Bumblefoot, or ulcerative pododermatitis, is a common but serious problem in guinea pigs and other small animals. This condition involves a foot pad infection that, if left untreated, can lead to disability and death. Bumblefoot is most often caused by wire cage bottoms, rough bedding and wet living conditions, but can also be attributed to underlying health problems. You should check your guinea pig's feet regularly for redness, swelling and green infection. If you suspect that your guinea pig has developed bumblefoot, follow these guidelines for treatment and future prevention.
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Things you need
- Soft, clean bedding
- Adequate food and water
Determine the severity of the infected foot. You can compare the appearance of your guinea pig's foot pads with pictures online to see how far along the condition is.
See an experienced guinea pig veterinarian as soon as possible. Finding a good vet is your responsibility. You must be willing to ask questions about the vet's experience treating guinea pigs, medical training and certification. You may be able to find recommendations for veterinarians in your area in an online guinea pig owners community.
Get your guinea pig a full checkup to determine the cause of the bumblefoot. While poor housing conditions such as wire floors and harsh bedding are usually the cause, guinea pigs that have been properly housed can also develop bumblefoot from circulation problems and obesity.
Decide on the appropriate course of treatment. To treat the infection itself, your veterinarian should prescribe Baytril, an oral antibiotic that is safe for guinea pigs. You should also ask about a topical ointment. Treatment for any underlying conditions is also key, though you will want to do some research in addition to getting your vet's advice.
Improve your guinea pig's housing conditions and diet. Many guinea pig owners have success with a soft cage bedding of fleece layered over towels. Keep the bedding clean and dry. Encourage exercise by keeping your pig in a large cage or allowing adequate floor time. Follow proper nutritional guidelines by feeding your guinea pig plain pellets, Timothy hay and a variety of safe vegetables.
Watch for medicine complications. You should double check the prescribed dose of Baytril with the maximum recommended dose of 10 milligrams Baytril per kilogram guinea pig weight per day. Use an online dosage guide to help figure out the proper amount. Antibiotics can also throw off a guinea pig's digestive health by killing off their gut flora. If you notice your pig is having soft stools, you can help by feeding him a small amount of powder from an acidophilus gel tablet or a dropping from a healthy guinea pig.
Keep track of the bumblefoot's progress. Your pig may need to be on antibiotics for a month or more to fully clear up the infection. You can do a topical treatment in addition to the oral antibiotic to help the healing. Some owners find bandage wrapping and diluted chlorhexidine soaks to be useful on ulcerated feet.
Join a large online community of knowledgeable guinea pig owners. Veterinary research on guinea pig health is woefully lacking and many veterinarians do not bother to keep updated on the available information. With a community, you will have access to a large amount of anecdotal data from around the world and will be able to read about procedures other veterinarians have tried that may help your guinea pig.
Tips and warnings
- Develop a good relationship with a good veterinarian. Do not be afraid to be assertive or to bring printouts of information from other owners with you. A vet that is somewhat less knowledgeable about guinea pigs but willing to learn is better than one that refuses to listen to you.
- Practice prevention. Keep your guinea pig's cage clean and hazard-free and follow up on treatment for any other health problems your veterinarian found.
- Your vet may prescribe Bactrim instead of Baytril. This drug is also safe for guinea pigs.
- Treat bumblefoot as early as possible. If left untreated, it can lead to bone infection, leg amputation and death.
- Be vigilant about your guinea pig's health. Guinea pigs often hide developing illnesses until they are very sick, so be watchful for weight loss, loss of appetite, depression, limping and reluctance to move.
- Baytril should be used only on adult guinea pigs, as it can interfere with growth. Bactrim is a safe alternative for young pigs.
- Do not feed your guinea pigs acidophilus yoghurt. Milk products are not healthy for them.
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