Guinea pigs are herbivorous animals and feed on plant products including hay and vegetables, but how long can guinea pigs go without food?
You already know that you should always keep plenty of hay in your guinea pig’s hay feeder.
And, although hay is the main source of food as it’s rich in fiber, guinea pigs should also consume pellets, vegetables, and fruits.
There is no specific rule for how long guinea pigs can go without food, but generally, they should not be kept hungry for more than twelve hours.
Keeping them hungry for a longer period may disturb their digestive tract functioning and they may face liver and intestinal problems.
Guinea pigs constantly need food and water as well because they consume a lot of hay and other fibrous matter which is dry and needs an ample quantity of water to digest the feed.
If enough water is not available, it may cause problems of the gut or the digestive tract for the animal.
That doesn’t mean that the guinea pigs should be overfed, because that too would cause problems.
Table of Contents
How Long Can Guinea Pigs Live Without Food?
Guinea pigs should not be kept hungry for more than six to eight hours and in extreme cases for not more than twenty-four hours.
Otherwise, they might face extreme complications and blockage in the intestine as well.
This is a big concern for all the pet owners out there as they are worried that how long will their pets be able to survive if they don’t come back early.
If you go out for many days, then you have to make sure that you leave a generous amount of food and water for your pets so that they don’t have to starve behind you or even go without food for more than twelve hours.
Pets get attached to their owners easily and guinea pigs like other animals also get attached to their keepers but they don’t need their keepers for their basic survival.
This means that if you feed your guinea pig properly, provide it with clean and fresh water and a suitable healthy environment, then it may not even need you, provided that it has access to these things at all times of the day and night.
Cleanliness of Your Guinea Pig’s Enclosure
As animals can’t clean themselves, their cages or the place where they are kept become dirty and contaminated with germs and harmful bacteria.
When you will leave your guinea pig unattended for some time, let’s say 3 or 4 days, the guinea pig will continue to live in the same place, and eat and defecate in the same place, which will lead to piling up of feces.
The volatile ammonia released from it will be the cause of respiratory infection in guinea pigs.
To keep your pet free of such diseases, you need to clean their cage or enclosure as well as their food area at least twice a week.
This implies that you can’t leave your pet unattended for a long time because it will require a clean environment, fresh water, and healthy food for good health.
In today’s era, people need to travel due to many different reasons including personal, domestic, or work reasons.
Therefore, unfortunately, they have to leave their pets unattended because they have no other choice.
As we have discussed earlier, guinea pigs can’t survive for extended periods without food and water and their owners have to travel sometimes as well, leaving the pets alone.
This may cause problems for both the pet owners as well as the animals.
A Few Tips for Guinea Pig Owners
Here are a few tips for guinea pigs owners and their diet-related issues:
Pet boarding facilities
Many places provide the facilities of animal care and you can board your guinea pig with one such facility.
Not only do they take good care of your animal but they are also pocket friendly and hence not too expensive.
Besides that, you can also board your guinea pig at the local pet shop or your vet because you can trust them that they will take good care of your pet.
Training your friends or neighbors
If you have multiple errands and can’t afford to board your guinea pigs at some facility every time or you don’t trust them with your pets too much, then it’s better to train one of your friends or one of your neighbors to take care of your guinea pigs and feed them every time you are away.
Try to do so beforehand so that if they have any queries, you might address them before actually traveling.
Multiple water systems
There are many modern watering systems for guinea pigs available in the market.
Try to find one and install it in your pet’s cage so that it may get an uninterrupted supply of clean water.
If you don’t find such a thing, then install multiple water bottles or bowls in the cage so that your guinea pigs don’t run out of water.
Guinea pigs usually eat a lot and need a constant supply of food specifically hay.
But if you throw the hay on the floor of your guinea pig’s cage then it would become contaminated with feces and urine.
To avoid this mess, install a hay rack in the enclosure of the guinea pigs.
Hay racks are very cheap and commonly available in the market and can be used to store surplus feed which the guinea pigs can consume while you are away.
This would also help to keep the floor of the cage neat and clean as well as free of germs and pollution.
If you avail the services of a helper or if you leave your pet entirely on its own without any supervision and want to monitor its activities as well as its food and water supply, then a monitoring camera is the best available option.
Pet monitoring cameras are used by many people to monitor their pets when they are far away from them.
These cameras are available in the local markets and online, and you can set them up very easily/
Once they are connected to your smartphone, they directly transmit live footage of your guinea pig, its feed, and water.
With the live feed, you can ask someone to replenish their food supply if they are running low on it.
You can also look out for any abnormal behavior patterns in your pet through the camera footage.
How Much Do Guinea Pigs Eat?
Although guinea pigs consume multiple things like vegetables, fruits, and pellets hay makes up about 80 percent of their daily diet.
Hay is rich in protein and fiber and nutritious content that guinea pigs require.
Therefore, the average consumption of hay should be approximately 90 to 100 grams per day for each guinea pig.
This fiber content in hay is important to maintain their process of digestion.
It prevents malfunctioning of their gut because blockage of the intestines can cause gastrointestinal stasis.
If guinea pigs don’t get enough hay which is required for their dietary fulfillment and optimum nutritional requirements, they may develop multiple diseases due to the weakened digestive process.
This may include overgrown teeth leading to dental problems as well as stress and discharge from the eyes and complications in eating.
Apart from hay, vegetables are also an essential part of the diet of guinea pigs, hence they should be provided with at least 120 to 150 grams of mixed vegetables per day.
Talking about the type of vegetables, leafy green vegetables are the most important ones that should be combined with a couple of more vegetables and fed at least once a day.
To create a healthy balance, make sure to mix high calcium and low calcium vegetables like lettuce, cilantro, spinach, and kale.
As vitamin C is not manufactured inside the pig’s body and is crucial to maintaining a healthy immune system and prevention from diseases like scurvy and dental problems, therefore provide vitamin C to your pet through tomatoes, pepper, broccoli, cucumber, and carrot.
If you are unable to feed vegetables to your animal, try to compensate that with pellets so that its vitamin requirements are met.
Feeding pellets is not that much important and it is usually done in cases where the animal does not eat vegetables to compensate for the vitamin requirements.
But in the longer run, pellets act only as substitutes for vegetables whereas they actually can’t replace them.
Pellets that contain alfalfa are rich in calcium and best for pregnant guinea pigs.
Generally, pellets form 5 percent of the total diet requirement of the pig.
Hay – The staple diet
Hay is the most important part of a guinea pig’s diet and therefore it should never be replaced with another supplement because it is extremely important for the good health of the pig.
It prevents indigestion and keeps the teeth of the pig in appropriate shape preventing them from overgrowing.
Guinea pigs should be encouraged to eat more hay.
Use good quality hay so that the animal does not develop an allergy to it, add fresh hay twice a day, and mix two different types of hay.
Provide them with hay throughout the day because they like spreading it and pulling it out from a box-type container.
Why Doesn’t a Guinea Pig Eat?
There can be multiple reasons for guinea pigs giving up on food or having appetite loss including stress, unfavorable environmental conditions, overgrown teeth, or hot weather conditions.
If a guinea pig does not eat food for a longer time it may cause blockage in the intestine and liver damage that would aggravate with time leading to the death of the animal.
Delaying the treatment of such a guinea pig might make things more complicated, therefore it is advised to take the pig to the vet as soon as you notice unusual or abnormal symptoms.
Some of the reasons for not eating are:
- Overgrown teeth
- Recent surgery
- GI stasis
- Nonavailability of clean water
- Hot weather conditions
- Improper liver functioning
The pig should not be deprived of food for longer periods because they can’t endure the hunger for extended hours as their metabolic rate is fast and they digest the food they eat fast and get hungry again.
If your pig is hungry, it will stand up on its hind leg, become lazy or stare at its owner continuously.
What Happens When a Guinea Pig Doesn’t Eat?
As guinea pigs need hay in their diet daily to fulfill dietary fiber requirements, if they don’t eat hay for 48 hours time span, then they may likely die.
With the absence of fiber, large stones would develop which would be quite painful and require surgery to be removed.
Even after the surgery, it is not sure whether the guinea pig would return to normal or not because it would become prone to recurring stones.
Hay also serves as a filer for the teeth of the pig and prevents them from overgrowing, otherwise overgrown teeth could cause multiple problems for the guinea pig-like scurvy, dental problems, stress, and difficulty in eating.
It is essential to keep the cage germ-free and neat and tidy at all times.
If you don’t deep clean the cage, it could result in the pig getting sick, so here are some deep cleaning tips:
- Whenever you are deep cleaning the cage, move your guinea pig away from there to keep it away from dust and disinfectants
- Throw away all spoiled litter and bedding in the cage
- Use a chemical-free and toxin-free cleaner to wipe the cage
- Wash any accessories that are installed in the cage
- Thoroughly clean the interior and exterior of all water containers to remove bacteria and grime
Guinea pigs can develop Vitamin C deficiency also called scurvy as they are unable to synthesize this vitamin.
To prevent scurvy, 30–50 mg of Vitamin C should be administered to the pig daily.
Pellets also fulfill your guinea pig’s daily requirements.
You can provide Vitamin C in liquid or tablet form but these methods are less commonly used.
Citrus fruits and vegetables provide Vitamin C from natural sources.
If you ever notice anything abnormal or unusual with your guinea pig, take them to their vet without any delay.
Possible symptoms are sneezing, brittle and crusty eyes, weight loss, hair loss, and diarrhea.
With proper care, annual check-ups, and a healthy food supply, a guinea pig can live up to eight years.
Consult your vet to make sure that your pet is living a healthy life and getting proper nutrition.
Guinea pigs are prone to digestive problems because their metabolism works very fast and if this disease is not treated, it may lead to the death of the animal.
Its symptoms include the decreasing size of fecal pellets up to a point when no fecal pellets are produced by the guinea pigs.
In this condition, water and food cannot pass through the gastrointestinal tract properly and therefore it results in loss of appetite.
Food blockage occurs in the intestine due to the slow movement of food.
Treatment of GI Stasis
To relieve the guinea pig from the gas trapped inside its stomach, gently massage its gut area because physically massaging the area may stimulate the muscles of the gut.
Keep in mind that the massage should be performed very gently as guinea pigs are very tiny and delicate animals, therefore don’t apply much pressure during massage.
Either do it yourself or let your vet do it.
Fluids play a very important role in the metabolic activities of the body of a guinea pig because hay which is generally consumed is dry and needs water to be digested.
Lack of fluids and dehydration can cause GI stasis, which further deteriorates the disease.
The vet generally advises ﬂuid therapy for the treatment of this disease.
Sometimes, the guinea pig may refuse to drink water, therefore in such cases, subcutaneous ﬂuids can be administered.
Gut Motility Drugs
Drugs like Cleboride and Metoclopramide can be used to stimulate the motility and contractions of the muscular layers of the intestine.
Such drugs are usually advised for 72 days.
The guinea pig should be closely monitored when these drugs are administered to it.
Guinea pigs will recover faster when they eat food.
Food will help in the normal functioning of the gastrointestinal muscles and provide nutrients for recovery.
Appetite stimulants and force-feeding can also be used and is excellent option to increase the appetite.
This disease can cause severe abdominal pain and swelling.
One of the symptoms is that a guinea pig would sit in a crouched position and not show much movement.
This crouched position would worsen the blockage of the intestine and slow down the process of recovery.
Pain relief should be given on an emergency basis to lessen the pain as well as the effects of this disease.
Try to keep a calm environment for the guinea pig.
Home treatment is not advised for GI stasis because it is a serious disease.
If a guinea pig shows symptoms of GI stasis, you need to take it to a vet.
The vet will prescribe medication and during this period, you can support the guinea pig.
Few tips for at-home care
Use a bottle or a bowl as preferred by your guinea pig and try to deliver maximum water content to the animal.
Stimulate the appetite by feeding its favorite food to the guinea pig.
Observe the improvements after the medication has started.
Hot conditions are hated by pigs, so keep the environment cool.
A pleasant environment around your guinea pig during its treatment will help.
It is not that easy to keep a guinea pig fed and watered when you are away from your home and traveling, but it is something that everyone does for the wellbeing of their beloved pet.
Keep in mind that your pet is voiceless and can’t help itself, therefore it depends on you for its survival, so always make sure that you leave ample food and water when you go somewhere.
It is very challenging for every pet owner out there to keep their beloved pets fed and watered when they’re away for some days.
However, to maintain your pet animal’s overall health and well-being, this is important.
Guinea pigs can be fed with different food, so how long can guinea pigs go without food?
The answer is that not for too long periods and specifically that they can’t survive a day without hay.
Always keep in mind that your pet animals depend on you for their survival and when you travel for some days, you need to make sure beforehand that they get the right amount of food and water.