Inflammation of the Lymph Nodes in Guinea Pigs

By PetMD Editorial on Jul. 21, 2010

Lymphadenitis in Guinea Pigs

Lymphadenitis is the clinical term that is used to describe inflammation and swelling of the lymph nodes, which are located throughout the body -- head, neck, limbs, etc. -- and act to spread white blood cells and to filter infectious pathogens and foreign bodies that enter the body. The usual cause of lymphadenitis is bacterial infection, with the most frequently diagnosed bacterial infection in guinea pigs being Streptococcus zooepidemicus. Lymphadenitis requires immediate veterinary attention.

Symptoms and Types

  • Swollen lymph nodes, sometimes filled with pus (abscesses)
  • Head tilting (depending on the which lymph nodes are infected)
  • Inflammation of the sinuses and eye(s)
  • Arthritis or inflammation of some internal organs or tissues
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Skin may be pale or have a blue tint
  • Blood in urine
  • Fetal death or stillbirth (in pregnant females)
  • Fever and other signs of toxemia (if toxins enter the bloodstream)


The usual cause for the development of lymphadenitis in guinea pigs is bacterial infection, most often Streptococcus zooepidemicus. Underlying factors include harsh or irritating food, unclean bedding material, and overgrown teeth or the inability to close the jaws properly. Guinea pigs can also acquire lymphadenitis from other infected guinea pigs that are sneezing or coughing, by genital contact, or through cuts or scrapes in the skin or in the mouth.


Your veterinarian can diagnose lymphadenitis by conducting a physical examination of the infected guinea pig, and by taking a fluid sample from the swollen glands. The causative bacteria can be confirmed only by doing an examination of stained smears that have been prepared from the infected tissue, and by other laboratory tests that will point your doctor toward the appropriate treatment. A blood profile will be conducted, with a complete blood count and a urinalysis. Increased levels of white blood cells, protein in the urine, or blood in the urine are all symptoms of an infection that needs treatment.


Antibiotics may or may not eliminate the infection. Abscesses might break open on their own, or they may be surgically opened and drained or removed by your veterinarian. However, this treatment may cause the bacteria to enter the guinea pig’s bloodstream, resulting in a more complicated condition. Therefore, caution is necessary. Consult with your veterinarian what are the best options for your guinea pig.

Living and Management

The recovering guinea pig should be allowed to rest in a clean, sanitized, and calm environment. If the abscess has been surgically drained, regular dressing should be provided as advised by your veterinarian. Follow any additional recommendations made by your veterinarian to help your pet to make a quick and complete recovery.


To help prevent infection of the lymph nodes, avoid any harsh or irritating bedding or food products. Jaws that do not close properly or overgrown teeth should be fixed before they become an issue, as well as infections of the respiratory tract. The guinea pig’s living quarters should be kept clean and sanitary, and sick guinea pigs should be housed away from other animals to prevent the spread of infection and to prevent unnecessary stress on the recovering guinea pig.

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