis Caused By Salmonella
Salmonella is mainly passed on to humans through rodents, but guinea pigs can also spread the salmonella bacteria among their human caregivers.
Back in 2017, salmonella infections broke out in many parts of America, including Colorado, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Indiana, Vermont, and Virginia.
When researchers studied the infectious strain, they linked it back to guinea pigs (some pets, some at pet centers) that had a similar microbe in their systems.
Hence, the study provided sufficient evidence that helped medical experts conclude that guinea pigs can, in fact, cause salmonellosis in humans.
Typically, piggy pals who are exposed to other infected small animals, such as rodents, catch the disease and become a hazard for their owners.
The tricky part about salmonellosis is that it may or may not manifest through noticeable symptoms in guinea pigs.
This means that your pet might be asymptotic; you wouldn’t know and wind up catching the disease-causing pathogen.
However, the odds of that are rather slim in most cases. Piggy pigs develop symptoms of salmonella, which include dullness, rough skin appearance, loss of appetite, dehydration, depression, and weight loss.
In humans, the signs of salmonella generally are nausea, vomiting, headache, abdominal pains, chills, diarrhea, and bloody stool.
If you don’t notice any indicators of said disease in your furry friend yet you begin to exhibit symptoms without exposure to an infected species, reach out to your vet. And, of course, get treatment for yourself.
Lymphocytosis Caused By the Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis Virus
Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis virus, also known as LCMV, is commonly found in rats and mice.
But in some cases, piggy pals can also catch the pathogen and develop symptoms.
As a result, the owners of the infected pets automatically come at the risk of contracting the virus themselves.
When a piggy parent gets lymphocytosis, they are likely to have flu-like symptoms like an increased body temperature, muscle pain, strained neck, reduced appetite, nausea, and vomiting. But healthy individuals are less likely to show symptoms than those with compromised immunity.
In extreme scenarios, if an immunocompromised person catches LCMV, they may end up with neurological impairment. That said, not all hope is lost because your odds of getting lymphocytosis are quite low if you monitor your fur friend closely most of the time.
As per the Center for Disease Control, the chances of lymphocytosis in humans due to guinea pigs are relatively lower if the pets are well protected and kept away from wild rodents and rats.
Therefore, it’s safe to say that you can avoid or at least significantly reduce your chances of catching the Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis virus if you don’t let your little friend mingle with wild animals.
Pneumonia Caused By Chlamydia Caviae
Chlamydia Caviae is a bacterium that can cause severe pneumonia in people. However, in the past, medical experts believed that C. Caviae couldn’t infect humans, which turned out to be untrue.
A few years ago, three people came in contact with guinea pigs with C. Caviae and ended up developing symptoms of pneumonia in the Netherlands.
Two out of the three patients had to be put on ventilators in Intensive Care Units after their condition worsened.
Simply put, now medical science backs up the possibility of cavy owners catching the harmful Chlamydia pathogen that typically manifests as a pink eye in guinea pigs.
So, if you have a piggy pal, be sure to monitor their health and ensure that they don’t have any respiratory troubles. If you spot any alarming signs, consult your vet right away.
With everything said, not very many people get severe pneumonia and wound up on ventilators; some can get through the illness period asymptomatically.
And even if someone starts to exhibit symptoms, they may not get to the point where they need to be hospitalized.
Therefore, as long as you remain vigilant, you can stay safe from C.Caviae-based pneumonia.
As the name suggests, dermatophytosis is a skin disorder characterized by extremely scaly, dry, and cracking skin along with loss of hair.
It is caused by Trichophyton mentagrophyte fungi, which can be transmitted to humans through guinea pigs.
According to research conducted in Germany, people with guinea pigs as pets are susceptible to getting Trichophyton mentagrophyte fungi. In the study, 47% of the participants had gotten a new piggy pal before developing the skin condition.
And as with many other illnesses, most cavies remain asymptomatic after catching the fungi and developing dermatophytosis.
Resultantly, spotting the disease becomes tricky, and more often than not, pet owners figure out that their fur friend is sick after they have gotten skin lesions.
Generally, piggy pals who do not get sufficient nutrition and are exposed to unsuitable environmental conditions such as high heat and humidity get dermatophytosis.
So, if you live in a tropical region that receives an overabundance of sunlight and heat, you should bring your piggy pal indoors during the summer months.
If that’s not possible, think of other ways to help your fuzzy bud beat the heat.
Like almost all other diseases, leptospirosis reaches guinea pigs through contact with wild rodents and rats. And once that happens, the caregiver becomes endangered.
Leptospirosis has pretty mild symptoms, including muscle pains, headaches, and chills.
But in some cases, an infected patient can suffer from complications caused by said disease and may even die.
Such severe medical complications are more common among young kids and older people, besides the immunocompromised.
If you have someone with a weak immune response in the house, you should consult with your doctor before bringing a guinea pig home.
Caused by the Pasteurella multocida bacteria, Pasteurellosis is a zoonotic disease (transmitted quickly from animals to humans) that humans commonly catch from small pets such as guinea pigs.
Pasteurellosis is a respiratory illness characterized by shortness of breath, loss of appetite, and other pneumonia-like signs.
While guinea pigs get Pasturella from mosquito bites or other direct carriers, humans get it by their pet’s saliva through kissing or biting.
If you notice any symptoms of the said illness in your fuzzy friend, seek professional help and avoid kissing them to keep yourself safe.
Prevention: How to Stay Safe?
The first and most important part of your prevention protocol is extensive cleaning! You need to ensure the highest standard of cleanliness around your pet.
Clean your piggy pal’s enclosure regularly and ensure that you don’t leave any of your friend’s droppings behind, as those are one of the biggest contributors of diseases in guinea pigs.
Try to wash/wipe your best pal’s cage daily, but if that’s not possible for you, do it every alternate day.
When cleaning your little one’s hutch, don’t forget about the surrounding space, as that also gets quite dirty because of the pet’s shenanigans.
Furthermore, bathe your little fellow regularly to make sure that they are tidy and free from all disease-causing germs.
Whenever you play with your pal or hold them, wash your hands after and don’t touch anything else before doing so.
When being affectionate with your fuzzy friend, try to keep them away from your lips and eyes. If you wish to kiss them, stick to a peck as you don’t want any bacteria or germs to fly into your mouth.
Next, if your snuggle bear is being all buddy with you and showering you with tiny licks, be sure to have your gloves on; otherwise, you could get in trouble.
But you don’t have to do that if your pet hasn’t been exposed to any wild animals.
As long as your piggy pal stays in their quarters, you are good to go with how you choose to love them.
If you have scratches or bruises on your hands and you need to tackle your fuzzy buddy, put on gloves as scabs make us more vulnerable to catching viruses.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, don’t let your piggy interact with undomesticated animals as those are the most common carriers of viruses and bacteria.
As a general rule of thumb, when your piggy pal comes in contact with an undomesticated animal, distance yourself from them and take them to the vet to get checked. Doing so will reduce your chances of getting sick yourself significantly.
As mentioned above, guinea pigs don’t transmit diseases as frequently as other pocket pets, but that doesn’t mean they are completely safe to be around without precaution.
Your piggy pal can be a carrier and infect; therefore, it’s essential to take all the necessary measures to stay healthy.
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