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Do Guinea Pigs Die Easily? (& How To Avoid The Fatal Mistakes)

Guinea pigs are tiny joy dispensers in a delightful swirl of fluff. Their adorable button noses can melt away all worries with a single boop, and their playful personalities can brighten anyone’s day. So, naturally, you don’t want to lose your pet guinea pig. You love her, and she loves you back.

As a responsible and concerned parent, it’s understandable for you to wonder, “Do guinea pigs die easily?”

In this article, we will address your concerns and look at the potential causes of guinea pig death. We will also highlight the mistakes that can kill your guinea pig and how to avoid them. Stick with us through the end; we’re sure you’ll be able to save your guinea pig’s life with our help.

Key Takeaway:

Guinea pigs don’t die easily. The healthy, loved, and well-fed ones can live up to 8 years. Most guinea pig illnesses are related to improper care, dental issues, scurvy, diarrhea, and reproductive and respiratory problems. Viral and bacterial infections are common in guinea pigs that live together.

Want to learn more? Let’s popcorn our way to understand what can kill our piggy pals and how to prevent it from happening.

guinea pig side view

Does a Guinea Pig Die Easily?

Guinea pigs are everyone's favorite pets. Although tiny, they are full of personality - jolly, playful, and endlessly endearing. These little charmers are also pretty resilient. They survive between one and four years in the wild, even in the harshest weather conditions. As pets, they can live for around eight years if properly cared for. So, no, they don't die easily.

However, their small size makes them susceptible to several injuries and illnesses. Some of these pesky problems might be handed down from their guinea mom and dad, while others might tag along from rubbing elbows with fellow furry pals or, if you’re not nailing the whole caretaker gig.

What can I do to keep my pet piggy healthy?

When it comes to guinea pig health issues, prevention is key. So, as a loving piggy parent, the best you can do to ensure your munchkin lives long is to keep her safe from health problems. Feed her yummy and healthy food, give her clean drinking water, keep her cage bacteria and parasite free, and choose the most suitable bedding material. Also, watch for signs of illnesses and death so you can act fast. You’ll find a lot more on it below.

Now, let’s check out the most common health problems in guinea pigs that can cause death.

Common Guinea Pig Health Issues

Guinea pigs don’t demand a doctorate in upkeep. A snug and tidy home, a stash of hay with some treats, and a bunch of chewy playthings – that’s the recipe for a happy critter. But there’s a bit more to being a top-notch piggy parent. You must know about the diseases that can harm your piggy so you can address them before they become serious.

Now, let’s look at the common guinea pig diseases that can cause death.

Digestives Issues

Guinea pigs have delicate gastrointestinal flora. If they don’t get enough vitamins and minerals from their diet, they can suffer from nutritional imbalances, which can be life-threatening. Below are the two most common digestive issues in guinea pigs.

Gut Stasis

Gut stasis happens when the bacteria in your guinea pig's gut go haywire, messing up the normal stomach and intestine movements. When this happens, their muscles stop moving, causing a traffic jam in their tummy! It means whatever your piggy has in her tummy will stay there - no absorption, no metabolism, no poo.

Look for the following symptoms to figure out whether your furry fluff has gut stasis:

  • Lethargy
  • Anorexia
  • Dehydration
  • Limited to no movement
  • Not pooping

Take your pet to the vet if you notice any of these symptoms. They’ll give her fluids and antibiotics to get rid of the infection and syringe-feed her to give her a boost.

Diarrhea

Frequent runny poops are loud and clear signs that your poor piggy has diarrhea. It can severely dehydrate her, pushing her toward death’s door.

There are a few reasons your guinea pig might suffer from diarrhea. It could be due to an imbalance in her diet, bacterial and viral infections, gastrointestinal parasites, or stress. The best way to prevent it is to feed her a healthy diet. Include enough roughage – hay, fresh grasses, and leafy greens to help her digest better.

If you cannot control the situation, take your guinea pig to the vet. They’ll inject fluids into her to hydrate and restore her electrolyte balance.

Pneumonia

Pneumonia, or inflammation of the lungs, is a common health condition in guinea pigs caused by bacterial infections. It can cause severe respiratory distress and even death if not treated immediately. Never take pneumonia lightly.

The following symptoms indicate that your whisker-twitcher might have pneumonia:

  • Fever
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Nasal discharge
  • Anorexia
  • Lethargy
  • Weight loss
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Difficulty in breathing

Your vet can confirm the condition after running a chest X-ray. Treatment usually involves antibiotics, fluids, and anti-inflammatory medications.

Reproductive Disorders

Guinea pigs are speedy reproducers. Female guinea pigs can have five litters in a year! But bringing those cute, fluffy piggies into the world isn’t without its dangers. The mama piggy could face serious complications that may put her life at risk.

Here’s what you should worry about:

Ovarian Cysts

Mature female piggies (over a year old) are at risk of developing ovarian cysts. These tumors mess with the hormones, causing massive weight loss and anorexia. Your girl piggy might even lose fur around her belly and feel lethargic. If you suspect these signs, take her for an ultrasound.

If not treated in time, the cysts might burst, leading to death. Spaying is your best bet in this case.

Dystocia

Dystocia is when a female guinea pig fails to stretch her birth canal wide enough for the babies to pass through. It’s a life-threatening condition that requires the assistance of your vet. If you notice any of these signs, don’t wait:

  • Straining to give birth with no result
  • Fluid leakage from the vulva
  • Blood loss

Your vet will manually extract the fetus and carry out an emergency hysterectomy (to remove the uterus).

What about going for a cesarean section?

Sadly, guinea pigs don’t usually survive a cesarean delivery. So, that’s not an option.

Vitamin C Deficiency

Guinea pigs need more vitamin C than other rodents because they can't produce it themselves. Ideally, you should give your piggy between 10 and 30mg of vitamin C daily. Fresh fruits and vegetables and vitamin C-enriched pellets are a good source of this essential nutrient.
guinea pig vitamin c

Vitamin C deficiency, also known as scurvy, can cause swollen joints, skin irritations, diarrhea, and ulcers in the mouth. If left untreated, scurvy can kill your little fluffball.

If you’re feeding your piggy the right foods but still notice the symptoms of scurvy, consult your vet. They will recommend the correct dosage of vitamin C supplements to get your guinea pig back on track.

Salmonella

The salmonella bacterium is a common cause of food poisoning in humans. But it can affect guinea pigs, too, leading to severe symptoms like diarrhea, dehydration, and anorexia. 

Feed your piggy only high-quality hay, fresh vegetables, and vitamin-enriched pellets for the best protection. Clean her cage regularly and sanitize water bottles to get rid of any bacteria. Also, don’t let her drink from standing water (like puddles).

Tumors and Cancer

Sadly, cancer doesn’t spare guinea pigs, either. Older guinea pigs (4 to 5 years old) can be affected by various tumors like adrenal tumors, ovarian cysts, mammary tumors, and lymphoma.

Young guinea pigs are more susceptible to developing leukemia. It is a blood cancer that can spread to other organs and quickly take your piggy’s life.

Benign tumors can be removed with surgery. But if cancer spreads, there is a slim chance of survival.

Skin Problems

Skin infections don’t seem as bad as tumors, but they can still claim your piggy’s life if you don’t treat them. Mites and lice infestations are at the top of these issues. They can spread quickly and cause anemia, fur loss, skin lesions, and respiratory problems. Excessive itching can also lead to seizures!

Parasites usually find their way to your pet’s skin through unhygienic bedding and surroundings. For the sake of your piggy’s life, keep her environment clean. Also, inspect her fur daily for any infestations. Vet-prescribed anti-parasitic medication will help you here.

Causes of Sudden Guinea Pig Death

Can guinea pigs die suddenly?

Yes, they can! There are chances your guinea pig dies suddenly without you even knowing the cause of her demise. Below are four such health conditions:

Heart Attack

Guinea pigs aren’t very brave. If they face a scary situation, their tiny, fragile hearts might give up on them. Too much stress or fear can lead to a heart attack that kills your piggy in minutes. Genetics can also be a factor. If your guinea pig is born with an underlying heart condition, she’s more prone to sudden death.

Bloat

Bloat is a deadly digestive disorder caused when the stomach expands due to gas or fluid accumulation. It can also be caused by eating too much in one go and not letting the food digest properly. Watch out for signs like drooling, abdominal swelling, and painful grunts.

Dental Issues

Guinea pigs’ teeth grow constantly. Unfortunately, they don’t stop growing and can cause grave oral problems if not taken care of in time. Overgrown incisors can puncture your piggy’s tongue or cheeks, leading to infection and death before you even realize it!

Stress

Stress is a silent killer. Environmental changes are the main stressors for guinea pigs, so make sure yours is comfortable in her new home. Don’t introduce a new pet too fast, either.

Other causes of stress can be loud noises, unfamiliar smells, and sudden movements. Watch for signs of stress like excessive grooming, teeth grinding, or hunching.

9 Mistakes That Can Kill Your Guinea Pig

None of us want our pet’s blood on our hands. But sometimes, unknowingly, we’re just digging our piggy’s grave. The good news is that you can still control some of these fatal mistakes and save your guinea pig’s life. Let’s learn more.

#1: Not Checking New Guinea Pig’s Health History

Bringing a new guinea pig home? Always check her health history first. The care she has received before you met her will impact how long she lives. If you don’t take this extra measure, you’ll put your other guinea pigs at risk of infections that your new fur pal might already be dealing with.

How can I tell if the guinea pig I’m getting is healthy?

It’s easy. Healthy guinea pigs have big, bright eyes and a clean coat with no bald spots. They’re also pretty responsive and jumpy. Their droppings aren’t runny, and they breathe smoothly.

Where can I find healthy guinea pigs?

We recommend buying one from a reputable breeder or a rescue center. Pet stores mostly sell sick guinea pigs with respiratory issues or parasite infestations. These infected guinea pigs do not survive long. Plus, they also put your existing herd in danger.

#2: Ditching Quarantine Time

Checking the health history was your first step toward a healthier piggy family. The second one is quarantining your new member. Isolating your potentially infected guinea pig will prevent the spread of disease in your other furballs.

Will the new furball cooperate?

Of course, not! Guinea pigs are social butterflies. They are all about squad life. So, they aren’t going to like being alone in another room, especially the baby guinea pigs. But don’t give in to those puppy dog eyes. You must quarantine your new piggy!

How long should I quarantine her?

Ideally, two to three weeks should be enough for any disease or infection to show itself. If it does, your new rodent member will have time for recovery.

#3: Not Performing Routine Checkups

Guinea pigs are secretive little munchkins; they even hide their sickness.

Why?

Guinea pigs are prey animals. Wild cats, wolves, snakes, and hawks all want a bite of these adorable piggies. So, if they sense any vulnerability or weakness in themselves, they hide it.

But all these sneaky behaviors can make spotting guinea pig health problems hard for you! The best way to ensure your squeaky pal remains healthy is to perform routine checkups.

What should I look for during a checkup?

Here’s what your routine checkup must include:

  • Inspect your guinea pig’s body, fur, eyes, and ears for any bumps or bald spots.
  • Check her poop. It must be shaped like balls and neither dry nor too runny.
  • Listen to her breathing. It should be smooth and consistent.
  • Weigh them. A healthy male guinea pig should weigh between 900 and 1,200 grams, whereas a healthy female piggy should be between 700 and 900 grams.
  • Inspect her teeth to make sure they’re not overgrown or misaligned.
  • Check her nails for clippings.

Performing routine checkups will help you spot even the subtlest changes in your guinea pig’s behavior or physical appearance, giving you enough time to get her treated without risking her life.

#4: Providing Unfavorable Cage Conditions

Guinea pigs are total softies. Sudden predator appearances, for instance, can stress them out or, worse, give them a heart attack. So, if you have dogs and cats in the house, keep them away from your guinea pigs.

Are there any other factors I should be mindful of?

Yep, there’s more to consider when setting up your guinea pig’s cage. Check them out:

  • Keep the cage at a height such that you’re at your pet’s eye level when you approach it. You’ll freak the poor munchkin out if you hover above like a hungry eagle.
  • Choose a dry, draft-free, and warm spot. If it gets too cold or windy, your guinea pig might develop respiratory conditions like pneumonia.
  • Keep the cage away from direct sunlight (or any heat source) to prevent your piggy from getting a heat stroke. Strive to maintain the temperature between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Keep the cage in a quiet spot. Avoid placing it next to a television or a stereo system. Loud noises can stress guinea pigs, disturbing their appetite. It can be fatal.

#5: Breeding Guinea Pigs

The more, the merrier, right? But if you wish to have a big fat family of guinea pigs in your house, adopt or buy! Never breed guinea pigs on your own. It can be fatal.

Why?

Breeding can shorten a female guinea pig's life! If you breed an 8-month-old sow for the first time, she might not make it.

Here are a few risks associated with guinea pig pregnancy:

  • At an older age, the babies growing in your piggy are too big to be normally delivered without complications.
  • Your female guinea pig’s weight will double during pregnancy, which can put her heart at risk.
  • A sow might experience a dangerous build-up of toxins in the blood that can cause abortion, premature birth, or death.
  • Your piggy’s uterus might come out of its place, a situation called a prolapsed uterus. If this happens, your guinea pig will either bleed to death or get severely infected.

#6: Feeding the Wrong Foods

Love spoiling your guinea pig with her favorite treats too often? You are pushing her to an early grave!

What? How?

Guinea pigs love hoarding and eating sugary treats. But too much sugar can harm your piggy’s teeth and make her overweight, putting stress on her tiny heart. What’s more, an obese guinea pig wouldn’t want to burn off those calories and remain inactive, increasing her heart risk further.

Okay, so what should I feed my pet piggy?

Hay is your guinea pig's best friend. It should make up 80% of your guinea pig's diet. Also, give her fresh fruits and vegetables (a cup, max) and vitamin C-rich pellets (about 1/8 of a cup) daily.
guinea pig eating strawberry

How much food should I give to my pet guinea pig?

Well, there’s no exact amount. How much your guinea pig needs depends on her age and activity level. Younger piggies need more calories than adults as they’re still growing.

What foods are off-limits?

Meat and dairy are strictly off-limits for guinea pigs. Their GI tract isn’t designed to digest these goodies. If you feed your guinea pig even as much as a drop of dairy, she might get an upset stomach or diarrhea.

Some veggies can cause harm to your pet piggy too. Here’s a list of the ones you should avoid:

  • Iceberg lettuce: It can cause diarrhea.
  • Beans, cauliflower, and cabbage: These gassy foods can lead to bloat and stomach pain.
  • Garlic: It is poisonous for your whisker puff.
  • Avocado: This high-in-fat veggie can lead to weight gain.

#7: Skimping on Cage Cleanliness

Feces-stained, icky-smelling cages are a hotbed for diseases and parasites. A dirty cage can spread bacteria and fungi through your guinea pig’s fur, skin, eyes, nose, and mouth. Yikes!

Below are the consequences of keeping your guinea pig in an unkempt cage:

  • Pododermatitis (Bumblefoot): Bumblefoot is a painful bacterial infection that messes up your guinea pig’s cute paw pad. It’s caused by rough cage bottoms or soggy bedding.
  • Respiratory infections: Dirty, damp cages make your guinea pig susceptible to respiratory problems like pneumonia. And since they are expert sniffers, they’ll inhale even the slightest bit of ammonia which can be lethal to their lungs.
  • Skin allergies: A filthy cage is a haven for dust mites which cause allergies in guinea pigs. They may suffer from bald spots due to excessive fur loss.
  • Urinary Tract Infection: Imagine your adorable piggy chilling in pee-soaked bedding. It’s more than just icky; it’s fatal. Your pet will pick up bacteria from the dirty bedding, leading to UTI. Bloody urine is a telltale sign of UTI. It can take a month to heal.
  • Parasitical infection: Parasites like fleas, ticks, and lice can find a home in dirty cages. These pests can cause anemia due to blood loss or put your piggy at risk of skin diseases.

An unclean cage can also make your cuddle nugget feel unsafe, triggering her anxiety. If your piggy is depressed, she’ll stop eating food. We all know how that ends – gut stasis and death.

Okay, so how often should I clean my guinea pig’s home?

Here’s what your guinea pig pad cleanliness routine should be:

  • Spot clean daily – Remove waste, uneaten food, and soiled bedding.
  • Partially clean weekly – Replace old bedding with a fresh one.
  • Deep clean monthly – Empty the cage, scrub the walls, wash the toys – the whole thing.

Bonus Tip: Don’t use untreated pine or cedar shavings as bedding. They can cause liver and respiratory diseases in your pet.

#8: Not Piggie-Proofing Your Home

Adopting a guinea pig (or any pet) is a huge commitment. You can’t just bring a piggy home, give her a cage and food, and call it a day. You must piggy-proof your precious abode.

What does my house have to do with my pet’s health?

Guinea pigs are greedy eaters, which means they need to burn the calories they pack to stay healthy. You'll have to take them out of their cage so they can get a good exercise session. But since she is always looking out for her next snack, she'll bite into anything she sees to check if it can be her next meal. It can injure or, worse, take her life.

So, before you let your guinea pig hop out of her cage, make your home safe for her to roam around freely. Here are a few things you must cover or put away that can harm your pet piggy:

  • Poisonous plants: Your pet can get poisoned if she nibbles on your favorite daffodil or sunflower!
  • Electric wires and cords: Even tiny nips hurt like crazy! Keep them out of reach.
  • Human foods: Good for us, bad for them.
  • Cleaning solutions, perfumes, and aerosols: These can cause respiratory problems in your piggy.
  • Small items: You don’t want her to choke on your coins or jewelry.

Guinea pigs are escape artists; they can squeeze through even the slightest gap. So, keep your windows and doors tightly closed. And let’s not forget about air vents too!

Trust us; you don’t want to come home and find out that your baby piggy has made a run for it!

#9: Having No Cage Mates

Guinea pigs are social critters; they feel secure, happy, and healthy in a herd. Loneliness can depress your guinea pig, which can take her life.

If you want your fuzzy friend to stick around for long, adopt two guinea pigs of the same gender. Although noisier, female-female pairs work best; males are more territorial and can get into brawls.

So, what are the benefits of having a cage mate?

  • Socialization: Your cavies will be busy playing and cuddling. No boredom, no loneliness, no illnesses.
  • Calming effect: Having a friend around will comfort your piggy during stressful situations like vet visits.
  • Exercise: Pets with partners are more active and have a healthier weight than solo piggies.

Tip: If two piggies aren’t vibing in the same crib, set them up in separate spaces but side by side. They can be neighbors if not roomies!

Signs Your Guinea Pig Is Dying

guinea pig wood shavings

As mentioned earlier, guinea pigs are good at hiding their illnesses. So, sometimes, you might be unable to figure out if something is wrong with your pet until it’s too late. But there will always be a few telltale signs of your guinea pig dying. If you catch onto these signs early, you might even be able to save her life.

Don’t lose her to a preventable and treatable condition; check her for these signs.

  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Dull fur
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloody urine
  • Disturbed sleep cycle
  • Difficulty breathing

Caring for a Dying Guinea Pig

Death is inevitable! No matter how many precautions you take or how much care you give, your precious guinea pig will eventually kick the bucket (if not from an illness, then from old age). It’s heartbreaking, and we feel for you. While you can’t control when your guinea pig dies, you can fill her last days with love, care, and comfort.

What can I do to make things better for my dying piggy?

  • Feed her: Help your piggy eat and drink by pureeing or mashing her food. If she refuses to eat, don’t force her.
  • Keep her clean: Your guinea pig will no longer have the strength to groom herself. So, take over and wipe her down with a damp cloth. Don’t use any soaps or shampoos; just plain water.
  • Provide warmth: Wrap your sweet fluffball in a soft blanket to keep her warm. Use a heating pad for extra warmth.
  • Keep her close to her piggy friends: It’s a sensitive phase for your piggy and her fellow cavies. Don’t separate them now; they need each other’s support.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Can I Tell My Guinea Pig is Dead?

A dead guinea pig appears shrunken with a stiff body and unresponsiveness. If you put your face near her nose and mouth, you won’t feel any breath or smell any odor from her mouth. To confirm she’s gone, check for the absence of a heartbeat by putting your finger on her chest wall.

How to Deal With the Death of a Guinea Pig?

We know it’s difficult to accept that your guinea pig is no more. Grieve her and cry all you want! It’s okay. Also, freely share your feelings with your family and friends; they might help you recover.

How Should I Tell Other Guinea Pigs About Their Friend’s Death?

Leave the guinea pig’s body in the cage for a few minutes. Her friends will sniff and touch it, and they’ll eventually know that she isn’t around anymore.

Long Live the Piggies!

If you’re wondering, “Do guinea pigs die easily?” the answer is no.

You can keep your guinea pig safe from most diseases by providing her with a clean home, yummy and healthy food, lots of attention and love, and regular health checks.

However, sometimes there’s only so much you can do to prevent illnesses. If your guinea pig is dying, shower her with all your love and care.

Did you find the information in this article helpful?

At Oddly Cute Pets, we strive to provide you with the best advice and tips for caring for your beloved guinea pigs. We want our fellow rodent lovers to live a joyous, healthy, and long life with their furry friends.

If you have more queries about caring for your guinea pigs, check out our website. You’ll find a ton of information on guinea pig health, nutrition, and behavior there.

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