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  • Cause: etiology can be due to many reasons. Clinical presentations of weakness and collapse in guinea pigs are often due to systemic illness and chronic disease; often the animal presents once the disease process is advanced.
  • Signs: report that animal has had ‘a funny turn’. Other presenting signs may be reported depending on the underlying cause, eg salivation, glazed look and pawing at mouth. Other signs may include chronic weight loss, pallor, weakness, unresponsive.
  • Diagnosis: thorough history and physical examination. Minimum database to include hematology, biochemistry and urinalysis. Other tests depending on history and examination. Radiography of small animals often indicated to investigate trauma.
  • Treatment: supportive care. Treat underlying condition.
  • Prognosis: depends on underlying causes.

Presenting signs

  • Often the animal has recovered, and the client reports a collapsing incident.
  • Disorientation.
  • Weakness.
  • Unresponsive.
  • Pale mucous membranes.
  • Changes to heart rate and rhythm.

Acute presentation

  • Collapse.
  • Unresponsive.
  • Pale mucous membranes.
  • Bradycardia/tachycardia.
  • Diarrhea/melena.
  • Fecal/urine staining.

Cost considerations

  • Often present as an emergency and requires immediate emergency treatment and stabilization.
  • Cost of appointment, hospitalization, diagnostic work-up to determine and address the underlying cause(s) and potential treatment protocols all must be considered.
  • Cost of resuscitation to be considered.
  • Cost of life-saving treatment, such as blood transfusion, must be considered.

Special risks

  • Handling may exacerbate stress in an already compromised animal.
  • If the animal is collapsed, emergency respiratory care should be provided prior to undertaking a complete physical examination.
  • Anesthesia may be essential but carries a significant risk in an already compromised animal.



  • Can be challenging to establish etiology; often requires many diagnostic tests which often yield negative results. Achieving a definitive diagnosis may not be possible for some cases.

Cardiovascular (heart disease)

  • Arrhythmia (cardiac arrhythmias, including conduction disturbances):
    • Bradycardia.
    • Tachycardia.
  • Output failure Heart disease:
    • Aortic stenosis.
    • Dilated cardiomyopathy.
    • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
    • Valvular heart disease .
    • Shock.
    • Hypovolemia due to abdominal catastrophe.
    • Pericardial effusion and tamponade.
  • Severe blood loss, for example bleeding from trauma, eg dog bite wounds.



  • Seizure Seizures.
  • Botulism could potentially occur in rodents Botulism.
  • Idiopathic vestibular syndrome.
  • Otitis media or interna Otitis externa/media/interna.
  • Infectious:
    • Viral: lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) Lymphocytic choriomeningitis.
    • Parasitic: response to mite infestation Acariasis. Severe T. caviae infestations can cause a strong motor response to pruritis and guinea pigs can present for seizing and are sometimes seen laying in lateral recumbency.
  • Intracranial disease:

Metabolic disease

  • Hypoglycemia Hypoglycemia:
    • Hypoglycemia caused by insulin-secreting tumor (insulinoma) Neoplasia overview.
    • Other differentials for hypoglycemia include rapidly multiplying neoplastic cells, severe hepatic disease, starvation, sepsis or iatrogenic insulin overdose.
  • Hypercalcemia Hypercalcemia.
  • Hypokalemia.
  • Hypo-/hypernatremia.
  • Diabetic ketoacidosis a possibility.
  • Uremia.
  • Hyperadrenocorticism (uncommon but has been reported in the guinea pig with muscle weakness a clinical sign).
  • Hyperthermia Hyperthermia: heat stress Heat stress.
  • Hypothermia Hypothermia.
  • Pregnancy toxemia Pregnancy toxemia.

Respiratory disease

  • Hypoxia: severe pulmonary disease.
  • Ventilation perfusion mismatch: pulmonary thromboembolus.
  • Airway stenosis:
    • Laryngeal paralysis.
    • Brachycephalic airway obstruction syndrome.
  • Airway obstruction:
    • Neoplasia.
    • Foreign body.
  • Pleural space disease.
  • Neoplastic disease Neoplasia overview.

Gastrointestinal disease

​Urogenital disease


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Further Reading


Refereed papers

Other sources of information

  • Pignon C & Mayer J (2021) Guinea pigs. In: Ferrets, Rabbits and Rodents Clinical Medicine and Surgery. 4th edn. Eds: Quesenberry K E, Orcutt C J, Mans C & Carpenter J W. Elsevier, USA. pp 270-297.