Guinea pigs live for 5-7 years. And “old age” for guinea pigs start at 4 years old. But, how do you know if your guinea pig is dying of old age?
Here’s some of the signs of old age to keep an eye out for:
Typical signs of a guinea pig about to die of old age includes: sleeping a lot, loss of vision and hearing, change in fur color, and weight loss. There will also be reduced mobility, lack of grooming, and loss of appetite. You’re more likely to start see the signs of guinea pigs dying of old age when the guinea pig is 4 to 6 years old.
Some of these signs might not be as obvious while others will be easy to spot. Providing your guinea pig with good care will make their aging less strenuous. Older guinea pigs will rely on your more and more for their basic needs.
In this post, I have discussed some of the main signs that will tell you if your cavy is getting old.
1. They’re Actually Old
A lot of times, you might not know the exact age of their guinea pigs. Aging signs in guinea pigs tend to show at around 4 years of age.
Here are some of the signs you can keep an eye out for:
- Poor mobility. Older guinea pigs are not as active as younger ones. They become slower and tend to rest more. If you notice this, take your cavy to the vet for diagnosis.
- Thickened, twisted toes. As guinea pigs grow older, their toes thicken and twist inward. This is one of the main signs of old age.
- Arthritis. As they age, their joints get stiffer and they will likely walk with a hobble. If you notice this with your guinea pig, take them to the vet to ensure that they are not injured.
- Cataracts. Older guinea pigs have cloudy eyes. The eyes will appear dull and may also be sunken.
- The coat goes grey. Poor coat condition could mean your guinea pig is sick or old. The coat will be dull, rough, and show thinning. There could also be patches of inflamed skin. Some areas could also have hair loss.
Pet Parents Reveal How Old Their Guinea Pigs Were When They Died
The lifespan of guinea pigs does not mean guinea pigs will live that long or die at that age. There are variations in the lifespan of different cavies. I wanted to find out from guinea pig parents how old their pets were when they died.
I surveyed 128 pet parents to find out the exact age their piggies died.
- 37 died at 5 years old. It was mostly between 5 to 5 ½ years old. Many of the pets died of old age and the vets did not prescribe a lot of medication for them. The pet parents had noticed signs of aging in them.
- 31 died at 6 years old. The main cause of death was also old age. The main issues piggies were suffering from were complications associated with old age. Such as cataracts in one or both eyes, extreme weight loss, lack of appetite, or stroke.
- 19 died at 4 years old. At this age, many of the cavies who died were ailing from health complications. This was worsened by approaching old age. The main health concerns were pneumonia, infected eyes, tumor, stroke, and bumblefoot.
- 14 pet parents lost their piggies at 2 years old or younger. There were many pet parents who lost their pets when they were still very young. The pets died due to pneumonia, kidney disease, infection in tooth roots and jawbone, and womb infection. Other causes were heat stroke, broken eye, bumblefoot, and fly strikes.
- 14 guinea pigs lived until 7 years old. Many pet parents who had piggies live up to this age attributed it to better care. Some said they had lost other piggies at an earlier age. So, they learned how to take better care of their guinea pigs. Frequent visits to the vet also helped keep cavies alive for longer.
- 5 of pet owners said their piggies lived up to 8 years old. Some died of old age complications mainly arthritis, GI stasis, and tumors. Others died without any complications. Once again, pet parents credited this to good care. They said if the pet is well taken care of with regular vet visits, the guinea pigs live longer, healthier lives.
- 8 pet parents said their guinea pigs lived up to 9 -14 years old. This seems to have been because of genes while in other cases, great pet care. Some of the guinea pigs were rescued and after proper care and treatment, they lived longer lives.
How Pet Parents Comforted Their Dying Guinea Pigs
Many pet owners I surveyed were aware that their guinea pigs were dying of old age. For the ones who lost their piggies young, a lot of it came as a surprise. Pet owners found ways to ensure their cavies died peacefully.
- Most pet owners wrapped and cuddled their piggies. They found warm fleece or pieces of clothing to wrap around their guinea pigs. Several used water bottles to keep their guinea pigs warm. They talked to the piggies as they cuddled them.
- Many of the pet parents sought vet assistance to ensure their cavies didn’t die a painful death. Some vets recommend euthanasia for pets who were in too much pain. Some prescribed painkillers.
- Some pet owners kept the dying piggies with other guinea pigs for companionship. Even though the old or sick guinea pigs couldn’t move as much, they were entertained.
- Some pet parents took the guinea pigs out of the cage in their last moments. They kept them by the side. Either in their bed or couch.
- Some took the guinea pigs outside to get some sunlight and fresh air.
- They fed and gave the guinea pigs water. Many of the sick or old guinea pigs couldn’t feed or drink water by themselves. They used syringes to feed them food and water at intervals.
- Many parents groomed their guinea pigs. Old age and sickness prevented many piggies from self-grooming. Their owners gave them baths and cleaned out their eyes and ears.
2. No Other Major Health Issues
If your guinea pig is showing the symptoms listed above and has no other (major) health issue, then they’re dying of old age. Healthy guinea pigs will become less active, get cataracts, have a poor appetite, and dull coat as they age.
Old age causes the body and organs of your guinea pig to wear out and shut down. To know if your guinea pig is healthy, visit a vet for a diagnosis. They will be able to tell you if it is indeed old age that is causing the symptoms in your piggie.
Here is a list of disorders and diseases guinea pigs can contract;
- Digestive disorders – These can be caused by bacteria, viruses, and parasites. They can cause your guinea pig to have diarrhea. Another cause of digestive disorders is dental diseases. They lead to problems in chewing and swallowing. It can lead to intestinal blockage (GI stasis) which slows or stops movement in the gut.
- Eye and ear disorders – the pink eye is the most common form of eye infection in cavies. It leads to watery and crusty eyes in guinea pigs. Ear infections are rare in guinea pigs. They can be caused by bacteria.
- Nutritional disorders – the most common type in guinea pigs is scurvy. This is caused by Vitamin C deficiency. Feed your guinea pigs foods like green bell pepper, oranges, kale, and strawberries.
- Metabolism disorders – Hardening of organs is a risk guinea pigs face. It causes sudden death mainly in male cavies over 1 year old. Pregnancy toxemia (ketosis) happens in late-stage pregnancy. This happens when the body produces too many ketones. It leads to loss of appetite among other issues.
- Lung and airway disorders – Pneumonia is the main respiratory disorder facing guinea pigs. It is one of the leading causes of death.
- Reproductive disorders – Ovarian cysts are a risk in female guinea pigs. Some pet parents spray their female guinea pigs early to prevent it.
- Cancers and tumors – Guinea pigs are at risk of skin tumors and leukemia.
Some of the above health issues also do affect older guinea pigs. The risk increases because of their old age. Diseases like pneumonia or digestive disorders tend to affect them more.
Since many don’t eat or exercise as much, their immune system is compromised. If you have an older guinea pig, they’re more likely to get sick more often than when they were younger (poor things).
3. Significantly Less Active and Less Social
When guinea pigs are about to die, they tend to isolate themselves. They will be mostly found in a corner alone. They might even fluff up, too. This happens when guinea pigs die of old age or another illness.
They’ll also slow down their movements significantly. Yeah, that means A LOT less playing, less popcorning, and no zoomies.
As they grow older, their bones and joints get stiff. They may also suffer from many old age issues and lack the energy to jump around as much.
4. Has Old-Age Related Issues
Old age brings with it a range of complications. As the body gets older, the organs wear out more – their immune system get weak. So, health problems increase. These aren’t necessarily huge issues. They’re the sort of problems that pop up in mostly old piggies.
1. Increased UTIs
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are more likely to increase in older guinea pigs. Since they can’t groom themselves or move as much, they can sit on their pee or wet surfaces for long.
This is a common issue that affects older guinea pigs. Their joints and bones become stiff thereby making it hard for them to move as much. Some will even develop a hobble where they limp slightly when they move.
Cataracts make guinea pigs’ eyes cloudy and hard for them to see. It is one of the most common signs of old age in guinea pigs. Occasionally, their eyes will get watery and crusty.
Bumblefoot is a painful infection that affects the pads of the guinea pigs’ feet. It’s caused by infection due to stepping on wet surfaces such as pee. Guinea pigs’ feet are sensitive and exposure to dampness causes bacteria to build up.
5. Can’t Keep Themselves Clean
Guinea pigs will also groom themselves less and less as they get older. At some point, they will stop completely. This is mainly caused by arthritis and lack of energy.
5. Lack Of Interest In Life
There’s a spark in every guinea pig’s eye – especially when they see food. When this starts to fade, it’s a sign that your guinea pig is no longer interested in life.
As they get older, this spark starts to fade away and your older guinea pigs become more sluggish. They won’t be as active and playful. Instead, they will just want to sleep and lounge around all day.
In the final stages, their eyes will become dull and lifeless. Along with that, their last bit of interest in life fades.
How Does A Guinea Pig Die Of Old Age?
A guinea pig does of old age when their bodies and organs wear out over time. Typically, guinea pigs have a lifespan of about 5 to 7 years if they don’t die of illnesses or accidents earlier. As the days and years pass, organs in the body are gradually worn out as the guinea pig gets older and eventually stops working.
Aging is a natural process in many living beings. There’s a limit to how long the body and all the internal organs can keep going. And as they wear out, it manifests as aging.
Do Guinea Pigs Feel Pain While Dying?
Typically, guinea pigs will feel pain while dying – especially if they haven’t been treated with painkillers. Dying from bladder stones, multiple organ failure, or a fatal bite is painful. If it’s a lingering death, the last half hour or so before they die, guinea pigs tend to either go into a comatose state or into a what looks like a scary, twitching fit – after their body has been deprived of oxygen long enough.
If you suspect that your little friend is in pain and you’re not sure what to do, the best thing is to take them to the vet.
If your little friend is in too much pain, the vet will recommend euthanasia so that your piggie doesn’t suffer. If the pain is manageable, the vet will administer painkillers to make the death easier.
How To Take Care Of An Older Guinea Pig Dying Of Old Age
Your cavy dying of old age does not mean you can’t do anything to help. There are several things you could do to make it easier for them in their last moments. Here are a few;
1. Make Everything Accessible
Old guinea pigs will not be able to move as much. This could be due to arthritis, lack of energy, or any other old age-related illness. Make sure to put things within their reach.
This includes their favorite toys, food, and water.
If they can’t eat by themselves, use the syringe feeding method to try to get some food and water in them. And get your fuzz spud to a vet to diagnose and treat whatever might be causing the loss of appetite.
2. Keep Them Clean and Dry
Groom your guinea pig when they can’t do it themselves. Old age will make it almost impossible for many guinea pigs to groom themselves. Give them a bath regularly.
Since they can’t move as much, wipe them down if you notice wetness from pee or even their eyes. If their fur remains wet, they easily get infections.
3. Provide Appropriate Enrichment Activities
Find activities your guinea pig enjoys and provide them. Make sure they’re not going to require a bunch of extra energy. This’ll keep your older piggie active and mentally stimulated.
I recommend giving your older piggie a paper bag of shredded paper or hay to play in. Toss in a bit of forage for a treat. A stuffed animal or two to snuggle and play with is an option, too – if your piggie likes to play with stuffed animals.
Obstacles courses and other “more physical” activities” should be reserved for your younger piggies.
4. Track Their Health And Weigh Them Weekly
It’s important to track their health and weight. More so when they are older. Use a small journal or a health tracker to record their weight, appetite, and any changes in their behavior. This will help you to catch any health issues early. Since they are at risk of many illnesses and losing weight, take them to the vet regularly.
5. Take Them To A Vet When Necessary
Regular vet visits are very important if your fur babies old or dying of old age. Some illnesses have treatments that will make their last days more comfortable. Schedule vet visits regularly and when you feel your piggie might be ill.
6. Keep Their Routine Predictable
Older guinea pigs are not as active as they were when they were younger. They need more rest and sleep. They get tired and stressed out very easily. A simple and predictable routine keeps them from being anxious and allows them to relax.
7. Supplement Their Diet
Add alfalfa pellets and oats to your guinea pigs’ diet to ensure that they are getting enough nutrients. As they age, they won’t eat as much. This means that there’s a risk of them not getting enough nutrients and becoming malnourished.
Feed them using the syringe method. Get a 1 ml syringe and cut the nozzle a little bit to widen the opening. Blend their food (pellets, water, and a few veggies) into a smoothie. Suck the smoothie into the syringe and gently squirt it into your little friends’ mouth. Here’s a video that explains how to to syringe feed your piggie.
Draw and inject it into their mouths to make it easier to swallow.
How Do You Save A Dying Guinea Pig?
It’s important to know that a lot of guinea pig conditions that cause them to die can be treated – if you catch them early enough and have the means to take action.
Here’s a few ways you can actually save a dying guinea pig (or-better yet-prevent them from getting to that point in the first place).
- Visit a piggie-savvy vet to treat your little friend before issues become too serious. Many guinea pigs’ illnesses are very treatable. Early detection is the key.
- Make sure your fur baby is getting enough nutrients. Watch their diet carefully. Plan their diet around piggie-friendly foods like alfalfa pellets and oats.
- Provide appropriate mental stimulation to prevent mental deterioration. This can include puzzle toys and routine activities that keep your piggie engaged.
- Keep their cage clean and groom them to reduce the spread of infections and prevent fly strikes.
- Make sure they’re in a ventilated environment. This will reduce their exposure to viruses and bacteria.
How To Cope With The Loss Of a Guinea Pig
Pets become companions and family who you share your best and worst moments with. When you lose your guinea pig, here are a few ways you can cope;
- Bury them properly – it is important that you dispose of your piggie properly. It will give you closure. You can have a funeral service for them to allow you to say goodbye.
- Memorialize them – Gather all your favorite pictures and toys of your guinea pig to create beautiful memories. This will give you something to remember them by. It will help as well with your grieving.
- Get support from family and friends – Grieving alone can be hard. If possible, find your family or friends who understand what you feel and lean on them.
- Spend time with your surviving guinea pig – If you have a surviving guinea pig or pet, spend more time with them. It won’t replace the piggie you lost but it will help you heal.
- Visit guinea pig forums and groups – Within these groups and forums, there are many cavy parents who have gone through the same.
Watching your pet get old is really hard. It’s worse in the case of guinea pigs since their lifespan is really short. So, it might feel like you hardly spent enough time with them. However, this is an expected part of being a pet parent.
Make sure that your fur baby gets the best care possible. It’ll help your fuzz spud live longer. Also, get a cavy-savvy vet for your guinea pig.
If you notice any of the signs mentioned above, in your piggie, it’s important to take your little friend to the vet for a checkup. Many of the symptoms could be a sign of other health problems, so it is always best to be safe and have your guinea pig checked out.
It’ll be helpful in keeping them healthy. Watch out for all the signs above to ensure that your old guinea pig is as comfortable as possible.