The time I got my guinea pigs home, I had trouble making them eat. So I consulted some experts and did my own research on the internet to find out the reasons.
Since I noticed many guinea pig owners posting the same question online, I decided to write this post about what I found on the subject.
Why Aren’t My Guinea Pigs Eating?
So, to the question “why aren’t my guinea pigs eating?”. Here is a list of reasons which could possibly be the causes of their loss of appetite:
- A side effect of medication
- Changes in their surroundings
- Changes in temperature
- Lack of drinking water
- Parasite infestation
- Abnormal amounts of digestive metabolism causing Ketosis
- Viral or bacterial infections
While these are common causes, I found that many little everyday things could lead to the above conditions. I shall elaborate on each of these reasons and also give you easy-to-follow tips on how to avoid or overcome these issues.
Possible Causes for Loss of Apetite in Guinea Pigs and Ways to Overcome Them
1. A Side Effect of Medication
When your guinea pig is under medication for any sort of sickness, it might be normal that they lose appetite. This could be temporary in case of light dosages but could be quite alarming when it gets chronic.
Solution: When it’s temporary, you can try foods such as formula, chow pellets, vitamin supplements along with the foods that they enjoy better than others. Consult your veterinarian in chronic cases.
2. Changes in Their Surroundings
None of us like changes, right? Well, guinea pigs don’t either! If you leave their food bowl in places that they are not familiar with, they might not be in the mood to conduct a search operation.
Solution: When they get comfortable with some spots and surroundings, try your best not to change them.
3. Changes in Temperature
When the environmental temperature is dynamic, your guinea pigs may take a few weeks before they get used to the change.
Solution: Try regulation of temperature using radiators or air conditioners when you move them to a different place, to match the temperature they were comfortable with earlier.
4. Lack of Drinking Water
It is obviously known that any organism needs water for efficient metabolic activity. So in case of lack of water, your guinea pig’s digestive systems could fail to work efficiently leading to their loss of appetite.
Solution: Provide more than enough amounts of fresh water in places they can easily access. Do not provide water that may be contaminated or that is saline.
5. Parasite Infestation
Parasite infestation causes stress in guinea pigs which leads to loss of appetite. Parasites disrupt the host’s mechanisms. When parasites infect guinea pigs, it leads to loss of hair, skin infections, and many other complications which decreases efficiency to a great extent. That is why guinea pigs do not find the energy to digest, that is why they do not feel the need to eat.
Solution: Regular grooming is essential to keep parasites off the hair coat. To check for parasites in the breeding area, take your guinea pigs to the veterinarian at regular intervals.
6. Abnormal Amounts of Digestive Metabolism Causing Ketosis
In this condition, more than needed levels of metabolic activity in the liver leads to the accumulation of byproducts, enzymes, and acids. As you may have already heard, too much of anything is good for nothing. That applies very well when it comes to an animal’s body.
In medical terms, ketosis is called as pregnancy toxaemia. Ketones are chemical substances that are soluble in water. When they get accumulated with liver fat, it leads to obesity and/or loss of appetite. While this is a very common condition when the guinea pig is in its last few weeks of pregnancy, you probably don’t have to worry about it if your guinea pig has already had two litters in the past.
Also, note that this condition is not restricted to pregnant females. Irrespective of gender, ketosis is common in obese individuals. It does sound oxymoronic because it is an obese condition that later leads to weight loss. I would like to elaborate on ketosis and its effect on appetite because it could even lead to death in less than 5 days.
How to Identify Ketosis? Take your guinea pig to the veterinarian for a blood test to find out if your guinea pig is suffering from ketosis. In the case of a pregnant guinea pig, the doctor can identify the condition just by observing uterus. If there is any sign of internal bleeding in the uterus, it could be because of ketosis. A fatty liver is also easy to notice.
Solution – Ways to Treat Ketosis: There aren’t any ways which could assure the cure of ketosis in case of guinea pigs. Yet, you can try some medications. The medicines available in different locations are marketed in different names for the same contents. So I shall just give you the contents of the medicine. Propylene glycol, steroids, and calcium glutamate are some medications that could help. In the case of ketosis, prevention is sure better than cure because there hasn’t been a definitive cure discovered yet.
7. Viral or Bacterial Infections
The two words “viral” and “bacterial” are never sweet to hear. Whenever there is an infection by bacterial or viral colonies on an animal body, they use the biological and chemical mechanisms of the animal to expand their colonies leading to several complications. Since they suck out all the nutrients we intake for our needs, we get not enough nutrients for normal functioning. Our systems fail to function, and hence we cannot expect that the digestive system would work. That is exactly why viral and bacterial infections lead to a loss of appetite.
Solution: Do not consider infections to be simple. Always be alarmed about them, and get your guinea pigs to the doctor as early as possible. Medications are essential for the cure of viral and bacterial infections.
I guess it never gets said enough- guinea pigs are social animals! It is very important to remember that fact because everything else in their up-bringing revolves around this fact. Loneliness could be caused either by the death of a cagemate, or even if you do not spend enough time with them. Loneliness could even lead to the death of your guinea pig. They never eat when they are lonely, they even enter dangerous levels of depression or lethargy. See more about this in an article we wrote dedicated to why this happens.
Solution: If your guinea pig is lonely because its partner-in-crime just died, then consider getting it a new guinea pig as a friend. If they do have a partner and still show signs of loneliness, it could probably be because they do not get enough time outdoors.
If they do have a partner and also enough time outdoors, then their loneliness could be because of two reasons. One, could be because you do not spend enough time with them. The solution to that is pretty obvious- spend more time with them! Two, they could be sick. The solution to this is also obvious- take your pal to the doctor!
If you think your guinea pig is unhappy because it’s alone, I recommend reading this post next.
Why Does My Guinea Pig Want to Eat All the Time?
Guinea pigs who eat all the time are considered normal. This is because they don’t tend to stuff themselves fully. This is a grazing animal. They forage for food in the wild and keep digesting at rapid rates compared to us.
This is why they poop over 100 pellets or droppings a day. Things go in and things come out. They are not gorging out on junk food. They eat hay to prevent their teeth from overgrowing and filling their bellies with much needed fiber.
Without eating, their gut slows down and health problems arise. Make sure they also receive a cup of fresh vegetables from a wide range of options to provide some balance next to their staple diet of hay and pellets.
A guinea pig who doesn’t eat all the time could:
- become ill
- experience dental pain
Why Is My Guinea Pig Not Eating and Drinking?
Guinea pigs need time to adjust into their new home. They may not eat as much at first, but this will change with time and patience.
Always continue to offer daily supplies of hay and consider a cup’s worth of fresh vegetables. You can space them out as treats or create hunts for them to search and seek them out.
This gives them something to do and fits their natural tendencies as foragers who constantly look for food in the wild. A loss of appetite can be triggered from:
- Excess noise
- Too much high traffic
- Potential threats from other pets nearby
- Health problems
- Dental problems
- Anxiety or fear
Guinea pigs have sensitive stomachs and need check-ups from a vet when their diet is thrown off or their droppings and lack of appetite become abnormal for a longer than a couple days.
What to Do if Your Guinea Pig Is Not Eating
A guinea pig who is not eating might be suffering from underlying health conditions. We realized that our guinea pigs (three of them) were communicative with us when they were happy, angry, needed a break or wanted attention.
The thing is, they are so good at hiding their health problems. They don’t express it as well as they do with other desires or emotions. A guinea pig with health issues, lack of appetite or worse, may suppress it to the point where we don’t know if anything is wrong.
Once we see that food is not being eaten, abnormal or absence of droppings, then we should react immediately with urgent medical care from a vet. The longer we let this condition worsen, events like collapse, severe illness or sudden death can occur.
Why aren’t my guinea pigs eating pellets?
Pellets are supplement tablets that you can give your guinea pigs. I would suggest you to not give pellets that have artificial additives because the scent of such chemicals would make your guinea pigs run away from the pellets. The coloring of pellets is also not necessary because guinea pigs cannot actually see the food that is in the bowl below their nose. Their vision is only beyond the nose-point. You can try crushing the pellets to make a powder which can then be mixed with the other foods that your guinea pigs enjoy.
Why aren’t my guinea pigs drinking water?
Guinea pigs drink a lot of water. If the water you provide them is fresh and not polluted, they would surely drink it. Sometimes when guinea pigs have just eaten fruits or vegetables, they tend to avoid drinking water because of the water content in fruits and veggies. You do not have to be alarmed about it. But if that is not the case, then do consult a doctor.