Guinea pigs can suddenly die, it is the most difficult moment for any guinea pig owner.
Some guinea pigs die gradually within days or weeks of becoming ill, but there are also cases where they die very quickly within hours.
The worst case scenario is when the guinea pig dies without warning, suddenly without any warning or symptoms.
Why do guinea pigs die suddenly?
Guinea pigs die suddenly because they show no signs of being sick, so their owners are unable to treat them in time and save or extend their lives.
In today’s article, you will learn about the possible causes of sudden death in guinea pigs, and what to look for in order to recognize the signs that indicate that something is wrong with your pet.
How to prevent sudden death in guinea pigs?
Guinea pigs can die suddenly for a number of different reasons.
They may appear perfectly healthy and suddenly die because they may hide the disease until they become too sick or die.
Therefore, let’s take a closer look at the following signs:
- the guinea pigs are hiding
- they don’t want to eat
The guinea pigs are hiding
Guinea pigs, like other animals, especially those belonging to smaller groups, always hide the disease.
They hide the disease to prevent predators from attacking them when they sense that the guinea pig is weak and sick and take advantage of that moment of weakness.
In a cage, guinea pigs do not need to fear predators, but their nature has done its thing, and they cannot lose that natural instinct.
They will hide all the time until they are seriously ill or before death, just so they don’t discover that they have a problem.
Unfortunately, many times we notice that a guinea pig is sick or about to die when it is already too late and we cannot help them get well.
They don’t want to eat
When guinea pigs do not eat it is a very important sign that something is wrong with them.
Healthy guinea pigs have an appetite and they eat and drink water all the time, and if they don’t eat then it’s probably a disease.
That’s why we should pay attention to their behavior and notice when something is wrong with them until it’s too late for their lives.
Guinea pigs have a very specific digestive system that has to constantly work and process food.
When guinea pigs do not ingest food, then their intestines do not move the food and the guinea pig slowly dies.
That’s why they should always have enough food such as hay, which is their primary food, as well as supplement their diet with vegetables and fruits to get enough vitamins and minerals.
Prevention of sudden death in guinea pigs
In order to prevent the sudden death of the guinea pigs, we should pay attention to how they behave, whether they are eating enough, etc., every day.
Therefore, pay attention to the following signs:
- pooping problems – when they have diarrhea or too dry poop then something is wrong with them.
- blood in the urine – indicates bladder problems or kidney problems.
- they have no appetite – this sign is a serious indication that something is wrong with your pet.
- weight loss – is one of the most important signs that a guinea pig is sick and has a serious health problem.
- difficulty breathing – indicates that the guinea pigs may have a respiratory infection and are therefore having difficulty breathing.
- lethargy – means that the guinea pig is not well and the cause must be determined.
These and other symptoms are very important signs that something is wrong with your guinea pig and you must take him to the vet immediately to be examined.
The sooner you take him to the vet, the better and faster your pet will recover, and you can save him from sudden death.
Reasons Why Guinea Pigs Die Suddenly
My research on sudden death in guinea pigs found as many as 12 causes of sudden death and so I will share them all so that together we can know how to deal with and protect the guinea pig.
Stress can cause sudden death in guinea pigs
Stress can cause sudden death in guinea pigs, especially when they get irritable bowel syndrome when the intestines don’t work properly.
When guinea pig is stressed, they lose their appetite for food and their digestive system stops working.
When a guinea pig is under stress, the intestines in their stomach work at a slower pace, which is not good even for the food they have in their stomach, because it will not be processed.
Stress in guinea pigs can also occur if the guinea pig is lonely, since in nature guinea pigs usually live in groups.
When they are in a group they take care of each other and help each other in terms of nutrition and protection from possible predators.
While in the cage, the guinea pig has no friends except its owners, who if they do not take care of them properly, will get stressed and may suddenly die.
Guinea pigs also get stressed by:
- loud noise
- changes in temperature
- a small cage
- other pets near them
All these things affect your pet so we have to be careful that they don’t get stressed and die.
Guinea pigs die suddenly because of a bad past
When a guinea pig has a bad past before you buy it, it can be the reason why it dies suddenly and quickly.
If the guinea pig is not raised correctly before you buy it, it can cause death.
Guinea pigs that have been poorly kept and fed with food that is not intended for them, or have been kept in poor housing, can be causes of sudden death.
It is safest if you buy a guinea pig from a reputable breeder who has taken good care of the guinea pig.
In doing so, you can ask to see the parents of your guinea pig, the year of birth, see what accommodation it is in, and whether it is fed properly.
The better the guinea pig is kept by the breeder, the lower the chances of him having a disease that could cause him to die suddenly.
When you buy a guinea pig, it is best to first take it to a vet to have it examined and to see if everything is in order with its health.
If you already have one guinea pig at home and now you are buying another one, then put the new guinea pig in isolation quarantine for 20 days so that it does not possibly transmit any disease to the other guinea pig.
Salmonella bacteria can cause sudden death in guinea pigs
Salmonella bacteria is a very dangerous contagious infection that can cause sudden death in guinea pigs.
This bacterium is transmissible and can be spread through contact from one guinea pig to another or from another animal.
When guinea pigs have salmonella they show the following symptoms:
- lack of appetite
- paternal glands
- liver problems and enlargement
- eye inflammation
- the fur becomes rough and flat
When guinea pigs have salmonella, treatment is very problematic because many of the antibiotics used to treat them can destroy the intestinal flora.
If such an undesirable situation occurs, the guinea pigs will be in an even more dangerous situation.
To prevent salmonella from occurring in your pet, you should regularly wash your hands and keep the cage always clean and disinfect it with a solution of vinegar and water in a ratio of 50-50 to destroy any bacteria.
Guinea pigs should not be in contact with other pets that can spread salmonella and make your guinea pig sick.
If you notice that the guinea pig has symptoms that indicate that something is wrong with its health, you should immediately take it to the veterinarian.
Dental problems can cause sudden death in guinea pigs
Although it may seem a little strange how teeth can cause sudden death in guinea pigs, it does happen indirectly.
When guinea pigs have dental problems, overgrown teeth, or pain, this can cause them to avoid eating. When guinea pigs do not eat, it is usually the beginning of problems with their digestive system.
This further leads to intestinal problems and diseases that can cause the sudden death of your pet.
That’s why you must take great care of the teeth of the guinea pigs and allow them to always have enough hay, vitamins, and minerals in their diet to avoid problems.
Their teeth are constantly growing and if they don’t eat enough hay they won’t be able to reduce them.
In addition to hay, guinea pigs must also have enough toys and other items to help them reduce their teeth and keep them in the right shape and size.
When the teeth are overgrown, the following occurs:
- abscess- pus in the mouth and gums in guinea pigs, which will cause them to avoid eating.
- malocclusions – when guinea pigs do not eat properly and damage other teeth in the mouth.
All these problems indirectly affect the health of guinea pigs and can lead to sudden death due to intestinal issues.
If you notice that the guinea pig struggles when eating, then immediately visit a veterinarian who will examine it and if necessary reduce its teeth so that everything is in order.
If the guinea pig does not get vitamin C it can die suddenly
Guinea pigs cannot produce vitamin C and therefore must get it through food. If they don’t get enough vitamin C, scurvy occurs and sudden death occurs in our little friends.
Guinea pigs need 20-30 mg of vitamin C daily, mostly through a varied diet or food enriched with this important vitamin.
If you give them vitamin C as a supplement from some commercial foods, you should pay attention to the expiration date, because the more the period passes, the more the content of the vitamin itself decreases.
If the guinea pigs do not get enough vitamin C they will get scurvy which can be fatal for their life.
Signs of scurvy are the following:
- problems with movement and balance
- occurrence of diarrhea
- weight loss
- the fur becomes coarse and greasy
- lack of appetite to eat
- bleeding gums
So make sure you always give them enough vitamin C through their diet and don’t put vitamin C in their drinking water, because they won’t want to drink it, which leads to another problem, i.e. dehydration.
I give my guinea pig a leaf of spinach or a little pepper and other types of vegetables rich in this vitamin.
Intestinal stasis is a direct cause of sudden death in guinea pigs
Intestinal stasis is when the digestive system of guinea pigs ceases to function, they stop eating and drinking and then die quickly and suddenly.
The problem of intestinal stasis most often occurs when changing the diet of guinea pigs, because there are bacteria in their stomachs that break down food.
Changing the diet too quickly makes it impossible for the bacteria to process the new food and the food gets stuck in their stomach.
Then the guinea pigs have pain, gas, and stoppage of the work of their digestive system which ultimately results in sudden death.
To prevent intestinal stasis from occurring, you just need to pay attention to the changes in the guinea pig’s diet.
Always introduce the new food gradually and everything will be fine, only in this way you can prevent such a dangerous situation for the life of the guinea pig.
A heart attack causes sudden death
Guinea pigs can die suddenly of a heart attack. Guinea pigs need a stress-free life to be happy and less likely to have a heart attack.
In order not to have a heart attack in your pet, it is necessary to always have hay and other food, because lack of food can only cause stress and heart attack.
Guinea pigs need attention to feel happy and content, which reduces the chances of a heart attack.
The cage should have enough space which is also an important factor for the guinea pig to feel happy and stress-free.
If you have other pets in the home such as cats then make sure they are not near the guinea pig as they will scare him and can cause stress and illness.
Speaking of heart attacks in guinea pigs you should know that when a guinea pig dies it is best to do a necropsy which is the same as an autopsy in humans.
When a necropsy is performed, it can be determined whether the guinea pig actually died of a heart attack or some other disease.
Old age is a cause of sudden death in guinea pigs
Guinea pigs can die suddenly due to old age, as they are then susceptible to diseases and health problems. As the guinea pig ages it loses its strength and energy and is not as mobile as when it was younger.
That’s why sometimes it seems to us that the guinea pig died suddenly, but in fact, we haven’t noticed that old age is the main reason.
When guinea pigs reach about 4-5 years of age, it is already considered old, and we can expect that they will slowly start to have more and more problems with their health.
Sometimes we don’t even know the real age of the guinea pigs we buy from a pet store and we may be surprised when they start to age.
When a guinea pig is younger it has thin and clean nails, while older ones have thicker nails with a darker color.
To reduce the chances of your guinea pig dying suddenly of old age you should keep them as well as you can:
- always have hay and a variety of food rich in vitamins and minerals.
- play with them and play for an hour every day so that the guinea pig feels that you love him enough.
- do not annoy him and speak quietly, and the environment should be quiet without loud noise and other pets near him.
All these steps will improve his life and allow him to live as long as he can because stress and lack of food are the biggest danger in shortening the life of guinea pigs.
Pneumonia causes sudden death in guinea pigs
Unfortunately, guinea pigs often suffer from pneumonia which can quickly make a guinea pig sick and cause it to die suddenly.
The main causes of pneumonia are streptococcal bacteria and Bordetella infections.
Initially, the guinea pigs get an upper respiratory tract infection which, if not treated in time, then progresses to pneumonia.
When guinea pigs have pneumonia they have the following signs:
- shortness of breath
- lose weight
- they get a temperature
- they cough
- they sneeze
- their noses run
- they have no appetite to eat
In order to prevent the occurrence of pneumonia, you need to pay attention to the following things:
- always be careful not to leave your pets exposed to moisture or drafts
- they should always have a good and healthy diet
- the bedding should be clean and dry
- do not leave windows and doors open
If the guinea pig gets pneumonia, it should be treated immediately by a veterinarian, using appropriate antibiotics to quickly improve the condition and calm pneumonia.
Diarrhea and dehydration
Diarrhea and dehydration can be very dangerous for guinea pigs and cause sudden death so you should watch out for some signs.
Diarrhea occurs when the guinea pig has poor nutrition, bacteria, and viruses.
When the guinea pig has lactation it is often associated with the occurrence of dehydration that leads to the death of the guinea pig, because if your pet is dehydrated for more than 3-4 days it can die.
The easiest way to know if the guinea pig is dehydrated enough is to pinch the skin, if the skin returns quickly to its position then it is fine, and if it takes 5 or more seconds then it is dehydration.
When a guinea pig is dehydrated:
- no appetite to eat
- he doesn’t drink water
- the urine is darker in color
To remedy this situation you should always allow them to have clean and fresh water, and check that the water bottle is working properly.
Sometimes guinea pigs don’t drink much water when they eat foods like vegetables that are rich in water.
Usually when they eat more hay, then they drink more water, if even then they drink water poorly, you should take them to the vet.
A guinea pig can die suddenly from antibiotics
Some types of antibiotics can harm guinea pigs and cause an imbalance in their digestive system.
Then the guinea pigs don’t want to eat, lose weight, get diarrhea, and finally, can die suddenly.
That’s why you should always make sure when you give them antibiotics that they are prescribed by a veterinarian, never give them on your own without prior consultation.
Sometimes it can happen that antibiotics prescribed by a veterinarian manifest badly in guinea pigs, so if you notice any of the symptoms we have listed, immediately stop the therapy and go to the veterinarian.
Cancer causes sudden death in guinea pigs
Cancer can cause sudden death in guinea pigs. Cancer in guinea pigs usually appears in guinea pigs when they are older or about 4 years old.
When guinea pigs have tumors, they can be treated, but it all depends on the place where they appeared and whether they are benign or malignant.
Malignant tumors are life-threatening for guinea pigs and can cause sudden death, while benign tumors are not life-threatening.
One of the most common types of cancer that occurs in guinea pigs is cancer of the lymphatic glands.
In order to prevent the occurrence of cancer, we need to provide them with a comfortable life, a healthy diet with vitamins and minerals, and antioxidants that destroy the free radicals that are responsible for the occurrence of cancer.
Guinea pigs can die suddenly for many reasons such as old age, disease, dehydration, dental problems, and many others.
The most important thing is to notice when something is wrong with your pet and take it to the vet immediately.
Guinea pigs know how to hide when they are sick, but rarely will they show any sign or symptom that indicates something is wrong with them.
The more you know about your pet, the easier it will be to detect when something is wrong with him and help him heal and get on with his life.