It is common to think of rabies with dogs and cats, but any mammal, including guinea pigs, can get rabies.
Rabies is caused by viral infections that attack the animal’s nervous system. It is spread by saliva, bodily fluids, or bites from an animal with rabies.
Although it is rare for a guinea pig to have rabies or contract it, this article will explain what to do if you suspect that your guinea pig may have rabies, and preventative measures, if necessary.
How to tell if your guinea pig has rabies?
If you have a guinea pig that was accidentally bitten or in contact with another animal, or is acting strange and you think it may have rabies, this article will help you determine what to do.
Look for symptoms and the likelihood that your guinea pig was outdoors or around an animal from which they would contract rabies.
Ask your veterinarian if you are ever concerned about your guinea pigs’ behavior or appearance for the best assistance and advice.
It is rare for guinea pigs to contract rabies
Guinea pigs are mammals and can contract rabies. However, it is rare due to the typical environment of guinea pigs.
They can come in contact with raccoons, squirrels, dogs, or even wild guinea pigs that can spread the virus.
It is best to keep guinea pigs away from other animals as it can be dangerous and make them feel scared anyways. The risk for guinea pigs to contract rabies is low when kept indoors.
Cause of rabies
The main cause for a guinea pig to have rabies is if it was left to roam free and was in contact with wild animals that have rabies.
Rabies is spread by bodily fluids like saliva, so being bit is a common way the virus is spread. Outdoor guinea pigs are at higher risk of getting rabies due to the potential danger of other rabid wild animals.
Unsupervised visits outside can lead to contracting diseases or being harmed, so it is best to keep them indoors or only supervised outdoor time.
If you keep your guinea pig away from all other animals, that would be best, although accidents do happen.
If you are unsure whether your guinea pig was in contact with any other animals, you may be able to assess their behavior and appearance for signs and symptoms of rabies.
One symptom of rabies in guinea pigs can be lameness from where the guinea pig was bitten, typically within two or three days after the bite.
The guinea pig may also lose weight and appear very thin, caused by constipation. Their hair coat may look poor or thin, and their eyes weepy.
The behavior may change, such as hiding, not being playful, and seeming in pain and uneasy. As always, it is best to visit a vet to ensure and catch it as soon as possible for treatment.
Why is it unlikely for guinea pigs to get rabies?
It is rare for guinea pigs to get rabies due to their environment. Guinea pigs are kept as pets, likely with a cage and hideout, which keeps them safe and away from other animals.
The risk for a guinea pig to get rabies indoors is extremely low, which is different for dogs and cats because they tend to be around other animals more often.
For instance, you do not take your guinea pig to the dog park. If you want to allow your guinea pig outdoors, avoid nighttime and ensure you have a closed-off space.
You can invest in a runway, tunnel, tent, or outdoor cage to keep them safe from other animals or from running away.
Always keep an eye on your guinea pig and never leave them unsupervised, especially if you have other pets, such as a dog or cat.
If your dog or cat is around your guinea pig, they could potentially catch rabies from saliva or a bite if they were around another animal that had rabies before interacting with the guinea pig.
Since dogs and cats are typically vaccinated for rabies, this will keep them safe from spreading the disease to your guinea pig without the need for your guinea pig to be vaccinated.
Do guinea pigs need vaccinations?
Rabies vaccinations are most commonly known for pets such as dogs and cats. Unlike other small animals, such as ferrets or rabbits, guinea pigs do not need vaccinations for any disease.
The need for immunization does not exist due to records of guinea pigs in the past showing no fatal diseases.
However, speak with your vet to explore options for any concerns you may have. It may also depend on the environment of your guinea pig and how often they may be at risk of exposure.
How often should you take vet trips
Guinea pigs do not need to go to the vet often, but once a year is recommended unless the guinea pig shows signs of sickness or parasites or is pregnant.
This also helps your guinea pigs’ stress levels stay down with less frequent visits to the vet. If your guinea pig appears to have symptoms of rabies, contact your vet immediately.
They will be able to give advice and products to help your guinea pig remain happy, healthy, and comfortable.
The key to less frequent trips to the vet is to keep your guinea pig in a safe, clean environment and feed them proper nutrients.
If an accident, injury, or sickness occurs, it is better to have a vet with a history of treating the guinea pig and can see them in emergencies quicker.
What kind of environment is your guinea pig in?
The necessity for frequent vet visits will depend on the guinea pigs’ environment. If your guinea pig stays inside and is not around other animals, there is less risk of disease or injury.
Most guinea pigs stay inside in cages and roam indoors only. However, if you do allow your guinea pig outside, make sure to supervise them at all times.
You may want to invest in an outdoor run or tent for them to add an extra layer of safety while they enjoy the sunshine.
Keep all animals away from guinea pigs while outdoors, and ask your vet about any concerns you have.
Rabies post-exposure prophylaxis
If a rabid animal bit you or your pet, is there a need for immediate treatment to prevent infection? Post-exposure prophylaxis is a preventative medical treatment for any exposure to disease or virus and prevents the infection from occurring.
Consult your public health officials and veterinarian. However, according to the CDC, bites of squirrels, hamsters, guinea pigs, rats, mice, rabbits, and other small animals almost never require rabies post-exposure prophylaxis.
Even though guinea pigs are mammals, they do not need to be vaccinated for rabies, especially if kept indoors.
However, if you suspect your guinea pig may be showing signs of rabies, take them to the vet for a medical examination.
The virus is only contracted by coming in contact with another animal that has it, and there is typically no need for post-exposure preventative measures with guinea pigs.
Consult a veterinarian and always supervise outdoor visits to maintain their safety and health.