Why Is My Guinea Pig Gagging? What You Need To Do

Having a new guinea pig can be scary if they care constantly gagging.

You worry about them constantly. Guinea pigs are known to gag or choke from time to time. Maybe this has happened to you.

Don’t worry. We’ll try to answer all your questions here.

Why Is My Guinea Pig Gagging?

It is common for a guinea pig to gag because unchewed food typically gets stuck in their teeth at the back of their mouth. The guinea pig will make a gagging noise to clear the food from their mouth.

Guinea pigs have teeth in the back of their mouths that they use to chew food into an extra soupy paste before it is digested. They chew their food into this paste, which is stored in the back of their mouths.

This can sometimes get lodged their throat’s. But it can also be a sign that a guinea pig is having trouble with its back teeth. You may need to see a vet if the problem persists.

Another reason guinea pigs might gag is that they have an object, such as a piece of food, a bit of hay or a hairball stuck in their throats. Guinea pigs will gag or cough up whatever is in their throat.

Sometimes, if an object is very large, it may block their airway and this is when they can start to choke.

Guinea pigs lack the ability to vomit up food from their stomachs as humans do. They will gag and cough up objects instead.

Sometimes it can look like a guinea pig is throwing up, but it is really coughing up the soupy paste from the back of their mouths. Don’t panic if your guinea pig makes gagging noises from time to time.

What Do I Do If My Guinea Pig Is Choking?

If your guinea pig is choking it could just be that they are coughing up a hairball or gagging at a tiny bit of food. It could mean that something is stuck in your guinea pig’s throat and cannot be dislodged.

But it could also be a sign of serious respiratory problems, in which case you will need to visit a vet.

If your guinea pig is choking on something, here’s what you need to do.

You won’t have enough time to call a vet if your guinea pig’s airway is blocked. You will have to work fast, but carefully, to ensure you don’t hurt your guinea pig.

If you have a small pair of tweezers you can remove the object yourself. It will usually be a bit of hay, or food. You will need to be gentle.

It might be hard to get your guinea pig to stand still long enough to remove the object with the tweezers, especially if they are panicking.

Be careful you don’t injure your guinea pig.

Holding them upside down and giving them a shake is the quickest and easiest option here.

Of course, you can avoid having to do all this if you make sure there are no large pieces of food, hay or any other objects in your guinea pigs cage that might be a choking hazard.

Clean out their cage regularly and feed them only small pieces of food. The article we wrote about guinea pig vomit is essential to this topic. You can find it here

What Does A Choking Guinea Pig Sound Like?

A choking guinea pig sounds a little like a cat coughing up a hairball. When guinea pigs choke they make coughing and gagging noises. They might sound like they are hiccupping or spluttering.

It is helpful to know when a hiccup or cough turns into something more serious. If your guinea pig is making a wheezing noise talk to your vet. It might be respiratory problems.

If you hear your guinea pig making coughing or gagging noises check it to make sure there is nothing in their throat. You will soon get to know all the sounds your guinea pig makes.

As mentioned above, it could be a sign of teeth problems, so contact your vet if this persists.

Why Is My Guinea Pig Gasping For Air?

If your guinea pig is gasping for air it could mean that it is choking, or it could be the sign of respiratory problems. If the gasping is frequent and persistent you should take your guinea pig to a vet.

Guinea pigs, just like us, can develop breathing problems. It could be the sign of something more serious.

Always seek expert advice from a trusted vet if you are concerned. If your guinea pig is choking, follow the steps above to dislodge any objects from their throat.

It could also be the symptoms of a fever, or maybe more serious respiratory conditions.

These can be potentially deadly, so it is important to seek medical advice.

Do Guinea Pigs Cough Up Hairballs?

Yes. Guinea Pigs groom themselves in the same way cats do. Guinea pigs secrete a milky fluid from their eyes, which they use as a cleaning agent. They rub it on their paws and lick their fur.

This can result in them ingesting balls of their own fur. These are usually digested; but some of it can get stuck in their throat.

They will cough this up when they need to. Don’t worry. Guinea pigs are designed to do this. It is natural and normal for them to clean themselves which means it is natural and normal for them cough up fur.

Just as cats do, guinea pigs will make gagging noises and cough up the furballs. You will soon get to know the difference between regular coughing and gagging and more serious choking.

Can Guinea Pigs Choke On Water?

Yes. Guinea pigs can choke on anything that gets stuck in their throat and blocks their airway. Sometimes a guinea pig will choke if it drinks its water too quickly, just as it would if it ate a large piece of fruit.

Make sure that your guinea pig’s waterspout is not releasing water too quickly when they have a drink. If water gets stuck in a guinea pig’s airways, or in its lungs, they can drown.

Why Is My Guinea Pig Making a Choking Sound?

Guinea pigs make all sorts of quirky sounds. If you hear or sense that they are choking however, this could be serious. Sometimes they are just coughing up a hairball. In other cases, they might be trying to process the food because they didn’t chew it properly.

If something like a piece of food, debris or bedding gets stuck in their throat and they can’t get it out, they will be distressed. If the object is stuck in there for too long, it could lead to suffocation or other respiratory problems.

This is the time to visit the vet if you cannot find a way to dislodge what might be stuck in there. We would like to help you with more information on getting involved to help your guinea pig when something is stuck in the throat. Please read on to find out more.

How to Stop a Guinea Pig From Choking

Trying to stop our guinea pig from choking was a daunting and frightening task when it first occurred to us. I was stressed along with my guinea pig who was obviously having a hard time breathing.

There must be something stuck, but I couldn’t see it.

  1. I learned to take a breath and place my finger down into her throat.
  2. I used my pinky finger to make sure it could make its way through her obstructed opening.
  3. I pressed down on the floor of her throat to help the air flow into her lungs better.
  4. Then I applied some pressure to her rib cage with my other hand.
  5. I let go and saw her breathing returning to normal. In rare cases, you may need to give mouth to mouth resuscitation.

This entire process might need to occur while you are on the go with a driver taking you both to the vet for immediate attention.

What to Do if Guinea Pig Has Something Stuck in Throat

Choking will happen sometimes for cavies who can’t stop chewing and eating. Sometimes they get too excited with treats or a piece of hay doesn’t get chewed down properly before it is ingested. This could lead to choking.

Guinea pigs cannot vomit, but they can regurgitate enough to bring the obstructed object or food partially up their throat if needed.

Sometimes they will struggle and have a very hard time trying to get enough air into their lungs through their throat. Guinea pigs have been found choking on:

  • carrot
  • hay
  • grass
  • corn
  • pellets

Sometimes it’s debris from the house that wasn’t meant to be ingested. The hazard here is serious and the dangers that follow without treatment or care from a vet could lead to suffocation. Act quickly and be there to save the day.

Why Is My Guinea Pig Gasping for Air?

Guinea pigs could suffer from multiple respiratory conditions over their lifespan. This could be due to

  • Eating too quickly
  • Pollutants in the air
  • Swallowing debris
  • Respiratory infections
  • Overheating
  • Panting
  • Coughing

It is very difficult to assess why your guinea pig is gasping for air without an examination. If the event has occurred suddenly, there could be something stuck in their throat.

If this gasping is slow and repeated over a longer portion of the day, then it could be a sign of an infection, fever or other health issues that require medication. Assess the timing and recognize when it’s time to visit the vet.

Why Guinea Pig Coughing When Eating?

Do you ever cough while you eat? I love to eat too much of my favorite foods and I cough when I eat too fast. Your guinea pig might be doing the same. They love what you have given them to eat and can’t help but gobble it up too quickly.

This results in the need to cough up some food, bring it back up slightly and swallow it once again for better ingestion. Pushing the food down the throat for guinea pigs also sounds like coughing.

Keep in mind that guinea pigs do not vomit and are not actually bringing up the food to the surface. It is rising in their throat only enough to push and pull through their esophagus and into the stomach safely when too much has been gobbled up at once.

Dry Heaving, What Does This Mean?

A guinea pig cannot throw up. This dry heaving you are seeing could be the closest thing you will get to actual vomit. A guinea pig could resemble someone dry heaving, but what is actually going on closer to the hiccups instead.

They do not throw up, so the dry heaving is the only way of reacting to food and drinks that may not have made their way smoothly into their stomachs. They could be working it through or may have swallowed some air turning into bubbles.

It will go away with time, but keep your eye on this situation. Watch to see if it lasts more than 5-10 minutes. Seek the help of a vet if this action is prolonged.

Your guinea pig might be suffering from a respiratory infection or other issues when something is stuck in their throat and they are unable to get it out.

Do Guinea Pigs Hiccup?

Yes. Hiccups are a common occurrence for guinea pigs. It is not an alarming concern. They are having spasms in the diaphragm or may have swallowed some air inadvertently.

Sometimes hiccups occur when they are too excited. Female guinea pigs at pregnancy may deal with hiccups more often right up to the moment when they give birth.

If these hiccups keep happening too often, say once a day or every other day, you may feel more inclined to believe that there is an underlying issue with their internal health.

Tell your guinea pig’s vet next time you visit about these hiccups and track down how often they occur. The more often, the more you should be concerned. Otherwise, it’s quite normal from time to time for them to hiccup.


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My name is Anna and I work full time in my local pet shop where we sell many animals that I write about on this site. I love all animals and love writing about them.