You probably keep an eye out for any signs of health issues in your senior guinea pig.
However, is weight loss a cause for concern?
Does a guinea pig typically lose weight as they get older?
As a guinea pig ages, it will likely experience weight loss as its body fat percentage lowers. This often results in a slimmer appearance, sometimes with more prominently appearing features like hip bones. However, sudden, rapid weight loss is less common and warrants a trip to the vet.
Keep reading, and we’ll look at everything you need to know about what guinea pig owners need to look out for as their cavy ages.
Do Guinea Pigs Lose Weight as They Get Older?
As your guinea pig ages, you’ll likely see them start to look and feel lighter.
As your pet guinea pig gets into their senior years, they’re likely to start losing some of the body fat when they were younger.
Your guinea pig is considered a senior at about five years or older.
So, if you start to notice some minor or gradual weight loss in your older guinea pig, it’s likely just a part of the aging process.
This is true for both male and female guinea pigs.
It’s worth noting a weight decline is also a sign of several conditions and diseases cavies can experience.
As such, it’s still a good idea to double-check with your vet if you have any concerns and to help rule out any other potential causes of the decline in body fat.
How Old is a Senior Guinea Pig?
Some consider three-year-olds senior cavies, while others claim guinea pigs are seniors at five.
For comparison, the average life expectancy of a guinea pig is five to seven years, according to the Humane Society.
A more accurate assessment of senior cavies is their condition.
Once you notice your cavy start to slow down in their day-to-day life and take a little longer to heal, recover, and sleep more, it’s a good indicator that they’re reaching an elderly status.
When Should You Worry About Your Guinea Pig Losing Weight?
Weight loss in guinea pigs is a concern for many owners.
After all, weight loss is a sign of many common issues in guinea pigs.
Generally, a rapid decrease is a cause for concern.
If you suddenly notice your guinea pig dropping 50 grams or more quickly, it’s a good idea to visit the vet.
Drops of closer to 100 grams are considered emergencies.
Disease or illness in a cavy is usually signaled by a few common issues and weight loss.
Check in with your vet if you start to notice any of these signs of a severe health issue as well:
- Not eating or spitting out rather than eating food like fresh pellets or leafy vegetables
- Loss of energy or lethargy
- Hair loss
- Loose stools
- Decrease in balance
- Crusted or dull eyes
Overall, keep an eye out for any changes in how your cavy acts.
For instance, it’s not good if your cavy is suddenly aggressive when they’re usually an affectionate animal.
If they don’t act as they usually do with you or another cavy in their cage, it’s a good idea to go to the vet.
What are the Signs of Weight Loss in Guinea Pigs?
To recognize when your cavy is losing weight, it’s essential to understand the signs of decreases in weight in guinea pigs.
It’s possible to either estimate how much your cavy weighs visually or use a scale to better assess their condition.
The best way to keep an eye on the size of your cavy is to take them out of their cage to weigh them every week.
This way, you have a definitive measurement of how much mass your cavy has gained or lost since you last weighed them.
A male cavy has an average weight between 900 and 1,200 grams, while a female cavy usually weighs between 700 and 900 grams.
Another way is to assess your cavy visually.
If it’s possible to see their hips, ribs, or spine easily, it’s a sign your cavy is underweight.
Between these two methods, weighing a cavy regularly will offer a more accurate assessment, especially when it comes to long-haired breeds that might be harder to assess visually.
In addition, regular weigh-ins will help you catch essential changes earlier and react quickly when it’s necessary.
Since your cavy is so small, a kitchen scale will do the trick.
As a broad rule, cavies do a good job at looking healthy even if they aren’t feeling up to par.
This has a lot to do with their instincts as prey animals.
By keeping track of documentable factors such as the size of your cavy, it’s easy to notice when something starts to change before you might notice it visually.
This makes it a great step to take a cavy’s entire life, not just as they age.
How Can I Get My Older Guinea Pig to Gain Weight?
If your cavy is below a healthy weight for their breed, your vet might recommend helping them gain a bit.
However, it’s essential to make sure you’re helping your cavy healthily gain weight.
First, it’s crucial to help them by offering a balanced diet full of nutritious food.
Overfeeding isn’t the way to make sure your cavy lives a healthy life.
Secondly, you don’t want them to gain weight faster than their body can adapt to.
So, you’ll want to make sure you’re helping them healthily gain weight.
This includes providing them with snacks like oats, alfalfa hay, or alfalfa-based pellets, and even a vitamin C supplement if it’s appropriate!
If your cavy has cage mates, this might mean feeding them separately or even hand-feeding them to ensure they have everything they need.
The best way to ensure you’re giving your cavy precisely what they need is to talk to your veterinarian to form a plan for weight gain.
Check out our guide to helping guinea pigs gain weight safely.