Guinea Pig E. Cuniculi
Guinea Pig E. Cuniculi also known as Guinea Pig Encephalitozoon Cuniculi is not a well recognised Guinea Pig disease as its generally a disease affecting Rabbits. Until recently the protozoan parasite has been seen in many mammals including Rabbits, Guinea Pigs and Mice.
So what is Guinea Pig E. Cuniculi?
E. Cuniculi is a form of Protozoa which is normally picked up at young age through ingestion of spores, however this is not limited to young age. In Rabbits it is believed that young rabbits would contract the disease from ingesting spores shed in their mothers contaminated urine or through inhalation. Until further research is completed on how Guinea Pigs contract the disease it is not possible to confirm how the disease is picked up at birth as transmission may occur in the breast milk, across the placenta or immediately before or after birth. Saying that Protozoa are very hardy parasites which can sometimes prove difficult to eradicate.
Possible Causes Of Infection
- Ingestion of Contaminated Urine/Contaminated Faecal Matter.
- Ingestion of Contaminated Milk from already infected Sow.
- Poor Hygiene Practises at Breeding Farms causing cross contamination (ie. Removal of infected Rabbits from one pen, Replacing with Pregnant Sows/Mother and Pups) before deep cleaning was performed.
Again the above possible causes of infection are currently speculative as further investigations need to be performed to get a clear picture of the normal routes of infection.
What happens once a Guinea Pig has ingested these Protozoa?
They protozoa usually enters through the mouth and make there way to the upper then lower gi tracts. From there they are absorbed in to the blood stream and start attacking other organs. The invading protozoa cause lesions known as granuloma lesions which commonly affect the Kidneys, Liver and Brain.
What kind of Health Problems can Guinea Pig E. Cuniculi cause?
Some Guinea Pigs may be infected by E Cuniculi and show no signs of illness. At present most cases of Guinea Pig E Cuniculi are diagnosed when neurological issues are present and other causes have been ruled out.
Common Symptoms Are :-
- Torticollis (Head Tilt)
- Head Wobble (eg Churchill Insurance Dog Wobble)
- Loss Of Balance
- Hind Limb Weakness
- Urinary Incontinence
- Kidney Failure
- Eye Disease
One of the main problems with E Cuniculi is that many of the possible symptoms can be attributed to other medical conditions. For example Guinea Pig Head Tilt can be caused by An Inner Ear Infection, Mites in the Ear, Excessive Wax Build up. Therefore treatment for E Cuniculi is normally given as a last form of treatment.
How would I know if my Guinea Pig had E Cuniculi?
Antibodies to E Cuniculi can be detected on a blood test, however it is very unusual for a Veterinarians to attempt to draw blood from a Guinea Pig as the only good source of obtaining enough to perform labaratory tests are through a main vein in the neck which would involve putting the Guinea Pig under General Anaesthetic as trying to perform this with the Guinea Pig conscious would cause a lot of stress and pain to the Guinea Pig with a slim chance of reaching the vein. If antibodies were present, then it would only show that the animal has been exposed to E Cuniculi at some point in time.
Most Veterinarians will provide treatment for E Cuniculi based on physical symptoms and observations once other infections have been ruled out.
Treatment For E Cuniculi
Currently there are no treatments designed purely for E Cuniculi however it has been found that treating rabbits with Albendazole or Fenbendazole which are used as routine worming treatments for rabbits for a duration of 28 days can slow down or halt the rate of multiplication of parasites in the blood system. This treatment will not reverse any damage caused by the disease so these would need supportive care. Once treatment has finished, and should your guinea pig come into contact with another infected animal or a contaminated environment, then they are risk of developing the disease again.
Hygiene is crucial in stopping the spread of E. Cuniculi as spores are fairly resistant to any changes in the environment and may survive up to four weeks. Talk to your Veterinarian about the different products you can safely kill the parasites living in and around your Guinea Pig so not to re-infect them once treatment stops.
Please note this disease is zoonotic (a disease that normally exists in animals but can go on to infect humans) it can be a risk to severely immuno-compromised person.
It should be noted that currently these drugs are only licensed for use in Rabbits