Why Do Guinea Pigs Eat Poop? (What You Need To Know)

If you have a pet guinea pig, then you know they have some weird habits. The most bizarre habit that they have is eating their own poop!

Guinea pigs produce and eat soft, vitamin-packed poop called “caecals” or caecotrophs. Because vegetables are hard to break down, guinea pigs can’t completely digest it the first time around. Caecals provide guinea pigs with more nutrients from their food sources.

why do guinea pigs eat their poop

In this blog post, you’ll get the dirty details on why guinea pigs eat their poop. Additionally, we’ll explore some of the little known ways that eating this poop improves the health and wellness of your guinea pig.

Why Do Guinea Pigs Eat Their Own Poop?

do guinea pigs eat their own poop

Guinea pigs eat poop. This is called coprophagy. If you’re a new guinea pig owner, you may think this is gross and weird behavior. (I know it skeeved me out when I first found out about it!) But it’s normal and healthy for piggies.

Piggies eat caecals to fully digest their food. Below are some simplified steps of the entire process.:

  1. Piggie scarfs down food.
  2. The food travels from the esophagus into the small intestine to absorb nutrients.
  3. Food materials get are directed to the where “good” bacteria will break the food down further
  4. Back to the colon and pooped out as caetals or “caecotrophs” (to be eaten and digested again).
  5. Then “real” piggie poop is excreted ( ya know, those droppings we all know and love have mixed feelings about)

Why is all this necessary?

Your little friends are herbivores. (Only plants on the menu, please) And plants are difficult to digest without these extra steps.

This means that some ingredients from their diet don’t undergo breakdown and are not absorbed by them in a single go. So their droppings may contain a lot of nutritional content. Your little friends can’t let those extra nutrients go to waste!

Typically, herbivores typically must digest plant material at least twice to pull the nutrients they need from it. And guinea pigs aren’t alone either; other animals like rabbits and koalas eat their own feces, too.

Not All Poops Are Created Equal

Guinea Pigs make two different types of poop: their caecals (also known as caecotrophs) and the regular poop.

In a guinea pig’s cage, there are two kinds of poop. The regular, dark brown poop which is solid are the regular droppings. You’ll see these dropping scattered around the cage and on the hay.

The caecals are softer and lighter in color with a sticky texture (almost like a mucus). They also have nutrients that weren’t absorbed by your piggie’s body. People rarely see caecals, because piggies eat them directly from their bottoms.

So, when you see your piggies dip down between their hind legs and pop up chewing, they’re eating their caecals. You can see them doing this about 150-200 times per day.

What Happens If My Guinea Pig Doesn’t Eat Their Caecals?

If your little friends don’t (or can’t) eat their caecals, then you’re going to end up with a very sick, malnourished guinea pig.

The only reason your little friends eat caecals is to suck as many extra nutrients out of their food as possible. Without eating them, piggies cut a lot of nourishment out of their diet:

  • Vitamin K: Important for healthy bones and plays an important role in regulating the calcium levels in the blood. Too much calcium in the blood can cause serious damage to the urinary system of guinea pigs.
  • Fiber: Helps keep your piggie’s digestive system healthy, so that food is digested and moved through their bodies
  • Vitamin B complex includes all the vitamins of the B group help in breaking the proteins down and ease the digestive process.

If you notice that your piggies are not eating their caecals, then something might be wrong. There could be a number of underlying health problems that are stopping them, such as:

  • Ear infection: too off balance and sick to eat
  • Arthritis: bones hurt too much to get to the poop
  • Dental problems: mouth hurts to much to eat the poop
  • Impaction: when poop gets stuck in the rectum and piggies can’t get it out to even eat it
  • Obesity: excess weight makes it difficult to get to the poop

Bottom line?

Any illness that prevents your fur babies from producing and eating their caecals is a big problem. Consult your vet if you notice a lot of caecals suddenly appearing in your piggie’s cage.

When Do Guinea Pigs Try to Eat Each Other’s Poop?  

If piggies can’t get to their own caecals, they’ll do the next best thing – steal some from from another guinea pig.

Piggies instinctively know that caecals are good for them. Sick fur babies will eat the caecals of a healthy guinea pigs who if they can’t make their own. This is to keep their digestive system healthy.

How and Why To Make “Poop Soup” For Sick Piggies

Caecals have a large number of probiotics. Probiotics are good bacteria for gut health and contribute to a healthy digestive system. This “good” gut bacteria helps the body digest things that are difficult to digest.

When piggies get sick, their gut bacteria is thrown off.

Often, our little friends are given antibiotics to treat common illness – like upper respiratory infections and urinary tract infections. The medications helps fight the bad bacteria that causes the disease, but they also destroys good gut bacteria.

What does this mean?

You can run to the store and buy some probiotic powder or gel or you can make your sick piggie some homemade poop soup.

I manually sourced statements of piggie pet parents to find out what that give to their piggie’s for gut health when they’re sick.

Benebac was the most popular. 64.9% of respondents preferred Benebac, while 35.1% used poop soup as their go-to.

It’s easy to see why Benebac was the favorite. It’s convenient and comes with instructions. (My kind of medicine). And unlike poop soup, you don’t need to have a healthy piggy to treat your sick one.

However:

Poop soup is a very effective option if:

  • you can’t afford or order Benebac (or other probiotic options)
  • Benebac isn’t working for your piggie
  • It’s an emergency situation and you don’t have Benebac on hand

Here are some tips on how to make poop soup.

Poop soup is a home remedy to replenish the healthy bacteria lost in the poop and provide essential vitamins to unwell guinea pigs.

Poop should not be used as hard solid, which doesn’t contain enough live bacteria.

  • Mix the fresh, regular dropped poos of a healthy piggies with a little warm water (about 2 tbsps). Use a tiny container and just enough liquid to cover the droppings.
  • Fill a syringe with 1-2ml of the liquid soaked poop.
  • Immediately give it to your sick guinea pig.
  • Try to do this 1 hour before (or after) giving your guinea pig their antibiotics. This can safely to be done 1 to 3 times a day.

I’ve never had to feed my any of my fur babies poop soup. Just got lucky with really healthy fur babies, I guess. But, many experienced pet parents swear by this tactic.

Feeding live, healthy microbiomes into your piggie’s gut can be much more powerful than any artificial probiotic powder or gel!  That way, your guinea pig can absorb all the essential nutrients they need.

Frequently Asked Questions About Guinea Pig Poop

Do Guinea Pigs Poop Where They Eat?

But, guinea pigs usually poop where they eat, because their digestive system moves so quickly.

Eat. Poop.

Drink. Pee.

Repeat.

Honestly, they poop everywhere – where they eat, sleep, or are comfortable.

Your little friends are grazers and need to eat all the time which means their diet is a constant stream of eating and pooping. They’re known to poop up to 200 times during the day- even when sleeping!

To combat this, some pet parents have tried litter training their piggies with various degrees of success.

If the pooping and peeing is driving you crazy, just keep an eye out for your piggie’s favorite spot(s) to do their business.

Then remember to clean those areas more frequently to keep the cage smelling fresh and clean.

I’ve found that setting up a “kitchen area” is a great way to keep the poop contained.

A kitchen area is a place in your cage where the pig’s food, water, and hay are kept. This helps to keep the enclosure neater, since piggies will do a great deal of their “business” while  they’re enjoying their food.

What Causes Impaction in Boars?

The term ‘impaction’ is the build up of poop material in the anal sack of a guinea pig.

In other words, your piggie can’t poop.

Common causes of impaction are:

  • a diet without enough fiber
  • dehydration
  • poor genetics
  • lack of exercise
  • old age

Fecal impaction is a problem that mostly happens to boars (male piggies) who are 3 years old or older.  As guinea pig’s age, they lose muscle tone in their lower areas.

These guinea pig will have trouble pooping or are very constipated. This is both painful for your little friends and at its worst can kill them.

If you ignore or don’t notice the problem, the boar will become very sick and malnourished. This is because he can’t eat his caecal pellets and the impaction affects normal digestion.

Things to Remember About Guinea Pig Poos

If you’re a pet owner, it can be intimidating to find out your guinea pig is eating poop.

However, understanding the function of caecals and how they help keep your guinea pig healthy will put your mind at ease.

Guinea pig droppings come in two forms: The first is their regular poop -dark brown droppings that we typically think of when picturing animal feces. This type of feces will be firm and dry with a rough texture. 

On the other hand, there are soft, light colored pieces that have a sticky texture (almost like mucus).

These little guys are called “caecals” or caecotrophs. Eating these vitamin-packed poop leftovers from vegetables provides them with nutrients that were not absorbed during their first passage through the digestive tract.

The next time you notice your little friends chowing down on their poop, don’t be alarmed. It’s normal guinea pig behavior. 

Ask a vet online 24/7. (n.d.). Ask A Vet Online 24/7 – PetCoach. https://www.petcoach.co/article/cecotropes-and-coprophagy/

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

Faecal Impaction in Guinea Pigs. (n.d.). Vets for Rabbits, Birds & Other Exotic Pets – The Unusual Pet Vets. https://www.unusualpetvets.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Feacal-Impaction-in-Guinea-Pigs.pdf

Guinea pig nutrition. (n.d.). Melbourne Rabbit Clinic. https://www.melbournerabbitclinic.com/guinea-pigs/guinea-pig-nutrition/

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/

Probiotics, recovery foods and vitamin C: Overview with product links. (2014, 12). The Guinea Pig Forum. https://www.theguineapigforum.co.uk/threads/probiotics-recovery-foods-and-vitamin-c-overview-with-product-links.115404/

Role of the gut microbiota in nutrition and health. (2018, June 13). The BMJ. https://www.bmj.com/content/361/bmj.k2179

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