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GUINEA PIGS: NOT EATING WELL, OR AT ALL (ANOREXIA)

YVCipedia GUINEA PIGS
NOT EATING WELL, OR NOT EATING AT ALL (ANOREXIA)

CAUSES
A guinea pig may lose its appetite as part of the signs of  a wide variety of disease processes, including:
- gastrointestinal disease
- urinary tract disease
- pain
- poor nutrition
- kidney disease
- liver disease
- upper or lower respiratory disease
- cystic ovaries
- cancer anywhere in or on the body
- abscesses

A guinea pig may appear to lose its appetite, but instead be physically unable to eat, if it has dental disease. 

DIAGNOSIS  
Guinea pigs may have a decreased appetite due to a variety of illnesses. Regardless of the cause, it is a very important problem when a guinea pig stops eating. Within a short period of time not eating serious, even life threatening complications can develop, particularly involving the liver and digestive tract. 

Diagnosing and treating the problem(s) that are causing the loss of appetite is, of course, very important. Tempting the patient to eat, or syringe feeding are also vital treatments.

TEMPTING  A guinea pig might be tempted to eat by offering it dark, moist greens, including cilantro, lettuce, parsley, carrot tops, etc. Top-quality grass hay should be available, along with a small amount of fresh pellets (adult guinea pigs should have no more than 1/4 per of pellets.)

SYRINGE FEEDING  If the guinea pig refuses to be tempted, then syringe feeding is necessary. We can provide an appropriately sized syringe. Critical Care Fine Grind by Oxbow and Emeraid Herbivore by Lafeber are excellent syringe-feeding formulas. Either one should be mixed with water to a thin batter consistency that will easily pass through the syringe. As an alternative, pellets, fresh greens, vegetable baby foods, water, and a small amount of sugar-free fruit juice can be processed in a blender to a similar thin batter consistency. 

These syringe feeding formulas should be fed at 10 to 15 ml of the batter per kg of guinea pig weight (this translates into about 2 to 3 teaspoons per 1 lb) 3 to 4 times daily. Some guinea pigs will more easily accept smaller amounts more frequently, up to once per hour. Some guinea pigs will readily accept more, and it is fine to feed as much as they will eat. 

To syringe feed, hold the guinea pig in its normal standing position as loosely as possible while still keeping it in one place. Guinea pigs will usually struggle vigorously when held firmly, and it is not possible to syringe feed them while they are struggling. Do not tip the head back and do not hold the pig upright. Place the tip of the syringe into the mouth from the side, in the space just behind the incisor (front) teeth, then angle it so that it is pointing towards the back of the mouth. Slowly inject the syringe feeding formula, about 1 ml every 5 to 10 seconds. Do not be discouraged if some leaks out. Clean-up is easier if this process is carried out on a piece of newspaper. 

WATER  Guinea pigs have a normal maintenance requirement for water of 100 ml per kg of pig weight per day; this translates to about 2/3 cup per lb per day. Even though smaller amounts are helpful, and certainly better than nothing, it is not possible to adequately hydrate a guinea pig with a dropper or syringe. It is a relatively easy medical procedure, however, for us to give a substantial dose of fluids by injection once every day or two until the pig is drinking well on its own. 

VITAMIN C  Guinea pigs need 50 to 100 mg of vitamin C per day. It is especially important that this requirement is met for a sick guinea pig. It is usually best for us to start this supplement with one or more daily injections in the hospital. A dose of vitamin C can be prepared at home by crushing an appropriate amount of a vitamin C supplement made for people with some fruit juice and giving this with a syringe. Please see our article on vitamin C for guinea pigs at www.yarmouthvetcenter.com. 

Yarmouth Veterinary Center
2015

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