Taking care of our pets is the primary thing, apart from just play time and feeding. Good care of the pet is an essential thing, regardless what kind of pet you keep. Often, owners of guinea pigs wonder what are the signs of a guinea pig being sick or unwell. Normally, these pets are easy to take care of and are not so often in grave health dangers, but can have some minor health issues.
Can guinea pigs throw up? Rodents, in general, do not throw up. Guinea pigs belong in the rodent family and therefore, they are not able to throw up. There are certain exceptions however; rarely, guinea pigs might burp out certain things from their stomach and throat, but not throw up as most mammals do. Guinea pigs have body characteristics that don’t allow throwing up, due to a less muscular diaphragm, thin muscles under the chest and lungs, and tight stomach that stops content to move upward toward the throat.
It is very interesting that guinea pigs, i.e., rodents cannot throw up food, but rarely, they can burp out or ‘release’ certain unwanted items or some toxins through the mouth – and this just appears to be similar as throwing up. Researchers found out that when provoked to be nauseous, guinea pigs as well as other rodents similar to them, do not respond to those triggers. In fact, they manifested less mouth, nerve and throat activity, as well as less shoulder activity, meaning guinea pigs lack brain circuits to throw up.
The Main Causes of ‘Throwing up’ in Guinea Pigs and How It Can Be Controlled
Guinea pigs vomit very rarely, and when they do, it is not typical vomiting, but more like nausea and removing of foreign bodies from the insides or toxins and objects. When the cavy does something like this, it is of no great concern, but it is worthy of a veterinarian to check up.
Sometimes, diarrhea problems manifest in this way with guinea pigs, and therefore, it is crucial to differentiate the content between diarrhea and regular vomit. What is astonishing, is that the texture and color of the rodents’ ‘vomit’ are the same as the foods digested in their stomachs, which can cause confusion between these two kinds of inside content. If inside content is diarrhea, it will be seen spread all around the cage of the cavy, whereas ‘vomit’ content is seen in one or two different spots, not spread out.
So, why do guinea pigs throw up? Their throwing up is not due to nausea, as it is with mammals and humans, but most likely congestion of ingesting hair, or food and hair out of another guinea pig (in case you have more than one). This is not harmless and can be compared to cats coughing up their own hairs as a hairball.
Another reason why a guinea pig would throw up is eating foods with mold on them. The signs of a cavy that has eaten moldy foods are strange and uneven growth, often throwing up and/or swollen vulvas.
Another possible cause for throwing up can be a gastric ulcer. If the cavy seems pale especially around the mouth (where you can see its circulation, pale mouth versus red-pink mouth), so this means the cavy suffers from blood loss due to the ulcer, and in this case, the ulcer has to be removed and treated by a veterinarian.
Finally, another possible cause is the common guinea pig disease Ileus. Basically, a healthy guinea pig must always eat good food and defecate regularly. But, if the cavy rarely touches the food and passes stools very rarely, it could have Ileus. This disease builds up gasses in the gastrointestinal tract, or the stomach and intestines. Since there is no normal peristaltic (moving of stool naturally) in the digestive system, the gas causes immense discomfort and it stays trapped in the body, pressuring the whole stomach. This condition can be very dangerous and even life-threatening for the guinea pig, and it needs instant medical attention and medications.
And, what causes the Ileus? This can be triggered or caused by another, underlying condition that makes the guinea pig lose appetite. Often, moving around the cage, another guinea pig introduced, respiratory infections and issues, or ectoparasite in the system (lice for example) will stress out the guinea pig that much, that it loses the appetite and develops Ileus. In other words, now the least you can do is watch out for the stress and anxiety factors of your adorable cavy!
If Guinea Pigs Cannot Throw Up, What Exactly Comes out of Their Mouth?
The guinea pigs have many molars in the back of the mouth, toward the throat even. The four teeth in the front are very important, but even more crucial are the incisors in the back, behind the cheeks. There, the cavies chew the food properly before they let it go down, and sometimes they even store food in the back before they consume it – if you have seen the cheeks getting puffy or bigger well that is the food storage.
In case the cavy has problems with the back teeth, they could spit out or burp out half of that stored food that is still not chewed or swallowed. And often, there is food together with hairs spitted out or thrown up sort of. And often, this comes with strange sounds like muffled coughs or throw up gags and sounds, or even gag motions and movements.
To ensure there are no teeth problems, look out for mouth odor and smelly breath in the cavy, or grumpy and nervous behavior especially during eating, wet chin constantly, weight loss, eating certain foods and avoiding hay, dropping pellets and being unable to keep them in the mouth, or teeth under a strange angle.
What to Do If the Guinea Pig Consumes Something Unhealthy or Toxic?
If other pets eat something they shouldn’t have, like dogs eating sweets or toxins and chemicals, there are simple ways to induce vomiting, even if the pet is not nauseous. With guinea pigs, things are a bit more complex. If there is no sharp or dangerous object that really chokes the cavy, content moving up in other cases can even make things worse for the cavy, due to their digestive system structure. As a rule of thumb, always keep the cavy safe from certain foods like snacks and sweets, rhubarb, white potatoes, buttercups, tomato, some mushrooms, and grass pesticide-sprayed.
It is very important to know the tips for first aid or urgent help. If there is an emergency, try to put a charcoal pill/tablet orally, and this could absorb most of the toxins in the digestive system and save your cavy’s life until you go to the veterinarian. Then, the medical expert will recommend some medicines for the intestines or a bit of olive oil to work up the insides of the stomach. It is crucial to remove all feces inside the cage because at that moment the cavy must not re-ingest or nibble around such things inside its cage and this is to prevent further toxins and poisoning!
How to Prevent Poisoning in Guinea Pigs?
Guinea pigs love to walk around, socialize, explore and nibble or munch things. However, such habits can cause them problems. You can ensure your cavy is safe if you keep all medicines above the kitchen cabinets or at least far from the ground or sofas where the cavy might walk around. Also, all cleaning products and chemicals, even toxic plants must be ABOVE ground level – or move them on upper levels when you let the cavy walk on the ground. Do not forget to remove all such toxins, because often people forget that poisons for cockroaches or rats are spread around the house! Some examples of toxic plants are ivy, mistletoe, foxglove, nightshade, poinsettia, oleander, tulips and daffodils.
If there are items with mercury in your home (light bulbs, thermostats, switches for electricity, batteries) around, ensure to remove them out of the cavy’s reach. Guinea pigs often chew out wires and cables which poses another danger for its health.
A simple solution is to close out a certain area as play space if you cannot remove all floor items in the whole home. It can be an area of a few feet or several feet, enclosed, with toys and safe floor-space. At least try to enclose the safest space you can get.
Which Foods Make the Guinea Pig Nauseous or Uncomfortable?
To avoid poisoning or indigestion in the guinea pig, avoid these foods and items:
- Potato sprouts, potatoes, potato peelings
- Beans and bean plants
- Tomato and tomato plants
- Rhubarb and anything linked to it
- Most flowers
- Weeds of unknown origin
- Prepacked and frozen foods
- Fruit cores, seeds or pits
With a proper and healthy diet, hay and pellets, good hydration, most health issues can be avoided in guinea pigs. And the most important thing – always have a clean cage with clean bedding and no stress for the adorable little cavy!