Pneumonia Infection in Guinea Pigs

By PetMD Editorial on Jul. 22, 2010

Streptococcus in Guinea Pigs

Streptococci pneumonie are pathogenic bacteria that have been found to be one of the causative agents for pneumonia in guinea pigs. Guinea pigs suffering from streptococcosis infection may not show any external symptoms of illness at all initially. The infected guinea pig may appear healthy, and then suffer what appears to be a sudden onset of disease symptoms. The guinea pig may appear to be stressed or will suddenly stop eating, which can quickly lead to death. This infection is also highly infectious to others. One guinea pig can infect another by direct contact or by sneezing or coughing.

Certain antibiotics can prevent one sick guinea pig from spreading the streptococcosis infection to other guinea pigs, if caught early enough, but guinea pigs that do not appear to be sick may not be diagnosed as carriers and will continue to act as potential carriers and transmitters of the infection to other animals, thus making control of the streptococcosis infection among groups of animals difficult.

Symptoms and Types

  • Inflammation of the lining of the lungs, heart, abdomen, or uterus
  • Inflammation of the inner ear or eardrum (otitis media)
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Inflammation of the joints (arthritis)
  • Respiratory distress
  • Sneezing
  • Dull and depressed appearance
  • Loss of appetite and resultant weight loss
  • Fever/elevated body temperature


The Streptococcus pneumoniae bacterium is one of the known causative agents for pneumonia in guinea pigs. In some cases guinea pigs may be infected with the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria without appearing to be ill, making them a higher contagion risk to other animals -- and vice versa.


An initial diagnosis of streptococcosis can be made by observing your guinea pig's physical symptoms. You will need to provide a thorough history of your guinea pig's health leading up to the onset of symptoms. To confirm a diagnosis, your veterinarian will need to conduct laboratory tests, taking samples of mucous discharge (from the lungs and nasal passages), blood, and urine in order to test these body fluids for the presence of the tests for presence of the streptococci bacterium.


Certain antibiotics specifically designed to treat infection of streptococci bacteria are available. Because antibiotics can be dangerous for some small animals, including guinea pigs, your veterinarian will determine if this is the appropriate treatment for your guinea pig. Supportive therapy with fluids, along with vitamin and mineral supplements may be needed in case of very weak and debilitated guinea pigs.

Living and Management

The recovering guinea pig will need plenty of rest in a calm and clean environment, away from heavy traffic areas in the home, in order to have the best chance of a full recovery from a streptococcosis infection. Make sure that your guinea pig’s cage is thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before reintroducing the animal in it, and separate any infected guinea pigs from the noninfected guinea pigs in order to prevent spread of the infection. Consult your veterinarian about supportive care that can be given at home, including any temporary diet changes that may be made, so that you can provide your pet guinea pig with the best opportunity for a healthful recovery.



Properly cleaning the cages -- regularly removing any feces, urine and changing soiled bedding material routinely -- is essential for the prevention of streptococcosis infection, and for preventing it from spreading once it has been diagnosed in one of your guinea pigs. If you have more than one guinea pig, preventing and controlling outbreaks of Streptococcus pneumoniae infection requires keeping your pets and their cages or tanks clean at all times, and removing guinea pigs that are sick from the company of the others.

You will also need to take your own precautions to avoid becoming a potential carrier yourself, by wearing disposable gloves when cleaning the cages and handling the infected guinea pig, and cleaning your hands and clothing before handling the next guinea pig.

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