Is Your Guinea Pig Fat? (What You Need To Know)

You’re worried that your guinea pig might be fat and unhealthy. But, how can you know for you sure if your little friend is fat?

Typically, you have a fat guinea pig if you check the heft around a the rib cage and you’re not able to feel your guinea pig’s rib cage at all. Doing this is a good way of judging whether your guinea pig is a good weight for his individual size. Guinea pigs that are overweight or obese may suffer from health problems like diabetes, arthritis and mobility issues.

is your guinea pig fat or overweight

Read on to get the details on how to tell if your guinea pig is an unhealthy weight, how to reduce your pet’s weight and what you should do if your piggie is already too big for his size.

How Can You Tell If You Have An Overweight Guinea Pig On Your Hands?

is your guinea pig fat or overweight

Remember that most guinea pigs are not very fat – their fast metabolism often puts the brakes on putting on weight.

The rare cases of obesity happen when they eat way too many treats or don’t get enough exercise – just like with us humans.

However:

You can figure out whether or not your guinea pig is fat (or overweight) by considering three qualities: his behavior, his body heft around his ribcage, and his weight.

Let me walk you through each of these qualities and what it can tell you about your little friend’s body composition.

1. Behavior

Besides just looking at your piggie, you can also analyze his behavior. Certain behaviors can give you a clue as to whether or not your guinea pig is overweight. Animals who are over weight will usually:

  • Be less active: There’ll be less zoomies and they’ll lay around more than pigs of normal weight. This is mostly because the extra weight will make moving around a lot harder.
  • Eat a lot: It’s important that piggies have a good appetite. Fat piggies, however, eat to the exclusion of all other activities. Like, that’s the only thing you see your furry friend doing.
  • Waddle instead of walk: You won’t see your piggie scuttling around. Instead, he’ll do a little waddle.
  • Be less likely to groom: Guinea pigs who are overweight also tend to have trouble grooming themselves. They just can’t reach places like they used to.

A good way to check if your piggies have gained too much weight is look at their behavior. Your piggie might be overweight if one or more of the following is true: they are less active, eat a lot, waddle instead of walk, and have problems grooming themselves.

2. Weighing

Every pet owner should give their cavies weekly health checks. A cavy health check should include weight checking. Weight checks will help keep track of the health status of any pet, including your furry friends.

When you weigh your piggies every week, you’ll not only be able to tell whether there’s been an increase (or decrease) in weight, but over time you’ll be able to tell what a “normal” weight range is for each individual cavy.

Sharp spikes in weight gain (or weight loss) usually mean that something is wrong and a health problem might need to be addressed.

Here are some guinea pig weighing tips (for fat prevention) and to make sure you’re being as effective as possible:

  • Choose one day a week when you’re going to weigh your piggies. That’s usually more than enough unless your cavy is very ill. Mark it on your calendar and make a point of doing the weighing then.
  • Use a digital kitchen scale. Make sure the scale you choose is sensitive enough to weigh your cavy, and that it gives a reading in decimals. You can use a gram scale, too – depending on what part of the world you live in. If you can’t find a kitchen scale you like, you can always try a few pet stores to see what they have in stock.
  • Get a bowl (or other light container) for weighing your cavies. Make sure the bowl or basket on the weighing device is sturdy and big enough for your piggies to fit into comfortably.
  • Weigh accurately. Get a bowl big enough to fit your piggie. Weigh the bowl. Place your little friend in the bowl and weigh the entire thing. Your piggie’s weight is the amount that pops up minus the weight of the bowl.

Worrying about the weight of your pet? Weigh them every week (or every few days) until they reach their ideal body condition.

To really stay on top of your piggies’ health, weigh your guinea pigs once a week as well as checking them for health issues throughout their life.

You can also use this information when making decisions about feeding your cavy such as adding supplements or changing food brands. The table below gives you a few general guidelines about when it’s time to panic get your piggie some serious help.

The Scale Reveals… What now?
½ to 1 oz (15 to 30g) loss of weightNothing to be concerned about in most cases; normal weight fluctuations for your piggie
2 or 3 oz loss of weightSet up that vet appointment…like yesterday. This is an emergency situation.
No change in weightIt’s all gravy!  Keep doing what you’re doing…presuming that your guinea pig’s previous weight was a healthy one
½ to 1 oz weight gainNothing to be concerned about in most cases
2 or 3 oz weight gainOkay, pump the breaks!  Review your feeding schedule and make adjustments. Has your guinea pig had a lot of extra treats or sugary foods lately? 

3. Body Heft

Heft is another indicator of a guinea pigs weight – it’s not always the most accurate thing to use, but if you’re worried about your piggies’ health or they’ve gained some weight, it’s worth checking.

If you don’t have access to a good kitchen scale, heft is still a good indicator.

And it’s pretty simple to check. Pick up your your little friend and feel around their midsection while keeping an eye out for the following:

  • Too Thin: A very thin guinea pig will have ribs that you can feel. They also will have a spine and hips that are sticking out. This is not healthy, so contact the vet as soon as possible to find out what is wrong with him.
  • Normal Size: This is the ideal weight for a guinea pig (based on their individual size). Your piggie’s bottom is rounder than the chest area. You can easily see your piggies feet and their stomach doesn’t drag on on the ground. Hips, spine, and ribs aren’t visible, but can be felt if you press gently on the sides of their body.
  • Too Fat: If you gently touch an obese guinea pig, you won’t be able to feel their ribs, spine or hips. They will have a lot of belly fat and when they stand up, it will be hard to see their feet. This isn’t healthy and you’ll probably need to change what they eat to help them get back to a healthy weight. If this is the case, get your little friend to a vet.

Checking body help combines well with weekly weigh-in because you can learn whether your guinea pig is healthy or unhealthy based on how heavy the feel in your hands as well as how “chunky” they feel in your hands.

If you don’t have a scale (but please get scale if you can), use the Guinea Pig-Size-O-Meter. It’s an infographic that gives you tips and pictures to let you know if your little friend is fat (or not). Print it out and hang it on your fridge for reference.

Thinking about adding a piggie to your family or want to brush up on the essentials? Gotcha covered. What you need is a reliable, “all-in-one” resource to refer to when you’re struggling. A Beginner’s Ultimate Guide To Guinea Pig Care is a starting point with all the basics and more to get you on your way!

How Much Should My Guinea Pig Weigh?

is your guinea pig fat or overweight

Generally speaking, a healthy weight for a guinea pig should be based on their own body size. Each guinea pig is different: some might be naturally smaller or larger than others.

Here’s a good place to start and then you can compare weight with your vet if you’re still not sure if your furry friend is a healthy weight. A good rule of thumb to follow is:

  • Healthy male piggies weigh around 2lbs to 2.6lb (900g – 1200g).
  • Healthy adult female guinea pigs weigh around 1.5 lbs – 2lbs (700g – 900g)

A 1 oz weight loss or gain is acceptable. That’s because a cavy’s weight will fluctuate slightly from day to day.

Their weight can also drop and increase a little bit due to seasonal changes in their eating habits (especially hay), water intake, how much they’re pooping and peeing.

That’s why it important to weigh your piggie once a week. You get a better idea of what’s “normal” for each of your furry friends.

Are Guinea Pigs Supposed To Be Overweight?

Absolutely not. Guinea pigs aren’t supposed to be overweight – unless you have pregnant guinea pigs.  Any other sign of guinea pigs being overweight usually involve health issues.

There are many health problems that can occur if your little piggies are overweight. These weight problems can hurt their bones, joints, and internal organs (more details on this later. 

How To Help Your Guinea Pig Lose Weight

Guinea pigs typically have a faster metabolism than most people. This is why they do not get as fat. However, it doesn’t mean that exercising and maintaining a balanced diet should be ignored.

For sustainable weight loss and good health, it’s most important to consider these measures: diet and exercise

So, let’s take a look at each one:

1. Diet

One of the best ways to avoid an overweight guinea pig is to carefully monitor weight and food intake. Most fat piggies are fat, because of overfeeding by the owners (sorry, but it is true). A healthy, balanced diet for cavies should include:

  • high quality hay (unlimited quantities) or untreated grass (also unlimited)
  • fresh, cool water
  • vitamin-C enriched pellets
  • a variety of fresh produce (make sure you avoid overfeeding)

Remember: don’t try to starve your piggies into being skinny. (This isn’t the time for fad diets!) Always allow for gradual weight loss to happen.

Here are some tips to make it happen:

  • avoid sugar-filled snacks and treats
  • offer more high quality hay
  • don’t feed more than 1 cup of produce (fresh fruit and veggies) each day
  • don’t feed more than 1 tablespoon of pellets daily
  • measure all of their foods and don’t give them anymore than what’s recommended

The best thing you can do for your little friend is to make sure that they have enough of what they need to eat (in appropriate amounts) and avoid overfeeding.

2. Exercise

Guinea pigs are naturally active animals, and need exercise to stay fit and healthy – and to get rid of excess weight, if necessary

If your piggies are fat, then slowly increase the exercise in their life. But, you don’t want to start with too much intensity or they may get sick.

Remember: the key is progress. Start slowly and gradually and don’t go overboard. The goal is to encourage them to be more active while ensuring that it doesn’t stress them out or accidentally hurt them, because they’ve been inactive for so long.

You can do the following to increase the physical activity in your piggie’s life:  

  • A very large cage: This is the easiest way to make sure your fur babies are getting enough exercise. Cavies don’t move around as much in spaces – they can’t. But, a large floor space let’s them get the exercise they need.
  • Toilet paper rolls stuffed with hay: If you want to get your piggie moving, this game is a classic. Make sure to stuff the rolls with hay (and maybe a few, healthy treats). Your guinea pig will need to chase and push them around foraging for food – they’ll feel like they’ve been on an adventure
  • Hanging treats: Just use a clothes line to dangle a healthy treats from the top of your guinea pig’s cage – not too high. You don’t want to cause them to put stress on their spines. This is a fun way to clean up treats and ensure that your piggie gets plenty of exercise.
  • Spread out the food: Don’t keep their water bowl (or bottles) near your cavies’ food bowl. They’ll have to move more to get a drink – it’ll be an extra way to get exercise into their day.

Potential Health Problems in Overweight Guinea Pigs

Overweight = health problems. The two go hand-in-hand. So, you need to take action if your piggies are getting too chubby.

The extra weight they carry, put your little friends more at risk for health issues and diseases:  

  • Pododermatitis: This is also known as bumblefoot. It’s a disease that ‘s caused when they put too much strain on their feet and are in wet conditions. Overweight piggies are more at risk than ones of a normal, healthy size
  • Heart Issues: All that extra weight can put a strain on your fuzz spuds’ heart
  • Problems breathing : Overweight guinea pigs are more likely to have health problems and get infections in the lungs, causing them to breathe less easily.
  • Back pain and joint aches: If your little friends are carrying around extra pounds (poor things), they’re putting additional strain on their spines and joints.
  • Flystrike: Flystrike is a illness that ‘s caused from maggots eating away at the skin of a guinea pig. It’s a gruesome scenario that could have been prevented with proper care and diet. The extra weight means that flies are more attracted to your piggies, so overfeeding can increase their likelihood of getting flystrike
  • Diabetes: This is a medical condition, usually found in people with Type 2 Diabetes. This occurs when your blood sugar is too high.

And so much more…

But, you can avoid all of these potential issues by addressing your piggies’ weight issue early.

If your guinea pig is overweight, there’s a chance he might have health problems like heart and respiratory issues that are made worse by the extra weight. Consider getting a physical to rule out any underlying health problems if you suspect your piggie may be overweight.

Things To Remember About Fat Guinea Pigs

So, there you have it. I know this was (a little) depressing, but it’s important to be aware of what could happen if you don’t take action.

To make sure that your guinea pig doesn’t get overweight, you need to be more aware of their daily food intake and get your piggies up and moving whenever possible

When you’re judging your guinea pig for weight, it is good to be able to feel the ribs. If they are not visible at all and you can barely feel them when you gently press on your cavy’s sides, then this may indicate that your pet has a high body fat percentage.

Guinea pigs that are fat may suffer from health problems like diabetes, arthritis and mobility issues so it is important to keep them at a healthy weight!

Let me know how it goes!

DVM, S. L. (2015). The Guinea pig handbook. Barron’s Educational Series.

Guinea pigs social life. (n.d.). Guinea Pig Education, Care, Rescue and Adoption at Cavy Spirit. https://www.cavyspirit.com/sociallife.htm

Guinea Pig-Size-O-Meter. (n.d.). UNC Research. https://research.unc.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/61/2012/11/Body-Condition-Scoring-Guinea-Pig.pdf

How to help overweight pets – Veterinary medicine at Illinois. (2020, June 16). University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine. https://vetmed.illinois.edu/pet_column/overweight-pets/

Is my Guinea pig fat? (2019, February 26). Lafeber Co. – Small Mammals. https://lafeber.com/mammals/is-my-guinea-pig-fat/

Weight – Monitoring and management. (2019, March 11). The Guinea Pig Forum. https://www.theguineapigforum.co.uk/threads/weight-monitoring-and-management.168323/

What do I need to know about my Guinea pigs’ health? (n.d.). RSPCA Knowledgebase – Let Australia’s most trusted animal welfare charity help you answer the big questions. https://kb.rspca.org.au/knowledge-base/what-do-i-need-to-know-about-my-guinea-pigs-health/#signs-of-a-potential-problem

Your Guinea pig’s diet. (n.d.). Saving pets, Changing lives – PDSA. https://www.pdsa.org.uk/taking-care-of-your-pet/looking-after-your-pet/small-pets/your-guinea-pig-s-diet

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