10 Common Causes of Guinea Pig Death | Funeral, How to Deal with the Loss & More

Death is something that we don’t like to think about. The perspective of losing a loved one is always disturbing and terrifying. Even when we are talking about saying goodbye to a pet.

Guinea pig’s death is caused by different health problems, such as vitamin C deficiency, diarrhea, respiratory and urinary problems, tumors, and parasites. When you know that they’re dying, help your dear pet with its basic need.

10 Most Common Guinea Pig Death Causes

Guinea pigs are amazing pets because, unlike other rodents, they live relatively long lives and can become real family members. Our furry friends can live up to 8 years. But there have been reported cases when guinea pigs lived up to nearly 15 years!

If you take great care of your pet, then the chances are high that your guinea pig friend will live a long and happy life.

However, you should also know about the dangers and diseases that can become a real threat to your guinea pig’s life. Even though these animals are pretty much low-maintenance, there are some particular diseases that the little guinea pigs are prone to.

6 Health Problems in Guinea Pigs

1. Vitamin C Deficiency (Scurvy)

Guinea pigs cannot produce vitamin C. That’s why it’s incredibly important to make sure that your beloved pet gets enough vitamin C in its diet. You might even consider buying a special vitamin C supplement.

The fluffy guinea pig ball will start developing various skin conditions, in case there is not enough vitamin C in its diet. Moreover, the guinea pig will become more prone to various infections: develop swollen joints and feet, ulcers on its gums, and diarrhea. If these conditions go untreated, the little guy might die. So, as soon as you spot one of these symptoms in your guinea pig, please take him to the vet.

Ideally, your guinea pig needs to consume 10-30 mg of vitamin C every single day. This amount depends on the age of your guinea pig, whether or not it is pregnant or recovering from an illness, and so on.

Unfortunately, vitamin C is an incredibly gentle substance that can easily disintegrate. Make sure that the pellets, fruits, and vegetables are always fresh, and consult your vet if you feel like your guinea pig might need some vitamin C supplements.

2. Diarrhea

Diarrhea can cause the death of a guinea pig if it goes untreated. These animals have very specific gastrointestinal flora. In case it is out of balance, the poor fellow can experience pain, and gas will build up in the tract, which can slow down digestion.

In the most severe cases, the gastrointestinal tract can get damaged; the ‘bad’ bacteria might start releasing toxins, and that will lead to terrible diarrhea. Moreover, some infections and parasites can cause this condition.

In case you spot any of these symptoms, you have to immediately take the poor guinea pig to the vet. It is important to know that the little guinea pigs can be given only specific antibiotics. An exotic pet specialist who has been working with guinea pigs for years can prescribe the right antibiotics. Otherwise, an unsuitable drug can fully ruin the gastrointestinal flora of the guinea pig.

3. Respiratory Infections

Basically, guinea pigs are animals that are surrounded by hay 24/7 and hay is not the best surrounding for any respiratory system. If the little guinea pig starts to sneeze, has trouble breathing or if you notice any kind of discharge from the nose or eyes, the guinea pig needs to be taken to an exotic vet.

In the most severe cases, the guinea pig can develop pneumonia or an upper respiratory infection. These bacterias usually infect old or young guinea pigs. At the moment, pneumonia is one of the most deadly diseases that a guinea pig can get.

4. Urinary Problems

Unfortunately, urinary stones are quite a common problem in guinea pigs. Moreover, these stones can develop not only in the bladder but also in the kidneys or the urethra. It’s a very painful condition for the guinea pig.

The poor fellow might refuse to eat, have blood in the urine or even fail to produce urine. In the worst cases, the stones can be removed only with a surgical operation. If the condition goes untreated, the guinea pig will die.

5. Abscesses and Tumors

Guinea pigs can develop various tumors throughout their lives. Breast and skin tumors, for example, are relatively common in a guinea pig. It might be cancer, so you have to immediately take your fluffy ball to the vet if you notice any strange formations. Tumors can be removed only surgically.

Abscesses are another terrible thing that can affect your guinea pig. Basically, an abscess is an infected swelling. It can form practically anywhere. Bones, teeth, nodes, and internal organs are included. Abscesses can also be removed with the help of a surgical knife, but, unfortunately, sometimes the body part that has been affected needs to be removed as well.

6. Parasites and Other Skin Conditions

Even though skin problems might not sound as bad as pneumonia, they can become extremely dangerous for the life of your guinea pig, if they go untreated. Mites might cause the guinea pig’s skin to itch so much that it can cause them seizures! Lice are also a dangerous problem. The fluffy guinea pig ball might scratch off its skin and then develop a secondary infection.

The skin of the guinea pig can also get affected by a different fungus. The guinea pig can start to lose hair. In addition, the skin can be very itchy and the guinea pig could develop crusty scabs which, once again, are a great gate for any secondary infections.

In a nutshell, the best thing that you can do for your little ball of happiness is to control its nutrition. Also, make sure that the cage and your hands are always clean. Play with your pet so that it does not feel lonely. Take the little guinea pig to the vet every time you feel like something is wrong.

Related: 7 Common Skin Problems in Guinea Pigs | Causes and Treatment

4 Guinea Pig Sudden Death Causes

The diseases that we have already mentioned usually develop gradually in guinea pigs. As a result, you have some time to notice that something is wrong. Moreover, you can take some preventative measures to ensure that your guinea pig does not get sick.

However, there can be times when a guinea pig simply dies. And you have no idea why your guinea pig is gone. Here are the main causes of sudden death in guinea pigs:

1. Heart Attack and Stroke

Guinea pigs are extremely gentle animals that can’t handle stress well. If something too scary or exciting happens, the heart of the little guinea pig might not make it. Moreover, sometimes genetics play a huge role in whether or not the guinea pig is prone to heart attacks and strokes.

2. Bloat

Excessive gas production seems like something not too dangerous. But because guinea pigs are tiny animals, bloating can be a condition that causes sudden death. Sometimes when the movements of the gut are not regular and the gas can’t find its way out of the body, it can cause extremely painful conditions. Sometimes, the tiny guinea pig can die because it can’t handle the pain.

3. Dental Diseases

The teeth of guinea pigs grow throughout their whole life. That’s why it’s incredibly important to make sure that your pet has something to chew on at all times. In the worst-case scenario, the teeth might overgrow and cause pain. The cavy would, most likely, stop eating and as a result, die.

4. Stress

Stress is, in most cases, only a symptom of a bigger problem. If the poor guinea pig is in pain, for example, or has an infection this will certainly cause stress.

However, even social stress can be dangerous (like moving the cage or loud noises). These things might result in a stroke or in the loss of appetite. If you fail to deal with the stress factor, then the guinea pig might die.

What Does A Dead Guinea Pig Look Like?

What Does A Dead Guinea Pig Look Like

It will appear lifeless and cold if the death occurred within 72 hours. It will become motionless and unresponsive with closed eyelids.

More than likely, it will appear smaller and flatter. There won’t be any breathing or heartbeat. However, if its eyes are still shining, it’s possible that it is only in shock and not completely dead.

How Do You Know Your Guinea Pig Is Dying?

How Do You Know Your Guinea Pig Is Dying

There are a few symptoms that might mean your guinea pig is actually dying. They consist of the following:

  • A loss in appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Not receptive to your touch or words
  • Having trouble moving
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Anorexia
  • Sleeping at odd hours
  • Urine with blood in it
  • Difficulty breathing

The condition has to be watched if your guinea pig exhibits any of these symptoms. If you’re unsure of what’s wrong with your small pet, take them to the vet.

How to Take Care of a Dying Guinea Pig?

How to Take Care of a Dying Guinea Pig

There are times when you have to accept the fact that your precious guinea pig is going to pass away soon. In such a case, you, as a loving owner, should try and do everything possible to ensure that the poor guinea pig does not suffer during the last days of its life.

Help your dear pet with its basic needs. Sometimes, dying guinea pigs are too weak to eat or drink. Offer the little guinea pig some water from a bottle or even a spoon.

If the piggy can’t chew any longer, you can make a special ‘smoothie’ made of hay, pellets, and water. Ground up the ingredients, mix them up with water, and offer the mixture to the guinea pig. At the same time, if the little fluffy ball refuses to eat or drink, do not force it.

You have to do everything possible to keep the guinea pig comfortable. If the tiny guinea pig has friends, then don’t separate them. The only case when it would be appropriate to place the guinea pig in another cage is if you notice that the other animals are being aggressive towards their dying companion.

If it’s possible try not to make any changes in the guinea pig’s lifestyle. Do not move the cage or change the lighting, for example. Make sure that there are no disturbing loud noises and that the temperature is at optimal levels.

You might even want to try to wrap the little fellow up in a blanket to ensure that the guinea pig is warm. Moreover, the guinea pig will feel more secure. You would want to ensure that the cloth is clean. If it’s possible, try using a material that your guinea pig is familiar with.

How to Organize a Proper Funeral for Your Guinea Pig?

What Are You Going to Do with the Remains?

You might want to bury the body. Usually, such a process is accompanied by some rituals that will make it easier for you to deal with the loss. Moreover, you can pay a visit to the small ‘grave’ of your beloved pet whenever you feel like it. Simply remember to make sure that you bury the body on your property.

Some prefer to set the remains on fire and this method certainly does have its own pluses. The whole process has to be 100% safe, so don’t set a fire where you are not allowed. Make sure that you fully control the flames at all times.

Basically, you can treat the body of the guinea pig as you like, as long as the way does not violate any laws or regulations. Moreover, remember about sanitary norms and make sure to keep the remains away from other animals and children.

What’s the Best Way to Memorialize Your Beloved Guinea Pig?

Even though your guinea pig is no longer with you, you can still dedicate some time to celebrating the little fellow’s life. The main aim of the process is to make it easier for you to deal with the loss and bring you and your family members some peace of mind.

The guinea pig funeral itself can become a great way to say the last goodbye to your friend. You can ask every family member to tell a story about the guinea pig. Moreover, you can print some photos of the little guy and plant a tree, for example, in honor of the fluffy ball.

You can totally keep a photo of your beloved pet in your house. In such a way, you will smile every time you see the image, as you will remember all the wonderful moments that you have shared together with your guinea pig.

How to Deal with the Loss of Your Guinea Pig?

Feeling sad is absolutely normal. It is not a ‘silly’ feeling that you have to try and hide. Throughout the years, the little guinea pig had become practically a family member and you are going to miss your beloved pet.

Don’t hide your true emotions. Give yourself some time to process the grief. Talk to someone who understands your feelings, even if it means sharing your experience on the Internet. You are not alone and others can help!

How to Help the Guinea Pig’s Companions Deal with Its Death?

The chances are high that you had not one, but two or more guinea pigs. Guinea pigs are social animals and they feel much better if there is another guinea pig around them.

When one of the animals passes away, the second one will feel sad. However, you have to make sure that the second guinea pig understands that his friend had died and that he’s not coming back. Otherwise, the poor animal might feel like it had been abandoned and it will become anxious.

The best way to let your other guinea pig know that the guinea pig had passed away is by leaving the body in the cage for a while. You don’t have to leave the other guinea pig alone with the body. Sometimes only a couple of minutes are enough. Animals can easily figure out when their friend is dead. Simply let the other guinea pig sniff around and then remove the body.

List of Sources

An Investigation Into the Relationship Between Owner Knowledge, Diet, and Dental Disease in Guinea Pigs (Cavia Porcellus)

Nutrient Requirements of Laboratory Animals: Fourth Revised Edition

Management of Skin Conditions in Guinea Pigs

Guinea Pigs: Good Practice for Housing and Care