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Dr. B.
Dr. B., Board Certified Veterinarian
Category: Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 16286
Experience:  General practice veterinary surgeon with extensive experience in a wide range of species.
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Our guinea pig has suddenly become very quiet, not eating

Customer Question

Our guinea pig has suddenly become very quiet, not eating and is his coat is fluffed up.
He was showing no signs last night but as above this morning.
What can we do??
Submitted: 1 month ago.
Category: Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 1 month ago.

Hello & welcome, I am Dr. B, a licensed veterinarian and I would like to help you today.

Now I must say that I am very worried about your wee one.

The reason is because while fluffed coats are a non-specific sign, his appetite loss is a major red flag. Anorexia is a very serious problem for this species. This is because they have a more complicated gastrointestinal tract then other domestic pets and if you imagine these guts behave like conveyor belts. They should always be moving, which is why access to slowly digestible foods like hays are fed ad lib.

Yet when they start to go off their food, for whatever reason (ie dental disease, GI blockages, respiratory infections affecting their breathing etc), this can cause their gut to slow or stop, which can lead to gastric stasis, a situation which it is one of the few true emergencies for this species. So, if he cannot be tempted to eat/drink properly, then it would be prudent to have him seen by the vet before this can progress any further .

Just to note, some of the other signs we can see with gastric stasis:

  • Decreasing or sudden lack of appetite for food (+/- water)
  • Changes to fecal production (from soft stools, to strangely shaped fecal pellets to diarrhea or no fecal production at all)
  • Off color/lethargy/ hiding
  • No GI sounds or loud uncharacteristic grumbles/growl
  • Stretching out and lethargy (associated with gut pain)

Whatever the precipitating cause, this situation is serious. I advise getting him seen as soon as possible. The vet will able to provide medications to restart the gut ((ie prokinetics, pain relief, +/- fluids, antibiotics) while checking for those aforementioned common triggers. Care is often intensive, and he will likely need to be force fed a highly nutritious food (Oxbow’s Critical Care or Supreme Recovery diet) to restart his GI’s normal movement until he is eating on his own. Just to note, if there is any delay in your getting him seen, you can consider syringe feeding veggie baby food mixed with canned pumpkin and his crushed pellets. This isn't as nutritionally balanced (or provide enough fiber) but it is a short-term means of getting food and some fluids into him in this moment of urgency.

As well, if you are concerned that he might be becoming dehydrated, you can try and encourage him to drink by offering fresh water. If he is not amenable then you can also try pedialyte or diluted Gatorade (50% diluted with water). These will help replenish electrolytes and get some glucose into his system as well as get fluids in. You can also give pedialyte via dropper or syringe. A typical dose for animals is 4.8mls per 100 grams of body weight per day (obviously divided over all day drinking). As well, the fluid that you give in the syringe feeds will help meet this daily total as well.

Overall, this is a serious emergency situation for this species. Often it strikes with no warning since prey species are hardwired to hide illness (else be a target for predation). Therefore, we do need to act quickly to get him eating properly and head off GI stasis. So, in this case it would be ideal to get your vet involved immediately while providing supportive care until he is seen to give him the best chance here.

Please take care,

Dr. B.

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