YVCipedia GUINEA PIGS
A guinea pig may lose its appetite as part of the signs of a wide variety of problems, including:
- after any kind of surgery or dental procedure- gastrointestinal disease
- urinary tract disease
- poor nutrition
- kidney disease
- liver disease
- upper or lower respiratory disease
- cystic ovaries
- cancer anywhere in or on the body
Dental disease can cause a bit of a different situation: the guinea pig might be painful, but it might also be simply unable to eat because of overgrowth of the teeth.
Regardless of the cause, it is a very important problem when a gp stops eating. Within a very short period of time, serious, even life threatening complications can develop, particularly involving the liver and digestive tract.
Encouraging the pet to eat and syringe feeding are vital treatments.
ENCOURAGING THE GP TO EAT
A gp might be tempted to eat by offering it dark, moist greens, including cilantro, lettuce, parsley, carrot tops, etc. Top-quality grass hay should be available, along with a small amount of fresh pellets. Adult gps should have no more than 1/4 cup per day of pellets, but we sometimes ignore this guideline for a sick gp.
Removing all of the normal bedding and replacing it with hay can be a very effective strategy to get the pet to start eating. Soiled hay should be removed and supplemented with fresh hay, and the entire pen should be changed often enough to keep it clean.
If the guinea pig cannot be tempted to eat then syringe feeding is necessary. Sometimes owners find this challenging; the following are some detailed tips and techniques that we find useful.
We use a relatively small 1 ml syringe, and we cut the nozzle off the end to widen it slightly. It is easy to draw up the food; only a modest amount can be injected at a time, so the gp can swallow easily and will not gag; it fits better into the gp's mouth, which is long and narrow.
Critical Care Fine Grind by Oxbow is an excellent syringe feeding formula, and it is the one we use at YVC. Emeraid Herbivore by Lafeber is another good formula. Either one should be mixed with water to a thin batter consistency that will easily be drawn into the syringe and pushed out of it. As an alternative, pellets, fresh greens, vegetable baby foods, water, and a small amount of sugar-free fruit juice can be processed in a blender to a similar thin batter consistency.
These syringe feeding formulas should be fed at 10 to 15 ml of the batter per kg of guinea pig weight (this translates into about 2 to 3 teaspoons per 1 lb) 2 to 4 times daily. Some gps will more easily accept smaller amounts more frequently, up to once per hour. Some gps will readily accept more, and it is fine to feed as much as they will eat.
Place the gp on a table or counter on some newspaper or towel. Leave the gp in its normal standing position, and allow it to walk around when you refilling the syringe. Hold it as loosely as possible when placing the syringe in the mouth; some gps do not need to be held at all. GPs will usually struggle vigorously when held firmly, and it is not possible to syringe feed them while they are struggling. Do not tip the head back and do not hold the pig upright. Holding the gp on your lap, cuddling it, or swaddling it in a towel will not make it more comfortable; it will make it more difficult or even impossible to syringe feed.
Place the tip of the syringe into the mouth from the side, in the space just behind the incisor (front) teeth, angle it so that it is pointing towards the back and center of the mouth and gently but firmly push it in. It is fine if you feel the syringe hit the cheek teeth on either side or if you feel the pig chewing on the tip; in fact, this tells you the syringe is in far enough.
Do not squirt the contents in quickly. Steadily inject 1 ml in about 3 to 5 seconds. If the gp is in normal standing position, is not being restrained or cuddled, and the syringe is far enough into the mouth, it will move its jaws and swallow as the food is injected.
Do not be discouraged if some leaks out. Have paper towels or tissues handy to wipe the gps chin, feet, and and the table as needed.
GPs have a normal maintenance requirement for water of about 2/3 cup water per lb body weight per day. The water in its food and syringe feeding formula counts towards this total.
Even though smaller amounts of water are helpful, and certainly better than nothing, it is not possible to adequately hydrate a guinea pig with a dropper or syringe. It is a relatively easy medical procedure, however, for us to give a substantial dose of fluids by injection once every day or two until the pig is drinking well on its own.
Adult gps need about 50 mg of vitamin C per day. It is especially important that this requirement is met for a sick gp. While syringe feeding formulas, pellets, and some foods are good sources of vitamin C we do not rely exclusively on them when a gp is ill. Instead, we start with vitamin C injections for hospitalized gps, and we dipense oral liquid vitamin C that can be given with a dosing syringe for treatment at home.
Yarmouth Veterinary Center