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Why Is My Guinea Pig Not Eating? | 10 Causes of Appetite Loss

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Tim Rhodes

Guinea pigs can be adorable pets, but sometimes a problem can occur as to why is my guinea pig not eating?

Food is an integral part of a guinea pig’s life, and they constantly keep eating as they are grazing animals.

Guinea pigs are easy to take care of, provided they are handled gently and given attention to frequently.

They are healthy generally but are prone to certain problems and diseases.

10 Causes of Appetite Loss In Guinea Pigs

The most common causes include gastrointestinal disorders, dental diseases, and environmental changes; therefore, let us take a closer look and the causes.

Dental Diseases

Dental diseases are the most common causes of loss of appetite seen in a guinea pig.

Guinea pig’s teeth never stop growing; they grow about 10 cm a year.

Ignoring this may cause the development of overgrown teeth- malocclusion, which may cut into the gums and cause dental abscesses, sinus infections, and weight loss.

As a result of malocclusion, sometimes, the guinea pigs develop a condition called the slobbers, where the fur under their jaw remains wet from continuous drooling.

Their mouth remains hanging open, which is a very apparent symptom of malocclusion.

Malocclusion is also caused by vitamin C deficiency in their body.

This leads to a loss in appetite, which may even lead to anorexia in extreme cases.

Chew toys may help wear down their incisors, but they do not help with the back molars.

Munching on hay will keep all your pig’s teeth trim and in great condition.

Gastrointestinal Problems

Due to gastrointestinal problems, there can occur many more; thus, let us look at them.

Dietary changes

Guinea pigs are extremely sensitive creatures.

Their response to even small diet changes may be adverse and is one of the leading causes of decreased appetite.

Dietary changes include changing the brand of pellet or hay, changing dishes, changing the location of dishes, and changing types of fresh fruits or treats.

Any such conditions can cause anorexia in a guinea pig.

Guinea pigs also have personal preferences when it comes to food.

Ensure that the brand and type of food you choose cater to your guinea pig’s taste and preference.

Constipation

Guinea pigs are constantly eating and defecating.

In case a guinea pig is not defecating normally, it can lead to decreased appetite.

Their body temperature may reduce, which may slow down the intestine further, which leads to a cycle that can be fatal.

Constipation can occur due to underlying dental problems, which means that the food is not being digested properly.

Deficiency in fiber-rich food is also a cause of constipation, all of this results in the guinea pig not eating properly.

Using supplemental food and supplemental fluids that can hydrate their intestines can rejuvenate your guinea pig’s bowel movements.

When a guinea pig’s bowel movements are not regular, it can be extremely painful for your pet.

This can also lead to weight loss in severe cases.

Insufficient Fresh Water

Guinea pigs drink a great deal of water and need the containers cleaned and new water added day by day.

It is suggested that you have more than 1 water bottle in the cage.

However, when the guinea pig is exposed to dirty water or does not get enough water, it can cause constipation, resulting in poor appetite.

Keeping water bowls is not recommended because they get dirty, and the pigs have difficulty drinking from them.

Diarrhea

Like rabbits, guinea pigs also have a sensitive digestive tract.

They have a significant amount of good bacteria called flora which keeps their bowel movements intact.

Sometimes, the balance within the good bacteria is lost, which leads to the production of bad bacteria.

Antibiotics should not be used without consultation as some antibiotics kill the flora, which is critical for the proper functioning of your pet’s digestive tract.

These bad bacterias can release several toxins in the guinea pig’s intestine, which results in dysfunctional bowel movement.

This is associated with an increase in the number of bad bacterias and can cause diarrhea.

Diarrhea is often accompanied by decreased appetite and weight loss, among other things.

If your guinea pigs show these symptoms, then they need immediate veterinary support and care.

Ketosis

Ketone bodies are water-soluble compounds that contain the ketone group, which is produced by the breakdown of fatty acids in the body.

Normally, the breaking down of fatty acids to form ketones is a source of energy, especially when the blood sugar levels are low.

Ketosis is the condition where the degree of ketone bodies created may surpass the body’s ability to discharge them effectively, bringing about an overabundance of ketone bodies in the blood, clinically alluded to as ketosis.

Ketosis can occur in male or female guinea pigs.

Pregnancy toxemia is a condition where a female guinea pig is affected by ketosis.

This usually happens in the last 3 weeks of pregnancy.

Sometimes, ketosis can also happen due to underdeveloped blood vessels in the uterus, an inherent condition.

A very apparent symptom of pregnancy toxemia is the loss of appetite, leading to low blood sugar levels.

Scurvy

Guinea pigs cannot synthesize their own vitamin c; hence, a shortage of vitamin c in their diets causes scurvy.

Vitamin C is the building block of collagen.

Collagen maintains blood vessel integrity, bone formation and also promotes wound healing.

Due to vitamin C deficiency, the guinea pig develops a condition called scurvy.

Scurvy leads to a hemorrhage of the gums and tissues in the mouth.

This is why the guinea pig cannot eat and masticate the food normally, which leads to poor appetite.

Other symptoms of scurvy include swollen joints, weakness, and lacking energy.

Hence, a guinea pig’s diet must contain an appropriate amount of vitamin c.

Vitamin c supplements like chicory and red, yellow and green bell peppers must be included.

Many companies also provide chewable vitamin c enriched tablets that most guinea pigs gladly consume as treats; however, the consumption of these tablets also depends on your pet’s personal preference.

Respiratory Disorders

The most common respiratory disorder seen in guinea pigs is pneumonia.

Pneumonia is caused by a bacterial infection( caused by Bordetella bronchiseptica, Streptococcus pneumonia, or Streptococcus zooepidemicus).

This is usually associated with lung infections and presents itself in different forms.

These include sneezing, oozing from the nose, conjunctivitis, fever, weight loss, depression, and finally, loss of appetite.

Pneumonia can spread(if more than 1 guinea pig in a cage) and even lead to fatality if it is not caught at the right time.

Adenovirus infections also cause pneumonia.

Here, the guinea pigs do not show any sign of illness but suddenly become sick when exposed to stress or anesthesia.

If you have more than one guinea pig, then the disease’s control may be a little difficult.

In such cases, keep the guinea pigs in different cages before the disease spread and maintain a hygienic environment within the cage.

This also results in poor appetite.

Under such conditions, veterinarians usually recommend syringe feeding and antibiotics.

If the antibiotics cause diarrhea, then the treatments should be stopped immediately.

Vitamin C and oxygen therapy are also recommended.

Presence Of Ovarian Cysts

Ovarian cysts are nonfunctional, fluid-filled cysts that can develop spontaneously on the ovaries throughout the female guinea pig’s reproductive cycle.

These cysts can range from tiny pea-sized cysts to large cysts of 2-3 inches.

The causes of the occurrence of these cysts are unknown.

In most cases, these cysts are seen in middle-aged to older female guinea pigs.

76 % – 88 % of guinea pigs of 18 months of age are said to have cysts; however, their symptoms can have a huge impact on the guinea pig’s life.

The main symptoms include a reduction in food intake and progressive hair loss over flanks and abdomen.

Hormone therapy is only a temporary solution and does not indicate the recurrence of these cysts.

The only permanent cure is an ovariohysterectomy; however, this can also take a toll on your pet’s lifestyle and further hamper their appetite.

This being said, you should keep a keen eye on the guinea pig’s diet and make sure that your pet is well hydrated and is defecating regularly.

This would help with the symptoms.

Environmental Changes

The environment under which the guinea pig is kept plays a very important role in its well-being.

Cleanliness

You must keep your pet in well-lit areas of your house and ensure that its cage is cleaned from time to time.

They also require an adequate amount of floor space.

Clean their cages and feed containers at least once a week and wash their cages with a weak acid solution to remove the urine scales.

Cages require periodic cleaning to make sure that there is no ammonia build-up.

When a guinea pig does not have access to adequate floor space and is exposed to unhygienic conditions within the cage, the guinea pig stops eating to show that it is not comfortable.

Temperature Changes

Guinea pigs are extremely sensitive to temperatures.

Extreme temperatures can make your guinea pig fall ill and lose its appetite.

Exposing your pet to a temperature above 26 degrees Celsius can increase the chances of your guinea pig getting a heat stroke.

On the other hand, when the temperature is below 15 degrees celsius, they tend to become chilled, which hampers their metabolism.

If you decide to keep your guinea pig indoors, you must make sure that it is kept away from direct heat sources like radiators, heaters, etc., as this can make your pet feel extremely uneasy.

Constant temperature fluctuations can disturb your guinea pig’s lifestyle.

They may come under the weather and lose their appetite.

Please keep your pet as comfortable as possible and monitor their food and water intake continuously.

Stress

It may sound surprising, but guinea pigs also undergo stress; this stress could mean anything.

Your guinea pig may be ill, injured, or even bored.

Fear-induced stress is also very common, be peaceful and delicate around them.

Never yell at or rebuff guinea pigs; they are probably not going to comprehend and can turn out to be more apprehensive/terrified.

On the off chance that your guinea pig’s conduct turns into a continuous issue, look for appropriate consultation from your vet or a clinical creature behaviorist.

Noisy environments can also be a major trigger for your guinea pig.

Under all such circumstances, a guinea pig can present its fear in many ways.

Sometimes, even small factors like changing the cage or the cage’s location that your pet was originally living in may trigger your guinea pig, and it may stop eating.

Other signs that indicate that your guinea pig is stressed include- chewing the cage’s bars, sitting hunched, reluctance to move, over-grooming, and repeated circling of their cage.

Cage Overcrowding

Overcrowding is a common cause of stress in guinea pigs.

With an increase in the number of guinea pigs in a particular area or a cage, food competition also increases.

The individual space obtained by each guinea pig decreases.

This leads to extreme stress amongst guinea pigs and eventual loss of appetite.

Fear Of Other Pets

Guinea pigs are vulnerable and prey species.

Your pet needs to be able to avoid things that scare them.

If you have other pets at home, make sure that you keep your guinea pig away from them.

Also, make sure that the other pets cannot break into your guinea pig’s cage.

Guinea pigs can easily detect fear, and one of the most common ways of showing that they are scared is to stop eating.

Ensure that your guinea pig is kept in a safe, calm, and comfortable place, away from chaotic environments.

Bumblefoot Disease

Also referred to as pododermatitis is when the guinea pig’s foot is inflamed or develops sores.

This is mostly caused by the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria.

Underlying factors include vitamin C deficiency, obesity, overgrown nails, and poor sanitation within the cage.

The main symptom apart from the inability to walk normally is appetite loss due to extreme pain.

Individuals affected by this disease severely risk bone and joint infections and the spread of bacteria through the blood to internal organs.

The treatment depends on the time of detection of the disease.

If detected at earlier stages, then simply switching the cage’s location or the flooring type may help.

If detected at later stages, then medical help is required.

Surgical Procedures

The postoperative period is the most critical period for guinea pigs.

Ignoring postoperative care can lead to various respiratory disorders and ileus.

Ileus is a condition that is caused due to lack of normal peristalsis.

This leads to a build-up of gas in the gastrointestinal tract.

This condition does not allow your guinea pig to eat normally.

Hence, it is advised to feed your guinea pig immediately after the anesthesia to ensure no gas build-up.

Following a surgical procedure, the fecal output should be monitored closely to ensure that the guinea pig’s bowel movements restore normalcy as soon as possible, allowing them to eat normally.

During this time, the guinea pig can be force-fed if necessary under the veterinarian’s supervision.

Obesity

Guinea pigs need exercise too!

It may sound surprising, but exercise is critical for the well-being of your pet.

Exercise helps keep them fit and active.

It also makes sure that your guinea pig does not turn obese.

Obesity may further predispose your pet to bumblefoot, heart diseases, etc.

Under such conditions, your guinea pig may lose appetite and weight in an extremely unhealthy manner.

They may also lose bone mass which leads to lethargy and weakness.

Kidney And Liver Failure

Renal disease is an age-related disorder, and it is most commonly seen in older guinea pigs.

Signs of renal failure include- Dehydration, depression, loss of appetite, weight loss, and even death.

The causes of the renal disease remain unclear.

Renal failure can also be caused due to oxalic acid poisoning caused by the ingestion of oxalate-containing plants such as beetroot, spinach, and rhubarb.

It is essential to ensure that your pet does not consume oxalate-containing plants.

You need to be aware of the potential renal toxicity associated with the ingestion of these plants.

In some cases, insoluble crystals’ formation leads to irreversible kidney damage causing eventual kidney failure and death.

Cancer

In most cases, cancer is an age-related disorder.

They mostly occur in guinea pigs after they are 4-5 years of age.

However, not all of them develop tumors; about one-sixth of guinea pigs are known to develop tumors in this age group.

The most common tumors in guinea pigs are- lymphosarcoma (a malignant tumor of the lymphatic tissues), pulmonary adenoma, and cutaneous tumors.

The most common cancer symptom in guinea pigs is anorexia, weight loss, lethargy, and pain signs.

However, it is very difficult to diagnose cancer in a guinea pig with the above symptoms only.

Treatment includes chemotherapy and surgical removal of the tumor or removing the organ containing the tumor (if reproductive organs).

Sometimes, surgery can have postoperative complications.

Chemotherapy leads to the loss of hair coat, anorexia, lethargy, and a general decline in the guinea pig’s life quality.

Loneliness

Guinea pigs are social species.

A guinea pig left alone tends to be more scared and is more prone to depression than one with a companion in the cage.

Guinea pigs give up eating due to depression and loneliness.

Paired guinea pigs enjoy playing with each other and keep each other active, reducing the risk of obesity.

Guinea pigs also enjoy the other benefits of companionship, like helping each other when they need it or helping each other through age-related ailments like arthritis.

If you own just one guinea pig, then get ready to give your pet an enormous amount of time and attention to keep him happy and ensure that he does not get lonely.

However, overcrowding a cage is not recommended.

Guinea pigs have such apparent socialization needs that the law states that it is illegal to own just one guinea pig in Switzerland.

They are considered victims of abuse if they aren’t able to interact with others of their species regularly.

So if your guinea pig is not eating properly and losing appetite, then try finding it a companion and see how it goes!

How Do I know If My Guinea Pig Is In Pain?

Observe the day-to-day activities of your guinea pig.

The most evident signs that show that your guinea pig is in pain are- weight loss, teeth grinding, hunched appearance, reluctance to move, and squeaking in pain.

Make sure that you take your guinea pig for routine consults with your vet.

How Do You Force-Feed A Guinea Pig?

Feed your guinea pig by hand.

Have syringes and pipettes in different sizes ready and ensure no sharp corners in front of your syringe for emergencies.

In such situations, try making the food as fluid as possible.

Consult an experienced veterinarian if you have further issues or if your guinea pig is still not eating.

Why Should I Constantly Feed My Guinea Pig?

Your guinea pig should be constantly fed to avoid gastrointestinal stasis or ileus.

However, overfeeding is not recommended.

Make sure that you provide your guinea pig with the right quality and quantity of food.

Final Thoughts

Guinea pigs are extremely fun to be with, but as we saw, the question, why is my guinea pig not eating can be a problem.

However, they require a lot of care and attention.

Loss of appetite is one of the most common symptoms of any underlying issue that your guinea pig faces.

Ensure that you address it as soon as possible, do not let it complicate and compromise your guinea pig’s health permanently.

Consult the vet from time to time in case of any such complications and maintain a clean, comfortable and healthy environment for your pet.

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