Can Guinea Pigs Have Down Syndrome? All You Need To Know

Last updated on January 22nd, 2023 at 06:32 pm

Guinea pigs sometimes have strange characteristics on their bodies, such as small feet, their bodies appearing fatter, or small ears.

You immediately wonder if something is wrong with the guinea pig because these are signs that are characteristic of Down syndrome.

Do guinea pigs have Down syndrome?

No, guinea pigs cannot have Down syndrome, although they may have some signs that look like they have the syndrome. Guinea pigs cannot have Down syndrome, but they can have other diseases such as Vestibular, Cushing’s, and Horner’s syndromes, with symptoms similar to Down syndrome.

In today’s article, you’ll learn why guinea pigs can’t have Down syndrome and a little more about other similar syndromes your guinea pig may have, so let’s get started.

What exactly is Down syndrome?

Down syndrome occurs as a genetic problem when there is a copy of chromosome 21.

Then there are problems due to the additional genes on chromosome 21, here are some of them:

  • hearing loss
  • problems with physical and mental development
  • heart problems
  • daily behavior problems
  • attacks
  • heavy breathing
  • weak immunity

There are several types of Down syndrome:

  1. trisomy 21 – this happens when, as the name suggests, there are three copies of chromosome 21, and as a rule, there should be only two.
  2. mosaic Down syndrome – when only certain cells in the human body contain a copy of chromosome 21.
  3. translocation down syndrome – when a part or another chromosome 21 can be attached to another chromosome.

What are the signs of Down syndrome?

When someone has Down syndrome it is immediately noticeable through their physical appearance which is very different from their normal appearance.

For example, people with Down syndrome are fatter, or their faces are rounder because they have more fat deposits.

Here are the most common symptoms of Down syndrome:

  • their face is flat
  • the ears are small and close together
  • small feet
  • their necks are small
  • round and small head

These are just some of the signs that indicate a person with Down syndrome, there are many other characteristics when someone has this disease.

Can Guinea Pigs Have Down Syndrome?

No, guinea pigs cannot have Down syndrome because their chromosomal structure is not the same as humans.

Guinea pigs cannot have Down’s syndrome because their trisomy is not the same as in humans, they do not have the necessary trisomy for Down’s syndrome, which is 21 and humans have it.

But because guinea pigs have certain chromosomes, they can show problems and symptoms that resemble Down syndrome.

These problems can be:

  • physically
  • cognitive
  • physiologically

When guinea pigs have certain symptoms of Down syndrome it is due to some other diseases in their body.can guinea pigs have down syndrome

What are similar signs of Down syndrome that guinea pigs may have?

As we said, guinea pigs, just like other animals cannot have Down’s syndrome, but they can have certain signs that are similar.

Here are some of them:

  • they may have rounded ears
  • they may have a flat face
  • problems with walking
  • crossing their eyes
  • the head may be round
  • they may be thicker and larger than normal size

Can guinea pigs have other syndromes?

Yes, although guinea pigs cannot have Down syndrome, they can still have other syndromes that are similar and problematic for their health.

Here are the syndromes that guinea pigs can have:

  • Cushing’s syndrome
  • vestibular syndrome
  • Horner’s syndrome
  • satin syndrome

So let’s read in detail about these syndromes that unfortunately your furry friends can have and can cause problems with their health and their normal life.

Cushing’s syndrome or hyperadrenocorticism in guinea pigs

As the name suggests, Cushing’s disease occurs as a result of too high a level of cortisol or hyperadrenocorticism during its production in the adrenal glands.

Cortisol is a hormone that plays an important role in the proper regulation of certain functions in guinea pigs, such as:

  • the metabolism
  • the appetite
  • the energy level
  • muscle strength
  • blood sugar
  • proper bone growth
  • normal sexual function
  • maintaining homeostasis
  • stress regulation

When guinea pigs have too much cortisol in their adrenal glands due to Cushing’s disease, they may experience certain symptoms such as:

  • depression
  • fatigue
  • lethargy
  • losing their weight
  • a change in their behavior
  • weak bones

When guinea pigs have Cushing’s disease they may have milder symptoms such as diarrhea, lethargy, fatigue, and abdominal pain.

But sometimes Cushing’s disease can lead to serious complications that can result in death if not treated promptly.

Therefore, if you notice any of the symptoms we have listed, you should immediately take the guinea pig to a veterinarian for an examination.

Your vet will determine if your guinea pig has Cushing’s syndrome by testing cortisol levels, abdominal ultrasound, and other methods.

Cushing’s disease can be treated with drugs to shrink the adrenal gland and reduce hormonal overproduction.

Vestibular syndrome in guinea pigs

Vestibular syndrome in guinea pigs occurs as a result of an injury.

At the same time, one side of the guinea pig is affected by the vestibular syndrome, while the other side of the guinea pig’s body remains unchanged.

For example, if a guinea pig injures one ear, swelling, inflammation, and pain occur, while the other ear is completely healthy.

When guinea pigs have this disease the following symptoms appear:

  • hearing loss
  • reducing their weight
  • movement problems
  • tilting the head to one side

In such cases, an examination by a veterinarian is mandatory, and otoscopy and tympanometry are used to diagnose the disease.

In any case, it is necessary to treat the disease with antibiotics and antihistamines in order to cure your pet.

Guinea pigs can have Horner’s syndrome

Horner syndrome occurs in guinea pigs as a result of nerve problems in the brain.

Not having enough nerve stimulation leads to problems with the eye muscles in the guinea pig and the appearance of deep eyeballs and less sweating in the eye that has Horner’s syndrome.

When guinea pigs have this problem the following symptoms appear:

  • problems moving the eyeball
  • guinea pigs cannot close both eyes at once
  • dry skin around the nose
  • fewer release tears

Guinea pigs usually get Horner’s syndrome immediately after birth, although it is not excluded that it appears later in their life.

Horner’s syndrome usually occurs due to spinal cord injury in guinea pigs.

There are three types of damage that cause Horner’s syndrome:

  • brain and spinal cord damage
  • damage between the skull and chest
  • damage between the base of the skull and the eyes

The veterinarian determines which damage it is and begins to treat your pet.

Eye drops or anti-inflammatory drugs are usually used for treatment, but surgical treatment is not excluded.

However, this syndrome does not affect vision in guinea pigs and not much attention is given to its complete treatment.

Guinea pigs can have a satin syndrome

Satin syndrome is a hair mutation in guinea pigs and is characterized by a shiny appearance to their fur.

Although at first glance it seems cute, it can still be a sign of the onset of a very dangerous disease called osteodystrophy – bone disease.

This disease is incurable and is characterized by a lot of pain for the guinea pigs and ultimately ends with death.

Symptoms of this disease are:

  • less weight
  • reduced growth
  • stiff joints
  • bad and incorrect posture
  • your pet’s dental problems

The disease causes bone fragility in guinea pigs, and the only way to help them is to reduce the pain, which is getting worse.

When the guinea pig can no longer tolerate severe pain, the veterinarian usually suggests euthanasia as a solution to reduce the suffering of the guinea pig.

What genetic problems can guinea pigs have?

Guinea pigs may have genetic problems that cause developmental delays or other health problems.

Here are a few of them:

  • developmental delay
  • change in fur color
  • respiratory problems
  • dental problems
  • occurrence of stones in the bladder

Guinea pigs may have certain genetic health problems, but we must emphasize that such occurrences are rare among them, and most of the time they do not have genetic problems.

Can animals have Down syndrome?

No, animals cannot have Down syndrome.

Down syndrome or trisomy 21 can only be found in humans when they have an extra copy of chromosome 21.

Although animals cannot have Down’s syndrome, they can still have other syndromes with similar symptoms and signs as Down’s syndrome, which can cause problems with their health.

Read more: Why Do Guinea Pigs Bite Their Feet? Let’s Discover


Guinea pigs cannot have Down syndrome, but they can have certain symptoms and deformities similar to Down syndrome.

Guinea pigs can have several other syndromes and diseases that have signs similar to Down syndrome.

If the guinea pigs have problems and deformities, you should immediately contact a veterinarian to determine the cause of their appearance, whether it is from some disease and to start treatment.

Read more: Why Do My Guinea Pig Push My Hand Away? Find Out Now