10 Simple Reasons Why Your Guinea Pig Isn’t Drinking Water

One of the most frustrating things as a guinea pig owner is seeing your piggies not drinking water.

We’ve all had this happen at least once, and sometimes it does cause a bit of worry. Thankfully, there’s some good ways to figure out what might be going on with our little friends.

I did some research and some of the most common reasons why guinea pigs don’t drink water include:

  • Not thirsty
  • Too many watery vegetables
  • Too hard to access
  • Dental problems
  • Nervous in a new environment
  • Illness
  • Pain and discomfort
  • Temperature or climate
  • Doesn’t like it
  • Stress

Knowing why your guinea pig isn’t drinking water is vital in helping keep your little friend healthy.

Here’s some information to help you figure out why your piggie isn’t drinking, and hopefully give you some insight on how to fix the problem.

1. Not Thirsty

why isn't your guinea pig drinking water - why won't your guinea pig drink water

It can and does happen. Sometimes we might have a fur baby who isn’t drinking because he’s just not thirsty.

Just like us, a piggie might not drink water because he doesn’t feel like it, not hungry, or not thirsty.

Some piggies only drink water when they’re eating (especially dry food like pellets and hay).

So, observe your little friends closely during mealtime. More than likely, you’ll notice them sipping their water as they enjoy their food.

2. Too Many Watery Vegetables

Guinea pigs are less likely to drink water when you overfeed them watery vegetables like cucumber, watermelon, and celery.

I know it sounds crazy, but guinea pigs naturally eat their veggies with water in them, and so they associate drinking with those foods.

If you’re trying to get your piggie to drink more water, try taking away the watery vegetables from his diet for a little while.

A cavy’s main daily food should be hay anyway.

Why?

Other than being an excellent, low calorie, healthy options for guinea pigs, it’s filled with fiber. This helps keep your piggie’s digestive system moving easily. It also helps to keep their teeth (which never stop growing) ground down to a manageable length.

3. Too Hard To Access

Using water bottles is the popular choice for most pet parents.

But, you need to use them correctly or you’re going to have a big problem.

If the water bottle is hard to reach (too high or too low or too far away) your piggie might just give up trying to get water.

If you find something wrong with your piggie’s water bottle, try fixing it immediately! It’ll be much easier for your fur baby to gulp down his water this way.

why isn't your guinea pig drinking water - why won't your guinea pig drink water

4. Dental Problems

The act of drinking (especially from water bottles) requires piggies to do a chewing motion with their mouths in order to get the water into their stomachs.

So, dental disease or injuries can definitely cause your little friend to stop drinking.

Tooth diseases in guinea pigs are caused by not eating right and genetics.

Your fur babies’ teeth can grow too much, have chips or breaks, and cut into their gums.

If you notice that your piggie isn’t drinking normally, it might be a good idea to check his teeth for any problems like broken or overgrown incisors.  

5. Nervous In A New Environment

If you’ve just welcomed new cavy into your home, it’s actually normal for your new little friend to avoid water (and food) for a little while.

That’s because piggies are pretty skittish – especially in a new location.

They’re prey animals, so their default instinct is that EVERYTHING wants to eat them (yes, even you…especially you because they think you’re a giant dog).

The solution to soothe your guinea pig’s anxiety is to give him a little time to adjust to his new surroundings. If you give your little friend some space, it’s likely that they’ll start drinking and eating a bit more after a day or so.

Try not to worry.

They’re probably too scared to come out during the day when you’re around, but they’re probably getting a small amount of water when they do come out at night.

Your piggies will get water if they need it – you just won’t always see them drink.

But, it’ll take them a couple days (maybe even a few weeks) before they feel safe enough in their new habitat to start exploring and eating.

6. Illness

Sometimes you’ll notice that your little friend isn’t drinking, because he’s sick. There’s lots of illnesses that affect guinea pigs and can cause them to lose their appetites and refuse to drink.

  • upper respiratory infection: this is a fairly common illness that causes sneezing, wheezing and coughing.
  • digestion system problems:  if your guinea pig has loose, watery stools or a bad tummy ache he might not be interested in drinking; bloat (an excess amount of gas) or any other type of blockage in their digestive system could cause your little friend to avoid drinking water.
  • heatstroke: if your little friend is suffering from heat stroke, it’s possible that he’s so dehydrated that he can’t even drink water.
  • urinary tract infection: just like in humans, this is an infection in the tubes that take urine from the kidneys to the bladder.

You’ll need to get your piggie to a vet immediately if you suspect he might have an illness that’s preventing eating and/or drinking.

A cavy’s health can deteriorate very quickly, so you need to make sure that he’s under the care of a professional if he’s not acting right.

7. Pain Or Discomfort

Nothing kills a desire to drink (or eat for the matter) like being in pain – particularly for piggies. It’s possible that your little ones don’t want to drink, because they’re hurting so badly (or are so uncomfortable). This can be from:

  • Mites: This is a parasitic infection which can be quite serious. It causes intense itching that your guinea pig cannot reach to relieve, and the constant scratching can lead to open sores and infections
  • Post surgery: If your little friend is recovering from surgery and you notice that he’s not drinking normally, he might be in pain
  • Ringworm: Another skin infection that causes severe itching (similar to mange) and scabs. Though this one is fungal, it can be treated with antifungal medications
  • Lice: Yup, these little guys might actually make your guinea pig stop drinking water – or even scratch itself so much that the skin becomes infected.
  • Sprains or broken bones: If your piggie has been dropped or maybe hurt himself in his cage, your little buddy might be in pain and not drinking because he feels physically uncomfortable.

8. Temperature & Climate

When they’re located in a warmer climate, it’s normal to see piggies drinking a lot of water.

Like humans, it’s used to keep them cool and refreshed on hot days.

But in colder environments, they might drink less or even avoid drinking altogether.

In the wild, guinea pigs mostly stay hydrated eating herbs, grasses and other plants – not from drinking lots of water.

9. Doesn’t Like It

Guinea pigs are picky, little things:  It may be that they don’t like the taste, the source, or the temperature of the water.

And if any of those factors apply to your little friends, they’re not going to drink their water.

If you’ve changed the type of water in your little friends’ bottle, they might be hesitant to go back to drink from it again.

What do I mean by “changing” the water?

Avoid adding Vitamin C drops to your little friends’ water, because it changes the taste.

If you’ve been using filtered water in your guinea pigs’ water bottle, they’re used to that taste and probably won’t want to try other types of water.

Also, make sure that you’re offering clean water to your piggies. 

Tap water is fine to give as long as you live in the area where it’s not too heavy chlorinated or heavy with calcium.

Sometimes your furry friends’ dislike has nothing to do with the flavor of water. It has more to do with the source

Occasionally, if you’ve gotten a new piggie, she might be used to using a water bowl instead of a water bottle.  

Watch the temperature, too. 

Don’t give your piggies icy, cold water or hot water.  That might cause a tummy ache or discourage them from drinking. 

Cool water from the fridge or lukewarm tap is perfectly fine.

10. Stress

Stress can cause many problems for cavies. For example, stress may cause your little friend to stop eating and drinking (which is of course very dangerous).

Stress can come from all sorts of things, such as:

  • a new environment
  • the presence of predators (yep, your pet pouch Pookie is a predator to your guinea pig!)
  • loud sudden noises
  • unfamiliar smells
  • a bully for a cage mate

Even something as simple as taking him on a car ride or an exam from a vet is a big enough deal to stress out some guinea pigs.

These are just a few ideas of things that could be causing your piggy not to drink water.

Ask yourself, “what has changed in the past week or so?”

(If anything.)

And then use process of elimination to rule out the different causes, so you can make your little friend’s environment calm and happy again.

What Should I Do If My Guinea Pig Won’t Drink Water?

First, you have to determine if your fur baby really isn’t drinking water – or if he’s just drinking when you can’t see him.

You can do this two main ways:

  • Invest in a web cam or baby monitor. Since some cavies prefer drinking when their pet parents aren’t around (like at night or when you’re at work), you can monitor your guinea pig to see if he’s drinking water in the times you can’t physically be there.
  • Mark their water bottle to keep track of the level. It’s a simple way to tell if he’s been drinking from it or not throughout the day.

Honestly? Many pet parents report never seeing their fur babies drink (actually drinking) water, but they’re still perfectly hydrated, happy, and well.

When Should You Worry?

If you’re having a problem “catching” your cavies drinking water, you shouldn’t necessarily swoop straight into panic mode.

As long as your little friends are active, eating well, pooping and urinating (all the signs of a healthy guinea pig), it’s safe to assume that they’re getting the water they need – just not within your sight.

The best thing you can do is to keep a close and watchful eye on your fur babies.

If their behavior changes (for the worse), then you’d need to step in and seek help from a vet.

How Long Can Guinea Pigs Go Without Drinking Water?

Generally speaking, no animal should go without water more than a day. And that time decreases based on the temperature, age, and health of the guinea pig.  For example, a sick or older guinea pig may not be able to handle the lack of water as well as a young, healthy one.

Can Guinea Pigs Die From No Water?

It’s possible for guinea pigs to die if they don’t have water from any source. Typically, they’ll get a lot of their water from watery vegetables like celery, cucumber, and other produce.

If they don’t have vegetables to eat, then that only leaves the bowl of water or bottle of water that you leave out for them. If you don’t leave fresh water out for them at all, eventually, they’ll start getting dehydrated and will likely die.

How Can I Tell If My Guinea Pig Is Dehydrated?

This test makes it simple and easy to tell if your little friend is dehydrated.

If you suspect your guinea pig is dehydrated, pinch the skin around the back of their neck away from their body. Please be gentle. You’re not trying to hurt your guinea pig – you’re just trying to get a general idea of how “tight” the skin is.

If the skin snaps back into place after a couple of seconds, you’re good. However, if it stays in that stretched position from your pinch, it’s a good possibility that your guinea pig is dehydrated.

You can help your guinea pig out by knowing how to recognize dehydration symptoms. After doing that pinching test, see if you notice any other signs of dehydration like: crusty eyes, loss of appetite, urine that’s a dark yellow in color, and thick saliva.

Dehydration can and will kill cavies. Make sure you seek help immediately if you notice any of these symptoms in your guinea pig!

How Much Water Should A Guinea Pig Drink?

In the book, “Ferrets, Rabbits, and Rodents Clinical Medicine and Surgery” it says that the average cavy drinks 100 mL/3.3 oz of water daily, but sometimes it will drink more or less depending on the temperature and how active they are.

Things To Remember About Guinea Pigs Not Drinking Water

It can be frustrating when your guinea pig doesn’t drink water. But there are many reasons that might cause a guinea pigs not to want to drink, including if they’re too thirsty and don’t know where the water is or if they have some other reason altogether.

One way you can try to figure out why he’s refusing his bottle of water is by observing him closely for signs like whether he seems sluggish, anxious, tired, or in pain–or just looking at how much food he’s eaten lately!

If you still haven’t figured it out after doing this step-by-step process then it’s definitely time to seek the help of a veterinarian familiar with guinea pigs.

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

Giving fluids | 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/giving-fluids#:~:text=Your%20guinea%20pig%20may%20be,given%20to%20your%20guinea%20pig

Guinea pig care. (n.d.). CHICAGO EXOTICS ANIMAL HOSPITAL. https://www.exoticpetvet.com/guinea-pig-care.html

People foods to avoid feeding your pets. (n.d.). ASPCA. https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/people-foods-avoid-feeding-your-pets

Quesenberry, K., Mans, C., Carpenter, J. W., & Orcutt, C. (2020). Ferrets, rabbits, and rodents: Clinical medicine and surgery. Saunders.

What do I need to know about my Guinea pigs’ health? (n.d.). RSPCA Knowledgebase – Let Australia’s most trusted animal welfare charity help you answer the big questions. https://kb.rspca.org.au/knowledge-base/what-do-i-need-to-know-about-my-guinea-pigs-health/

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