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Sensitivity to antibiotics in guinea pigs

Guinea pigs as a group are unusually sensitive to certain antibiotics, whether they are given orally or by injection. Potentially harmful antibiotics include ampicillin, penicillin, bacitracin, erythromycin, lincomycin, gentamicin, clindamycin, streptomycin, vancomycin and sometimes tetracycline. Interestingly, even certain antibiotics used topically may produce lethal effects.

Your questions answered

Why are guinea pigs so sensitive to antibiotics?

The major way in which certain antibiotics cause reactions is by altering the normal microbial balance within the gastrointestinal tract. Once the normal intestinal microfloral balance has been upset, certain bacteria multiply to abnormally large numbers. The multiplying bacteria produce harmful chemicals that can have lethal effects.

Certain antibiotics are directly toxic and do not alter the microbial balance within the gastrointestinal tract. These antibiotics should never be used in guinea pigs. Though injectable antibiotics can cause the problems described above, oral antibiotics are more often associated with them.

What happens if my guinea pig needs antibiotics?

Antibiotics should never be given to guinea pigs unless they are prescribed by your vet.

If oral or injectable antibiotics are prescribed, 2 1/2 cc (1/2 teaspoon) of plain, white yogurt should be given orally to the treated animal morning and evening for the duration of the antibiotic therapy and for an additional 5-7 days afterwards. Yogurt helps replace those beneficial intestinal bacteria that often perish during antibiotic treatment.

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