The adenovirus

Rescuing guinea pigs hasn’t brought us the best of luck so far. It certainly hasn’t changed our desires to become a full registered rescue, but it has delayed it.

In September 2020, we rescued 10 baby males and 2 baby females from an overcrowding situation. These poor babies were covered in fungal infections and most had their ears chewed completely off.

After we nursed these beauties back to health, our plan was always to get the males neutered so they could be rehomed with females. This gives males a greater chance of being adopted.

Chip and Dale were the first to go for the operation. Both boys passed the pre-op with flying colours. Their weights were perfect, eyes and ears nice, clean and clear. Their teeth were in tip-top shape and their breathing was clear. They were all ready to go!

After being placed under anaesthetics for only a few minutes, both boys went into mild respiratory distress, so the operation didn’t go ahead for either boys.

Unfortunately, Chip died almost immediately, and Dale died a few hours later. This was a complete shock to me, Mark and all the veterinary staff. Especially as our vet is an exotic vet who specialises in small animals, she had never seen anything like this. The boys weren’t under anaesthetic long enough for them to go into complete respiratory failure and die, especially after showing no signs of any infection or breathing trouble during the pre examination!

It was decided there and then that we needed to investigate why this happened. Chip was sent off for a very in-depth post-mortem.

After weeks of various tests it was found that Chip suffered with a condition called respiratory adenovirus. This specific virus only makes itself known when guinea pigs are placed in respiratory distress e.g. – an anaesthetic. Most guinea pigs who have this condition wouldn’t know about it. Unfortunately, it cannot be cured and it’s highly contagious amongst guinea pigs.

We need to look at this from a worst-case scenario, that all the guinea pigs we look after are infected.

It is not ideal but it’s the hand we’ve been dealt. It is strongly believed that people who have large herds of guinea pigs (more than 20) would have this virus present and be completely unaware. It only becomes fatal if a guinea pig needs veterinary help that requires sedation.

On a positive note, we have had several guinea pigs needing to be sedated at the vets since finding out about the virus and they have been absolutely fine.

Do not worry – if you visit you cannot catch it and it cannot be passed onto other animals as it’s species-specific. 


Rehoming those boys

Do not feel put off in rehoming these boys because of the virus. They cannot pass it onto you, your children or any other animals within your household, unless you have other guinea pigs. 

There is no expensive treatment required and they will live perfectly happy, healthy lives. You wouldn’t even know they have it! You just need to be cautious and warn your vet, should they ever need to  be sedated 🙂 

I can provide for you, in writing, a letter from our exotic vet explaining everything mentioned, just for peace of mind and future reference.

These boys will be fine on their own, providing they are given plenty of human interaction and space to stretch their legs.


The official letter

3 thoughts on “The adenovirus”

  1. Suzanne J Krausz

    This was a difficult situation and you handled it. Rescue is a challenging job… brings many joys and tears. Keep up the good work. I am glad the wiggies have you two angels to help them. Much appreciation and gratitude for Mr. n Mrs. Mason.

  2. Christine Beall

    With any virus or issues you will never know until it happens. You are and have given the rescue boys/girls a wonderful life and look at them know, happy healthy, popcorning and being snots which is a great sign to see.
    The Masons are loving and caring couple that are doing what their hearts are telling them to do with rescuing and helping these wonderful wiggies.

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this information and to admin for directing me to this. This morning I was told by my exotic vet that I have this virus in my large herd (21 pigs) from the postmortem results and lab tests that I had done on a pig that went downhill very quickly.
    I have 6 sick piggies with the symptoms that have now formed a smaller herd and they now need to be housed completely separate from the well ones. After reading your story it’s given me a little bit of hope that the poorly piggies will will be somewhat ok, Thank you 😊

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