While there can be many reasons behind your guinea pig’s fast breathing, heart disease is most likely to be the responsible factor.
But before you start panicking over the idea of your cavy having a heart problem, you should look for more symptoms to ascertain that your little fellow, indeed, has a heart condition.
Does My Guinea Pig Have a Heart Condition?
As unfortunate as it may be, heart disease is common in guinea pigs.
It can occur due to a problem with heart muscles, valves, or the pericardium (the sac holding the heart).
If cavies have such a condition, they will exhibit more symptoms than rapid breathing.
- Increased respiratory rate
- Wheezing or crackling noise while breathing
- Blue gums
- Prolonged fatigue
- Freezing extremities
- Labored breathing
- Reduced appetite
- Distended abdomen due to fluid buildup
- Fluid buildup under the skin
Although the mentioned signs are enough to determine whether a guinea pig has heart disease or not, as a layperson, you may not be able to pick up on said indicators.
Therefore, to avoid confusion and possible future complications (should your cavy companion turns out to have a condition), consult your vet.
Regular Breathing in Guinea Pigs
Guinea pigs can often appear as breathing rapidly, especially to the untrained eye. As a result, picking up changes in your piggy pal’s breathing rhythm can be tricky.
However, knowing a piggy’s regular breathing pace may help clarify the situation a little.
On average, a cavy takes around 80 breaths per minute and the overall range of the number of breaths in a healthy guinea pig is between 40 to 150 cycles a min.
If you want to quickly assess if your little one’s breathing is alright, sit nearby and calculate the total combined number of their inhales and exhales.
That is, one inhale and exhale together form one breath cycle.
Count your furry friend’s breathing cycles in a minute to see if the sum comes close to 80. Even if it doesn’t touch close to 80 or goes way beyond it, you don’t need to panic as long as the value isn’t too far off.
Obviously, if your reading is more than a 100 or less than a 50, you should worry.
Otherwise, 10 or 20 points higher or lower than 80 is not alarming because you need to give some margin to human error.
Naturally, without a stethoscope, you cannot calculate the accurate number of breaths your guinea takes, but you can compute a rough estimate.
That should be enough to tell you if you need to visit the vet or not.
What Does Fast Breathing in Guinea Pigs Look Like?
In order to know if your adorable little bun-bun is breathing abnormally fast, you need to know what it looks like.
The easiest way to spot rapid breathing in guineas is by looking at their chest and seeing the pace of movement.
If your cavy companion seems to be moving their chest abnormally fast (compared to a healthy one), perhaps they are unwell.
However, if your fuzzy pal’s breathing is accelerated after being physically active, for instance, if they run around the hutch or jump around in the yard, their breathing stats will be elevated.
Fast Breathing and Other Physiological Changes
As mentioned earlier, when fast breathing is accompanied by other physical symptoms, such as wheezing or loss of appetite, it could be because of heart disease.
However, heart condition is not the only reason your bunny might be breathing fast.
Sometimes, an upper respiratory illness or URI can also be why your pumpkin begins to breathe rapidly along with wheezing. Aside from a URI, heatstroke can lead to fast breathing.
Since fast breathing remains a common symptom in respiratory illnesses, heart diseases, or heatstroke, it’s possible to confuse said medical issues with one another.
Therefore, knowing each one’s distinctive sign is essential so that you can put your mind to rest, ruling out the risky ones.
Upper Respiratory Illness
Besides fast breathing, the signs indicating an upper respiratory illness include crusty eyes, nasal discharge, rough coat, and discharge from the eyes.
Loss of appetite or not eating foods that once your baby piggy loved is also often associated with lung disease, of course, along with other indicators
Aside from the mentioned signs, frequent urination, blood in urine, and a hunched posture can also mean a URI.
If you notice that your sweet pie seems lethargic, doesn’t move around much, eat, drink, and wheezes a lot while breathing, you should know that something is not right.
Add bloody urine, frequent urination, and a hunched posture; you can be pretty certain that something’s up with your little one’s respiratory system.
Despite being originated in the warm region of South Africa, guinea pigs are not immune to getting a heatstroke.
If the heat gets sweltering, your piggy pal can suffer from sunstroke. When that happens, you are likely to notice them breathing rapidly.
It may seem surprising to you, but exposure to excessive heat can elevate a cavy’s breathing rate.
Combine that with lack or absence of movement while the sun is burning up the surroundings, and know that your bun-bun is either on the verge of heatstroke or has already had one.
If you have reason to believe that the heat is getting to your pumpkin, reduce their body temperature using a damp cloth.
Run a wet piece of fabric over your bunny gently. Doing so will bring their body temp down.
Don’t drop your pet in a bucket of cold water because that can lead to a shock and kill your bud.
A sudden change in surrounding temperature can be life-threatening for anyone, let alone a fragile creature such as a guinea pig.
Therefore, don’t take any drastic measures to cool down your pet.
Fast Breathing After Surgery
Typically, medical conditions can lead to rapid breathing, but at times, recovery from an injury or medical procedure can result in an increased breathing rate.
In some cases, when cavies have undergone surgery, they can feel immense pain later, which is generally manifested as many symptoms, particularly fast breathing.
If your cavy companion recently had a surgical procedure done, it’s possible that you may see them breathing uncharacteristically fast.
If that’s accompanied by a reluctance to move, chattering of teeth, refusal to eat food, trembling, and high-pitched squeaks, you should contact your vet immediately.
Rapid Breathing Due to Stress
Panic attacks are primarily linked to humans, but they are also common among other species, and guinea pigs are one of them.
Cavies are inherently high-strung and can get nervous with the slightest changes in their surroundings.
When that happens, their breathing rate skyrockets, causing their chest to move noticeably faster.
But in that case, they are more likely to also move faster and perhaps sweat. The presence of said indicators can help you figure out if your little one is scared or sick.
Plus, if your pumpkin went through an unsettling experience only moments ago, and then it began breathing erratically, you will know that they are stressed out.
How to Control Your Guinea Pig’s Breathing
While you cannot completely control your bunny’s breathing, you can bring it down a notch if the reason behind is not an illness.
That is, if your bunny is nervous or has had too much time to play, their intense breathing will not be because of a medical condition.
In such a scenario, you can calm your pet down using a few tricks.
Pet Your Guinea Pig
When trying to soothe someone, the oldest trick in the book is to hold them and pet them until they feel at ease.
The same is the case with guinea pigs, but you need to be a trustworthy companion for them to be able to relax through petting.
If your cavy companion is acquainted enough with you and trusts you, you can pick them up and calm them down by gently stroking their fur.
You can also try to sweet talk with them or sing a lullaby to soothe your worked-up baby.
Another commonly employed tip for calming someone is offering them water. Likewise, giving water to a stressed-out cavy can help mollify the poor animal.
Pick your baby up and feed them water lovingly using a bottle so that you don’t have to put them down to give them the water.
That said, if your cutie pie resists drinking, don’t force them to consume water because that can do more harm than good.
Naturally, if your bun-bun feels as though they are being pressured, they are more likely to get more worked up than calm down.
Therefore, no matter what you do, remain gentle with your bud.
Take Your Pet Away
One effective way to calm a distressed furry friend is by distracting them and taking them to a different room/place.
Let’s say they came across an unknown face in the yard (perhaps a friend of yours tried to get friendly with your pet), and their breathing shot up.
To relax them, change their surroundings, and take them somewhere else.
As long as your piggy pal doesn’t have an underlying medical problem, rapid breathing shouldn’t worry you much.
However, if you notice other symptoms, consult your vet right away.
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