Given the right diet, a clean habitat and plenty of exercise and attention, most guinea pigs live for the full duration of their lifespan--five to seven years. However, the ageing process can take its toll on exotic pets such as guinea pigs in the same ways old age affects humans. As they age, guinea pigs become more susceptible to contracting various forms of cancer, including cancer of the bladder.
The most visible sign of bladder cancer in guinea pigs is blood during urination. According to the Veterinary Pet Insurance Company's website, other common symptoms of all forms of cancer in exotic pets include a decrease in appetite, hesitation to exercise or loss of stamina and difficulty breathing, urinating and defecating. The symptoms may get progressively worse as the disease thrives.
Unlike other forms of cancer that affect the reproductive tract, including prostrate, testicular, ovarian and uterine cancers, bladder cancer cannot be prevented by spaying or neutering a guinea pig. Cancer in small mammals is typically caused by genetics and old age, and not influenced by environmental factors. Although there is essentially no known way to prevent bladder cancer, veterinarians may be able to treat the disease with chemotherapy and radiation, depending on the overall health of the guinea pig.
Bloody urine can be indicative of other, non-malignant problems affecting the bladder and tests including X-rays and ultrasound may be useful in ruling out cancer. For example, bladder stones are fairly common in guinea pigs and, because they become lodged in the urinary tract, can result in bloody urine. Most guinea pigs, particularly the males of the species, are not able to pass the stones on their own, and surgical removal is often the only cure.
In the wild, guinea pigs and other small mammals are considered prey and, therefore, tend to hide signs of illness. According to the Guinea Lynx website, a guinea pig is typically very ill by the time any symptoms become apparent and their health tends to deteriorate quickly. Immediate attention from an experienced vet can mean the difference between life and death for a sick guinea pig.
Blockages in the bladder, including those caused by a malignant tumour, can cause the kidneys to malfunction. According to the Peter Gurney Guinea Pig Pages website, underactive kidneys can lead to heart problems because they force the heart to work harder to pump blood. Although bladder cancer may be present, the guinea pig may die from other complications before the cancer advances.