Many guinea pig owners eventually have to consider leaving their furry friends unattended for a few days while they travel.
While you could house them with a friend or a boarding kennel for the duration of your trip, a lot of people wonder if they would be OK on their own.
How long can a guinea pig go without food and water?
Guinea pigs need water in their diet to help them digest their food. They should never be without water for more than 12 to 24 hours. Hay is the most important part of the diet, and it should always be available. They should not go 12 hours without food, or it can cause issues with the intestines.
Learn more about what your guinea pig requires in this detailed guide on their food and water needs.
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How Long Can Guinea Pigs Go Without Water?
While food and water are important to your pet’s survival, water is an essential part of their digestive habits.
If left without water for too long, your cavies will have a hard time digesting their food.
The water helps to smooth out the digestive process.
As a result, you do not want to deprive these animals of water for even a short period.
Guinea pigs eat a lot of fibrous food, particularly if they are on a diet of timothy hay.
They need to have a constant source of water to digest this food and to satisfy their thirst.
There have not been scientific studies to prove just how long a guinea pig can go without water because it would be an inhumane study to dehydrate the animals.
However, most veterinarians recommend leaving a generous amount of freshwater for your pets if you must leave them unattended for a long period.
If you plan to be gone for a few days, consider purchasing some extra water bottles or a larger size water bottle.
This gives your guinea pigs extra clean water, which will allow you to leave them on their own for a little while longer than usual.
Plan to leave at least 80 to 100 milliliters of water per animal per day.
Guinea pigs in certain stages, such as pregnant or lactating, may consume more water throughout the day.
If you leave fresh vegetables with high water content, you may not need to leave as much water.
Plan accordingly, but it is always best to give them more water than not enough.
How Long Can Guinea Pigs Go Without Food?
If you plan to take a trip out of town and want to leave your guinea pig behind, you need to know just how long they can survive without food.
Unfortunately, they may not last as long as you would like them to go.
The average guinea pig can go about twelve hours without food.
You may have already noticed, but your cavies tend to graze a little bit all day long.
They need a wide variety of foods to satisfy their health requirements.
Guinea pig owners should be supplying them with hay, pellets, and fresh fruits and vegetables.
A constant food supply keeps your guinea pigs happy, but it also helps with their digestive tract.
There cannot be studies to prove how long guinea pigs can go without eating for ethical reasons.
However, a guinea pig without food in their belly is prone problems in their intestines and liver.
Going one full day without food often leads to serious complications with their intestines.
Guinea pig owners who plan to travel need to leave behind enough food to satisfy their cavies.
Invest in a large hay rack to give them the fibrous intake they need.
Purchase an extra food bowl for their pellets and cut up some vegetables.
Be careful to choose vegetables that can last for a day or two outside the refrigerator, such as leafy vegetables.
Keep in mind hay is an essential part of their diet.
The fiber in the hay helps to keep their digestive tract running smoothly.
They can only go about eight hours without hay, but they can go a bit longer without pellets or vegetables.
Pellets and vegetables may be gone for a day or two without major issues as long as there is still hay to munch on.
Unfortunately, you do run the risk of allowing your guinea pig to overeat when you leave this much food to sit out for them.
They are unlikely to cause digestive upset by overeating hay, but eating too many vegetables or pellets can make them sick.
Overeating leads to issues like diarrhea, which can then lead to dehydration.
It is best to monitor your cavies or have someone else monitor them to ensure they do not overdo it with so much food left around.
Another downside to leaving extra food out for your guinea pig is it can lose nutritional value.
Pellets are an important source of vitamin C for your pets.
This helps to keep them healthy, but stale food decreases in vitamin C content.
As a result, your guinea pigs may not be as healthy if they consistently eat stale food.
How Long Can Guinea Pigs Stay On Their Own?
If you are planning a trip or a vacation, you might wonder whether you are able to leave your furry friend in their enclosure at your home without supervision.
This is the primary reason why many people want to know how long their guinea pig can go without food and water.
You will be pleased to learn your guinea pig should be able to last about three to four days on their own without you.
Of course, you must leave them plenty of fresh food and water.
This is the time to purchase a bigger hay rack or a few extra water bottles.
Stock up on supplies so your cavies will have plenty to eat and drink while you are away.
Pregnant guinea pigs will need more than this.
This should be plenty to keep them busy and healthy in your absence, especially if you add an extra dish or two of pellets and fresh vegetables to go with it.
The main issue with leaving your guinea pig on their own is their enclosure.
They need a clean environment, or it can lead to health issues.
Bacteria buildup occurs from their feces, and ammonia builds up due to their urine.
As a result, respiratory infections are relatively common.
While you may only need to deep clean their cage once a week, most guinea pig owners spot clean the bathroom areas throughout the week.
Without doing this, your cavies will be living in their filth, which is bad for their health.
Don’t stay away from them too long to help avoid some of these common issues.
Enrichment and companionship are also important for their overall health.
You can learn about the health impact of guinea pigs living alone in our other post.
A large enclosure with plenty of toys can help, but they need some time to interact with others.
Socializing is an important part of your pig’s health.
If you travel a lot and do not have time to spend with your guinea pig, consider purchasing him or her a friend.
A lonely guinea pig does not thrive as well as one who has some friendship and companionship.
They truly are social animals.
How To Leave Your Guinea Pig Alone
If you must go away for a few days and leave your guinea pig alone, there are a few things to do to ensure they are healthy and happy when you return.
As already mentioned, stock them up on food and water.
However, this alone may not be enough to keep them in good health in your absence.
The first thing to do is leave instructions with a friend on how to care for your cavies.
They can pop in daily to replenish food and water, spot clean the cage, take them out for playtime, and just give you an overall update on how your beloved furry friends are doing.
These herbivorous animals are easy to take care of, and it won’t take long to educate someone else on what they need for a few days.
If you do not have anyone who can leave out dry food and fresh water, you might want to consider boarding them with a kennel.
Check A Kennel Or Boarding Place
Many boarding facilities will happily take these small animals as well.
You may even find a boarding kennel attached to a veterinary clinic, so you know your guinea pig will be in capable hands during your departure.
It may cost you more than finding a friend, but the overall cost won’t add too much to your budget.
If there aren’t any boarding kennels that accept small animals in your area, check with veterinary clinics or pet shops in your area.
They may be able to make some recommendations for local facilities which can help.
For those who want to avoid the hassle of finding a friend or facility, you might want to set up a camera system to keep an eye on your beloved pet.
This will give you insight into their diet, so you ensure they are eating properly and have enough food.
It also allows you to monitor their behavior.
Be sure to have a friend on call if they need a bit more timothy hay or appear to be having health issues requiring the expertise of a veterinarian.
While your guinea pig does need you to help him reach his nutritional requirements, he does not need you for much else.
They love to get out of their enclosure for playtime and enrichment, but it is not an absolute necessity.
As long as they have plenty of fresh food and access to water, the only thing they need you for is to clean up their cage.
When you have to travel often, consider investing in a larger enclosure.
This will allow you to store more food for your cavies.
It also gives them ample room to run and play since they will not be getting any other types of enrichment while you are away.
As a bonus, it also gives them somewhere to get away from their bathroom areas.
How Many Times A Day Should I Feed My Guinea Pig?
Knowing your guinea pig needs plenty of fresh timothy hay, pellets with vitamin C, and fresh vegetables or fruits, you might be wondering just how often to feed them.
A good diet for guinea pigs often means feeding them twice a day, once in the morning and the evening.
This ensures your pet will have food and water throughout the day and night.
It also allows you to monitor what they are eating, as well as their water intake.
Because you will be feeding your furry friend twice a day, you do not necessarily have to leave food in their enclosure if it is not eaten.
If you have time, toss any pellets they have not eaten after an hour or two.
It’s OK to leave fresh vegetables in their enclosure for up to 24 hours if they are still nibbling on them and enjoying them.
It is possible to overfeed a guinea pig and you do not want to do this.
We have a post on “can you overfeed a guinea pig” that goes into detail on this topic you can check out.
Timothy Hay Is Critical
Remember, they should have plenty of hay at all times.
This comprises the majority of their diet, and they cannot survive without its fiber.
The diet of guinea pigs cannot be complete without a healthy amount of hay.
They like timothy hay, but alfalfa is good in small amounts too.
Approximately 80% of their diet should consist of hay.
Most will eat about 80 to 100 grams of hay each day.
Be sure to feed them hay low in calcium, such as timothy hay.
Consuming too much calcium can lead to the development of stones which are painful for your cavies and lead to expensive veterinary bills.
Hay is important for their digestive system, but it also helps to manage their teeth.
Chewing on hay prevents their teeth from becoming overgrown.
Their teeth are constantly growing, and this simple action helps keep them in check.
Overgrown teeth can prove troublesome for your guinea pig, so be sure to provide them with enough hay to trim down those teeth.
Regarding how much to feed them when it comes to pellets and vegetables, they need far less.
Most guinea pigs need about 1/8 cup of pellets per day.
Young guinea pigs under six months or pregnant can have alfalfa-based pellets, but other types of cavies should avoid these.
They need significantly more veggies, though.
Give them about one full cup (120 to 150 grams) per day with a mixture of leafy green vegetables and a small amount of high calcium vegetables.
Because they cannot manufacture their own vitamin C, it is important to include vegetables with this vitamin.
Consider adding red and green peppers, broccoli, or tomatoes to their food dish.
You should limit fruit to about two servings per week.
Feeding them too much fruit can lead to issues like diabetes.
While they may sometimes overeat if given goodies and treats, they might turn their noses up at all the food you provide them with.
If you find they consistently leave food behind between feedings, cut back on how much you are feeding them.
This is a sign you are overdoing it.
What If My Guinea Pig Does Not Eat?
Going on vacation and leaving plenty of food for your guinea pig may lead to concerns about overeating, particularly if you leave some of their favorite foods around.
However, the opposite problem may also occur.
You check in on your cavies via the camera you set up, and you find they are not even touching the food you left for them.
What could be causing this to happen?
There are a few reasons guinea pigs may decline ample amounts of food.
The first reason they may turn up their noses is due to stress.
Moving their cage around, transporting them to a boarding facility, or introducing new handlers while you are away can all lead to stress for these sensitive animals.
Stress can lead to a decreased appetite until they can settle in again.
Not Enough Water
Another reason they may decline their food is if there is not enough water.
They need an adequate supply of both to keep their appetite up.
When the water dries up or gets spilled in their cage, they may choose not to eat until they drink again.
Too much heat can lead them to have a decreased appetite as well.
Many people like to turn off their air conditioner when they leave town to save a few dollars on their electric bills.
Unfortunately, it gets extremely hot during the summer months.
Your furry friend may not feel like eating if the heat is too uncomfortable for them.
If nothing much has changed in their environment since you were away, it could be a sign of a larger issue.
Disease, infection, or issues with their teeth all lead your guinea pig to deprive themselves of food.
These issues are serious and demand medical attention.
Take your beloved furry friend to a veterinarian who specializes in exotics and these small animals.
Another serious issue, known as gastrointestinal stasis, also leads to a decreased appetite.
This serious condition can lead to death in your guinea pig, so be aware of the signs and symptoms.
Early warning signs of GI stasis can include:
- Decreased appetite
- Smaller than average droppings or no droppings at all
- Bloated appearance
- Teeth grinding
- Frequent grunting
It is easier to prevent GI stasis than it is to cure it.
The best way to prevent this issue from occurring is to make sure they are eating plenty of fiber, most often in the form of hay.
If you notice they are not consuming as much hay, as usual, consider slipping them some tasty vegetables with a higher source of fiber.
Alternatively, you could switch them to a different type of pellet with a higher fiber content to make up for what they are not eating.
You must treat GI stasis early if you want your guinea pig to have the best chance of survival.
Take them immediately to the veterinarian if you notice they have not eaten or had a bowel movement in 6 to 8 hours.
This is highly unusual behavior for cavies, and it should be taken seriously.
You will have an easier time identifying their bowel movements if the cage is relatively clean, to begin with.
To treat GI stasis, you will need medication to help jumpstart their digestive process.
These specific medications are known as prokinetics.
A veterinarian may also start your pet on intravenous fluids to help restore some of the water they are not consuming back into their system.
Pain relief may also be provided if your pet needs it or as a preventative measure.
After all, your guinea pig won’t much feel like eating if they are in a tremendous amount of pain.
While it is important to see a veterinarian, there are a few things to do at home to help curb the side effects if you catch it early.
Feed them more fresh greens to help hydrate their bodies.
They may also love a bowl of gruel, some electrolytes, or some fruit juice to drink.
These dietary supplements help increase the amount of fluids they are getting and can lead to better outcomes.