Guinea pigs are known for making a variety of noises throughout the day.
You will likely hear your guinea pig squeal when it is happy or make a low rumbling noise while playing.
If you observe your guinea pig while eating, you might even hear what sounds like a piercing cough.
This coughing noise is the sound of a guinea pig hiccup.
So, is it normal for guinea pigs to hiccup, and when do you need to worry?
It is very common for guinea pigs to hiccup, and a spasm of the diaphragm causes it. Guinea pigs usually hiccup due to eating too quickly, but they may also occur when the animal is excited or giving birth. Recurring hiccups may signal an underlying health issue.
In addition to the guinea pig’s hiccup sound, you may also see the animal’s head bob up and down slightly.
Guinea pig hiccups are completely normal, but there are times when they are a symptom of something more serious.
Keep reading to learn more about the causes of guinea pig hiccups, how long they should last, and what to do to stop them.
What Causes Hiccups in Guinea Pigs?
The most common way for a guinea pig to get hiccups is by eating its food too quickly.
Baby guinea pigs are more likely to get hiccups because of how fast they eat, especially if other cavies nearby might steal their food.
Guinea pigs cannot vomit, so they will spit out any food they are unable to swallow.
The cavy’s diaphragm will begin to spasm, and the animal may even appear to be gagging.
This will result in a guinea pig making a hiccuping sound and bobbing its head up and down.
The sounds of a cavy’s hiccups may be alarming the first time you hear them, but they are normal and will stop within a few minutes.
Pregnant female guinea pigs will also hiccup when they begin to go into labor due to the contraction of diaphragm muscles.
Right before the female cavy gives birth, she will start to hiccup a lot and may become focused on her private parts.
If you have been monitoring your pregnant cavy and notice sudden hiccups, be prepared for her to have her babies.
The baby guinea pigs are born about 5 minutes apart, and it will take anywhere between 20-50 minutes for the guinea pig birthing process to be finished.
If your cavy is experiencing a difficult birth, you will need a veterinarian for help.
Being overly excited is a less common reason for guinea pigs to have hiccups, but it is not entirely unheard of.
Cavies are very energetic when they play, and rapid breathing will sometimes disturb the diaphragm enough for hiccups to occur.
How Long Do Guinea Pig Hiccups Last?
On average, guinea pig hiccups only last a few minutes and then go away.
Once the diaphragm muscles relax, the hiccups will resolve without any intervention.
However, if the hiccups continue or happen regularly, there might be an underlying health condition causing them.
Monitor your cavy for other signs of illness, such as:
- Loss of Appetite
- Discharge from the eyes, nose, or mouth
The average body temperature for a guinea pig is between 99-103° degrees Fahrenheit (39° C), and anything higher than this indicates a fever.
It is also important to take note of any signs of physical pain in your cavy, such as teeth grinding or lying on its back.
If your guinea pig’s hiccups are prolonged and are in conjunction with any of the above symptoms, you need to seek a veterinarian for complete care as soon as possible.
Is It Possible to Stop Hiccups in Guinea Pigs?
If your guinea pig has hiccups, it is best to let them resolve on their own.
Holding your cavy’s nose or scaring them to make the hiccups stop is not only useless, but it will cause trust issues with your pet.
Scaring the guinea pig is very likely to exacerbate the hiccups.
Related: Why are guinea pigs so scared?
The only way for a cavy’s hiccups to stop is by allowing a bit of time to pass.
When the diaphragm contractions cease, the hiccups will disappear within 5-10 minutes.
There is no way for you to stop hiccups in your cavy, but you may be able to detect a more serious issue by gently touching the animal’s diaphragm.
A guinea pig’s diaphragm is located just below the heart and lungs.
It may be challenging to examine the underside of your cavy, especially if the animal is in pain and does not want to be touched, so it is crucial to act with extreme care.
The diaphragm will normally have a soft, spongy feel when lightly pressed with your finger.
If the diaphragm is firm or swollen, this is a sign of a more serious health problem.
Are Hiccups Dangerous for Guinea Pigs?
Hiccups are not inherently dangerous for guinea pigs as long as they do not last for an extended period.
Like humans, guinea pigs are likely to feel some discomfort from hiccups.
This discomfort may cause some stress, but it is not life-threatening.
If the hiccups do not stop after a couple of hours, something more serious is going on.
The hiccups may be related to a respiratory or digestive condition, or they may sometimes be confused with seizures.
These underlying health issues are the main concern for your cavy, and veterinary treatment is necessary.
Respiratory Problems Causing Hiccups in Guinea Pigs
When a guinea pig struggles to breathe, air will get trapped in the animal’s stomach and cause the diaphragm to spasm, leading to hiccups.
Healthy adult guinea pigs can overcome a respiratory infection on their own, but antibiotics or other medication may be used to treat more severe cases.
Symptoms of an upper respiratory infection in guinea pigs include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Discharge from the eyes or nose
- Appetite loss
If the respiratory infection does not clear on its own within a day or two, you need to seek veterinary care.
When an upper respiratory infection is left untreated, it will develop into pneumonia, which may be fatal for guinea pigs.
If your guinea pig is hiccuping and seems to be breathing from its mouth a lot, it is most likely due to an upper respiratory infection.
Digestive Problems Causing Hiccups in Guinea Pigs
Gastrointestinal issues also cause continuous hiccuping in guinea pigs.
As previously stated, cavies cannot vomit, so anything they eat must pass through their digestive system.
When a guinea pig does not have enough fiber in its diet, the digestive system slows down and may stop moving altogether.
A lack of fresh water will discourage a cavy from drinking, causing digestion to slow even further.
This digestive slow down leads to intestinal blockages, a severe issue for cavies.
Intestinal blockages will sometimes cause prolonged hiccuping in guinea pigs, constipation, and a lack of appetite.
You may also hear a bubbling sound coming from your cavy’s stomach.
Gently press on your cavy’s belly, near where the diaphragm is located.
If your guinea pig’s belly is firm to the touch or if the animal cries out in pain, contact your veterinarian immediately.
A severe impaction is typically fatal for a guinea pig if not treated right away.
Surgery may be required to remove the intestinal blockage.
Your veterinarian will also focus on treating the symptoms of impaction in your cavy by administering pain relief, hydrating the animal intravenously, and providing medication to stimulate gut motility.
Your guinea pig’s diet may also need to be evaluated to ensure enough fiber and fresh, clean water for healthy digestion.
Is it Hiccups or a Seizure?
For a new guinea pig owner, the up and down head movement associated with cavy hiccups may be confused for a seizure.
Seizures are much different from hiccups, and there is more movement involved.
A seizure will cause a cavy’s entire body to shake and their eyes to roll back into their head.
The animal may also drool and move its legs erratically.
Seizures are also more prolonged than hiccups.
While hiccups only last for a couple of seconds in quick bursts, a seizure may last for one minute.
A couple of minutes may not seem like a long time, but it is a scary experience for both the owner and the cavy.
If you have observed your guinea pig having a seizure, it is essential to find out what caused it.
Your cavy may be extremely stressed or have underlying neurological issues.
What To Do About Recurring Hiccups in a Guinea Pig
When a guinea pig has recurring hiccups and no underlying medical cause is found, the culprit is likely the animal’s diet.
Cavies have sensitive stomachs, and hiccups might react to a particular type of food.
Food insecurity, often resulting from an irregular feeding schedule or bullying, will cause hiccups in guinea pigs.
Evaluate Your Guinea Pig’s Diet
A balanced diet is vital to the overall health of your cavy, and it usually includes hay, guinea pig pellets, fresh vegetables, and an occasional fruit treat.
When a guinea pig consistently gets hiccups while eating, the animal likely eats the pellets too fast.
If you have a healthy adult guinea pig, start by removing any food pellets from its diet.
Hay takes longer to eat than the smaller pellets, so it naturally forces the cavy to eat slowly.
Observe your cavy for a couple of days to see if the hiccups have stopped.
If the hiccups start again when you reintroduce the food pellets, your guinea pig is eating too fast.
Mix the pellets with your cavy’s hay to encourage slower eating habits.
The vegetables you feed to your guinea pig may also cause digestive issues.
For instance, iceberg lettuce is not recommended for guinea pigs because it contains lactucarium, irritating the stomach lining.
Avoid cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, cabbage, and broccoli, as they will cause an excess of gas buildup in a cavy’s stomach.
Establish a Regular Feeding Schedule and Prevent Bullying
In addition to evaluating what types of food you are giving to your guinea pig, you may also need to adjust your pet’s mealtime.
Guinea pigs become stressed when they are insecure about their food.
When a guinea pig feels like its food supply is being threatened, it will eat faster and likely develop hiccups.
If you have more than one guinea pig, monitor the animals at feeding time to ensure no bullying occurs.
Be sure to provide each cavy with its own food dish and water bottle, so there is less competition.
If the bullying continues, you may even need to feed each guinea pig in a separate area.
Avoid irregular feeding routines and aim to feed your cavy simultaneously every day.
The best times for feeding your guinea pig are early in the morning and again in the evening.
Once a steady feeding schedule is established, your cavy will be more relaxed at mealtime.
Commonly Asked Questions
Why is my guinea pig gagging?
Guinea pigs must thoroughly chew their food before swallowing to avoid digestive upset.
When a cavy has problems with its back teeth, it will not chew food properly.
Guinea pigs cannot vomit, so the animal will usually spit out any unchewed food it could not swallow.
When this happens, the guinea pig will make a gagging motion.
If your cavy is frequently gagging, you need to make an appointment with your veterinarian to have the animal’s teeth checked.
Why do guinea pigs have spasms?
If you regularly monitor your cavy’s behavior, you may notice occasional twitching.
Skin irritation is the most common reason behind sudden spasms.
Ringworm causes a cavy’s skin to become dry and extremely itchy, making the animal twitch.
Lice and mites will also irritate a guinea pig’s skin and make it start twitching because the itch is so bad.
More serious causes of spasms in guinea pigs include heat stroke or ingesting toxic substances.
If you notice your guinea pig is frequently twitching, it is best to seek veterinary care to determine the cause.
Why is my guinea pig’s head bobbing?
While a guinea pig’s head may move up and down slightly when it has hiccups, it is different than head bobbing.
When a cavy bobs its head up and down rapidly, the animal displays its annoyance or dominance.
If your guinea pig is bobbing its head while being petted, it lets you know it would like to be left alone.