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10 Most Common Causes Of Sudden Death In Guinea Pigs

Tim Rhodes
Written by Tim Rhodes Last Updated: March 9, 2021

Guinea pigs, also known as cavies, are adorable in their small features and the special bond that one can have with the gentle pet, but it can come to guinea pig sudden death.

A healthy and clean guinea pig requires the effort of a caring and responsible owner, but the sudden death of a guinea pig is upsetting.

Guinea pigs can be hosts to fur mites, fleas, and lice.

The causes of death may be infections, diseases, changes in the environment, or certain foods, among others.

10 Most Common Causes Of Sudden Death In Guinea Pigs

This article will explore in detail the ten most common causes of death in guinea pigs; thus, let’s dive into reading.

Infestation By Parasites

These ectoparasites live under the guinea pigs’ fur and suck blood from the skin of the pet.

Lice lay eggs on the skin and multiply in large numbers.

It is difficult to see these pests with your bare eyes, but some of the signs that the guinea pig has parasites include hair loss, itchiness, scratching, and skin inflammation.

The areas affected by fur mites will appear to be a dry and uneven distribution of the fur or bald patches.

Parasites drain the host’s blood through constant blood-sucking, which causes restlessness of the guinea pig, loss of energy, loss of weight, and in severe cases, the pet’s death.

Diagnosis of this condition can be made by examining the fur or the scraped skin portions using a microscope.

A veterinarian can treat mite infestations by administering an injection.

In cases of lice, tropical medication may be recommended by the vet.

Proper cleaning of the guinea pig cages and the sleeping and eating areas can help prevent parasites’ infestation.


Pneumonia is known to be among the most common infections that affect guinea pigs to the extent of causing death.

Pneumonia is caused by two types of bacteria known as streptococcus pneumonia and Bordetella bronchiseptica.

Guinea pigs are natural carriers of these opportunistic bacteria which then multiply and affect the susceptible pet.

Adenovirus in rare cases may also be a cause of pneumonia in guinea pigs.

Some of the common symptoms of pneumonia in guinea pigs include inflammation of the eyes (pink eye), fever, weight loss, nasal discharge, difficulty breathing, sneezing, and appetite loss.

A veterinarian will mostly prescribe antibiotics when the cause of the pneumonia is bacteria.

The antibiotics are administered in the form of a suspension through the mouth.

If the pet develops diarrhea after taking the antibiotics, then terminate the dose and immediately seek the veterinarian’s advice.

Other forms of treatment for pneumonia include oxygen therapy when the pet suffers difficulty in breathing.

Clean fluids help prevent dehydration, and the owner could also consider the administration of vitamin C to boost the pet’s immunity.

If you have more than one guinea pig, the infected pet’s isolation is advised to control an outbreak.

Proper cleaning of the cages and the drinking vessels are also helpful.


Diarrhea in guinea pigs is usually a symptom of another condition, a disease or infection, that causes upset in the regular digestive system, hence disrupting a healthy gut.

The gastrointestinal tract of guinea pigs and rabbits is quite sensitive.

For the guinea pig’s bowel function to be expected, a natural population of bacteria acts in the digestive system.

Gastrointestinal stasis is a condition that occurs as a result of imbalance or alteration in the normal flora bacteria resulting in the slow movement of food in the digestive canal.

Therefore, damage to the intestinal walls and eventually toxins production result in severe diarrhea in guinea pigs.

Some of the signs that accompany diarrhea in guinea pigs are lack of appetite, loss of weight, dehydration, rough fur, low body temperature, fecal stains on the coat around the anus, and dull eyes.

Antibiotics should only be administered in consultation with a veterinarian since quantities are not well monitored could worsen the digestive tract bacteria’s imbalance.

Syringe feeding or water administration using the syringe is necessary to overcome dehydration and loss of appetite when a guinea pig is suffering severe diarrhea.

Increasing the fiber content or hay in the meal helps to curb diarrhea.

Supplements will help in restoring the health of your pet.

It is necessary to keep the guinea pig’s environment as clean as possible when it has diarrhea.

Ileus (Gut Stasis)

A condition arises due to gas build-up in the intestines and the animal’s small intestines.

When this occurs, a guinea pig will show little interest in eating and may not pass any stool.

It may be caused by dental diseases, particular antibiotics, metabolism-related diseases, changes in the environment, reaction to certain drugs, or improper diet.

Defecation is a sign of healthy gut processes, and therefore when your pet fails to pass stool, it becomes a sign of a life-threatening situation.

The condition causes the animal a lot of pain and discomfort, resulting in fast and strained breathing.

It also leads to little or no mobility, and the lack of appetite hinders recovery, which can easily cause the sudden death of the guinea pig.

Dental Diseases

Research shows that dental diseases mostly affect guinea pigs at around three years of age.

The most common diseases are malocclusion due to improperly aligned teeth that cause the animal to drool or slobber due to chewing difficulties.

The failure of the jaws to meet appropriately causes teeth to appear overgrown and misaligned.

The condition is typically passed on to the pets due to an improperly balanced diet, congenital disabilities, Vitamin C deficiency, or injuries to the animal.

The diseases result in weight loss, pain, and discomfort during feeding and anorexia.

The condition requires treatment by a highly qualified veterinarian who may file or clip some teeth to enable proper locking of the jaw and teeth.

In most cases, where the owner is not keen enough to identify the problem, the guinea pig may die.


This condition occurs due to vitamin C deficiency.

A guinea pig’s body, just like the human body, does not produce vitamin C and is therefore dependent on the vitamin from the diet.

Vitamin C encourages the adequate production of collagen that helps in walking and strong joints and healthy membranes of the skull and intestines.

The fortified diets manufactured for guinea pigs contain some stabilized vitamin C, depleted within three months due to exposure to heat, light, and moisture.

Vitamin C deficiency in guinea pigs causes weight loss due to body weakness, loss of appetite, limping, rough fur, diarrhea, dental problems, or sudden death.

On average, a guinea pig requires about 10 milligrams of vitamin C per kilogram daily.

A pregnant female requires a more considerable amount of up to 30 milligrams.

To counter vitamin C deficiency, give the pet the vitamin orally daily or visit the veterinarian to provide the pet with an injection.

Some of the vitamin C sources included in the guinea pig’s diet are strawberries, broccoli, kales, green peppers, parsley, oranges, and red cabbage.

Urinary Problems

Urinary calculi are the most common infections that develop in the urinary tract and result in stones in the bladder, kidney, or ureter, and they are another cause for guinea pig sudden death.

It is an accumulation of calcium sediments in the urine that form cystitis in the bladder.

These stones block the tubes that pass urine, thus difficulty in urination, which is a risky situation that can claim your beloved pet’s life.

Cystitis is also another form of urinary infection that occurs in female guinea pigs more than the males.

The most common signs of urinary problems in your pet are hunched posture, strained urination due to pain, bloodstains in the urine, smaller quantities of urine, and eventually weight loss.

To arrive at a specific diagnosis, a veterinarian can conduct a thorough physical examination in the form of blood tests, urinalysis, X-rays, or abdominal palpation.

In severe cases, surgery is done, followed by hospitalization and close medical monitoring by a qualified veterinarian.

Annual medical check-ups for guinea pigs are advised for the early detection of such problems.

Cancers And Tumors

Leukemia and skin tumors, in most cases, affect the young guinea pigs, whereas other types of cancers occur in the mature one of about four years.

Upon identification, medication and surgery can treat tumors and cancers in guinea pigs depending on the location, type of the tumor, and the extent of the damage at the time of identification.

Trichofolliculomas are a type of skin tumor that develops at the tail base and can be rectified through surgery.

Some tumors develop in the reproductive system of both male and female guinea pigs.

Cavan leukemia is a type of cancer that can be diagnosed by examination of lymphatic fluids.

Lymphosarcoma is also a common type.

Some of the signs of this type of cancer are enlargement of the liver or spleen.

A veterinarian can conduct surgery, but guinea pigs do not make their full recovery in most cases.

Qualified veterinarians should be engaged to do a proper and regular examination of the guinea pigs to identify any form of masses in advance and seek medical consultation.

Toxicity Caused By Antibiotics

A guinea pig may have intolerances or heightened sensitivity to the effects of some types of antibiotics.

In most cases, guinea pigs are the preferred vet for testing several antibiotics before they can be declared good for human beings.

The effects may also be due to high dosage or administration of the wrong type of antibiotics.

Therefore, it is advisable to avoid administering over-the-counter antibiotics to your guinea pigs and instead seek the advice of a qualified veterinarian.

The common symptoms of intoxication are loss of appetite, fatigue in the animal, and diarrhea.

When such signs occur after using an antibiotic prescribed by the veterinarian, the medication should be terminated immediately, and proper hydration and feeding are ensured.

Some of the antibiotics that cause such problems include chlortetracycline, vancomycin penicillin, tylosin, ampicillin, tetracycline, lincomycin, erythromycin, and clindamycin.

Guinea pigs have a sensitive and unique digestive tract with bacteria that, in case of an imbalance due to the intake of certain antibiotics, lead to intoxication and, if not urgently addressed, may cause the poor pet’s death.

Stress, Heart Attack, And Stroke

Stress in guinea pigs may be caused by factors such as changes in the environment, dietary modification, overcrowding, the introduction of new members, or underlying medical conditions.

Neurological or brain damage may cause severe and mild attacks on a guinea pig.

The most common sign of the damage is the flickering of eyes and long spans of unresponsiveness, which upon closer inspection, you realize that the guinea pig is quite alive.

This occurs in the older guinea pigs aged between 7 and 9 years.

Heat strokes and changes in environmental temperatures also affect guinea pigs.

A heat stroke symptoms include but are not limited to weak limbs, panting, convulsions, and drooling.

When you notice the symptoms, it is advisable to keep the pet calm and undisturbed and immediately seek a veterinarian’s advice.

In some cases, the common causes of death in guinea pigs may be controlled by for a while, but they are a.

Other Causes Of Sudden Death

There also can be other causes of sudden death to guinea pigs; therefore, let’s take a look at some of them and learn more about them.


Abscesses in guinea pigs mostly occur around the jaws.

The disintegration of cells results in a formation of a swelling containing bacteria and thick pus.

The abscesses commonly affect teeth, internal organs, lymph nodes, bones, and the skin.

The ones occurring around the teeth and the jaws are tougher to remove since they are attached to soft tissues, but others can be removed surgically, followed by close medical monitoring.

The primary cause of the abscesses is agents such as parasites, fragments, or fungus.

Symptoms of guinea pigs’ abscesses include facial swellings, weight loss, excess salivation redness, irritation, discharges, and lethargic appearances.

As a preventative measure, the cage’s disinfection, maintenance of a clean environment, and a healthy diet help speed up the healing process.


It is caused by a bacteria called Salmonella bacterium.

The disease is highly contagious and can be easily spread amongst guinea pigs or even human beings through direct contact.

Salmonella bacteria are also found in fresh vegetables.

Some of the signs noticeable on a guinea pig infected by the bacteria include dull appearances, rough fur, dehydration, enlarged internal organs, fever, poor appetite, and inflammation of the eyes.

Proper sanitation is advised when handling the infected pigs to prevent the spread of the bacteria.

Some of the other diseases that spread from guinea pigs to humans include Campylobacteriosis, ringworm, Yersiniosis, Scabies, and Streptococcosis.


Gastrointestinal stasis is a major cause of bloating in guinea pigs.

The accumulation of the gas causes enlargement of the pig’s stomach, which can be painful.

Prolonged sessions of the pain can cause shock and stress to the animal, leading to sudden death.


This condition may lead to a majority of the medical conditions in a guinea pig.

The animal may fail to eat due to many factors such as stress, diseases, infections, or a combination of all these factors.

There are also cases of anorexic guinea pigs whose cause of the condition is entirely unknown.

Anorexia is also a common cause of the sudden death of guinea pigs.

Pododermatitis (Bumblefoot)

It is an inflammation of the guinea pigs’ footpads, mainly caused by a bacteria known as Staphylococcus aureus.

The risk of infection in guinea pigs is heightened by injury, rough or abrasive cage floor, low-quality sanitation status, and obesity.

The condition can be a pathway to other severe conditions such as swollen lymph nodes, arthritis, excess amyloid in internal organs, and tendon inflammation.

The bumble foot problem may be managed using foot bandages on the animals with foot sores, antibiotics, and pain medication.

Severe cases may necessitate surgery or amputation.

In other cases, where severe pain and stress levels are high, the animal may suddenly die.

Hair Loss (Alopecia)

Social conflicts among guinea pigs may lead to chewing of each other’s hair which is also referred to as barbering.

Other causes may be genetic problems or disruptions in the metabolism.

Serious marks are left, and inflammation of the skin may occur.

Barbering may be prevented by separating the animals, early weaning of young ones, and minimizing the possible causes of stress in their environment.

Pregnancy Toxemia (Ketosis)

Ketones are a normal by-product of metabolism.

When produced in excess, they can lead to the occurrence of pregnancy toxemia in guinea pigs.

Some of the causes of ketosis in guinea pigs include lack of sufficient exercise, environmental changes, loss of appetite in the latter days of pregnancy, obesity, or genetic inheritance of underdeveloped vessels in the uterus.

Ketosis occurs during the first week after birth or the last three weeks before delivery.

The condition not only occurs in pregnant females but also in obese male guinea pigs.

Death resulting from ketosis may be sudden and not preceded by any signs or lead to a sickly guinea pig with loss of appetite, loss of energy, coma, and eventual death within five days.

The condition may cause the death of the unborn guinea pigs in the uterus.

Ketosis is diagnosed by examination of a blood sample or by identification of bleeding in the placenta.

Treatment at the advanced stages of ketosis is often unsuccessful.

An emergency caesarian section may be advised in some cases.

Ketosis in pregnant guinea pigs may be prevented by ensuring a healthy diet that is not likely to cause obesity and reduce factors that may cause animal stress.

Ear And Eye Disorders

Pink eye, also known as conjunctivitis, is mainly caused by bacteria from the Bordetella or Streptococcus family.

Common signs of pink eye in guinea pigs include redness of the eye, watering, irritation, and crusting.

Antibiotics are the standard treatment measure.

It is advisable to consider antibiotics that will not cause reactions on your pet.

Ear infections in guinea pigs result from bacterial infection, with the typical symptoms being some discharge from the ears.

In advanced cases of other diseases such as pneumonia, animals may exhibit imbalanced signs, walking in circles, or head tilting.

The treatment of an ear infection is dependent on the section of the ear canal that is affected.


It is a condition that leads to difficulty giving birth due to the cartilage’s stiffening that joins the two pelvic bones.

Baby guinea pigs are quite large during birth, therefore, causing strain in the delivery process.

Stiffening of the pubic symphysis causes the inability to have a regular delivering leading to the option of cesarean delivery, especially for first-time births.

Cesarean delivery is a risky affair that, in most cases, leaves the mother dead.

This condition’s treatment usually avoids mating amongst the guinea pigs by housing the males and females separately.

Selected females meant for breeding should be bred before reaching adulthood to stretch the pubic symphysis.

Ovarian Cysts

Ovarian cysts occur in the ovaries of female guinea pigs aged above one year.

The most common signs of cysts are loss of energy, loss of appetite, and hair loss around the female’s abdomen.

Diagnosis is confirmed using x-rays.

Treatment may be removing the ovaries and the uterus, which is known as spaying, employing a surgical procedure.

Overgrown cysts may burst and cause the death of the female guinea pig.

Final Thoughts

You now have a clear idea of some of the things that can cause guinea pig sudden death; thus, you have to check for some early signs and tips on keeping your pet healthy.

Regular monitoring of your guinea pigs and annual medical examination will help you be fully aware of their health status.

Early detection of an infection or illness will increase the chances of survival of your pets.

We hope you have learned a lot of useful information about the common causes of guinea pig sudden death; therefore, try to keep your loved ones healthy.


Tim Rhodes
Tim Rhodes

Hi there! My name is Tim Rhodes and I'm a guinea pig enthusiast through thick and thin. My mission is to teach others useful tips and tricks about these cute creatures. When I'm not writing, I enjoy kickboxing and work as an animal trainer.

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