Guinea pigs are quite the adorable pet. Just watching them much on some hay can instantly make your day a little bit better.
As a piggie parent, you will want to know exactly how long they can survive without food, so you know how long you can be absent for and plan accordingly. While you certainly don’t want an overweight guinea pig, you definitely want to make sure they get enough to eat.
Let’s examine the eating habits and needs of our pet guinea pigs.
How Long Can Guinea Pigs Go Without Food?
Guinea pigs can go around 8 hours without food, although they will even by that time potentially start to develop GI stasis that can be fatal. Guineas need to keep constantly eating, so even short periods without food can be bad for them.
The digestive system of the guinea pig has been designed to keep eating and keep pooping around the clock. If your piggie has not done either in 6-8 hours, you should take them to the vet immediately.
If a guinea pig has plenty of hay, pellets and vegetables at their disposal and easy access to water, they won’t stop eating unless they are already ill, which is again a cause for concern, but for a different reason.
While a guinea pig won’t actually starve in the said 8 hours, they can develop GI stasis. This means they will get severely dehydrated and their digestive tract will stop functioning normally, as they are no longer moving food and fluids.
The condition is painful and highly unpleasant for the tiny furballs, so you should consider it a medical emergency.
Another side effect of going too long without food is scurvy: a lack of vitamin C. You may have heard of it as the disease sailors used to suffer from before they started carrying citruses on board.
A guinea pig will need between 20 and 30 mg of vitamin C every day, and going without it consistently will lead to scurvy, which can also be fatal.
In short, while your guinea may be able to survive even a couple of days without food, they will by then be in severe pain and heavily dehydrated. Always make sure they have plenty of hay, pellets and an assortment of vegetables made available to them on a regular basis.
Can Guinea Pigs Go Without Food For 2 Days?
No, guinea pigs likely won’t be able to go without food for 2 days. They may still be alive, but they will be suffering from GI stasis and scurvy, and their health will be severely compromised.
Never leave your guinea pig without food for a single day, let alone two days. They will be in too much pain from the GI stasis, they will be severely dehydrated and likely suffering from scurvy.
Guinea pigs simply need to be moving food and water around in their digestive tract. They also need to be pooping on a regular basis (and eating their poop), to stay healthy and happy.
How Long Can a Guinea Pig Be Left Alone If Food and Water Are Provided?
Even when they have food and water available, guinea pigs shouldn’t really be left alone for longer than 24 hours.
The worst thing that can happen is that their water dispenser can fall or get blocked, in which case they will quickly start to get dehydrated. Guinea pigs can’t go without water for long, so having something fresh to drink is important.
Their food will also start to spoil, especially any fresh veggies and fruits you have left out for them. Guineas aren’t actually that adept at keeping their cage clean either, so they may get their food wet or spill it all over the place. Plus, they are definitely not going to institute the appropriate rations for themselves.
There’s also the need to change their hay and bedding, so if you plan on being away for longer than a day, make sure to either bring in a piggy sitter, or to take them to someone who will be readily available to keep them happy. Luckily, guineas are easily transportable and their home comforts travel with them.
What Happens When Guinea Pigs Don’t Eat Regularly?
When a guinea pig doesn’t eat regularly, they may develop GI stasis or scurvy, both of which are potentially life-threatening.
Guinea pigs are supposed to be constantly digesting food, pooping, digesting food, eating their poop, eating their food, pooping, and so on. When they don’t have access to food, or even when you change something about their diet, this delicate internal system can start to suffer.
GI stasis, or ileus, is a condition when a guinea pig’s stomach stops moving food and fluids. It leads to dehydration and pain, and should warrant an immediate trip to the vet.
Another horrible aspect of GI stasis is that it will prevent your piggie from eating, due to the stress and pain, so there is no easy way to yank them out of this vicious cycle. If they don’t have water either, the dehydration will only set in quicker, and lead to complications faster.
You will notice your piggy is in pain by their hunched position. They will also probably refuse to eat or play, and remain still, appearing lethargic and desolate.
GI stasis can be treated by massage, fluid therapy, drugs and painkillers. It will require the attention of your vet, and should not be treated at home alone. You may be prescribed a specific diet for your guinea, or you may need to give them gentle massages yourself. Always listen to the advice of your vet to help your guinea pig recover as soon as possible.
The other side effect of a lack of food is scurvy, a lack of vitamin C. This is another illness that needs to be treated by a vet, and recovery can take a while.
The symptoms you need to watch out for are weight and hair loss, sluggishness and pain in the joints.
To prevent scurvy, you need to feed your guinea adequate amounts of vitamin C daily (20 to 30 mg). The best option is to give them fresh fruits and veggies that are high in it, first checking if guinea pigs are allowed to eat them.
Signs to Watch Out For If Your Guinea Pig Has Been Left Without Food or Water
If you believe your guinea pig may have been left without food or water, or may have failed to eat or drink for an extended period of time, here are the signs you need to keep an eye out for:
- Are they refusing to eat and drink now that you are back home?
- Are they pooping as normal? Is their poop a different size or shape?
- Are they urinating as normal? Does their urine smell differently or is it a darker color?
- Are they making odd noises they don’t usually make?
- Do they appear to be in pain? Are they restless or lethargic, are they grinding their teeth or haunching? Are they drooling?
- Are their eyes dull? Do they appear unfocused?
- Are they breathing normally?
If you notice any of these signs, or if your guinea pig appears not to be its usual self, take them to the vet. Also bear in mind that symptoms of GI stasis and dehydration may not appear immediately, so if you suspect they have not been eating or drinking, take them for a checkup just to be sure they are not starting to decline.
What Should I Do If My Guinea Pig Refuses to Eat or Drink?
If your guinea pig is refusing to eat or drink, you need to keep a close eye on them. A trip to the vet will most likely be warranted as well.
If you notice your piggy isn’t eating some or all of their usual food, try to be on higher alert. They may just be going through a bit of a mood, but you want to be absolutely sure they are getting all the nutrients they need, and that they don’t stop eating for too long a time.
If you have changed something about their diet, they may just not like the new foods you are serving them, in which case you should revert back to what you know they enjoy. If they refuse to eat that as well, you will want to take them to the vet.
If your guinea has recently moved into a new home, you may need to give them some time to adjust. Offer them their favorite food to get them to start eating, but keep monitoring how they behave.
Since guinea pigs are social animals, they can get quite lonely when on their own and stop eating. If their cage mate has died, find them a new one as soon as you can.
Guinea pigs can also get fleas, although rarely, so if your piggy is dealing with an infestation, that may be the cause of their reduced appetite.
Bear in mind that a sick guinea pig can’t last as long without food as a healthy one, so if your piggie is refusing to eat, give them a couple of hours before taking them to the vet, just in case it’s a temporary upset.
Wrapping It Up
Guinea pigs can’t last long without food. In fact, even though they aren’t nocturnal, they will keep munching through the day and night to stay healthy and satisfied. Keep them in fresh hay, pellets and veggies and fruits, and you should have one very happy guinea on your hands.