Like other small, furry pets, Guinea pigs can hide their illness symptoms. By the time you realize they're sick, your Guinea pig can be dying. It can be emotionally tough to realize that your little furball is nearing the end of their life. But recognizing the signs can help you take proper care, consult a veterinarian, and make your pet's last days as comfortable as possible.
What Are Signs a Guinea Pig Is Dying?
Regardless of the disease or medical condition, the signs a Guinea pig is sick and dying are common across many types of health concerns. If you see any of these signs with your Guinea pig, don't delay getting them to a vet. A Guinea pig suffering from a serious medical condition can pass away within 24 to 72 hours, so being vigilant about your Guinea pig's behavior and habits and moving quickly is key to keeping your cavy healthy.
Lack of Appetite
A noticeable loss of appetite is often one of the first signs that something is wrong. Guinea pigs love their food, and a lack of interest in eating can be a significant indicator that they’re not feeling well. This could lead to signs of weight loss if it continues too long.
A good way to keep track of how much your Guinea pig is eating is to invest in a small animal scale or baby scale and weigh them weekly. With a pet as small as a Guinea pig, there doesn't need to be much weight loss to lead to serious health issues.
You may also see your Guinea pig avoid drinking water, which can quickly lead to serious dehydration.
Bad Urine and Feces
Some common signs of serious illness and potential for death in Guinea pigs are watery diarrhea and blood in their stool or urine. Straining to urinate or defecate are also signs your Guinea pig has a urinary or intestinal obstruction or kidney disease and needs medical care.
Another common sign that's often missed is producing fewer feces than normal and in smaller sizes. Your pig may still defecate, but in smaller amounts. Or the individual "pieces" of feces will look smaller than normal. If you notice a clear difference in how much waste your Guinea pig produces, talk to your veterinarian as soon as possible.
A Guinea pig with a fever is definitely seriously ill and needs attention to prevent them from dying. Fever is often a symptom of pneumonia, which has led to the death of a high percentage of Guinea pigs.
Any type of breathing problem can be a sign of a serious problem with your Guinea pig. These include wheezing, panting, labored breathing, coughing, or sneezing. Difficulty breathing can also be a sign of pneumonia, which is one of the most common causes of death for Guinea pigs.
You know how your Guinea pig squeaks and squeals all the time? If you hear those sounds weaken or even disappear, it's definitely a red flag. Weak vocalizations can be a sign that your guinea pig isn't feeling their best. And in some unfortunate cases, it might mean that they're seriously ill or nearing the end of their life.
This change in vocal strength or frequency is kind of like when people have a frail or shaky voice when they're not well. It's your pet's way of letting you know something's up.
A Guinea pig that's sick will develop a crusty substance around their eyes and sometimes their nasal passages. Their eyes will also appear cloudy and dull and may even seem sunken. You might also notice their eyes are inflamed and produce a discharge if your Guinea pig has conjunctivitis, which is a common illness in the species.
Poor Coat Condition
A sick and dying Guinea pig will have a very poor coat, which can look dull, show thinning, or appear to be rough. They may also have patches of hair loss, and you might see inflamed areas of skin. You should also keep your eyes out for signs of parasites, such as ringworm, lice, and mites. Common areas for skin infestations are around the Guinea pig's head and anus.
If your Guinea pig has trouble moving and shows signs of pain, such as limping, or a lack of coordination, they may be very sick. If you notice that their posture seems "hunched over," this is another sign of pain and illness.
If your Guinea pig's normal level of activity has dropped and they appear uninterested or unable to move about their cage, this indicates that a life-threatening condition may be present. You should also look out for slowness in responding to you or other stimuli added to the cage.
How Do Guinea Pigs Act When They're Dying?
Any noticeable change in your Guinea pig's behavior can be a sign that they are sick and at risk of death. Some common problem behaviors include depression, hiding excessively, staring into corners, or avoiding handling. Keep in mind that if you have a Guinea pig who is normally shy, these are not necessarily a concern, as you are looking for differences in your individual pet's behavior from their normal routine.
Most Guinea pigs die between 4-8 years old depending on factors like genetics, diet, and overall health care.
Dying Guinea Pig With Cage Mates
You should separate the sick or dying guinea pig from their cage mates to prevent the spread of any potential illness and to create a quieter, calmer environment. Make sure the isolated guinea pig has all their necessities, like water, food, and bedding, to keep them comfortable. Some illnesses can be contagious, so it's best to use separate supplies for the sick guinea pig.
If you're worried about your Guinea pig being lonely without their cage mates, ask your veterinarian about their illness and if it would be okay to leave them with their companions.
Know the Signs of a Dying Guinea Pig
Guinea pigs are a much-loved small family pet, one drawback to owning them is how fragile they can be when ill. Never ignore any of the above symptoms, as these can be a sign your Guinea pig is very ill and can die without immediate veterinary help. A responsible Guinea pig owner will have already identified a cavy-savvy veterinarian they can call when their pet is sick.