Is Your Guinea Pig Dead or In Shock? (How To Tell)

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You might be surprised to find that your guinea pig is not moving. This might cause you to think that your pet has died. However, it is possible that your guinea pig is in shock and not dead. But, how can you tell if your guinea pig is dead or in shock?

You can tell if your guinea pig is dead or in shock by looking at a few things. Dead guinea pigs will have rigor mortis, which makes their muscles stiff. This usually happens within minutes to an hour after death and can last up to 72 hours. If the pet’s eyes are shiny, without stiff muscles, and you notice breathing, then it’s possible that your guinea pig is in shock.

If your guinea pig is in shock, you still need to take action quickly. Because shock can kill a cavy quickly unless you provide care.

a pic of a guinea pig saying that it's important to know if a guinea pig is dead or in shock

Let’s take a closer look at how to recognize when your piggies are in shock, how to take care of them if they’re in shock, and what to do if your little pal dies.

Can A Guinea Pig Go Into Shock?

tip of the day for is your guinea pig dead or in shock
Your little buddies can die from shock. So make sure you take action if you recognize that shock has taken hold of your piggie.

Yes, a guinea pig can go into shock. Guinea pigs can develop anaphylactic, behavioral, or hypovolemic shock. Either of these types of shock can eventually lead to death if you don’t take the appropriate action.

Much like the elderly, guinea pigs have weak hearts. When interacting with one, always do it with caution. That way, you will keep their fragile hearts at peace. It could even go to the extent of repelling death that would otherwise result from shock.

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You see, guinea pigs were once wild and animals of prey. As such, they always have the feeling that something is hunting them down for food – even in their cages. Sure, that’s very unlikely in a home setting…but piggies don’t always understand that.

Cavies can get terrified from the things unlikely to harm them. A case in point is the sound of your footsteps. Sometimes they could also become agitated at the sight of sudden moving shadows – especially ones that appear above them.

Now, if guinea pigs were in the wild, they could run away from their threats. But in their cages, they can’t. So when they’re scared, the fear will keep getting worse until your fur babies looks like they’re dead.

And yes, mistaking a guinea pig who is in shock for one who’s dead is a common occurrence. That’s especially true among new pet parents.

So, how can you tell the difference?

How To Make Sure Your Guinea Pig Is Alive

what to do to see if your guinea pig is dead or in schock

When you first set your eyes on a motionless guinea pig, don’t be too quick to make a judgment. Your pet could be in shock or deep sleep and not dead as you might be fearing.

To tell whether or not your pig is still alive, look out for some indicators of a live guinea pig. Do the following:

1. Look For Movement

For instance, check for any movements. Be observant enough to notice any movements the pet makes no matter how small. If there are any, that’s a good sign you still have the chance to once more interact with your piggy.

2. Check Temperature

Again, you can also check the temperature of your pet. You don’t need a thermometer here. The only thing you want to know at such a point is whether the guinea pig is warm or cold. If the pet feels warm, then they’re probably still alive.

If stone-cold, death could be a possibility. But still, don’t make conclusions yet! Proceed to examine for signs of a dead guinea pig. (More on that later.) But first, let’s finish up with matters of shock.

3. Check For A Heartbeat

Typically, the pulse rate of a guinea pig is roughly 130-190 beats per minute. You can probably feel your little friend’s pulse best on the inside of its back leg (sort of in the thigh area).

Just GENTLY press your pointer and middle finger there and see if you feel a fluttering that shows that your little friend’s heart is still beating. Then count the flutters for a full minute.

If your piggie is in shock or really scared, then the heart beat is going to be way higher than 130-190 beats per minute. If you can’t feel a heartbeat at all (there’s no flutter), then it’s likely your little buddy has passed away.

4.Check For Breathing

As a general rule, you can usually tell if your little friend is breathing if you take a finger and put it under their nostrils.

Since guinea pigs breathe through their noses, so you should be able to feel the air going in and out. You can also watch the movement of their abdomens to see if they are breathing.

How Can My Guinea Pig Die From Shock?

There’s lots of things that can shock your guinea pig and kill it. Loud noises, an animal attack, and big changes in the environment can all be very dangerous for your piggy. Always make sure your guinea pig has a calm and peaceful place to live so it can be safe.

Shock can be fatal to guinea pigs, so it is important to keep them safe and calm. One way to do this is to make sure they don’t get shocked by anything.

Now, three types of shock in guinea pigs;

  • Anaphylactic shock
  • Behavioral shock
  • Hypovolemic shock

Let’s take a closer look at each one.

1. Anaphylactic Shock

Anaphylactic shock is a type of shock that comes from exposure to allergens. The allergens could be substances in food, medication, or other sources. For example, some cavies have died from allergic reactions to antibiotics or have gotten very sick from things that they shouldn’t have eaten.

When in this type of shock, cavies sometimes won’t be able to be able to get enough oxygen or . For more sensitive pets, death can occur within three minutes if not treated immediately.

2. Behavioral Shock

Behavioral shock, sometimes called scare-shock, happens when your cavy is scared (actually not just scared; completely terrified). As timid creatures, guinea pigs will fall into shock when there’s a sudden change in their surrounding.

This may happen when they see other pets, large birds, individuals, and others. Sometimes loud noises can terrify certain piggies and make their hearts give out.

3. Hypovolemic Shock

This type of shock happens when the body loses a lot of fluid. When your guinea pig loses a lot of blood, the heart may remain with a less amount to pump. The effect of the deficit is then spread to other body parts, causing some to stop functioning. That’s where the issue of shock comes in.

In guinea pigs, hypovolemic shock is an emergency condition and needs prompt response to save the life of your pet. Now, this can be from internal bleeding or severe cuts .

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What To Do If My Guinea Pig Is In Shock?

There’s only a narrow window of time when your cavy is in shock. Depending on what type of shock it is, the signs can be hard to miss, so you really need to be observant and to act quickly.

1. Anaphylactic Shock

You’re going to have to be able to figure out what is causing the shock and then take your pig to a vet as soon as possible for medical attention.

  • Did you have your piggies outside or free roaming in the house? Could they have possibly eaten a plant that’s poisonous or gnawed on an electric wire?
  • Have you recently started your piggies on some sort of new medication or a new food?
  • Could it be an allergic reaction to something else? Like another pet or a product that you recently purchased?

Think about the answers to these questions and then you can start to narrow down what is causing the shock . If your pig is in shock, it is very important that you get them to a vet right away.

2. Behavior Shock

This type is going to be a bit easier to identify because you know it’s coming from something in your fur babies’ environment. If your fuzz spud is terrified by sudden, loud sounds or (more likely) has been attacked by another animal, your little friend is going to be terrified.

Do the following to try to get your fuzz spud calmed down before the shock leads to something more serious – like death:

  • First, make sure everything is okay and safe. Quickly remove or relocate whatever is scaring your little friend. Try to relax your cavy as much as you can. You should then be able to notice a difference in the cavy’s behavior.
  • Place your pet in a quiet, calm environment. Give your fur baby a dark, secure place to rest. You can put your little friend in a box lined with soft towels or back into their cage with a piggie friend. Half cover the cage with a blanket to give your little one some more perceived protection.
  • And make sure there’s hay and water nearby in case the poor dear gets hungry.

Call the vet and see if you can make an emergency appointment for your little friend to be seen. If your piggie was attacked by a bigger animal (say a dog or a cat), there could be internal bleeding – which is a very serious situation.

But, it’s basically a waiting game at this point.

Hopefully, you’ll start to see your cavy start acting more normally (moving around and eating a little bit) shortly.

3. Hypovolemic Shock

This is the most serious type of shock that is very noticeable in cavies. If your little friend is in hypovolemic shock, you need to get him to a vet – quickly.

Hypovolemic shock is is the most serious type of shock is because it’s usually caused by a visible wound or internal bleeding.

External injuries are usually pretty obvious, but internal injuries (say, from a dog or cat having your cavy in their jaws) can be harder to spot.

Try to keep your little friend calm, apply pressure to the wound (if it’s visible) to try to stop the bleeding, and rush your cavy to the vet.

How Make Sure Your Guinea Pigs Doesn’t Go Into Shock

is my guinea pig dead or in shock

You can prevent your guinea pig from dying from shock by keeping it away from other pets, people, and things that might scare it. If your guinea pig is already in shock, consider calling your vet. The vet will tell you what to do before they come and take care of your guinea pig.

Keep Predators Away From Your Guinea Pig

As much as your guinea pet could still live to see another day after developing shock, don’t expose them to anything that may cause them the condition. Just be careful even with the little things.

Watch out for household pets. (Yes, even your wise old dog Mr. Sniggles) Also, if at all necessary, take time when introducing your guinea pig to other larger pets. Other furry friends such as dogs and cats can attract fear in guinea pigs. If you can keep your piggy pet isolated from other pets all the time, that will work much better.

1. Supervise Children That Interact With Your Guinea Pig

Make sure your children know how to handle and play with their (or your?) new guinea pig. Kids don’t always understand their own strength; there’s a chance that they might drop or squeeze or even poke your little piggies.

If you can, be there to supervise them when they interact with the guinea pig at all times – especially if they’ve never had experiences with pets before.

You’ll have to teach them, too. Teach your kids that guinea pigs are fragile animals; it is not the same as having a dog or cat.

By following your good example, your children how to be humane and kind to animals including little piggies.

2. Keep Their Environment Safe

Piggie proof every area that is under your supervision. Keep things clean and safe for your furry little friend. If you have them outside in a run, supervise them to make sure that they’re safe for predatory animals like snakes or foxes. 

Inside your home, atch out for:

  • electrical cords
  • poisonous plants
  • toxic household chemicals

Be aware of what is around you at all times if you’re taking care of guinea pigs with other people – even pets.

I know there’s lots of people that have their pets interact with each other. Most folks that do say that you just have to know your pets and understand how they react. I’m not saying that all dogs and cats are blood-thirsty killers.

I’m just saying that dogs and cats are built with natural predator instincts (yes, even your little snuggle bugs) and in a split second (depending on the situation) those instincts could kick in and then you’re looking a dead piggie and tons of guilt.

There’s plenty of those stories floating around, too.

About piggie parents who leave their little ones alone with the dog or cat for a minute while they run to get something, and then come back to find their piggies all bloody (a heartbreaking, shocking scenario) So…just please be careful – for the sake of all your fur babies.

Warning Signs Your Guinea Pig Is Dead

If there are no signs that your guinea pig is alive, it’s best to be sure that they indeed are dead. The last thing you could forgive yourself for is burring your adorable pet when they still had the chance to live whatsoever small.

The first way to tell that your guinea pig is dead is by lifting them. If you notice that their body or muscles are stiff, it’s a sign that they have died. Guinea pigs often get stiff muscles really quickly – and it only happens after death.

(But, keep this in mind. After about 24 hours or so, a piggie that’s gone through rigor mortis will lose the stiffness and become floppy and loose. But, if your guinea pig isn’t breathing and hasn’t moved or eat during this time, then your little friend is gone.)

Still, you might consider looking at the eyes. Alive guinea pigs tend to have their eyes shiny, opposed to dead pets whose eyes lose their shine. For deceased pets, you may also notice small flies around the eyes (I’m sorry, it sounds disgusting)

But again, death in guinea pigs more often doesn’t happen instantly. Death is a process, and if around your pet, you’ll notice signs that they are in the process of dying.

These warning signs include but are not limited to:

  • Rapid breathing
  • Sudden and reflex movements.
  • Visible heartbeat
  • Twitching
  • Loss of appetite (anorexia)

When your pet shows any of these signs, it means that they’re dying. This is a natural process and happens when the internal organs slowly stop working.

One of the signs that your pet is dying is when they start to twitch. This usually happens right before death. So if the convulsions stop, it usually means your fur baby has died.

Some organs, like the heart and lungs, may keep working for a short time after the twitching stops. But that doesn’t mean your pet is alive. They are just having a reflex. In the real sense, your pet has already joined the other world.

But is there any hope left?

Can Guinea Pigs Come Back To Life?

Unfortunately, guinea pigs can’t come back to life. If your pet dies, you can’t reverse the situation. That’s the end of the story. You won’t be able to make any new memories with that pet.

That’s unfortunate. But in life, we have to learn to accept and put up with some situations as they come. Guinea pigs are meant to live but only for a short moment.

The average lifespan of guinea pigs is five to seven years.

If you take good care of your fur babies, they could live longer than the current record for the oldest guinea pig. The current record is held by a guinea pig that lived for 14 years and 10.5 months.

Well taken care of, you can expect your pig to hit a decade of age. That’s longer than other small rodents such as mice, rats, and hamsters but several years shy of most dog breeds and felines.

What Is The Most Common Cause of Guinea Pig Death?

The most common cause of death for guinea pigs is pneumonia, but they can also die from other things like bacterial infections, parasites, digestive disorders, urinary problems, and nutritional disorders.

Guinea pigs can die from a lot of different things. They can also carry dangerous conditions without showing any signs.

Since they’re prey animals, piggies often hide that they’re sick. That’s why it is important to take your pet for regular checkups to the vet and to weigh your cavies weekly.  Let’s take a look at some of the common problems guinea pigs have that can could cause them to die.

Pneumonia

Pneumonia is a bacterial infection that can come from Streptococcus pneumoniae or Streptococcus zooepidemicus. These bacteria are carried naturally by guinea pigs, which is why they are more likely to die from the condition.

Common signs of pneumonia include:

  • weight loss
  • nasal discharge
  • loss of appetite
  • depression
  • fever
  • and other symptoms

When you notice any of these signs, take your pet to the vet. The doctor will test to confirm whether it’s pneumonia and adopt the appropriate treatment measures.

Infestation By Parasites

Some parasites in guinea pigs live beneath the fur, but some invade the digestive system. Either of these parasites can cause deterioration of guinea pigs’ health which could eventually lead to death.

Most of these parasites aren’t easy to see with naked eyes. But keen enough with the signs, you will know when your pet has an infestation.

There are different types of parasites that can cause problems in their digestive system. This can lead to diarrhea. However, there are also parasites that live under the fur. They can cause skin inflammation, itchiness, hair loss, pain, and other skin issues.

Digestive Disorders

Digestive disorders include gastrointestinal stasis, gastric dilation, and other issues. GI stasis is more common than gastric dilation in guinea pigs. It happens in response to minor changes in diet, although it can also result as a secondary condition to other issues such as anorexia, chronic disease, drug effects, and others.

Signs that your piggy is having GI stasis include anorexia (not eating), bruxism (grinding teeth), abdominal distension (stomach swelling), decreased GI sounds (noises coming from the stomach), dehydration, and gastric tympany (a type of stomach noise). If left untreated, GI stasis is fatal.

Urinary Tract Issues

One of the most common urinary problems in guinea pigs is urinary calculi. This happens when there is an imbalance between the phosphorus and calcium levels in their body system. This can cause stones to form in the bladder and kidneys.

But other than stones, your piggy could also develop cystitis, a type of bladder infection more popular in female guinea pigs than boars.

Some common signs that a cat might have urinary issues include blood in urine, straining, urinating in small amounts but more frequently, sluggishness, pain when urinating, and others.

Nutritional Disorders

They happen when guinea pigs have a deficiency of one or more nutrients inside the body. In most cases, nutritional disorders in guinea pigs emanate from inadequacy in vitamin C, leading to scurvy.

Guinea pigs with scurvy often have less energy and look weak. You can tell if it is scurvy by asking questions about the pet’s diet.

Wanna Give Your Piggies
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Final Thoughts

Seeing your fur baby in shock is always a shock to the system. It is even more frightening when you don’t know why your cavy is in shock.

It is important to listen for sounds from its abdomen, look at its eyes and see if they are shiny, watch how it is behaving, and check for signs of breathing. If all these point towards shock or death, then it is important to take your pet to the vet.

There are other possible causes of shock in guinea pigs like like sounds, contact with predators, or severe allergic reactions to other sources like medicines or chemicals.

Prevention is always better than cure, so do your best to make sure that your piggies are living in a safe, stable environment as possible.

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Leavill DR, Lennox AM. Disease Overview of the Urinary Tract in Exotic Companion Mammals and Tips on Clinical Management. Elsevier Public Health Emergency Collection. 2020 Jan; 23(1): 169–193. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7110585/

National Library of Medicine. (n.d.). Hypovolemic shock. Medline Plus. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000167.htm

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Quesenberry, K. & Donelly, T. (2019, December). Disorders and Diseases of Guinea Pigs. MSD Manual Veterinary Manual. https://www.msdvetmanual.com/all-other-pets/guinea-pigs/disorders-and-diseases-of-guinea-pigs

Quesenberry, K. & Donelly, T. (2019, December). Disorders and Diseases of Guinea Pigs. Merc Manual Veterinary Manual. https://www.merckvetmanual.com/all-other-pets/guinea-pigs/disorders-and-diseases-of-guinea-pigs

The Humane Society of The United States. (n.d.). Guinea pigs: The right pet for you? https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/guinea-pigs-right-pet-you

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