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Bacterial Disease of the Foot - Bumblefoot in Guinea Pigs

Pododermatitis in Guinea Pigs


Pododermatitis is a condition in which a guinea pig’s footpad becomes inflamed, develops sores, or becomes overgrown. The appearance may be similar to callouses, or small tumors on the bottom of the foot. This condition is commonly referred to as bumblefoot.


When bumblefoot is left untreated or is present in a very severe form, there are sometimes complications in treatment and the infected leg may have to be amputated.


Symptoms and Types


The infected guinea pig’s footpads may become inflamed (redness), develop sores, or become overgrown over the course of many months. Other signs and symptoms include:


  • Loss of hair on affected foot
  • Reluctance to move or inability to walk normally
  • Loss of appetite due to pain
  • Joint or tendon swelling
  • Amyloid deposition (protein deposits) in the kidneys, liver, hormonal glands, and pancreas




The Staphylococcus aureus bacterium is the most frequent cause, entering the guinea pig's feet through tiny cuts or scrapes in the foot. Underlying factors include:


  • Excessive pressure on the feet
  • Nutritional imbalance, especially lack of sufficient vitamin C
  • Obesity
  • Overgrown nails
  • Injury
  • Wire floor caging
  • Poor sanitation
  • Humid environments




You will need to give a thorough history of your guinea pig's health, diet, onset of symptoms, and living conditions (whether in a wire or smooth floored cage, humid or dry environment, etc.). Your veterinarian can then diagnose pododermatitis by examining your guinea pig visually and by taking blood and fluid samples for a bacterial culture. While Staphylococcus aureus is the most commonly diagnosed bacterial infection in bumblefoot, the exact bacteria will need to be confirmed so that the appropriate antibiotic is prescribed to treat the infection.


Comments  1

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  • Bacterial identification
    12/04/2015 07:14am

    I have never seen any conclusive scientific studies that staph is the primary cause of pododermatitis in guinea pigs. Please cite your sources. Too many clinicians assume staph and never bother to do a culture. I had a terrible case in a 1-year-old male cavy, which did not respond to treatment with Batril. Three cultures were submitted to a laboratory, which confirmed beta hemolytic streptococcus. A total of 19 antibiotics were tested of which five showed susceptibility. Two of these were appropriate for cavy: trimethylprin sulfa and doxycycline. The cavy's foot was lanced on the top of the paw, bacterial extrudate and blood clots were removed. Trimethylprin sulfa 0.625 ml was administered 2x daily along with daily bandaging at which time hydrogen peroxide was applied to the incision, pressure was gently applied to the bottom of the paw to force out extrudate, then the incision was rinsed with saline, and rebandaged. Prior to the incision, the foot had soaked in mineral salt (am) and diluted betadine (pm), packed with medicinal honey ointment (Vetramil) and rebandaged. After switching the antibiotic from Batril to TMS, the cavy showed remarkable improvement after 3 days and the case resolved in 7 days. TMS was continued for 7 days additional. At this point, the skin on the bottom of the foot was dry and scaley, so honey ointment was applied and the cavy kept in a large cage with a clean fleece liner (changed 2x daily). According to the laboratory report, "a particularly virulent strain of beta-streptococcus was isolated". I believe that the case of pododermatitis in this particular guinea pig was very severe and resulted in cellulitis with complete swelling of the foot and leg, two lesions appeared in the wrist of the affected leg, both of which produced bacterial extrudate when pressure was applied to the foot. Treatment of the cavy was aggressively pursued and despite a very poor prognosis, the cavy fully recovered. Therefore, I strongly urger clinicians to culture suspect pododermatitis before assuming that the bacteria present is staph. In my opinion, Batril is often prescribed and I fear that too many cavies require amputation, which could have been avoided.