Hypocalcemia in Guinea Pigs
Calcium is an essential mineral for several important functions in the body of an animal. It is needed for the development of the fetal skeleton as well as for the secretion of milk in lactating females, making pregnant and nursing guinea pigs more prone to calcium deficiency if their increased nutritional needs are not being met. This related type of calcium deficiency usually develops in the one to two weeks before, or shortly after, giving birth. Also at higher risk of calcium deficiency are obese or stressed guinea pigs, or guinea pigs that have already been pregnant several times.
Symptoms exhibited by guinea pigs suffering from calcium deficiency are very similar to those exhibited in cases of pregnancy toxemia, a significant condition that is characterized by the presence of toxic substances, usually bacterial, in the blood (also referred to as blood poisoning). The only difference between the two conditions is that the symptoms of pregnancy toxemia are more severe than hypocalcemia, and the outcome more inclined to a fatality.
Symptoms and Types
Calcium deficiency usually develops in the 1-2 weeks before, or shortly after, a pregnant guinea pig gives birth. Signs associated with the calcium deficiency include dehydration, depression, loss of appetite, muscle spasms, and convulsions. However, some guinea pigs may die suddenly without displaying any signs.
Deficiency occurs most often in obese or stressed guinea pigs, or in guinea pigs that have been pregnant several times. In the case of pregnant guinea pigs, this is due to the extra nutrients required for the birthing process and subsequent nursing routine.
You will need to give a thorough history of your guinea pig's health, onset of symptoms, and possible incidents that might have led to this condition, such as previous pregnancies, recent illness, or previous diet history. A veterinarian will then make an initial diagnosis based on the symptoms exhibited, and by taking into consideration the current physical status of your guinea pig.
A differential diagnosis may also be required, especially if pregnancy toxemia is suspected. This process is guided by deeper inspection of the apparent outward symptoms, ruling out each of the more common causes until the correct disorder is settled upon and can be treated appropriately. To confirm the diagnosis, the veterianrian will test the calcium levels in the guinea pig's blood.
Calcium deficiency is easily rectified with dietary supplements. Consult your veterinarian as to the types of supplements and the dosage required.
Living and Management
Make sure that your guinea pig is fed a nutritious and well-balanced diet, as well as any vitamin and mineral supplements your veterinarian may have prescribed.
To prevent calcium deficiency, it is advisable to feed your pet only high-quality commercial guinea pig feed. Moreover, pregnant and nursing guinea pigs require diets that are specifically formulated for their nutritional needs.
If the deficiency is long-term, or is occurring outside of pregnancy and/or nursing, it may be necessary to continue regular dietary supplements to help prevent calcium deficiency from becoming a serious concern.