Why Do Guinea Pigs Twitch? (10 Surprising Reasons)

Guinea pigs have lots of quirky behaviors – including twitching. Do you know why your guinea pig sometimes shakes, twitches, or jolts?

Some reasons that cause a guinea pig to twitch include: happiness, ringworm, mites, heat stroke, seizures, ingesting poisonous materials such poisonous plants or lead paint. Other possible causes of twitchiness in a guinea pig include lice, imminent death, and pregnancy.

why do guinea pigs twitch what causes guinea pigs to twitch

Keep reading to learn more about the reasons why your little friends pigs twitch or shake, tips to identify the causes, and how to tell if you should be concerned!

1. Ringworm

why do guinea pigs twitch

Some muscle twitching movements in piggies can be due to ringworm infection. Ringworm is a fungal infection that itches terribly, which causes the jolting movements in your piggie.

When guinea pigs have ringworm, patches of their skin turns scaly, becomes red, and lose hair!

This infection can be transmitted to guinea pigs through contact with infected bedding, other pets, and even from humans if they have the disease already (humans are unlikely to contract this form of ringworm).

You should wear gloves when handling a guinea pig that has ringworm or wash up afterwards because it can spread if touched by people.

If you adopt a new guinea pig, quarantine her for 2 to 3 weeks. That way if she has any contagious diseases, it will not affect your current guinea pigs.

If you suspect ringworm is causing twitching movements in your piggie, take them to the vet to be examined. That way the ringworm can be diagnosed and proper treatment can begin.

How to Tell (Other Than The Twitch or Jolting)

If the answer three or more of these questions is yes, then your little friend pig might have ringworm.

  • Does your piggies have red, scabby patches of skin with missing hair? Did they begin around their head?
  • Has your piggie had contact with other animals that have ringworm? What about contaminated materials?
  • Has your fur baby been unwell or stressed out recently?
  • Have your recently bought your guinea pig from a pet store?

2. Mites

The intense itching from mites is another cause of twitching and shaking. Mites burrow into your piggie’s skin and can lead to inflammation around the affected area. When this happens, the condition becomes excruciatingly painful for your little friends.

If your pig doesn’t get treatment for fur mites, then the itching will have a number of consequences: loss of appetite resulting in weight loss, sluggishness, and irritability. In extreme cases, guinea pigs get seizures and die.

Piggies can catch mites from other animals or even contaminated items like bedding.

You can reduce and even prevent your little friend from getting mites by keeping their cage clean and comfortable and keeping your piggies calm and happy.

How to Tell (Other Than The Twitch or Jolting)

It’s can be very difficult to tell the difference between mites and ringworm. For a possible mite infestation, look at these questions. If you answer “yes,” to most of them, there is a good chance that your pig has mites.

  • Do you notice thick, yellowish, scabs of skin?
  • Is there patchy hair loss?
  • Are there more dandruff flakes on your piggie?
  • Have you started using a new type of hay? Have you added a new piggie friend to the herd?

3. Happiness

why do guinea pigs twitch

Sometimes piggies will twitch and jerk their bodies when they’re happy. This is called popcorning. (And it’s super cute to see!)

The act of popcorning is a piggie’s way of showing their excitement for a new food, toy, or person in its environment.

How to Tell (Other Than The Twitch or Jolting)

A happiness twitch is one of the easiest to figure out as long as you take a moment to assess the general situation. If the guinea pig is in an environment that he likes, and he seems to be having a good time then there’s a high likelihood that his twitch was because of happiness. This is normal behavior and nothing to be concerned about.

Check out these following questions. A “yes” answer could mean those jolting movements point to happiness.

  • Have you placed your piggie into a fresh, clean cage with new bedding?
  • Did you just give your piggie a pile of delicious food?
  • Was your guinea pig just reunited with an old friend?
  • Is your piggie otherwise healthy and stress-free?

4. Upper Respiratory Infection

Some guinea pigs will twitch as the breathe when they have an upper respiratory infection (URI). It can be a sign that your fur baby is having difficulty breathing.

These illnesses can worsen very quickly, so it’s important to get your piggie seen by a vet as soon as possible. A URI can be be fatal.

How to Tell (Other Than The Twitch or Jolting)

To figure out if you’re dealing with an upper respiratory infection, look at these questions. If you answer “yes” to most of them, it’s possible that your guinea pig is suffering from a upper respiratory infection .

  • Do you notice your fur baby doing a lot of sneezing and coughing?
  • Are your piggie’s eyes crusty or nose runny?
  • Is your pig sluggish or just laying around their cage with a hunched posture?
  • What about meal time? Does your little friend have a normal appetite or is she refusing food and water?

5. Heat Stroke

why do guinea pigs twitch

Guinea pigs can’t sweat to keep cool. That’s a big problem in the summer. Piggies who overheat may start to have seizures as the temperature of their brain spikes perilously high.

Heat strokes are common for pigs in warmer weather–they’re at great risk of getting one if they don’t have enough shade or fresh water to keep cool! Pet parents should be careful of heat stroke in the summer months!

How to Tell (Other Than The Twitch or Jolting)

Here are a few questions. Answering “yes” means that your piggie is suffering from heat exhaustion or heat stroke and needs to be cooled down right away.

  • Is your piggie in a location where the temperature is over 75 degrees Fahrenheit?
  • Has your piggie collapsed on her belly or is unable to walk?
  • Did you check her pulse? Is it very weak or moving rapidly?
  • Is your fur baby breathing shallowly or having a difficult time breathing?

6. Pregnancy

It’s not always obvious, but did you know that pregnancy can cause in twitchy movements in pigs? In this case, it’s not the muscle that twitches, it’s the babies inside her that kicks.

How to Tell (Other Than The Twitch or Jolting)

To figure out if your piggie is expecting, look at these questions. If you answer “yes,” to the first one or even to all of them, then it’s possible that your guinea pig is pregnant.

  • Has your piggie spent any time at all with an unneutered male?
  • Have you noticed a large amount of weight gain?
  • Has your pig’s stomach (or abdomen) gotten
  • Is your furry friend eating a lot more than normal?

7. Ate Something Poisonous

why do guinea pigs twitch

If your guinea pig has eaten poisonous plants or nibbled on lead paint, the result can be a seizure, which will cause intense jolting and twitching motions.

If you suspect your piggie has eaten something that it shouldn’t have, be sure to get him or her medical attention as soon as possible.

How to Tell (Other Than The Twitch or Jolting)

To try to figure out if your piggie has eaten something dangerous, look at these questions. If you answer “yes,” to a majority of questions, your piggie

  • Does your pig’s mouth seems to be irritated or sore? Are they having trouble eating?
  • Has your piggie been out of his cage (indoors or outdoors) around unknown plants without supervision recently?
  • Do you live in a very old house or apartment that might still have lead-based paint?
  • Is your she drooling excessively?
  • Do you see any evidence (e.g. nibbles on leaves, rubber, or plant stalks) that indicate that your little friend might have eaten something that she shouldn’t have?

8. Imminent Death

When a guinea pig is about to die, twitching can happen. Even if the heart stops beating, the brain of a dead animal can still work for some time. This causes spasms that make the muscles twitch. So it looks like your piggie is alive when actually she isn’t.

How to Tell (Other Than The Twitch or Jolting)

Here are a few questions that might give you an idea if your guinea pig is getting ready to cross the rainbow bridge.

  • Is your guinea pig over 4 or 5 years old? A guinea pig is considered elderly at that age.
  • Has your pig been fighting an illness?
  • Are your guinea pig’s limbs cold or cool to the touch?
  • Has she been refusing food and/or water for several days?
  • Is your guinea pig recovering from an upper respiratory infection or pneumonia?
  • Has your guinea pig been dropped from a tall height or stepped on? Maybe your piggie had a jump from a high spot?

9. Ear Infection

why do guinea pigs twitch

With guinea pigs, ear twitching can be the result of an ear infection. They’re rare, but they do happen. However, when ear infections do happen, they commonly occur when piggies have gotten an upper respiratory infection (or pneumonia).

Sometimes upper respiratory infections (or pneumonia) can spread to the middle ear, which causes an ear infection. If it spreads to the inner ear, then the situation becomes even more dangerous, because your piggie’s nervous system is being attacked by the infection – and then we’re talking nerve issues.

Fortunately, you can take your guinea pig to the vet and get them an antibiotic which will help with the infection in their ears.

How to Tell (Other Than The Twitch or Jolting)

Try answering the following questions. They might give you a good sense if your guinea pig might have an ear infection.

  • Is your fur baby walking in circles or rolling around on the ground?
  • Does your piggie have a head tilt?
  • Do you notice that your guinea pig is having troubling keeping her balance?
  • Is your piggie recovering from an upper respiratory infection or pneumonia?

10. Lice

Guinea pigs that are infested with lice do not usually have symptoms. However, one major sign is that lice can make your guinea pig feel very itchy, which causes twitching.

The neck and ear area becomes red and inflamed. Hair loss sometimes occurs, too. A flashlight can help reveal if a piggie has lice. If your piggie has light-colored fur, the flashlight tactic is particularly effective.

How to Tell (Other Than The Twitch or Jolting)

Use the following questions to figure out whether your piggie has lice.

  • Can you see the lice? If you use a magnifying glass or a flashlight, can you see the lice around the neck and ears of your piggie. ​Lice look like tiny, pale worms, moving through your piggie’s hair.
  • Have recently adopted a new guinea pig that might have lice and put her with your other piggies?
  • Is your pig’s enclosure cleaned regularly?
  • Has your piggie had contact with potentially lice-infested materials like blankets or bedding?

Other Frequently Asked Questions About Guinea Pigs And Twitching

What Do I Do If My Guinea Pig Is Twitching?

If your guinea pig is twitching or jolting, calmly assess the situation. It’s important to figure out if the twitching cause is consistent with something dangerous or benign. And to do that you have to look at the context of the situation.

Check for signs of illness, such as missing patching of fur, red skin, scratching, or shortness of breath. Evaluate whether your pig has been around other ill animals or pets or might possibly be pregnant.

When in doubt, consult your veterinarian.

Why Does My Guinea Pig Twitch When I Pet Him?

In general, your guinea pig might be uncomfortable with the way that you’re petting him. For example, if you’re petting him on the stomach, it’s likely that the twitch is because your little friend hates being touched there. In this case, the twitch is normal behavior. Your guinea pig is trying to communicate with you.

Additionally, it’s possible that your little friend is twitching because she’s uncomfortable due to an illness (e.g. ovarian cysts, ringworm) or an infestation such as mites or lice.


Remember to always check for (and rule out) signs of illness or parasites before assuming the twitch is due to an uncomfortable experience with touching.

Guinea Pig Twitch & Shake Final Thoughts

As you can see, guinea pigs twitch, shake, or have jolting movements in different parts of their bodies for many reasons.

The twitchiness of a guinea pig can be due to many different things and the most common reasons are ringworm, mites, and heat stroke. Lice, pregnancy, happiness, different infections, and eating poisonous items are also possible reasons.

In many cases, an occasional twitch or shake is usually nothing to worry about.


If you notice an increase in shaking or other symptoms pop up, then there may be an issue that needs to be addressed quickly.

Please contact a veterinarian to diagnose the cause and get treatment as soon as possible!

Beck, A. (2013). Guinea pigs: Keeping and caring for your pet. Enslow Pub.

Disorders and diseases of Guinea pigs – All other pets – Merck veterinary manual. (n.d.). Merck Veterinary Manual. https://www.merckvetmanual.com/all-other-pets/guinea-pigs/disorders-and-diseases-of-guinea-pigs

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

Orcutt, C. (n.d.). Care of Pet Guinea Pigs. Putnam Veterinary Clinic – Topsfield, MA. https://www.putnamveterinaryclinic.com/sites/site-6748/images/CARE%20OF%20PET%20GUINEA%20PIGS.pdf

Respiratory infections | Arizona exotics | -Guinea pigs resources. (n.d.). Arizona Exotic Animal Hospital | Veterinary care for exotic pets in Phoenix, Mesa, Tempe, Chandler, Gilbert AZ. https://azeah.com/guinea-pigs/respiratory-infections

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