Guinea pigs are undoubtedly some of the best pets you can have in your home. They are easy to care for and gentle to be around. Guinea pigs are also friendly, and they offer great companions. Sadly, just like any other pet, they are prone to attack by diseases, which poses a great question.
Are Guinea pig diseases contagious to humans?
Although Guinea pigs do not spread diseases as frequently as other pets, they can pass some of their illnesses to their human companions or caregivers. Common diseases that are contagious to humans include lymphocytosis, salmonellosis, dermatophytosis, pasteurellosis, pneumonia and leptospirosis.
Before you decide on getting a guinea pig as a pet, it’s important to know some of the diseases these pets can pass to humans and prevent them. Read on to learn more about these diseases and how you can prevent them.
Common Diseases That Could Be Passed From Guinea Pigs To Humans
When playing with your Guinea pig, it’s essential to know that it can put you in danger of contracting diseases such as;
Lymphocytosis is a disease caused by Lymphocytic choriomeningitis, a virus belonging to the Arenaviridae family. The condition causes paralysis of the hind limbs in Guinea pigs and could also be passed to humans.
It mainly affects immunocompromised individuals when they come into contact with infected Guinea pigs or their droplets. Although house mice are the primary reservoir, the virus can also infect Guinea pigs.
Healthy individuals may not show any symptoms, but immunocompromised individuals may get a severe neurological disease. In extreme cases, it may cause aseptic meningitis and meningoencephalitis in rare cases.
Signs and symptoms of lymphocytosis include;
You could protect your pet by ensuring that they live in a clean environment and getting them checked by a veterinarian immediately and they exhibit signs of sickness.
Salmonellosis is an uncommon bacterial infection in Guinea pigs and could be passed to humans. Guinea pigs contract the disease when they consume food or water contaminated with infected urine or feces or when they come into contact with other infected animals.
The US Department of Agriculture investigated a multistate outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis infection in Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Virginia, and Vermont in 2017. Laboratory and epidemiological reports indicated that Guinea pigs were the likely source of infection. Four of the seven people with the disease had been into contact with Guinea pigs and their surroundings the same week they got sick.
Investigators collected a sample from one of the patient’s Guinea pig and found it contained the outbreak strain. The study isolated salmonella bacteria from the sick people and their Guinea pigs and identified a close genome relationship.
You may notice signs like dullness, rough skin appearance, depression, loss of appetite, weight loss, and dehydration, although some Guinea pigs may look healthy despite having the disease. In humans, salmonellosis causes nausea, vomiting, headache, abdominal pains, chills, diarrhea, and bloody stool.
Dermatophytosis is a common skin disease in Guinea pigs caused by Trichophyton mentagrophyte fungi. A study carried out in Germany involving pet owners and their veterinarians showed that 97% had the fungi strain. 43% of the participants had a new Guinea pig before contracting the disease.
Most patients experienced hair loss, scaling, and excessive drying of the skin. Others had skin lesions on the face, neck, and arms, while most Guinea pigs did not show any symptoms.
Dermatophytosis thrives in Guinea pigs with inadequate nutrition and high temperature and humidity environments. In Guinea pigs, the disease is characterized by hair loss around the nose and face. Secondary infection resulting from the disease is often associated with pruritus, erythema, pustules, crusts, and papules.
If you have been in contact with an infected Guinea pig, it would be best to seek treatment. Guinea pigs can be treated using intravenous and topical antifungals or using antiseptic dips.
Pasteurellosis is a highly contagious disease caused by Pasteurella multocida bacteria. The condition causes respiratory symptoms and is transmitted to Guinea pigs through direct contact, aerosols, and insect bites such as mosquitoes and ticks.
Although most Guinea pigs show no symptoms, some may exhibit fever, shortness of breath, loss of appetite, eye infections, and pneumonia. In humans, the disease is transmitted through saliva from bites and scratches from an infected pet.
In the present day, the disease is common in rabbits and rare in Guinea pigs, but once your pet contracts it, they may pass it to you. You can prevent the disease by playing safely with your pet and avoiding kissing or holding your pet close to the face.
According to Dutch researchers, Guinea pigs may put humans at risk of developing pneumonia caused by chlamydia caviar, a bacterium that causes pink eyes. In the Netherlands, three patients were hospitalized with pneumonia-like symptoms after being in contact with Guinea pigs.
Two of the patients ended up in the ICU and had to be put on a ventilator. All three patients recovered fully following antibiotic treatment. Of the three patients, two had Guinea pigs as pets, while one cared for Guinea pigs with pink eye and nasal inflammation at a veterinary clinic.
Samples taken from these patients had chlamydia psittaci which causes psittacosis, a form of pneumonia in birds. Further tests on the samples revealed the presence of chlamydia caviar which matched the DNA of the virus found in one of the patient’s Guinea pigs.
Although these cases were reported over three years, many Guinea pigs may be infected and show no symptoms, which puts their human companions at risk. Ensure that you treat your pet if you notice signs of pink eye and respiratory illnesses.
Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease caused by Leptospira interrogans. The condition may be passed from infected Guinea pigs to humans when in direct contact with urine or feces. Most Guinea pigs are carriers and may not show any symptoms.
Infected humans may develop fever, headache, chills, vomiting, jaundice, muscle pains, and abdominal cramps. In severe cases, the disease may cause kidney failure, liver failure, and meningitis. Although the disease can be treated using antibiotics, you could protect yourself from it and avoid severe disease consequences.
Avoid direct contact with your pet’s droppings and urine and any soil that could be contaminated. Get your pet treated anytime they are sick and avoid drinking unclean water or swimming and skiing in contaminated water such as in freshwater lakes.
How To Prevent Contracting Guinea Pig Diseases
Guinea pigs need care just like any other pets. Caring for these pets includes; grooming, feeding, cleaning their cages, and playing with them. In the process of caring for these wonderful pets, you might catch some of their illnesses which may be fatal.
Most guinea pigs may not show any symptoms when sick, which may put you or your children in danger. CDC recommends the following tips to pet owners to prevent them from contracting Guinea pig diseases;
CDC advises pet owners to always wash their hands before and after touching, feeding, or cleaning pets or their surroundings because most Guinea pig diseases are passed through direct contact with infected pets, their droppings, or surroundings.
Always clean and disinfect your pets’ utensils before you feed them, and ensure that their beddings are cleaned and disinfected regularly.
2. Playing Safely
Although Guinea pigs are friendly and gentle, it’s important to be careful when playing around them. Some of their illnesses could be passed through saliva or scratches. Avoid kissing, nuzzling, or holding them too close to your face.
Avoid eating, drinking, or smoking while around your pet, and spare yourself the risk of ingesting harmful bacteria that could cause infections. Keep your pet’s water and food bowls away from the kitchen or where you prepare your food.
4. Health Check-Up
Always ensure that your pet is checked regularly by a veterinarian because they may be sick and not show any symptoms, which may endanger you and your family. Be keen to pick any signs of sickness and get your pets treated before they could pass the infection to you.
When you feel sick or have been bitten or scratched by your pet, consult your doctor promptly and disclose all the information to get help.
If you are having a Guinea pig for a pet for the first time, you may not know their nutritional requirements or how to care for them. Please educate yourself on how to feed and care for your pet and be sure to give them the right food to maintain their health. Ensure that your pets’ food and vegetables are well cleaned before feeding them.
Guinea pigs make good pets for you and your family, but they are also prone to diseases and infections. Some Guinea pig diseases are contagious to humans and can be passed through contact with infected pets and their surroundings.
Most infected Guinea pigs show no symptoms, but they can still pass the disease to humans. Human caregivers usually get a mild infection and show no signs except in immunocompromised individuals or extreme cases.
Most Guinea pig diseases can be prevented by washing hands before and after handling the pet, cleaning their surroundings, and playing and caring for the pets safely. You can protect yourself and your pet by getting them regularly checked for any diseases by a veterinarian.