Water Bowl Safety 101: You Need This Now (Seriously!)

Deciding what supplies you need for your guinea pig can be daunting – especially when it comes to a water source. Many pet parents have a similar question to this: are water bowls safe for guinea pigs? So, I did a little investigating.

Water bowls are safe for guinea pigs to use. As long as safety precautions are taken, water bowls are an excellent substitute for water bottles. In fact, some guinea pigs prefer bowls to water bottles.

That’s what this guide is all about. An unvarnished look at the safety of water bowls for guinea pigs , warts and all, and the safety measures that must be considered if you choose to use them.  

Let’s get to it.

Are Water Bowls Safe for Guinea Pigs to Use?

Although the majority of pet parents use water bottles, water bowls are safe for guinea pigs to use.  

As long as pet parents pay attention to the condition of the water bowl and the health of their guinea pigs (more on this later), there’s no reason not to use a water bowl.

In some cases, a shallow bowl or dish might be just the thing (or the only thing) to keep your little fur babies hydrated. A water bowl might be the best fit for your piggie, if:

  1. You have an older guinea pig, who might be getting stiffer and slower with age..  If you notice that your piggie is having a difficult time navigating the water bottles as age creeps up, you could consider offering a water bowl.  Bowls are easier to drink out of for older guinea pigs.  
  2. Your piggie is injured, recovering from surgery, or sick.  Water bowls don’t require upward stretching or movement.  A  water bowl is your best bet, if your little friends aren’t able to get around very well.
  3. You have baby guinea pigs who haven’t learned how to use a water bottle. Baby guinea pigs usually learn to use water bottles from older, experienced guinea pigs. If you don’t have the time or patience to teach the babies, then it’s better to just let them have access to a shallow dish of water.
  4. Your guinea pig has teeth issues. Drinking from a water bottle requires a form of chewing. If your guinea pig has a tooth-related  illness, then he should probably use a bow.
  5. Your guinea pig prefers drinking from a water bowl.  It happens.  Each guinea pig has their own mind.  Sometimes that mind leans away from a water bottle and towards  a water bowl. 

???? Tips & Tricks:

Many pet parents keep both a water bowl and a water bottle in their enclosure.  Why?  Because different guinea pigs prefer different water sources.  From my research, it seems that the more piggies you have, the likelier it is that you’ll have to invest in water bottles AND at least one water dish.

To prepare for this article, I took a month to collect 1,106 water bottle and water bowl statements from several different websites to find information about water bowl usage.  

  • 203 (18.4%)  people out of the 1,106 use water bowls.  
  • 113 (10.2%) use both water bowls and bottles.  

In my research, I didn’t find an epidemic of guinea pig injuries from using water bowls.  

(And believe me, I looked).

So, what does this mean?

That you can rest easy.  You’re not dooming your piggie to a gruesome death by using water bowls.  

However:

This doesn’t mean that you should just plop a bowl into your little friend’s cage and call it a day.  

Ultimately, what will keep your furry potatoes safe is your vigilance.  As long as you’re aware of potential dangers, then you can plan for them.  And make adjustments to keep your piggies safe.

That said, let’s dive a bit more deeply into…

Hacks, Tips, & Tactics For Safe Water Bowl Use

Water bowl safety is easier than it sounds. 

In fact, a lot of the following suggestions become second nature to you, once you get used to them.

We’re going to cover 3 simple principles.  When it comes to the bowl your piggie will use:

  • Keep it still.  
  • Keep it clean.
  • Keep your eye on it.

Follow these simple tips and tricks to protect your little piggies from injury and getting sick!

1. Keep It Still 

  • Use a heavy, shallow ceramic or glass bowl that can’t easily be tipped over.  People have even reported using glass pie pans or small, square casserole dishes for guinea pig water bowls.
  • Duct tape is your friend.  Use it.  Just slap it on the button of the bowl and stick it to the cage floor.  Your guinea pigs can’t get to the tape because  
  • Depending on the type of cage you have, you can use bowls that clip to the side of the cage. They stay off the floor and are more difficult to tip.
  • Use large pebbles to weigh down the bowl.  Just make sure that they’re safe to have in your piggies’ water.  You can find non toxic stones at a pet store.  

2. Keep It Clean

  • Prepare to clean and refill the dish frequently. At least twice a day is average. But you’ll need to do it more often if your guinea pigs are really messy. 
  • Put the bowl somewhere away from the food area. Guinea pigs tend to poop and urinate where they eat. Placing the bowl elsewhere will decrease the odds of “poop soup”.

???? Tips & Tricks:

The basic rule-of-thumb is that if you wouldn’t drink it, don’t give it to your piggies.  You wouldn’t drink from a bowl of water that included poop droppings and urine, would you?  Of course not!  It would make you sick.  That’s why it’s so important to change your guinea pig’s water bowl regularly.

3. Keep Your Eye On It

  • Inspect your bowl (and the area around your bowl) once or twice a day.  Look for cracks, leaks, and chipped pieces of ceramic or plastic.  Floating droppings. Also, take note of the bedding.  Is it damp?  If so, be prepared to replace it. 
  • Fill it with fresh water daily.  Two times a day seems to be the average amount of times that owners replace their guinea pig’s water in the bowl.  You (or someone in your home is) must be prepared to refresh it throughout the day.
  • Purchase bowls that have measurement lines inside of them. Or you can mark the outside of the bowl with a permanent marker.  That way you’ll be able to monitor how much water your guinea pig is drinking.

Generally speaking, following these guidelines will keep your piggies quite safe and will help you avoid the consequences of…

7 Water Bowl Challenges You Need to Know About… 

…Including a few that you might not have considered.  

The information is to help give an idea of what you need to be aware of when using water bowls. 

The good news?

A lot of the issues have the same solutions that were mentioned earlier in the article.

Simply put?

If you use one tactic consistently, you usually end up decreasing or eliminating several issues at once.

Now everyone’s circumstances are different.  So, zoom into the information that applies to you and feel free to ignore what doesn’t. 

1. Can’t Easily Track Your Piggie’s Drinking Habits

There’s a number of reasons why you’d want to track your guinea pig’s water intake. Here are a few:

  • Normal health checks
  • Pregnancy
  • Recovering from an illness or surgery

But, how do you know how much your piggie is drinking?  Many water bottles have measurement lines and bowls don’t.

2. Takes Up Space

Depending on what water bowl you choose, it can take up precious square footage in your guinea pig’s enclosure.

Unlike some other rodents, your piggies need as much space as they can get.

Use the table below as a reference.

# of Guinea PigsCage Size
1 Guinea Pig7.5 ft2 (minimum) but more is better
2 Guinea Pigs7.5 ft2 (minimum), but more is better
3 Guinea Pigs10.5 ft2 (minimum), but more is better
4 Guinea Pigs13 ft2 (minimum), but more is better

(The information from the table came from this source)

Why?

  • Your guinea pigs need as much space as possible to zoom, popcorn, forage, run, burrow, chase and play.  Doing so gives them mental and physical stimulation that keeps them happy.
  • Do you have male guinea pigs (boars)? If so, they typically need more space than females.   When they have less space, it can stress them out.  Stress can lead to all sorts of negative behaviors, such as fighting, bar chewing, depression, and barbering (hair pulling).  

And if your circumstances require you to have multiple water bowls in your enclosure…

Then you’ll lose even more space.  

3. Wading Pool, Anyone?

Generally, piggies aren’t big fans of water. However, some guinea pigs will plop themselves into their water bowl without a second thought.

So cute and yet…

So frustrating, because this innocent activity can lead to:

  • Your piggie catching a cold. This is more of a concern if the temperature is too cool or if the area is drafty.
  • Contaminated water. Piggies will often poop and urinate in their water dishes.
  • A case of bumblefoot if your guinea pig does it too often.  Dampness and piggie feet do not mix

 4. Unsanitary (A.K.A. The Poop Soup)

First of all:

Ugh!

Secondly:

Ewww!

One of the main reasons why a lot of pet parents prefer bottles is because they’re more sanitary than bowls.

Guinea pigs like to play. And they can be inventively destructive.

That’s why the water bowls you set out can quickly be contaminated with poop and bedding.

5. Baby Guinea Pig Hazard

Baby guinea pigs require special consideration.  They’re tiny, helpless, and don’t know much about their little world.

So, they’ll need you to do some strategizing for them.

Be aware of the following issues if you have a baby piggies and plan on using a dish:

  • Bigger guinea pigs might flip a lighter bowl on top of a baby guinea pig and injure it
  • If the water is too deep, the baby guinea pig could drown if she took a spill into the bowl and couldn’t get out.

From my  research, it seems that these situations are pretty rare. But, I know you wouldn’t want to become complacent and have an unfortunate accident happen to your fur baby.

6. Tipping Hazard 

This is one of the biggest complaints of pet parents using water bowls.  Their piggies knock over their water bowls and ruin their cages.  

You don’t have to search far in the Internet to find a pet parent fed up with their piggies knocking over their bowl and flooding their enclosure.  

This daily flooding has the following negative consequences:

  • Damp bedding.  If your piggie bedding gets wet, then it has to be changed.  This can become very costly.  Pet parents will pay with the time it takes to freshen the bedding and the cost of the bedding itself.
  • Bumblefoot.  Wet and soiled bedding can cause bumblefoot in guinea pigs.  And some piggies are more susceptible to it than others.  It’s an inflammation of the skin of the feet, which can be very dangerous to your fur babies.

7. Design Failure (Or Basic Wear and Tear)

Just like with a water bottle, a water bowl must be inspected daily.  Sometimes they can have design failures.  

Also, basic wear and tear over time can ruin a dish

And make it dangerous for your guinea pig to use:

A daily inspection allows you to avoid:

  • Thirsty guinea pigs.  Sometimes bowls get cracks.  The cracks lead to leaks, which can drain the water from the bowl.
  • Hurt piggies.  Broken bits of bowl or cracks can injure your guinea pigs while they’re trying to get a drink.

How Do I Get My Guinea Pig to Drink From a Bowl?

If you want to encourage your piggie to drink from a bowl, there are a few simple tips that you can try:

  • Be direct.  Dip your finger in the water bowl.  Let your guinea pig lick it.  That might help them get the ideas. 
  • Try a bribe. Give your piggie a bite of his favorite fruit. Maybe a blueberry or strawberry? Then let him see you toss it into the water bowl. Hopefully, he’ll dive in after it and get the hint that the water from the bowl is for drinking.
  • Let someone else teach your piggie.   Yes, really!  Have an experienced, older guinea pig show younger (or less experienced) guinea pig the ropes. Many guinea pigs are sold in pet stores as babies. They haven’t had a chance to learn how to properly “guinea pig”. Placing these little ones with older piggies often works out very well.  Keep that in mind when you’re going to expand your guinea pig  family.
  • Sweeten it up.  You could try placing a mixture of organic fruit juice and water in the bowl.  Put a little bit of the flavored water on your finger and let your piggie try it.  If they’re enticed by the flavor, they might try drinking from the water bowl to get a little more.  However, this shouldn’t become a regular occurrence.  You just want the piggies to realize that what’s in the water bowl is something that they’re able to drink.

At the end of the day, piggie preference overrules owner preference. 

In other words…

If your guinea pig prefers a bottle, then that’s what you might have to use.

???? Tips & Tricks:

When working with a new guinea pig, give the piggie a chance to get used to you and their environment.  It’s quite likely that your little friend will be too anxious to eat or drink until they become more comfortable.

What Can Guinea Pigs Drink Other Than Water?

Not much.

Guinea pigs can tolerate (and even enjoy) a watered down mixture of organic fresh juice and water. 

Listen:

The digestive system of a guinea pig isn’t wired to handle more than hay, grasses, fresh produce, pellets, and water (in the appropriate amounts).  

Asking it to process anything else can lead to illnesses such as diarrhea and bloat, which can be fatal to guinea pigs.  

In most cases, you don’t want to give your guinea pig anything other than water.  The vast majority of liquids should be avoided, including:

  • Wine
  • Beer
  • Hard liquor
  • Sodas
  • Energy drinks
  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Hot Chocolate
  • Milk (and other dairy products)

Don’t risk it.  Just stick with good, old fashioned plain water. 

Tap water is fine.  Some pet parents use filtered, which is also okay to use.  Once again, the basic rule-of-thumb is that if you wouldn’t drink it, don’t give it to your guinea pig.  

See how this adorable, little piggie is enjoying a bowl of refreshing water?

If you go to this ASPCA webpage, you’ll see a list of the top 10 toxic foods for animals.  Take a peek at the list, so you can be mindful about what you need to be aware of. 

How To Tell If Your Guinea Pig Is Dehydrated 

Not sure if your little friend is drinking enough water? 

That’s understandable. 

Even though the average guinea pig usually needs 80ml to 100ml of water a day, it can sometimes seem like your piggies drink much less than that.

In fact, some owners claim that their cavies don’t drink at all.

Some guinea pigs appear to drink less (or no water) because they’re getting it from the fruit and veggies they eat. 

Some guinea pigs refuse to eat or drink if they’re stressed or being introduced to a new environment.

⚠️Warning

It’s critical that if you notice that your guinea pig is dehydrated, get him to a vet immediately. Dehydration can kill guinea pigs.

To know if your guinea pig is dehydrated, look for these clues:

  • Sunken eyes
  • Thick saliva that’s sticky
  • Hard, dry poop droppings with pointy ends
  • Dark, smelly urine (or very little urine).

Another way to check for dehydration is to do a “skin tent” test. Gently pinch the loose skin on the back of your guinea pig’s neck, lift it up and let it go. It should snap back into place. If the skin settles back slowly, then your piggie might be dehydrated.

???? Tips & Tricks:

Doesn’t it seem like pet emergencies (like dehydration) always happen on the weekend (or on a holiday) when the vet is closed? Some pet parents, who can’t get their guinea pig to the vet right away, offer their piggie water-heavy vegetables such as cucumbers and romaine lettuce to attempt to start rehydrating process. But, if dehydration is suspected your piggie must be seen by a vet as soon as possible to prevent the situation from becoming worse.

The Real Truth About Water Bowl Safety for Guinea Pigs

The truth is that water bowls are perfectly safe as long as the pet parent is attentive to them

Let’s recap the most important points:

  • Consistently use a few simple guidelines to make water bowl use the safest experience possible.  Make sure that bowl can’t move and that it stays clean.  Inspect the bowl often.
  • There are some challenges involved with water bowl use, such as guinea pig dangers, tipping hazards, space issues, etc.  But, most of them can be made null and void if pet parents take the proper precautions.

Using water bowls isn’t for everyone.

Yet, if you have an older or injured guinea pig (with difficulty lifting his head), a baby guinea pig unfamiliar with water bottles, or even guinea pigs who prefer water bowls over bottles, it’s worth considering. 

Seriously.

Because it’s a way to ensure that your piggies are getting the water that they need — fast and easy. 

With a little help from you, of course. 

Related Questions 

Can a guinea pig be potty trained? Although some owners have potty trained their guinea pigs, most people report that it’s very difficult to do.  Unfortunately, the majority of guinea pigs prefer urinating and pooping wherever they see fit.

What sounds do guinea pigs make?  Even though humans can’t always understand what they’re saying, guinea pigs do a lot of communicating with sounds.  Guinea pigs produce purrs, chirps (high pitched and low pitched), squeals, and rumbles.

What should guinea pigs eat? A guinea pig’s diet should mainly be hay and grasses – about 80%. Fresh veggies (and the occasional fruit) should be about 15% of what a piggie eats daily. The last 5% is Vitamin C-enriched pellets. 

Giving fluids | Arizona exotics | -Guinea pigs resources. (n.d.). Arizona Exotic Animal Hospital | Veterinary care for exotic pets in Phoenix, Mesa, Tempe, Chandler, Gilbert AZ. https://azeah.com/guinea-pigs/giving-fluids

Guinea pig pododermatitis (bumblefoot, sore hocks). (2020, September 3). Veterinary Practice | The UK’s leading monthly veterinary publication. https://veterinary-practice.com/article/guinea-pig-pododermatitis-bumblefoot-sore-hocks

Guinea pigs – Exotic and laboratory animals – Merck veterinary manual. (n.d.). Merck Veterinary Manual. https://www.merckvetmanual.com/exotic-and-laboratory-animals/rodents/guinea-pigs

Gurney, P. (2011). Guinea pig: A practical guide to caring for your Guinea pig. Collins.

Pellman, K. (2015). Guinea Pig Care: The Essential Guide to Ownership, Care, & Training for Your Pet.

Protect Guinea pigs from summer heat! (2019, August 13). FOUR PAWS International – Animal Welfare Organisation. https://www.four-paws.org/our-stories/publications-guides/protect-guinea-pigs-from-summer-heat

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