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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Pet guinea pigs are notoriously fussy when it comes to food. There are many reasons why your pig may be turning up its nose to pellets. Do not panic – it does not necessarily mean that your beloved pet is ill.
A sudden change in the brand of pellets or moving from a diet of hay, fruits, and vegetables to one of pellets are common reasons that guinea pigs avoid eating their pellets. If a pig that usually eats its pellets suddenly refuses their daily food, there could be an underlying health issue.
If your guinea pig is not eating its pellets, observe its behavior to figure out the possible reason. It could be due to stress, not enough fresh water, hot weather, or simply because they do not like their pellets.
This article will help you understand why your guinea pig is not eating its pellets and what you should do.
Why Won’t My Guinea Pig Eat Their Pellets?
There are several reasons why guinea pigs may not be eating their pellets. To establish the underlying reason, start by answering these questions:
- Is it a young guinea pig that is not used to eating pellets?
- Is your adult guinea pig refusing its usual daily pellets all of a sudden?
- Have you recently changed the brand of pellets you buy?
- What type of pellets are you feeding it?
Common reasons that guinea pigs do not eat their pellets:
- Overgrown teeth
- Recent surgery or stress
- Issues with liver functioning
- Gastrointestinal blockage
- No available clean water
- Hot weather conditions
Guinea pigs are notoriously fussy eaters. If you suddenly change the brand of pellets you feed, it may take a while for them to adjust.
Young guinea pigs need to be trained to eat pellets, especially if they originally ate a diet of vegetables, fruit, and hay.
The problem may be health-related if your adult guinea pig suddenly stops eating their pellets. It could also be that your guinea pig is uncomfortable in hot weather, or their watering bottle is empty.
How Long Can a Guinea Pig Survive Without Eating?
Guinea pigs can survive without eating pellets indefinitely, provided they have other food to eat, like fresh vegetables and hay.
Generally, if guinea pigs stop eating altogether for two days, they are likely to die. If they do not meet their daily fiber requirements, they get very ill.
What to Do When Your Guinea Pig Refuses Food
It’s normal to worry if you notice a distinct change in your pet’s eating habits but try not to panic it you see your hamster avoiding their pellets!
There may be a number of reasons. Observe their behavior closely to determine whether you should take your guinea pig for a veterinary consultation.
- Are they avoiding pellets and still eating hay? Will they accept treats?
- Is your pet less energetic than usual? Do they seem lethargic?
- Are they urinating? Does their fecal matter look normal?
If your guinea pig is still eating their other food, drinking, and is otherwise acting normal, there is probably no cause for concern.
If you notice that they lack energy, won’t eat treats, stop urinating or have diarrhea, your piggy needs to see a vet immediately.
Go to a vet that specializes in exotic animals. While we do not typically think of guinea pigs as “exotic”, a vet that is used to working with small-bodied mammals will be better able to help your pet than one that focuses only on cats, dogs, and livestock.
Guinea pigs are prey animals, and therefore mask their symptoms when they are in pain to hide that they are weak and thus an easy meal for predators. This is very different to cats and dogs, who may whimper or wail when they feel sore.
This is why guinea pigs might not appear sick until they are so ill that they can no longer hide it. Keep a close eye on your guinea pigs’ appetite as an indication of their health.
Loss of interest in food can be a sign that your guinea pig is very sick. If they do not receive veterinary care, they may die.
How to Encourage a Guinea Pig to Eat Pellets
If it seems like the problem is more behavior-related than health-related, you can train your guinea pig over time to eat pellets. You can also do certain things to make the pellets seem more appealing to your guinea pig.
Offer Food on a Schedule
Instead of leaving a container of pellets in their enclosure all day, offer it to them at the same time every day. Not having the pellets freely available may change the way it sees the pellets.
The smell of fresh pellets may be more enticing to them than the smell of pellets that have been sitting in the cage for a while.
Place Pellets Near Their Hiding Spot
Guinea pigs like to eat in a place they feel safe. If you put the food bowl far from its hiding spot, a timid guinea pig may not feel confident enough to eat its pellets.
Feed your guinea pig some of their daily portion of pellets by hand. While holding your guinea pig and interacting with them, feed them 5 or 6 pellets like treats.
If your guinea pig associates their pellets with positive experiences, they will start to think of them as treats and be more excited about eating them.
Use Your Voice
Our pets cannot understand the meaning of our words, but they definitely can understand our tone of voice.
If you speak to your guinea pig in a certain tone of voice when you praise them, use that same voice when you present them with their pellets. They will start to associate that tone of voice with treats.
Guinea pigs are intelligent and can quickly learn key sounds or phrases. Does your piggy go wild when it hears the fridge door opening? Or when they hear a packet crinkling?
Jazz Up Their Pellets
Make your guinea pig’s pellets more appetizing to them:
- Mix drinking water with organic apple juice in a spray bottle. Spray the diluted juice onto your guinea pig’s daily portion of pellets (spread them out on a flat surface so that they get evenly coated). When the pellets have dried, give them to your guinea pig. They may enjoy the sweetness that the apple juice adds or the way it brings out the hay smell of the pellets.
- Combine pellets in a bowl with your guinea pig’s favorite greens. Shred the greens to make them easier to mix with the pellets. Your guinea pig will enjoy their little salad. Never withhold greens from a guinea pig to try to encourage it to eat pellets!
Best Pellets for Guinea Pigs
Veterinarians recommend the following pellets for guinea pigs:
- Oxbow Essentials Adult Guinea Pig Food
A Healthy Diet for Guinea Pigs
Guinea pigs need to be fed a variety of foods to stay healthy. Hay should make up around 80% of their diet, and the rest should be fruits, vegetables, and pellets.
Pellets only need to make up around 5% of a guinea pig’s daily food.
A healthy portion of pellets to feed your guinea is 1/8 cup per day. Choose a high-quality brand of feed that does not contain seeds or dried fruit.
Guinea pigs’ bodies do not naturally produce vitamin C, so they must consume it in their diet. It is important that they meet their vitamin C requirements. They can develop problems with their immune system or even scurvy.
Their pellets are thus fortified with vitamin C, but this should not be their only source of this vitamin.
Fruits and Vegetables
Feed your guinea pig one cup (120-150 grams) of fresh vegetables every day.
The bulk of this can consist of herbs and leafy greens, like cilantro, parsley, kale, and lettuce. To ensure they get their vitamin C, give them broccoli and red or green peppers every day.
Give your guinea pig a variety of different vegetables to keep their diet interesting and balanced. Add in some carrots, zucchini, tomato, and sweet potato a few days per week.
Fruits contain a lot of sugar. You should give fruit to your guinea pig as an occasional treat. Do not feed them treats more than once a day.
Small slices of apple, orange, banana, blueberries, kiwi, and strawberries are delicious and nutritious treats for guinea pigs.
Some vegetables are very high in calcium, like kale and spinach, and therefore you should only feed them a few times per week. Lettuce, cilantro, and cucumber are lower in calcium, so they can be fed every day.
Guinea pigs that eat a high calcium diet are more likely to develop painful stones in their bladder.
The bulk of a guinea pig’s diet is made up of hay. They should be given an unlimited supply of fresh hay each day to keep them healthy.
It is critical for guinea pigs to nibble on hay because the fiber helps their digestion, and the hay wears down their ever-growing teeth. Guinea pigs with overgrown teeth are highly stressed and can have trouble feeding.
Guinea pigs need to eat 90 to 100 grams of hay per day to keep their gut functioning normally. Without enough fiber, they can develop gastrointestinal stasis. It weakens their bodies overall and makes them more susceptible to diseases.
Alfalfa hay contains high levels of protein and calcium. It should be fed to young guinea pigs that are less than 6 months of age. Alfalfa hay is too nutritious for adult guinea pigs and should only be given to pregnant pigs.
Timothy hay is good for adult guinea pigs.
Do Guinea Pigs Need Pellets?
Guinea pigs do not strictly need to eat pellets to get a healthy, balanced diet. Many guinea pigs do not have pellets in their diet but have access to unlimited hay, vegetables, and fruits.
Pellets are intended as a substitute for vegetables and hay to make it easier to keep guinea pigs as pets.
Owners that do not feed their piggies pellets need to make sure they feed them vegetables and fruits that are high in vitamin C. It is also critical that they have access to lots of hay.
Things You Should Not Feed to Guinea Pigs
To keep your piggy in the best possible condition, there are a few foods to avoid feeding it. While these foods are not toxic to your guinea pig and will not immediately harm them, the long term effects of eating these foods is not healthy.
Foods High in Oxalates
Guinea pigs are highly susceptible to getting painful stones that develop in their kidneys and bladder. The stones consist of calcium oxalate.
Foods that contain high levels of oxalates are spinach, parsley, and strawberries.
Commercial Guinea Pig Treats
Often these treats contain artificial flavors, colorants, and preservatives. Do not waste your money on commercial guinea pig treats. Instead, feed your beloved piggy pieces of their favorite fruits as a treat.
If a guinea pig does not eat its pellets, it is not necessarily an issue. If it still eats its vegetables, nibbles on hay, behaves normally otherwise and accepts treats, it may just be that they are not interested in their pellets. You can train them or entice them to find pellets more appetizing.
However, if a guinea pig that usually eats pellets suddenly stops eating, it can be an indication that there is something wrong. If they develop gastrointestinal stasis, kidney or bladder issues, have overgrown teeth, or are stressed, they may stop feeding. It is critical to take your guinea pig to a vet that specializes in small mammals, as they can die if they do not eat for two days.