No one wants to face the moment of a pet’s final moments. But it is important to know the signs your guinea pig is dying.
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All things come to an end. It is rough and painful and terrible. But cherishing the moments with your guinea pig is the best antidote to grief. By knowing the signs if your guinea pig is dying, you can provide them the best during their final moments. Knowing these signs also can bring peace of mind for other situations when your guinea pig is actually ok.
This article is just as much a way to provide owners peace of mind. Often, our minds jump to the worst possible conclusions when there is really nothing to worry about.
1 A Heavy Read Made Light
2 Signs of Illness or Disease in Guinea Pigs
3 Health Concern Sign #1: Stool Changes
4 Health Concern Sign #2: Loss of Appetite
5 Health Concern Sign #3: Fever
6 Health Concern Sign #4: Old Age
7 Health Concern Sign #5: Changes in Coat or Skin Condition
8 Health Concern Sign #6: Lethargy
9 Health Concern Sign #7: Respiratory Problems
10 How to Help a Dying Guinea Pig
11 Share Your Story
A Heavy Read Made Light
We understand that it can be painful to think about losing your beloved guinea pig. So, we have organized this article to be as compassionate as possible.
We have made sure to list all the most important signs along with their danger level so you can quickly navigate through this article.
If you have any additional questions, please let us know in the comments. However, our best advice is always to seek out a veterinarian for any of these signs.
We provide well-researched and factual articles, but nothing beats a vet with years of specialized training.
Signs of Illness or Disease in Guinea Pigs
Many of these signs are simply indicators that something is wrong with your guinea pig’s health. They do NOT necessarily mean that your guinea pig is dying.
However, that does not mean they can be ignored. Even small health problems can get worse without treatment.
Fortunately, many of these symptoms are easily treated. Providing sanitation and a healthy living space for your guinea pig go a long way in ensuring they live long, healthy, and happy lives.
Health Concern Sign #1: Stool Changes
Danger Level: Mild to Severe
Changes in stool are the first warning sign for health concerns for most animals. Same goes for humans!
Often, changes in stool are the body’s attempt to remove dangerous or toxic material from the system as quickly as possible. That’s what diarrhea basically is: an emergency flush button.
Guinea pigs are no different. While most stool changes may be temporary, or in response to a single meal. Other times, they can signal more pervasive health problems.
Healthy guinea pigs will produce a fair amount of stool, but it should all be the same consistency.Color: medium to dark brownShape: oval and roundedConsistency: uniform (between soft and hard)Smell: most odorless
Anything that diverges from this will be a cause for concern. However, some changes are less likely signs of serious illness than others.
Any prolonged change in stool merits a vet visit. But the below changes might point to a more urgent problem.Soft, smelly poo: While this might not always be highly dangerous, it always deserves a trip to the vet. It is basically piggy diarrhea, and it means they have something in their digestive system that shouldn’t be there.Bloody poo: This could mean your guinea pig has an obstruction, inflammation, or a tear. In any case, it is not necessarily a sign your guinea pig is dying, but it DOES mean you need to take your cavy to the vet.
Health Concern Sign #2: Loss of Appetite
As a guinea pig approaches old age, it will generally show a loss of appetite. But if it shows the same while younger, it can be a sign that your guinea pig has some health problems.
If your guinea pig has begun leaving any food uneaten or untouched, we recommend taking them to your vet.
It could be a small concern, but we never advise taking chances when it comes to your cavy’s health (or your own health, for that matter).
The changes might be small at first. So we recommend always keeping track of what your guinea pig is eating and how much they do.
Treating any concerns earlier on will usually prove more successful.
Health Concern Sign #3: Fever
Guinea pigs run a naturally high temperature, somewhere between 102-104 degrees Fahrenheit. Toasty! While this might seem like a lot, it is a healthy range for cavies.
However, if your guinea pig is running a fever (even slight) it could be a serious sign of illness or disease.
A fever could especially be a symptom of pneumonia, which can be common in guinea pigs and often fatal.
If you regularly pet or hold your guinea pig, you should have a good idea of their normal temperature. So if something seems off, it is time for a trip to the vet.
We do NOT advise trying to take your cavy’s temperature with a normal thermometer. Instead, it is best to let a vet do it with a specialized thermometer.
Health Concern Sign #4: Old Age
We all have a limited amount of time on this earth, but what is important is how we spend the time we are given.
For guinea pigs, that lifespan is between 4-8 years. Though short, you can certainly pack a ton of pleasing memories into this time frame.
But, if your guinea pig is getting closer to that eight-year mark, it might be time to start preparing for what comes next.
Signs of your guinea pig aging include:Thickened, twisted toes on their pawsCataracts (visible as cloudy eyes)Tumors/growths around the body or headVisible stiffness in the joints or hobbling movementSignificant loss of energy (lethargy)
Until we discover the key to piggy immortality, the best we can do is ensure those final months or years are filled with warmth and love for your cavies.
Ensure their diet stays healthy, their environment is clean and comfortable, and they get to spend quality time with you.
Health Concern Sign #5: Changes in Coat or Skin Condition
Another early warning sign of an unhealthy guinea pig is changes in their skin or fur. Specifically, we recommend looking out for:Dull coat or loss of sheenThinning hair or significant hair lossVisible inflamed skin with patches of hair lossRough change in coat’s texture
Most of the time, changes in your cavy’s coat aren’t immediate, severe symptoms. But getting treatment is still important. Coat and skin conditions might start out less harmful, but they can either worsen or be a sign of a larger issue
Health Concern Sign #6: Lethargy
Lethargy can be the trickiest to spot, and also can often be interpreted as more serious than it is. But unfortunately, the opposite is also true.
Many owners might see their guinea pig have a drop in energy without knowing that it could be one of the mains signs your guinea pig is dying.
But, the first step when you notice a drop in energy in your guinea pig is NOT to panic. Lethargy itself can be temporary, and we hope this is the case for your cavy.
It could be a sign of malnutrition. Or maybe they haven’t been getting enough exercise. Or they might be stressed.
But, it also can point to something more dangerous. If you notice significant drops in your guinea pig’s activity levels for at least a week, we recommend a visit to the vet.
But if your guinea pig is older, a sudden energy drop might merit an immediate pet visit. It could mean that their body is winding down, and your local vet can help you with a plan to provide a comfortable final chapter to your cavy’s life.
Health Concern Sign #7: Respiratory Problems
Again, breathing problems are not exactly one of the immediate signs your guinea pig is dying, but they are SERIOUS. If you notice any of the following, we recommend going to the vet as soon as possible.
Fortunately, many respiratory problems are treatable. But the sooner you get your piggy to a vet, the better the odds are of treating the illness.
Watch out for:CoughingWheezingLabored breathingRegular and violent sneezingExcessive panting
All of these could point to pneumonia, which is a common cause of death for guinea pigs.
How to Help a Dying Guinea Pig
If you have received bad news about your guinea pig, first we want to offer you our condolences. We understand the pain of losing a pet and know that it is not easy.
Guinea pigs might be small little critters, but they have a huge impact on our lives. And they leave a big hole when they are gone.
But, in your guinea pigs final days, you can do your best to ensure a comfortable and love-filled passing. As soon as you notice signs your guinea pig is dying, it’s time to make sure they feel extra loved.
The exact process for helping a dying guinea pig will vary, depending on your cavies condition. But there are a few general tips we have found to work.See Your Vet: Your vet will be able to let you know exactly what your cavy needs.Keep Them Company: If you have other guinea pigs, let your cavy spend time with them. We also recommend staying in your guinea pig’s presence as much as possible. They might not be up for playing, but they will appreciate you being near them.Separate Them from Other Cavies: This might seem to contradict the previous point, but we only advise this if your other guinea pigs don’t get along with this one. The goal is to provide as stress-free an environment as possible.Keep Them Warm: Older guinea pigs are especially more vulnerable to getting a chill. So ensuring your cavy is covered in a soft, light blanket can make them more comfortable.Assist in Eating/Drinking: If your cavy is losing mobility, offer them water and food using a spoon or similar utensil. They might struggle to get it on their own, so let them conserve the energy.
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Calm and Quiet: The last thing your piggy needs right now is stress. Try to keep their environment as clean, quiet, and peaceful as possible. Show Them Love: Maybe you can’t hold them or pick them up, depending on their condition. But you can get close and show affection by laying a hand next to them, gently petting them, or simply sitting beside them.
Share Your Story
Losing a pet is a painful and difficult experience. So we invite you to share two things in the comments below. First, we ask you to share your favorite memories of your piggies (or other pets) to keep their memory alive and cherish the time you spent with them. Also, we we invite you to share how you have dealt with the pain and sorrow of losing a pet. Your advice might help others who are struggling and dealing with loss.
But most importantly, we wish you and your guinea pigs long happy lives filled with pleasant memories, joy, and (above all) love.