Are you worried about your guinea pig twitching?
Then read this article till the end as it covers all the causes and treatment plans.
Tiny muscle contractions in the body are involved in twitching, also called muscle fasciculation.
Muscles consist of fibers that are regulated by your nerves.
Your muscle fibers can twitch due to stimulation or damage to a nerve.
People get very anxious or freak out while seeing their beloved guinea pig pet in pain, crying, falling to one side, and suffering from twitching.
They don’t know the cause of the twitching and how to give first aid to treat it properly, now let’s get you started with guinea pig twitching!
Table of Contents
Why is a Guinea Pig Twitching?
Generally, guinea pigs do small sudden jumps when they get excited, and that’s part of their normal behavior.
But if the twitching lasts longer and doesn’t stop, painful gashes start appearing and they start itching vigorously.
It might be something serious and life-threatening problem, which might lead to death.
You should visit the nearest pet clinic urgently and explain everything in detail, to save your guinea pig before it gets too late and you regret it.
What Should I Know About Guinea Pigs?
Learn more about the domesticated species of South American rodents belonging to the cavy family (Caviidae), guinea pigs.
It’s similar to other cavies in having a robust body with short limbs, a large head and eyes, and short ears.
The legs have hairless soles and short, sharp claws.
There are three toes on the hind feet and four toes on the forefeet.
Various breeds of domestic guinea pigs exist, that are distinguished by their hair length and coat texture.
The term guinea pig is informally used to refer to a person who serves as a test subject in an experiment.
Guinea pigs are quite large compare to other rodents, having bodies approximately 20 to 40 cm which is 8 to 16 inches, and weighing 500 to 1,500 grams.
There are long hairs on the neck area compared to other areas of the body, the tail is not visible, but the fur is smooth in texture.
Coloration is highly variable: white, cream, tan, reddish, or chocolate brown, black, or a mixed pattern can be the coat.
Guinea pigs are vegetarian and can survive without drinking water due to sufficiently moist food, but fresh cool water must be provided if they are eating dry commercial food.
They breed throughout the year in captivity, females bear up to 13 young per litter, gestation takes 68 days, 4 is average.
While the young will scamper around and eat solid food the day they are born, for about three weeks they are not fully weaned.
Females mature in two months, males in three, and guinea pigs in captivity live up to eight years, although it’s common for three to five.
Guinea pig is a quite popular animal among people to keep in home as a pet, due to their sensitive nature, small body, soft fur.
What is a Healthy Guinea Pig Diet?
Guinea pigs are herbivores, so their diet is based on high-quality guinea pig hay, pelleted guinea pig food, and small quantities of fresh vegetables and fresh fruit.
A disturbance in their food nutrition can cause chronic diarrhea, diseases of the heart, kidneys, or liver, and obesity.
Introducing new foods to the diet of your guinea pig should be done gradually, as sudden or major dietary changes may cause problems (such as diarrhea).
Feed your guinea pig twice a day, morning and night, on a regular schedule.
If given the opportunity, guinea pigs will overeat, so to avoid obesity, remove pelleted food that is left unconsumed after one hour and discard fresh fruits or vegetables that are left unconsumed after 24 hours.
As guinea pigs are susceptible to heatstroke, new, filtered, chlorine-free water must be constantly accessible, especially during warmer weather.
The food that your guinea pigs can eat is hay, pellets, vegetables, fruit treats, and cecotropes.
Nature has developed an uncommon way for guinea pigs to supplement their special nutritional needs.
Cecotropes are thin, soft pellets containing, during the digestive process, nutrients ingested from plants.
They pass out of the large intestine, out of the anus, and are instantly eaten.
Guinea pigs can be fed only certain types of food.
Some foods can be harmful, some are too high in fat or sugar, some are unsafe due to choking hazards, some have little nutritional value, some can cause gas and some can cause bloating.
Foods such as onions, nuts, mushrooms, potatoes, seeds, cabbage, bread, and meat, iceberg, lettuce, avocados, dairy products, peanut butter, potatoes, corn kernels, rhubarb, bok choy, etc., should be avoided.
Is Guinea Pig Twitching Harmful?
There are several reasons for guinea pig twitching, from which one condition is part of their normal behavior while others are serious causes, which may result in the death of the little pet.
What Are the Causes of Guinea Pig Twitching?
Guinea pigs are small body mammals, they require extra care and attention to stay healthy.
No matter how much you take care of them and provide the best nutrition-filled food for a healthy diet.
Many reasons can make your guinea pig ill and unhealthy, which may lead to losing your precious guinea pig pet in a worst-case scenario.
The causes of twitching in the guinea pig are listed below:
If your guinea pig suddenly starts doing little jumps and changes its path with a twitch while running, it’s popcorning.
But they are in control of it and stop twitching after a while.
It’s normal behavior among guinea pigs, but people get worried when they see these sudden jumps and consider them twitching.
The guinea pigs tend to do these small jumps when they are extremely excited, playful, and too happy.
This behavior is known as popcorning.
This means you are doing good parenting and your guinea pig is more than happy with your parenting.
If you have a guinea pig pet, yet have not witnessed a popcorning behavior till now, don’t worry few guinea pigs are happy and still they do not indulge in popcorning behavior.
To make your guinea pig happy just provide them:
- Lots of good and healthy food
- Lots of fresh and cool water
- Safe and clean environment
- Arrange stuff to play and decorate their cage
- Interacting with them on daily basis is a must
- Give them lots of hay, as hay is the favorite food for guinea pig
- Give them freshly grown grass or take them out in the garden, when the temperature is cool outside
- Talk to them in an exciting jolly voice, whenever you passed by their cage
- Provide them a large space cage to run and roam freely
Mites and Dandruff
The most common reason for your guinea pig twitching, crying, or falling to one side is probably an infection of a skin parasite.
This skin infection is known as guinea pig mange (Trixacarus Caviae).
Two different mites can be found occasionally, one harmless and the other one that bites our guinea pigs and can even bite us:
- Chirodiscoides Caviae is a relatively harmless fur mite that only survives on guinea pig skin
- Cheyletiella Parasitivorax is an extremely irritating fur mite that can infect cats, dogs, other animals and cause dermatitis in humans
The continuous itching leads to fur loss because they keep scratching with their teeth and nails and make bald patches.
These bald patches take a long time to regrow fur even after the cure.
There is also another mite known as “The Walking Dandruff”, it gives itching even to the owner.
Few guinea pigs are affected by this so badly, that they are not able to eliminate it and require monthly treatment to stay healthy.
Ectoparasites are just another type of mite, that lives on the surface of the skin in the guinea pig, that is easily detectable and can be cured within a short period.
Sometimes even small termites can grow so large that they become deadly and life-threatening.
To treat the mites and dandruff:
- Extra vitamin C consumption is required
- Proper bathing and cleaning them daily, which includes cleaning their ear, clipping their nails, and even cleaning their cage
- Avoid tick, flea powders, and shampoos because they contain pesticides, which are harmful to guinea pigs
- Spray them with Anti-Mange to eliminate the mites
- They require daily doses of 1/3 of ivermectin behind each ear and 1/3 in the rump area. Rump is the part of the back on which one sits or rest, commonly know as buttock
Guinea pigs are very sensitive to temperature due to their long hair, heavy fur, and small body.
They can get heatstroke not just outside in sun, but also by getting dehydrated and overheated in an indoor place.
Humans take hours before getting a heat stroke, but guinea pigs require only 10-15 minutes to start suffering from heatstroke.
The average temperature is above 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit for heatstroke in the guinea pigs, and above 80 degrees can lead to death.
Signs of heatstroke:
- Dehydration (lack of water in the body)
- Rapid breathing (breathing in and out very fast)
- Drooling and panting (drooling is flowing of liquid through mouth and panting is heaving breathing)
- Their chin get soaking wet
- They lose the appetite or stop eating at all
- Lack of energy and are unable to move
- Lying in a stretched position with their arms, legs wide open and tilting their head to one side
- They start experiencing twitching and seizures attacks
To protect them from heatstroke:
- Keep them hydrated by giving lots of water
- Place stones in their cage, so they can sit on the stones to cool down
- Keep their water bottle filled with fresh clean water
- Quickly move them inside if they are in direct sun
- Spray on them with cold water or bath them with lukewarm water
- Wrap ice in a towel or cloth and place them in their cage
- Rub their feet with a wet cloth
- Turn on the Air Conditioner
- Always keep them in the coolest place in the house with a shadow
A head injury can be very serious due to a small body & sensitive nature, they can’t survive the trauma.
This injury can swell their nerves, brain tissues, stop the breathing, digestion process, and lead to unbearable twitching.
Signs of head injury:
- Twitching is the first thing that happens when a brain injury occurs
- When they suffer from trauma, their nerves can swell which applies pressure on their ear, that’s why their head tilts to one side
- When their head gets swelled from head pressure their head shakes from one side to another side rapidly
- A guinea pig with a brain injury can show a change in eye movement just like darting eye movements
- They might start vomiting and show decreased appetite
- Their pupil may become dilated or constricted, when they experience trauma
- They lose consciousness, which might be temporary or lead to a permanent coma
To treat this brain injury consult with a veterinarian immediately and keep your guinea pig in a cool, dark, and quiet place.
Depressed Guinea Pig
If the guinea pig is depressed or frightened, this can trigger the twitching in them.
They get depressed easily when left alone at home or lack attention is given to them.
They require constant affirmation and attention and daily playtime to stay happy.
If there is a bigger animal in the house, which makes them frightened then they are more likely to get twitching when scared.
There is even specially created music for the therapy of depressed guinea pigs.
This music helps them relax their brain nerves and relieve stress.
To keep them happy, make sure they eat well, drink well, and get their playtime, to stay energetic.
Try to keep them in a separate room where the larger pet doesn’t come and frighten them.
Get another guinea pig pet to give them a partner for lonely times and with whom they can play when left alone at home.
The first step in treating your guinea pig twitching is identifying which of the above causes is the reason for twitching.
After identifying, you should give your guinea pig first aid and try to calm it down.
Go to the nearest pet clinic, take a lot of precautions and care while going to the pet clinic.
Make sure the Air Conditioner in the car is on and the guinea pig is kept in a shady place away from heat while going towards the clinic.
If the cause of the seizure is a skin parasite, you should give them a proper bath and medication on daily basis timely.
Pay attention while cleaning the cage, remove all the old hay if present in the cage because mites can come with hay, replace all the bed and accessories with new ones.
If it’s a heat stroke, just try to relax and cool them down while rubbing their feet.
Spray cold water on your guinea pig, place the ice blocks or cubes wrapped in cloth in the cage, or by giving them a lukewarm bath.
If it’s a head injury keep them in a cool and dark place with no noise.
Give them some space, let them relax, settle for a while, and don’t disturb them.
If it’s depression and anxiety, try to make them happy, spend as much time as you can with them, give them lots of healthy nutrition-filled food, give them lots of attention and get another guinea pig partner for them.
Play mind relaxing music which is specially made for the therapy of depressed guinea pigs.
If you ever witnessed your beloved guinea pig twitching from pain, then don’t panic and keep calm.
Try to identify the cause of twitching before rushing to the pet clinic.
Give your guinea pig first aid in the house, because it takes a long time in doing an x-ray, collect and run all the blood tests.
Even the journey toward the pet clinic can lead to death if any first aid is not given because the temperature outside and in the car will be hot which could worsen the scenario.
Go to the nearest veterinarian, explain the whole incident in detail this will help the veterinarian in identifying the real cause of twitching and he will guide you through the process.
Follow the medication on daily basis without being careless and the proper diet structure is given by their vet.