10 Alarming Signs That Your Guinea Pig Is Dying

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As a piggie parent, you might be worried when your guinea pig behaves differently than usual. This might make you ask yourself if your guinea pig is dying. What are some signs that your guinea pig might be dying?

Signs that your guinea pig is dying include: breathing difficulties, lack of movement, and extreme weight loss. Other signs include: loss of appetite, fluctuating body temperature, and abnormal pulse rate. If you notice any combination of these signs, it’s important to take your guinea pig to the vet to see if there’s anything that can be done for your guinea pig.

a guinea pig wondering about signs that he's dying

If your guinea pig is sick or acting strange, take it to the vet. If your guinea pig is dying, consult with a vet about the best way to handle the situation. The vet will support you in decide if euthanasia is necessary or if your little friend is able to die naturally.

Here’s a few signs that can tell you if your guinea pig is in a life-threatening condition. 

Note: If your piggie is only showing ONE of these symptoms, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your little friend dying. Some of these signs can also indicate other health problems that aren’t life-threatening. But, if you’re really worried, ask

1. Loss Of Appetite 

a tip about guinea pigs that are dying

You know your pet’s eating habits. In case of an illness, you’ll notice that their appetite will drop. 

If the loss of appetite persists, you will also see signs of weight loss – which is very dangerous. 

Plus, not eating means that their gut will stop working, and this can cause serious health problems.

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Guinea pigs need a diet made of fresh veggies, hay, and fruits. Starvation and poor appetite mean they lack the nutrients necessary for them to live healthily.  Your little friend might even stop drinking – depending on the severity of their illness.

You will have to assist your piggie to eat and drink. Offer them food and water using either: 

  • A spoon  
  • Syringe  
  • Water bottle.  

Blend your piggie’s food into a smoothie containing hay, water, and pellets and feed them. 

2. They Stop Pooping and Peeing  

When guinea pigs stop pooping and peeing, it means that their gut movements have stopped (or at least slowed down – which is almost as bad). This is a very serious condition and can be fatal if not treated quickly

There’s lots of reasons why your guinea pig may have stopped pooping. It could be due to: 

  • A change in diet  
  • Constipation  
  • Gut stasis.  

If you think your guinea pigs have stopped pooping, take them to the vet immediately. The vet will give them a physical examination and may prescribe medication to get their gut moving again. 

When guinea pigs are sick, they’re likely to stop eating or drinking water. This leaves them in danger of starvation and dehydration. 

This could also happen if the food lacks nutrients. So, ensure to provide them with a diet that has proper nutrients. 

Try to keep track of how often your guinea pig urinates and poops. (weird, I know – but it’s the best way to know if something is wrong). The average guinea pig should poop 100s of times a day. If your little friends stop pooping altogether, it’s an emergency, and you need to see the vet ASAP.

And you need to keep an eye on how their poop looks. This includes changes in:

  • Smell   
  • Color  
  • Texture  

Blood in their urine or stool is a sign that your guinea pig is in a serious condition. If you see blood in your piggies’ stool, take them to the vet right away.

Check the table below for what to look for in your guinea pig’s poop:

3. They Isolate Themselves 

Isolation is one sign that your piggie is very sick or dying. A lot of animals generally don’t want to be surrounded by others when they are sick or dying. 

When they feel sick (or are dying), your little friend will sort of…drift away to a quiet spot of their enclosure. They’re looking for somewhere quiet and calm to lie down and rest – sometimes for that eternal rest.

I’m not gonna lie.

I would be panicking if I saw my guinea pig doing this.

But, before you freak out, take a deep breath and observe your little friend for a while. If they’re just resting in a different spot, that’s fine. But, if they’re not moving at all – even when you approach them – it’s time to see the vet ASAP.

4. Sluggish or Unable To Move 

If you notice that your fur baby isn’t moving around as much as usual, it could be a sign that they’re sick or dying.

They might also seem ‘sluggish’ or ‘lethargic’. This means that they don’t have the energy to move around or play.

Extreme lethargy (and sluggishness) is a common symptom of being sick or near the end of life. It’s seen in many living beings, including humans.

Guinea pigs usually enjoy playing. This can vary depending on the individual pig, but they typically have plenty of energy to play around.

However, there are other reasons why your guinea pig might be less active. It could be due to:

  • The weather (if it’s too hot or cold): It’s not unusual for piggies to become less active in extreme weather conditions.
  • Their age: Guinea pigs become more laid back as they get older. So, it’s not unusual for an older guinea pig to be less active than a younger one.
  • Pregnancy: Pregnant guinea pigs generally become less active in the later stages of their pregnancy.
  • Obesity: If your piggie is overweight, they’re going to have a harder time getting around.
  • Stress (or depression): Stressed out piggies often become less active.
  • Arthritis: Older guinea pigs are more susceptible to arthritis. This can make it painful for them to move around.

These are all easily treatable health issues that aren’t necessarily alarming. The problem is that you have to eliminate all the other possibilities before you can start worrying about more serious health issues.

So, how do you know if your guinea pig is just ‘being lazy’ or is seriously ill?

The best way to tell is by observing their behavior. A sick guinea pig will generally not want to move at all (even when you try to encourage them). They’ll also seem ‘flattened out’, “fluffed up’ or ‘slumped over’ – often facing a wall or corner in their enclosure.

On the other hand, a lazy guinea pig will still move around when they’re encouraged (or motivated by snacks). They might not be as active as usual, but they won’t look like they’re in pain or have any other symptoms.

The best way to be certain if your fur babies’ lack of activity is due to illness or not, take them to the vet for a check-up. The vet will give them a physical examination and run some tests to see what’s going on.  

an infographic of signs that your guinea pig is dying

5. Skin Feels Cold Or Too Hot  

Extremely high or low body temperature in your guinea pig can be a sign that your little friend is dying. There’s usually scary changes in guinea pigs’ vitals as the body is winding down. 

Here are the typical vital signs of a guinea pig’s body: 

  • They have 42-105 breaths per minute. 
  • A temperature of 102-104 degrees Fahrenheit 
  • Heart rate between 200-250 beats per minute

Any major changes in these vital signs can be a sign that your guinea pig is very sick or dying. 

Fever is a common sign of a serious illness in guinea pigs as well. It will not always mean your piggie is dying. It is a sign that your piggy’s body is seriously ill – which can lead to death. 

6. Breathing Problems 

Any sign of labored breathing in your guinea pig is a matter of concern. Healthy guinea pigs don’t make any noise when breathing. They also breathe through their noses and not mouths. 

You can tell your pet is having difficulty breathing if it is; 

  • Wheezing 
  • Panting 
  • Puffing 
  • Sneezing 
  • Breathing through the mouth 
  • Short breaths 

One of the best ways to tell if your piggie is breathing right or not is to wait until they’re perfectly still – not eating or playing. Be patient and wait.

Then watch your little friends’ middle section. If their middle section barely moves, then your fur baby is breathing fine. But…

If you notice their middle section is vibrating or quaking, then they’re having a hard time breathing. You might even notice their heads bobbing or their bodies rocking – as they try to get a good, deep breath. None of which is good.

Hard breathing isn’t always a sign of death. Sometimes it could be:

  • Stress 
  • Tired from running and playing
  • Bad air quality
  • Being held too tightly
  • Fear of predators 

Take your fur babies to see a vet if you notice respiratory issues.  You won’t have a lot of time to save them if they’re having difficulty breathing.

Here’s a video that’ll show you what to look for when your guinea pig is having a hard time breathing and what’s totally normal:

7. Not Able To Swallow 

When very ill or near death, your guinea pig might be unable to swallow the food. If your little friend is showing that symptom, then their end is definitely near.

No guinea pig can survive without food for more than a day or two. If they can’t even swallow water, then there’s not much hope.

I know you’ve probably heard of syringe feeding. That’s when you use a small syringe to give your piggie water or food.

But, it’s not really an option in this sad situation.

There’s no point in trying to syringe feed your guinea pig when they can’t even swallow water. Even if you get the food in their mouths, you won’t be able to get it down their throat and into their stomachs.

It’ll only prolong their suffering and stress them out. When guinea pigs near the end of their lives, they usually can’t eat on their own. 

8. Unresponsive To Touch 

Aside from being sluggish and having a hard time moving, guinea pigs might become unresponsive to touch when they’re dying.

They won’t even react if you pet them or pick them up. In fact, they’ll just lie there – not even trying to move away.

This could mean they want to be left alone. Or they cannot feel your touch since their body and internal organs are already shutting down.

When death is near, guinea pigs can sometimes go into what seems like a coma. And they might not respond to their names or anything else.

At this point, there’s really nothing you can do but make your fur baby as comfortable as possible and wait for the end.

9. Excessive Drooling 

Drooling can also be a sign that your cavy is dying. Some guinea pigs will drool a lot some days before death.

Drooling in guinea pigs is usually a sure sign that they can’t digest food well. It sometimes means that there’s some for of gut blockage, too.

The causes include overgrown teeth, GI Statis, and late-stage pregnancy toxemia.

All of those conditions slow down or stop digestion, which can lead to digestive problems and even death.

If you notice that your piggie is drooling a lot, get your little friend to the vet quickly. You won’t have a lot of time to save them.

10. Severe Weight Loss 

A combination of health-related issues can lead to a guinea pig losing a lot of weight. Guinea pigs will literally starve themselves if they lose appetite or are too weak to eat. 

Use feeding methods like the syringe method to make sure your little friends gets enough nutrients – and doesn’t lose too much weight. 

It’s messy and requires A LOT of patience. But, if you don’t want your little friends’ digestive system to shut down (and for them to die), you’ll have to do it.

Here’s some simple tips on how to syringe feed your guinea pig:

  1. Blend up veggies or prepare Critical Care to feed your guinea pig.
  2. Fill a syringe with the blended veggies or Critical Care (without the needle, of course).
  3. Gently insert the syringe into your guinea pig’s mouth – slide in into the side.
  4. Slowly push the plunger to release the food.
  5. Remove the syringe and let your fur baby swallow.
  6. Repeat the process until your guinea pig has had enough to eat.

Critical Care is a powder you can mix with water to create a liquid food for ill guinea pigs. It’s very high in calories and nutrients, and it can help your piggie regain their strength. You can find Critical Care at most pet stores or online.

As your piggie approaches the end of its life, weight loss is normal – especially since it won’t be eating as much as when it’s healthy.

Don’t Be Too Quick To Suspect That Your Guinea Pig Is Dying 

something to remember about signs that a guinea pig is dying

It’s normal to panic whenever your little fuzzy fury gets sick and imagine the very worst. (I’m guilty of it too.)

But, don’t be too quick to assume that your guinea pig is dying. Many health conditions have similar symptoms as the ones listed above. For example, fever, sluggishness, and weakness can all be caused by a urinary tract infection (URI) – which is treatable.

However, all these symptoms can mean that your pet is just sick and not exactly dying

Unlike humans who can communicate when they’re sick, your fur baby won’t be able to (actually, the tend to hide it).

You really need to be familiar with what’s normal behavior for a healthy guinea pig and what isn’t. That way, you can quickly spot any changes in their behavior or appearance – and get them to the vet as soon as possible.

Some health conditions require immediate treatment, while others might not be life-threatening.

So, it’s very important that you give your piggie weekly health checks. And weigh them weekly, too (see sign #10).

This way, you can catch any illnesses that are coming up or the ones that are already developing.

Please don’t try to diagnose your guinea pig ‘s health condition on your own. Always get a professional opinion from a guinea pig-savvy vet – especially if your seeing symptoms like the ones I mentioned in this list.

Bottom line?

A lot of guinea pig diseases can be treated and even better if caught early. 

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What To Do To Comfort A Dying Guinea Pig 

Death is hard to deal with when you are a pet parent. You might never want to think about it, but your piggie will need you to make sure they die comfortably. Here’s some ways you can ensure your little fur baby transitions peacefully. 

1. Keep The Environment Calm and Quiet 

When guinea pigs are approaching death, they tend to isolate themselves. This in many cases is them seeking a calm and quiet environment. Provide your piggie with a peaceful environment. 

They’ll be most comfortable in a warm and quiet place. Ensure that the place has dim lighting that isn’t too dark or bright. Soft music or natural sounds help ease their tension and fear.

Give them space so that they may die peacefully. 

2. Offer Water and Favorite Foods 

Your guinea pig will probably be too weak to feed or drink water by themselves. Help them with their basic needs. 

You can use the syringe method to feed them or give them water. If you don’t have a syringe, you can use a spoon or a water bottle. Make a blend of; 

  • Hay 
  • Pellets 
  • Water  

Make sure the smoothie isn’t chewy as your fur baby needs to conserve energy. 

Remember, the goal is to make food and water accessible to your guinea pig. If your little friend doesn’t want to eat, don’t force them.

Keep the food and water in a place where your guinea pig can reach it easily – and be prepared to feed it to your little friend yourself.

3. Give Extra Affection 

Your guinea pig will need all the love they can get. Especially when they’re close to death, your little friend will appreciate any affection you can give.

Sit or lie next to your guinea pig’s cage and talk to them in a soothing voice. You can also offer them gentle strokes.

Don’t overdo it, though, as they might need their space too.

But, your presence (and familiar smell) let’s them know that you’re there for them to offer as much love as they need.

4. Surround Your Guinea Pig With Familiar Things 

This is really important for your guinea pig’s comfort. Surround your piggie with familiar things such as:

  • Toys   
  • Blankets  
  • Food (but they’re not likely to eat)
  • Loved Companions (piggie and human)

The familiarity will act as a source of comfort for your pet. Their favorite things will help ease their anxiety in the final moments.

Place your piggie’s favorite toys near them. The presence of things they like and are familiar with helps reduce their anxiety.   They might not play with it but it helps.  

Keeping their routine during this time is also important. Consistency will help your guinea pig feel more relaxed and at ease.

5. Seek Veterinary Help 

When you think your guinea pig is close to death, it’s best to seek professional help. Bring them to the vet as soon as possible for a proper diagnosis and to make your little friends is pain-free and comfortable.

There might be some treatments or pain meds available to help ease their pain and suffering. Your vet will also be able to give you more specific guidance on what to do and how to care for your guinea pig during this difficult time.

6. Offer Soft, Cuddly Things To Lay On 

It’s normal for guinea pigs to feel very cold towards the end. As their little body is shutting down, they might get colder than usual.

Offer them soft, cuddly things to keep them warm and comfortable. Their favorite blankets or towels will work perfectly. Just make sure they’re not too heavy as your guinea pig might have trouble moving around.

You can also put a heating pad on one side of the cage to provide a warm spot for your guinea pig to lay on. But, make sure the heating pad is covered so your piggie doesn’t overheat or get burned.

Things That Other Pet Parents Do To Comfort A Dying Guinea Pig 

Losing a pet is sadly not a new experience for many pet parents. They’ve gone through this difficult journey before. Many have helpful tips to help your little fur baby go over the rainbow bridge peacefully

The rainbow bridge is a metaphor for the place where piggies go when they die. It’s a place of beauty, peace, and happiness. A place where they can run and play without pain or suffering.

I surveyed 158 guinea pig owners to find out what they did to comfort their dying piggies. This was a tearful search but I was able to compile the ways they went about it. 

  • Cuddling their piggies. The pet parents said that they cuddled their fur babies in their last hours and days. Many of the pet parents had noticed their piggies wouldn’t make it. So, they prepared their piggies for what was to come. 
  • Talking to their piggies. A lot of parents talked to their little pets all through until they passed away. They said they wanted their piggies to know they were there with them. 
  • Stroking them. They gently stroked their piggies to soothe them and kept them nearby. 
  • Wrapping them together with hot water bottles. As death came near for sick and old piggies, their bodies would get cold easily.  So, pet owners put hot water bottles near them to keep them warm. 
  • Wrapping them in a towel, blanket, or fleece. Some owners said that as they cuddled their pets, they wrapped them in towels and fleece to keep them soft and warm. 
  • Syringe feeding and giving them water. A lot of pets at the end of their lives couldn’t eat or drink so pet parents fed them and gave them water. Some parents gave them plenty of hay to nuzzle. 
  • Kept them near their companions to ensure they are not lonely. Many pet owners who had other guinea pigs ensured that their dying piggie was not isolated. 
  • Cleaning their cages and giving their piggies their favorite toys and food. 

How To Deal With The Loss Of A Guinea Pig

I also took at look at how people dealt with the loss of a pet. People who lose their pets often have different ways of coping with their grief. Let’s talk a look at how people responded.

  • 107 (68%) of pet owners cried. Their advice is that you should cry your heart out. Mourn your lost pet regardless of how the people around you feel. 
  • 35 (22%) spent time with the surviving guinea pigs. They went to them for cuddles, to talk and play with them. This helped both the pet owners and surviving guinea pigs deal with grief. 
  • 16 (10%) found a hobby or distraction to concentrate on. Some pet owners decided to write a diary to help them process their feelings. Some others took up cooking among other hobbies. The goal was to concentrate on something to forget the sense of loss. 
  • Several pet owners mourned with their entire families. They had a proper burial and memorialized their pets to help them with grief. 
  • Some of them joined forums of other guinea pig owners to share their feelings and seek comfort.  

What’s interesting is that even though it’s difficult, many people said they would do it all over again.

How Do You Save A Dying Guinea Pig? 

The most important thing you should do to save a dying guinea pig is to seek emergency treatment from the vet – as quickly as possible.

Remember that piggies hide their illnesses. So, by the time you notice that something is wrong, the condition might be quite serious. If you’re not sure whether to take your guinea pig to the vet, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and go.

Depending on how far gone your guinea pig is, the vet might be able to save them (prescribing treatments and medicines). But, if your little friend is very old or has a terminal illness, there might not be anything that can be done. In this case, your vet might recommend euthanize your pet to prevent them from suffering.

If you’re facing this situation, it’s important to remember that it’s okay to let go.

It’s better to let your guinea pig go peacefully with the help of a vet, rather than letting them suffer.

Should I Let My Guinea Pig Die Naturally? 

If your guinea pig is in pain or has suffered severe trauma, then you shouldn’t let your guinea pig die naturally at home.

Choose euthanasia (to end their life humanely) instead of letting them suffer. Euthanasia is always the kindest option when there’s no hope for recovery and your little friend is in pain.

Some signs that euthanasia is the best option is if your guinea pig is; 

  • Severely injured (dropped from a height or hit by a car, for example)
  • Suffering from an incurable, terminal illness
  • In pain and no pain relief is helping (or maybe you can’t afford pain meds)
  • So old that they can’t move around or eat properly anymore

Basically anything that causes your little friends’ quality of life to drop significantly means that you shouldn’t go with letting your pet die naturally.

This isn’t fair to your little friend. If you know that there’s nothing that can be done to save your guinea pig, the kindest thing you can do is to take them to the vet to be euthanized.

If you’re unsure whether euthanasia is the best option, speak to your vet. It’s a hard decision to make, but remember that it’s not about you. It’s about what’s best for your guinea pig and their quality of life.

What To Do If Your Guinea Pig Dies

a graph that explains how to cope with the death of a guinea pig (signs your guinea pig is dying)

The hardest time might be after your piggie has died. You might be lost on what to do because of grief. Here are some steps to take after the death of your pet. 

  • Choose what to do with your piggie’s remains: Some people opt for cremation. Other prefer to bury their guinea pig in the backyard. Some people like to keep their guinea pigs’ remains with them (in an urn or special spot in the house). Just make sure you follow your state’s laws regarding the disposal of animal remains. 
  • If your guinea pig lived with other piggies, it is important to show them that their companion has died. That way they can say goodbye too.
  • Mourn your little, fuzz spud: Don’t be afraid to mourn your pet. It’s okay to cry and feel sad after they’re gone. It’s normal to feel these emotions after they die. 

How To Cope With The Loss Of a Guinea Pig 

Death of your pet is extremely hard to deal with. Society can trivialize your grief from losing your pet. Here are a few steps to take to cope with the loss of your fur baby. 

  • Memorialize your piggie. This will go a long way to help you remember them. 
  • Allow yourself to grieve. You will be tempted to minimize your grief because you lost a pet. But remember, you are a pet parent. You lost your beloved fur baby. Let yourself experience the grief. 
  • Seek support from your loved ones. Remember that grief can be very lonely and hard. Reach out to your family and friends for emotional support. 
  • Watch your favorite movie or tv show. The point is to do things that can help you feel a little better. Listen to your favorite and stay or home or go out. 
  • Support your surviving guinea pig. If you had more than one guinea pig, make sure to keep an eye on the health of the surviving one.  They’ll probably be grieving, too. And piggies can sometimes get depressed when their companions die – which can cause health issues.
  • Join forums or groups of other guinea pig owners. It can feel good to know that you are not alone in your grief. Other pet parents can empathize with you and help you as you grieve. Find these forums and talk to them.  
  • Get another guinea pig (if you want to). This isn’t for everyone, but some people feel better when they get another pet after their old one dies. Just make sure you’re ready for another piggie before getting one.

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Final Thoughts

Experiencing the loss of your pet is a very difficult experience. Accepting it is even harder. Guinea pigs are extremely fragile pets so don’t blame yourself. With a lifespan of 4-8 years, it is hardly enough time to live with your little furry.

If you become a guinea pig parent, follow all the rules to keep them healthy and happy. Most importantly, you should have a vet who is an expert on guinea pigs to tend to them when they are sick. This way, you can keep your pet alive as long as possible.

Auer, J., & Lewis, P. A. (1910). THE PHYSIOLOGY OF THE IMMEDIATE REACTION OF ANAPHYLAXIS IN THE GUINEA-PIG. The Journal of experimental medicine, 12(2), 151–175. https://doi.org/10.1084/jem.12.2.151 

DeCubellis, J., & Graham, J. (2013). Gastrointestinal disease in guinea pigs and rabbits. The veterinary clinics of North America. Exotic animal practice, 16(2), 421–435. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cvex.2013.01.002 

Hess, L. & Axelson, R. (n.d.). Health Problems in Guinea Pigs. VCA Animal Hospitals. https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/guinea-pigs-problems 

PDSA. (n.d.). Introducing Guinea Pigs. https://www.pdsa.org.uk/pet-help-and-advice/looking-after-your-pet/small-pets/introducing-guinea-pigs 

O’Rourke D. P. (2004). Disease Problems of Guinea Pigs. Ferrets, Rabbits, and Rodents, 245–254. https://doi.org/10.1016/B0-72-169377-6/50026-5 

Caring for your pet Guinea pig. (2022, January 7). Agriculture Victoria. https://agriculture.vic.gov.au/livestock-and-animals/animal-welfare-victoria/other-pets/caring-for-your-pet-guinea-pig 

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