Bordetella bronchiseptica infection in Guinea Pigs | Vetlexicon
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Bordetella bronchiseptica infection

Synonym(s): Bordetellosis, Epizootic respiratory disease


  • Cause: Bordetella bronchiseptica bacteria.
  • Signs: pneumonia, although an infected guinea pig may show no clinical signs, or have varying degrees of anorexia, inappetance, nasal and ocular discharge, dyspnea and death.
  • Diagnosis: culture of bacteria from exudate of nasopharynx, trachea, bronchial lumen or middle ear. Pneumonia may be identified by radiography; middle ear opacity may be detected by radiography/CT.
  • Treatment: usually palliative for chronic infections. Antibiotics such as trimethoprim-sulfa or chloramphenicol orally. Supportive care with fluids, assist feeding, vitamin C supplementation, bronchodilators for pneumonia.
  • Prognosis: individual pets usually respond to treatment well. Colonies may be problematic for elimination of infection clearance and have a guarded prognosis.
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Presenting signs

  • Dyspnea due to pneumonia.
  • Anorexia, inappetence.
  • Nasal, ocular discharge.
  • Signs may vary from almost nothing to severe.
  • Death.
  • During an epizootic in a colony, high mortality, abortions, stillbirths. Uterine infections have been reported.

Acute presentation

  • Dyspnea.
  • Anorexia, inappetence.
  • Nasal, ocular discharge.
  • Varying degrees of severity.

Geographic incidence

  • Worldwide.

Age predisposition

  • Young animals seem more at risk, but occurs in adults especially if recently exposed.

Public health considerations

  • Likely minimal although the organism is found occasionally in the human nasopharynx, which could serve as a source of infection to guinea pigs.
  • Organism can cause a whooping cough syndrome and bronchopneumonia in elderly persons, but whether or not they contract it from handling a guinea pig is unlikely.

Cost considerations

  • Medications: minimal for individual pet.
  • Time for nursing care by the owner.

Special risks

  • Young, pregnant, anorectic, ketotic and aged guinea pigs most susceptible.
  • Contact with potential carrier species such as rabbits, dogs, cats, and nonhuman primates should be avoided.
  • Should not mix guinea pigs from multiple sources.



Predisposing factors


  • Young or aged guinea pigs.
  • Pregnant, ketotic.
  • Anorectic or having another disease.
  • Any stressed guinea pig which includes: nutritional imbalances, climatic and temperature changes, drafts, season (winter), crowding, feed changes, vitamin C deficiency Vitamin C deficiency.


  • Those exposed to a carrier source.


  • Opportunistic pathogen.
  • Invades the respiratory mucosa.
  • May also cause mucopurulent exudate with otitis media, rhinitis Rhinitis, tracheitis, either independently or accompanying bronchopneumonia.


  • Incubation period of 5-7 days.
  • Acute or epizootic form has a sudden onset and lasts 2-3 days.


  • Transmission is by direct contact with clinically affected animals, carrier hosts, contaminated formites and respiratory aerosols.
  • Interspecies transmission is likely; for instance some pet stores will house juvenile rabbits and guinea pigs in the same caging - rabbits commonly carry the bacteria in the nasopharynx without clinical signs.
  • Surviving animals eventually develop immunity and eliminate the infection, although subclinical infections and carrier aninals are common.
  • B. bronchiseptica can be cultured from the upper respiratory tract and trachea of clinically normal animals.


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Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Matherne C M, Steffen E K & Wagner J E (1987) Efficacy of commercial vaccines for portecting guinea pigs against Bordetella bronchiseptica pneumonia. Lab Anim Sci 37 (2), 191-194 PubMed.

Other sources of information

  • Hawkins M G & Bishop C R (2012) Disease Problems of Guinea Pigs. In: Ferrets, Rabbits, and Rodents Clinical Medicine and Surgery. 3rd edn. Eds: Quesenberry K E & Carpenter J W. Elsevier. pp 295-310.
  • Harkness J E, Turner P V, VandeWoude S & Wheler C L (2010) Harkness and Wagner's Biology and Medicine of Rabbits and Rodents. 5th edn. Wiley-Blackwell.