Why Do Guinea Pigs Die With Wide Open Eyes? (Find Out Now)

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The death of a guinea pig is always devastating. But, it’s even worse when the death is unexpected and your guinea pig dies with wide open eyes. But, why does this happen?

Sometimes guinea pigs die with their eyes open, because the muscles controlling their eyelids are no longer supported with blood or receive any signals from the nervous system. They go limp and their eyes stay open.

This happens when the guinea pig is close to death and its body is shutting down. The eyes are one of the last things to go, because they don’t require much energy. So, even though it’s a sad sight, it’s actually a sign that your guinea pig was very near death.

a picture of a guinea pig saying that owners need to understand why guinea pigs die with wide open eyes

If you’ve recently lost your guinea pig (and my condolences to you if you have, because that’s really tough), then this is something you may want to keep in mind.

It’s not a pretty thing to see, but it’s a natural occurrence and doesn’t mean that your guinea pig suffered. Read on to learn more about what could have caused this to happen.

Is It Normal For Guinea Pigs To Die With Their Eyes Open?

a tip explaining that a guinea pig dying with open eyes is normal
Try to remember that having open eyes is actually your guinea pig’s natural state. It’s just rather upsetting and a bit gruesome to see them open after your piggie has passed away.

It’s perfectly normal for guinea pigs to die with their eyes open. And unfortunately, it’s also something that happens quite often. If you’ve ever lost a guinea pig, then you know how heartbreaking it is to see their little bodies flat and limp and their eyes still open.

This doesn’t just happen to guinea pigs, though.

It happens to humans, too.

There’s a study that was done about it (involving human subjects, that is) and the results showed that almost 37% of people die with their eyes open (at least partially).

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And just like with humans, guinea pig eyelids are controlled by muscles. At death, everything relaxes (muscles, skin, etc) and the eyelids may stay open.

But, something you have to remember is that it’s very rare to see a guinea pigs’ eyelids (that is, you’re not likely to see your piggies close their eyes).

Think about it. It’s not often that most piggie parents even see their little friends with their eyes shut.

That’s because cavies are prey animals. So, they do all their activities (yes, even sleep) with their eyes open, so they can be aware of what’s happening around them at all times (all the better to avoid those predators). And domestication hasn’t done anything to change that.

Does Dying With Wide Open Eyes Mean My Guinea Pig Died Horribly?

Some people might get worried when their guinea pig dies with its eyes open because they think that it means the animal was suffering. That’s not necessarily the case, though.

As I mentioned before, it’s normal for a guinea pig to die with its eyes open. It doesn’t mean that that your little friend had a terrible or painful death. And it doesn’t mean that you did anything wrong.

It’s just something that happens, and there’s really no way to prevent it.

So, if you find your guinea pig has passed away and its eyes are open, don’t beat yourself up. And try not to feel guilty. I’m serious. Sometimes these things just happen and there’s no rhyme or reason to it.

Things To Understand About Guinea Pig Death

a fact that explains that dying with wide open eyes is normal for guinea pigs

Now that you know that it’s normal for guinea pigs to die with their eyes open, there are a few other things about their death that you may want to be aware of.

  • When a guinea pig dies, the temperature of its body will drop and it will stiffen for hours. This is called rigor mortis, which is a natural process that happens after death. As time passes, the body sags and becomes flaccid.
  • It’s not unusual for guinea pigs to die with their eyes AND mouth open. It requires muscles to shut eyes and to close mouths. After death, EVERYTHING relaxes so the mouth and eyes may stay that way.
  • It can seem like they’ve been squished after they’ve died. That’s because of they way their body relaxes and flattens out after rigor mortis has passed. Pet parents have reported that their piggies seemed to be pancaked out after death.

So, if you ever lose a guinea pig and find it with its eyes open and mouth agape, know that it’s perfectly normal – despite how unsettling it may be.

Can I Close The Eyes Of My Dead Guinea Pig?

You could attempt to close your guinea pigs’ eyes after death but it’s not the easiest thing to do. Their eyelids (because they’re so tiny) aren’t as easy to manipulate as human eyelids after death.

And, even if you do manage to close them, the eyelids may pop back open again (as they’re relax). So, don’t be too surprised or disappointed if they don’t stay closed.

It’s not really necessary to close them, either.

It’s better that you begin to make arrangements for their final resting place and work through your grieving process, so that you can say goodbye in the best way for YOU.

Why Did My Guinea Pig Die Overnight? 

If you’ve recently lost your guinea pig (and my condolences if you have), one of the questions you may be asking yourself is, “Why did my guinea pig die overnight?”

There can be a lot of reasons why a guinea pig might die suddenly and unexpectedly.

But, first let’s try to look at this unhappy event a different way.

You have to understand that guinea pigs don’t have a long life span to begin with – even if they do live longer than most rodents. There are two general reasons why they die overnight.

  • The first one is completely normal and natural. The lifespan of domesticated guinea pigs is around four to seven or eight years. Four is actually pretty old for a piggie. If your little friend is in that age range, it’s quite possible that the death is just due to old age.
  • The second one is when your pet had a sudden death from an illness. The hardest part is that your guinea pig can be sick and look fine. As prey animals, guinea pigs do a great job at hiding illnesses and injuries. So, it’s possible that your guinea pig had a disease that you weren’t aware of.

There are many diseases and illnesses that can affect guinea pigs, some of which can result in death within hours or days. These include things like: internal parasites, pneumonia (one of the most common forms of piggie death), upper respiratory infections, diabetes, and heart failure.

What Are Signs That A Guinea Pig Is Going To Die? 

Typically, there’s signs that your guinea pig is going to die. Or at least that they’re close to death, which means that you have a VERY narrow window of time to get them to a vet to get diagnosed and treated.

And usually, the earlier you catch the problem, the better chance your guinea pig has of surviving.

Some common signs that a guinea pig is dying are:

  • trouble breathing (panting, sneezing, or coughing)
  • facing the wall in their cage, not moving, and puffed up
  • no interest in food or water
  • crusty eyes and nose
  • weight loss
  • ratty – looking coat

If you see any of these symptoms in your guinea pig, then it’s time to get them to the vet. And please don’t wait. The longer you wait, the less chance your guinea pig has of surviving.

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How Long After A Guinea Pig Dies Does It Go Stiff?

Guinea pigs go stiff with rigor mortis two to four after death. But, it can vary depending on the temperature of the environment and how long your guinea pig has been dead.

After death, your guinea pig’s body goes through biochemical changes. The muscles of the body gradually contract and become rigid. This process usually happens over the course of several hours and is called rigor mortis.

What Do You Do With A Dead Guinea Pig? 

When your guinea pig passes away, it’s normal to feel lost and helpless. But, there’s a few things that you should do to make the process easier for you.

  • Make sure your piggie has (actually) passed away. Guinea pig shock can often seem like death. If your cavy has died, her body temperature will cool, and the heart will stop beating. You can check for these things by feeling for a heartbeat and testing for body temperature.
  • Let your other piggies smell their friend and recognize that their friend is gone. Typically, you’ll want to leave the body of your dead guinea pig, so that your other guinea pigs can smell their friend, recognize that she’s gone, and say a proper goodbye.
  • Decide on how to lay your little friend to rest. Burial and cremation are the most common ways to lay your guinea pig to rest. You can also plan a funeral or memorial service. This is a time for you to mourn the loss of your friend and celebrate all the good times you shared together.
  • Grieve how you need to grieve. Some people cry, some get mad, and some just need time to think. And that’s okay. Each person grieves differently, and there’s no right or wrong way to do it. Just know that it’s normal to feel sad, scared, angry, or lost when your guinea pig dies – especially if one dies suddenly. Seek out pet bereavement groups to help you through the process.

Final Thoughts 

Now you know that it’s perfectly normal for guinea pigs to die with their eyes wide open. It’s simply a part of the natural process.

And while it’s normal for guinea pigs to die with their eyes wide open, it can be difficult for owners to cope with.

But, guinea pigs (as much as we love them) aren’t going to live forever. And, as hard as it is, their death is a part of life.

What matters most is how you remember your guinea pig and the time that you shared together. Because, in the end, that’s all that really matters.

I hope that you found this article helpful. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below.

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Coping with guilt » small animal hospital » college of veterinary medicine » University of Florida. (n.d.). Small Animal Hospital » College of Veterinary Medicine » University of Florida. https://smallanimal.vethospital.ufl.edu/resources/pet-loss-support/coping-with-guilt/

Eyelid closure at death. (2009). PubMed Central (PMC). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2902109/

Nutrient requirements of the Guinea pig – Nutrient requirements of laboratory animals – NCBI bookshelf. (n.d.). National Center for Biotechnology Information. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK231932/

Small Pet Select U.S. (2017, September 12). 15 things Guinea pigs shouldn’t eathttps://shop.smallpetselect.com/pages/15-things-guinea-pigs-shouldnt-eat

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