How can dogs be so sweet and adorable and so gross at the same time? Even the most angelic pups have been known to eat poop from dogs and all sorts of other animals, including guinea pigs. I’ve seen many internet articles telling people not to worry if their dog ate guinea pig poop, but as a veterinarian, that’s not the way I see it…
I advise my clients NOT to allow their dog to eat guinea pig poop. Many parasites, bacteria and viruses can be passed from guinea pigs to dogs. Even if the guinea pig seems healthy, they could harbor disease-causing organisms. And if your dog gets infected, they might spread disease to humans.
Why Does My Dog Eat Guinea Pig Poop?
Only dogs know the exact reason they eat guinea pig poop. However, we know that eating poop is a normal behavior usually practiced by puppies. The medical term for it is coprophagia. Most grow out of eating dog poop by the time they’ve become adult dogs.
Sometimes coprophagia serves a survival purpose. Researchers have found dogs living alongside primitive tribes get a large part of their nutrition from eating human fecal matter. Eek!
Part of the reason dogs eat poop is that the behavior is part of their survival instinct. I suppose their brains think poop is just another form of food.
Dogs Can Get Sick from Eating Guinea Pig Poop
There are many parasites, germs, and viruses that can spread between dogs and guinea pigs despite the fact that they are two separate species. Even a guinea pig who appears healthy can be carrying dangerous organisms. And a dog can become seriously ill if they consume the diseased guinea pig’s waste.
Dogs often have close contact with humans (especially kids) in the form of licking, biting, sharing food, sleeping with them, etc. So it’s very serious if your dog contracts a disease from a guinea pig that can be passed to humans!
Among the diseases a guinea pig can pass to a dog (or human), there are a few that are more likely to cause problems. Here’s a list I compiled from various scientific papers and other authoritative sources…
- Balantidium caviae
- Eimeria caviae
- *Hymenolepis nana
- Hymenolepis diminuta
- Paraspidodera uncinata
*Hymenolepis nana infections in guinea pigs are a concern because these worms can be transmitted to other species, including humans. (4) The others may not make a dog sick if they eat an infected guinea pig’s poop, but the worms or eggs could show up on a fecal test.
- Salmonella spp. (1)
- Campylobacter jejuni
- Atypical enteropathogenic Escherichia coli
- Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (5)
- Blastocystis sp.
- Cryptosporidium spp.
- Entamoeba spp.
- Eimeria caviae
- Giardia lamblia
- Trichomonas caviae
Protozoans are single-celled organisms and the ones on this list are parasites of guinea pigs. Giardia and cryptosporidium are the most concerning as they can be passed to other species, including dogs and humans and often cause illness. (3)
- Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis Virus (1)
Lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus can be carried by rodents (including guinea pigs) and passed to dogs and humans. Infection with this virus can cause meningitis and/or encephalitis in humans.
Symptoms to Watch Out For
The lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus affects the central nervous system, muscles and gastrointestinal tract. Watch for symptoms mentioned above plus signs of pain, lethargy and fever.
How Vets Diagnose Parasite Problems in Guinea Pigs & Dogs
When a dog is eating guinea pig feces, the best thing a pet owner can do is consult their veterinarian about running a fecal test for parasites on both animals.
A fresh stool sample from both the guinea pig and the dog (but kept separately) should be delivered to your veterinarian. It’s OK if there is a small amount of bedding, grass or dirt stuck to the stool sample. Try to collect at least about a teaspoon of poop from each animal.
You can keep the sample in a clean, dry plastic or glass container enclosed in a zip-top plastic bag in your refrigerator for up to 8 hours. But fresh is best for diagnosing parasite infections.
In fact, your vet may want to examine a very fresh sample of stool microscopically. In that case, a sample that is less than a couple of hours old is best.
Treatment of Guinea Pig Worms & Other Parasites
Worm infections can usually be treated with common veterinary antiparasitic medications like fenbendazole, praziquantel, sulfadimethoxine and metronidazole. (4) Your vet will know which one to choose and the proper dose to give each animal for the best outcome.
Please let your vet help you with this! Improper dosing or treatment regimen could fail to get rid of the infestation. The medication could harm your dog or guinea pig if overdosed. And guinea pigs are so small, that a miscalculation in dose could be disastrous.
How to Stop a Dog from Eating Guinea Pig Poop
The simplest way to prevent infections from spreading between a dog and guinea pig is to keep the dog away from the GP’s poop. Place the guinea pig cage in an area that the dog cannot access, such as a closed room or at a height where the dog cannot reach it.
Additionally, you should clean the cage periodically to avoid a buildup of guinea pig waste that can tempt your dog. Instead of placing the soiled bedding in a trash can indoors where a dog could get to it when you clean up the cage, take it right outside. Any outside trash cans should be kept out of the dog’s reach or covered with a lock.
If you let your guinea pig run around the house, you can either keep the dog in a separate area until you can clean up all guinea pig poop or have the dog wear a basket muzzle to prevent poop eating.
It’s not likely that your dog will become ill from ingesting a few pieces of a healthy guinea pig’s poo. However, it’s important to take the risk seriously and avoid it wherever possible. Even healthy guinea pigs can harbor illnesses that dogs can contract by eating their feces. Some of these illnesses can also be transmitted from dogs or guinea pigs to humans.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Small Mammals. Www.Cdc.Gov. Retrieved April 15, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/pets/small-mammals/index.html
- González-Ramírez, L. C., Vázquez, C. J., Chimbaina, M. B., Djabayan-Djibeyan, P., Prato-Moreno, J. G., Trelis, M., & Fuentes, M. V. (2021). Ocurrence of enteroparasites with zoonotic potential in animals of the rural area of San Andres, Chimborazo, Ecuador. Veterinary Parasitology: Regional Studies and Reports, 26, 100630.
- Johnson, D. (2019, October 23–26). Parasites in Your Pocket (Pets): Companion Mammal Parasitology [Presentation session]. Wild West Veterinary Conference, Reno, NV, USA.
- Mencke, N., Bach, T. (2007, January 13–17). Managing Gastrointestinal Helminth Infections in Small Mammals [Presentation session]. Eighth International Parasite Control Symposium/NAVC, Orlando, FL, USA.
- Vasco, K., Graham, J. P., & Trueba, G. (2016). Detection of zoonotic enteropathogens in children and domestic animals in a semirural community in Ecuador. Applied and environmental microbiology, 82(14), 4218-4224.