The thing with guinea pigs is, you never know when they’re complaining about something. Cats will try to grab your attention in all the ways possible when they’re in pain, and dogs will pull their best puppy-eyes face on.
Meanwhile, guinea pigs may not show any reaction, and you won’t know something has been wrong until one drops dead without warning.
Guinea pigs die due to many reasons. For example, they may get affected by a change in their habitat, and they may develop a disease or an infection. In all cases, the last thing you want is one of your pigs dying suddenly.
Here, I’ll tell you the most common reasons for guinea pigs dying and how to know something is wrong beforehand.
Guinea pigs may die because of infections, dental conditions, or pneumonia. The reasons are endless, but you can realize most of them before it’s too late.
If your guinea pig gets an upper respiratory infection and is not treated, it can develop pneumonia, a life-threatening condition.
One thing you probably don’t know is that guinea pigs naturally carry Bordetella bronchiseptica and streptococcus pneumonia. Both bacteria are the primary causes of pneumonia when they multiply in an unhealthy way.
If your pig has pneumonia, there’ll be some symptoms, even if they’re mild. For one, the eyes may get inflamed, and the pig may get a fever.
In addition to that, some pigs develop labored breath, which is mostly a sign that the disease is taking over. Others will show normal symptoms like appetite loss.
Pneumonia is curable with some antibiotics, but you should catch it before it gets too far. If the pig isn’t breathing properly, the vet may recommend oxygen therapy.
Remember to isolate your pig if you notice pneumonia symptoms. Some pneumonia types can be transmitted through the oronasal route, and some pigs even get it from sharing food or water with an infected fellow.
You may not believe it, but the reason for your guinea pig dying suddenly can be as simple as a heat stroke. Any animal can die from a heat stroke if he doesn’t get cooled down, and pigs are no exception.
When your pig’s body becomes too hot, it loses its ability to compensate for the moisture loss. So, the pig will be sweating and not getting any water in return. The condition will eventually develop to a critical point, and it may be fatal.
Animals get heat strokes when they stay outdoors longer than they should under the scorching sun. Some fellows will also get it if the humidity is too high or if they’re not getting enough water during a heatwave.
Heat strokes can cause general weakness and lethargy. In more severe cases, some animals collapse and suffer seizures. If the pig isn’t treated, he may suffer brain damage, which is irreversible.
To avoid this, make sure you monitor your pig’s time outside and look for any signs of panting or weakness.
Dental conditions won’t cause your guinea pig to die, but their consequences may do so. For example, some pigs develop dental diseases that make it hard to eat, which quickly develops into anorexia.
If your pig becomes anorexic, his life becomes at risk because his body isn’t getting any food. That’s why you should treat dental diseases shortly after you notice them, especially since they’re common among guinea pigs.
One of the widespread dental diseases among pigs is malocclusion, which is basically overgrown teeth. When the pig’s teeth aren’t correctly aligned, he won’t be able to chew normally because of the slobbering.
The jaws will also fail to align, further complicating the condition.
The treatment of malocclusion takes some time, so make sure to monitor the teeth growth of your pig and consult a vet if something doesn’t look normal.
A salmonella infection, or salmonellosis, isn’t rare for guinea pigs to get. It’s actually more common in animals than humans, and it’s a contagious disease that gets transmitted upon contact.
The infections happen because of Salmonella bacterium, which can come from various sources. For example, it may be present in vegetables your pig feeds on, and some pigs get it from contact with infected fellows.
The symptoms of salmonella include dry hair, fever, appetite loss, and lethargy. Some pigs also get pink eye.
Granted, most salmonella varieties are only carried by the pigs. So they won’t show symptoms, and they won’t get the disease. However, a few types infect guinea pigs, so you should be on the lookout for any abnormal symptoms.
Just like humans, guinea pigs can develop vitamin C deficiency if they’re not getting enough of it. Not only that, but it can also evolve to hypovitaminosis C, which is a life-threatening disease.
Hypovitaminosis C is commonly called scurvy, and some of its symptoms include weight loss, diarrhea, a dry coat, and lethargy. Some pigs also encounter joint pain, but they won’t complain, so you may not notice.
A vitamin C deficiency can compromise all the body’s joints because it’s responsible for producing collagen.
To protect your guinea pigs against diseases like scurvy, make sure they’re getting enough vitamin C. It’s available in green peppers, strawberries, and oranges.
Each pig should have at least 10–20 mg/kg daily. You can consult a vet about the recommended amount and make sure they’re getting it.
Urolithiasis is the medical term for kidney stones, which is a common disease in both humans and animals. In animals, it mostly hits goats, sheep, and cattle in general. However, it can affect guinea pigs too and eventually be a reason for their death.
These stones or uroliths form because of the accumulation of solid minerals. They eventually become as hard as pebbles and block the urinary tract.
Some of the most popular symptoms are urination difficulties and blood spots in the urine.
Whenever you notice your pet is suffering lethargy or showing abnormal symptoms, consult a vet. If the disease isn’t treated at the right time, it can be life-threatening.
You may not see symptoms, but you’ll notice your pig has an uncomfortable posture. Plus, you’ll see they’re urinating less than usual, and it comes out strained.
A vet will diagnose the disease instantly using X-rays and blood tests. Some cases will need surgeries, and others will only need medication. It’s generally a good idea to carry out an annual checkup for your pig to discover such conditions early.
Birds aren’t the only ones susceptible to bumblefoot infection. Most rodents are prone to it, too, guinea pigs included.
A bumblefoot infection can be medically referred to as pododermatitis. The disease comes in the form of sores that affect the feet’ bottom.
It can be treated using antibiotics, but if it’s left without treatment, it can lead to bacterial infections that’ll eventually lead to death.
Not only that, but it can also lead to other conditions, including arthritis, tendon inflammation, and swollen lymph nodes.
Most guinea pigs get bumblefoot because of dirty environments. The condition results from staphylococcus aureus, a bacteria naturally found on humans’ and animals’ skins.
Overweight pigs are also more at risk of getting pododermatitis, so you’ll want to watch your pig’s weight if it gets too much.
The vet will treat bumblefoot using antibiotics, topical medication, and protective bandages. Some pigs with severe infections may be left with lifetime damage, and some may need an amputation.
Most house pets get parasite infestations at least once in their lifetime. If you don’t find the infestation at the right time, it could eventually lead to the pig dying.
Parasites like fur mites and lice will stay on the pig’s fur and keep sucking the blood out. The skin will then get inflamed, and the lost blood will start causing lethargy and weight loss.
These mites also multiply in large numbers, so if they’re not treated, they won’t go away any time soon.
You can make sure the pig isn’t suffering an infestation by doing a simple examination. Check the skin for inflammation or red patches, and you may also look for dry areas.
Remember that the bare eyes don’t see parasites, so you’ll need to look for tangible symptoms to make sure they’re there. You may see hair loss in some cases.
In most cases, the vet will recommend injection or topical medication for the infestation. The treatment is easy, but it’s essential to find the infestation before it gets too far.
While you can’t know for sure if your guinea pig is suffering from something, there are some dangerous symptoms that signal something is wrong. That way, even if your pig isn’t showing major symptoms, you’ll be able to know that there’s something wrong.
Lethargy is a sign that there’s something wrong with your pig, and that goes for all house pets. If you notice your pig sulking or moving less than usual, he may have an underlying condition. Lethargy is one of the symptoms of most fatal diseases, anyway.
You may know your pig is suffering lethargy if he’s slower than usual in responding to your call. If this happens, you should consult a vet as soon as you can.
Any animal that develops a fever is undoubtedly ill, and it’s your cue to consult a vet or start treatment immediately. Most of the time, it’ll be because of pneumonia or some kind of infection, but it can happen due to kidney diseases too.
Treating the pig once you notice a fever is essential to prevent sudden death.
Appetite loss is one of the most alarming symptoms you can see on your pig or any pet for that matter. When guinea pigs aren’t eating, it means they’re either too ill to eat or having some sort of a dental condition that’s preventing them from chewing.
The appetite loss will eventually lead to unhealthy weight loss, and the pig may die suddenly out of weakness.
One easy way to prevent this is to monitor your pig’s daily eating quantities. If you notice one pig is losing weight, keep watching him for days to make sure he’s eating. You can also buy a scale and know for sure how much weight was lost.
Any changes in the guinea pig’s coat can be a sign of something dangerous. You may notice hair loss, thinning, or dullness overall. Make sure to check the skin underneath for redness or inflammation. It can be a sure sign of a parasite infestation.
The way your pig’s body gets rid of feces and urine can be vital in diagnosing fatal diseases. For example, if you notice your pig is suffering diarrhea for no apparent reason, it may be a result of an infection.
On the other hand, if you see bloody urine, it’s a sure sign of urinary tract infections.
Some pigs will also show strain when defecating or urinating. More often than not, that’s because of kidney conditions like stones. Other times, it’ll be because of some intestinal blockage, which is just as dangerous.
If your pig isn’t breathing naturally, it may be a sign of a condition that needs immediate medical attention. There are a lot of breathing symptoms that you may notice, including coughing, wheezing, panting, or difficulty breathing.
Any of these symptoms is a sign that something is wrong, and the earlier you find it, the better.
Guinea pigs may die suddenly because of conditions that you don’t know about. The best thing you can do is monitor them and look out for any abnormal changes in their behavior. An annual checkup is also recommended to make sure there aren’t any diseases you don’t know about.
Plus, it’s essential to keep pigs inside during a heatwave or reduce their time outside. And, always make sure they’re getting enough water.
I have a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering. When I’m not constructing or remodeling X-Ray Rooms, Cardiovascular Labs, and Pharmacies, I’m at home with my wife, two daughters and a dog. Outside of family, I love grilling and barbequing on my Big Green Egg and working on projects around the house. Growing up, I had pet dogs, cats, deer, sugar gliders, chinchillas, a bird, chickens, fish, and a goat.