The purpose of this blog is to share general information and is written to the author's best knowledge. It is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. For health concerns, please seek proper veterinary care.
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Guinea pigs are one of the most common pets that people will own besides cats and dogs, and for good reason. Guinea pigs are loveable and charismatic little creatures that can make a perfect companion for anyone of any age.
As with caring for pets that are not cats or dogs, it is important to make sure that you can do the proper research to provide these animals with a long and healthy life. This applies to guinea pigs as well, as it is important to get a sense of the type of enclosure they should have, what they should eat, and other aspects of their life.
One thing that you will quickly learn when caring for guinea pigs is that hay needs to be a major part of their diet. Guinea pigs should always have access to fresh and clean hay, and more often than not, hay should make up around 70% of their diet.
If you notice that your guinea pig is no longer eating hay, it would make sense to be concerned, given how important hay is for these little guys.
When you notice that your guinea pig is not eating its hay, it is important to try and find out the cause of the problem before your guinea pig begins having nutritional deficiencies.
Problems with the Hay
Guinea pigs are notorious for being picky eaters sometimes, so if you have just bought a new brand of hay, it could be that your guinea pig simply does not like the taste of the hay and prefers another brand that you have purchased.
People cannot really tell how hay will taste for a guinea pig, so there is no real way of knowing what your guinea pig will or will not want to eat until you have a pile of uneaten hay sitting in your guinea pig’s habitat.
There are plenty of factors that can influence the taste of hay for your guinea pig. The most obvious factor is going to be the age of the hay, as hay can lose its taste, the taste can deteriorate, and the hay can become moldy in a worst-case scenario.
The way that the hay was harvested can also have a massive impact on whether or not your guinea pig will enjoy it, and while you have no control over how companies process hay, you can do some research to find places that harvest the hay in a way that guinea pigs enjoy.
Other factors, such as the weather or the way the hay was distributed, can also affect the taste enough to the point where your guinea pig would rather not eat something that is supposed to be the bulk of their diets.
Both rabbits and guinea pigs need hay as a main staple to their diets, but rabbit hay is typically not compatible with guinea pigs, which is another aspect that you need to consider. Hay for guinea pigs should be softer, green, dry, and not dusty.
A good way of knowing whether or not hay is going to be crunchy is looking at the label of the hay you are purchasing. Hay that is labelled as “second cut” or “third cut” is going to be much softer than the hay labelled “first cut,” which is often what is given to rabbits.
Hay that is too crunchy for guinea pigs can actually cause small cuts inside the guinea pig’s mouth, which can also lead to infections, which can lead to potential surgeries and other problems as the infection means your guinea pig won’t be able to enjoy other foods besides the hay.
Another thing to consider is the freshness of the hay. Just as any other food for pets should be, you should always make sure that the hay in your guinea pig’s enclosure is fresh and dry, and if the hay is soiled in any way (because guinea pigs can be clumsy and messy), you need to replace it.
Some guinea pigs are pickier than others, so there’s a chance that your guinea pig won’t want to even touch the hay if it is slightly old, meaning you have to work with the quality of the hay a lot more than you otherwise would.
While it might seem like a lot of work to find the right hay for your guinea pig, getting that right hay is going to help your guinea pig out immensely and promote good health from it. When hay makes up such a substantial portion of your guinea pig’s diet, it becomes all the more important to find hay that is optimal for your guinea pig’s needs.
In short, if you notice that your guinea pig is not interested in the new hay that you bought, and there are no symptoms of an overarching problem, you might want to try to replace the hay with one that guinea pigs would prefer more, and it may take a couple tries to find one that works for your little friends.
If the problem was with the quality or type of hay you were using, your guinea pigs should begin eating the brand-new hay as soon as you introduce it to their enclosure.
If they still don’t want to touch the hay after cleaning their hay dish, you may want to consider the possibility that there may be a bigger problem than just the hay, such as a dental problem or an injury in the mouth.
Problems with the Guinea Pig’s Health
A loss of appetite in animals is often an indication that your guinea pig is suffering from an illness of some sort.
Guinea pigs are naturally prey animals, so there’s a good chance that they will try to hide the symptoms of the illness, but when the problem has progressed to the point where the guinea pig is no longer able to eat, there will often be other signs to look for.
Finding out what those signs are and acting on them is going to be the best way to assess what your guinea pig needs in terms of health and what you can do. With that being said, the moment you realize that your guinea pig has gone without touching its hay for a day or two, you should take it to the vet as guinea pigs will die after several days of not eating.
Other signs of illness will be centered around the guinea pig’s mouth or respiratory system, as these are the most common places where things will happen that affect your guinea pig’s ability to eat. For example, you could look at your guinea pig’s teeth.
Like most rodents, a guinea pig’s teeth will never stop growing, and as such, they need to constantly chew and gnaw on things to keep their teeth at a manageable level.
It may not always be easy to see what is going on with your guinea pig’s teeth, which is all the more reason to take the guinea pig to the vet so that they can use their equipment to examine the guinea pig.
Other signs of problems with the mouth can include being more aggressive than usual due to being in pain, an inability to eat any of their foods, and weight loss associated with a decreased ability to eat as the guinea pig would normally be able to.
These symptoms are also similar to if your guinea pig has an infection in the mouth due to its food being too hard for it to eat.
Another reason why your guinea pig may not be eating its hay is because of a respiratory infection. Guinea pigs, much like other rodents, are prone to problems with their respiratory system and they do not always have the strongest immune systems to fight off infections caught from other rodents.
A good example of this is when you first bring a guinea pig home. The guinea pig will have grown immune to the germs and bacteria from the pet store, but it has no immunity to the pathogens in your home, and it may develop a mild infection, leading to it not wanting to eat.
The signs of a respiratory infection include excessive sneezing, wheezing, coughing noises, and noisy breathing. Again, guinea pigs will try and hide their signs of illness as much as they can, so it is important for you to pay close attention to how your guinea pig behaves and take note of what its normal behaviors are, so that you can get a good sense of if and when your guinea pig strays from its normal.
Older guinea pigs are also prone to losing their appetite due to a variety of reasons. For one, they will not need to eat as much in their old age, so part of this can be attributed to a natural change in behaviors due to the age of your little pet.
It can also be due to the fact that as they age, guinea pigs become weaker in terms of their immune system, leading back to the same problems as with younger guinea pigs or moving a guinea pig from one home to another.
This is something to be mindful of when you are watching your guinea pig grow older and you notice some of its behaviors change over time.
Finally, not eating can be a symptom of depression in guinea pigs, which will typically happen if a littermate passes away.
Guinea pigs are social animals and because they are often housed in groups, when one member of their social group passes away, it is an expected behavior for some of the guinea pigs to exhibit some signs of depression, such as lethargy or not wanting to eat.
The only thing that can help this is often going to be time, but because guinea pigs can pass away after only a few days of not eating their hay as they should, there may not always be that much time to spare.
If you are worried about the health of your guinea pig, the first thing you should do is get in touch with your guinea pig’s vet and give them all of the details so that they can determine if your guinea pig needs to be brought in for some nutritional supplementation.
Problems with the Guinea Pig’s Environment
This last category plays heavily into the fact that stress and depression in guinea pigs is a major factor in reasons why guinea pigs will not eat.
It is important to make sure that your guinea pig has an optimal environment and can live a relatively stress-free life, so that it can also enjoy its hay and get the nutrients from it.
Guinea pigs, as prey animals, are extremely prone to stress. Common stressors in guinea pigs include a change in environment (such as being brought home from the pet store or going to the vet), the introduction of another animal in their lives (could be another house pet, or another guinea pig), or a particularly loud environment, such as a child or a loud thunderstorm.
Another major source of stress for guinea pigs is having a cage mate being extremely territorial. Some guinea pigs, if they are territorial enough, will easily stop and dissuade other guinea pigs from eating.
In this case, you often need to separate the problematic guinea pig from the rest of the group so that they can eat, or adjust their environment so that the problematic guinea pig no longer has a reason to be problematic.
Some of these sources of stress are inevitable and cannot be avoided, meaning that you need to do what you can to minimize their effects. With some of these stressors, chances are that when the source of the stress is gone, your guinea pig will feel more comfortable eating shortly after.
It simply becomes a matter of determining what is causing the stress and seeing what you can do to remove the stress. Again, it is important to work relatively quickly so that you can provide as much time as possible for your guinea pig to get back to eating its favorite hay.