How To Comfort A Dying Guinea Pig In 8 Illustrated Steps

How-to-comfort-a-dying-guinea-pig

After all of the beautiful moments, the warm cuddles, and even tough periods, it’s often hard to admit your precious little cavy is set for departure.

Reflecting on the memories of my sweetheart Evie, I couldn’t agree more. She was loving, sociable, and also the dearest pet to my heart. When I took her in, she would often try to hide inside her wooden house each time she stumbles upon my big dog. This didn’t continue for too long as they both became good friends.

Evie loved being petted and made friends with literally every member of my family. I realized that not only was I taking care of her, but was also taking good care of me. I remember the moments during the lockdown when I would be stuck at home in complete boredom and depression, cute Evie, always relieves my anguish and puts a smile on my face.

Unfortunately, a point came in my life where an awful event took place. Evie was in so much pain with labored breathing, lethargy, and loss of appetite. The vet said she had pneumonia, and did everything possible but sadly, my beloved passed away. I’m really missing her and I’m quite lonely right now but I believe she’s at peace wherever she is 😭😭😭.

From my experience, I’ll share from start to finish, the best ways you can give comfort to a dying guinea. I’m sure that your cavy will be ever grateful that you went this far to take care of him, even on his deathbed.

1. Stroke Them With A Calming Hand

When nearing death, forming a closer relationship with your guinea pig is very vital. A gentle and soothing stroke is an excellent method to achieve that. If your guinea pig is dying due to physical trauma or painful parasitic skin infection, this may not be suited for them. If he is resisting your touch as well, then it is time to switch up things.

On the other hand, most guinea pigs enjoy being petted as a form of affection especially when they are fully aware of your presence. When they know you are around, they feel safe and less scared.

As a cavy parent, you should know your pet’s favorite spot and how they like to be touched. Some may prefer to be petted under the chin, on the top of the heads, around their ears while others would enjoy a back scratch back. Also, guinea pigs should be always stroked in the direction of their fur growth.

Do not make so much noise or get all aggressive when dealing with a dying guinea pig. Before stroking your little pal, ensure he is positioned in a safe, flat and stable location where they are not likely to fall from. It’s not best to carry your cavy in your hands at this point because he could slip off and fall to the ground. Not your luck pal.

This will help your guinea pig throughout this difficult time and show them how much you care.

2. Talk or Sing To Them in A Gentle Voice

If you frequently talk or sing softly to your guinea pigs, it has probably become part and parcel of their life.

Similar to most animals, guinea pigs exchange information through verbal and non-verbal clues. Hence, If you talk to them, they are not able to decipher the actual words, but the tone of your voice will always speak for itself. A soft tone of voice will be interpreted as love, care, relief and safety. It’s very important to apply this tone to your voice while you are speaking to your dying guinea pig.

Though owners claim otherwise, it has not been scientifically proven as to whether guinea pigs enjoy being sung to. But we know the behavioral response of your guinea pigs, can be influenced by the type of song or music they are listening to. Guinea pigs are more sensitive to sound than humans and you should be careful not to sing with a loud sound as this may cause your piggy to panic in fear or anxiety.

Gently talking or singing to your guinea pig will give him a sense of relief and is likened to doing so to a human infant except that they will never get to learn precise words. They are usually not as smart as dogs but one thing they will always recognize is a soothing tone in your voice.

3. Take Your Cavy To A Separate Enclosure To Reduce Stress.

Healthy guinea pigs always display a great deal of aggression in their behavior ranging from popcorning, to nipping, biting and chasing one another.

When you have a sick or dying cavy in the same cage as the healthy ones, he may become to poor victimized fellow amidst tough bullies. So, it’s high time you separated him from the vigorous herd. It’s best to place him in a large-sized cage so he can experience the best comfort ever.

If one of your guinea pigs is dying from an infection, it’s best to separate them from the rest to prevent the risk of disease outbreak among the group of guinea pigs. Though very rare, infected guinea pigs can also spread diseases (such as salmonella, and lymphocytic choriomeningitis) to their human companions. Just make sure you maintain proper hygiene while dealing with your cavy friend.

4. Ensure They Have A Clean, Quiet, and Well-ventilated Living Space.

In the very last days of your guinea pig, he is most likely going to be weak and there is a great need for him to conserve as much energy as possible. So, it is necessary to make his cage, free of turmoil, stress and discomfort.

First, you have to make sure that your cavy’s cage is clean and not smelly. I would recommend lining his cage with a kiln-dried pine shaving. It’s safe, soft, absorbent and gives the cage a refreshing pine scent in place of bad odor.

Having a pine bedding of 2 to 3 inches thick will make it difficult for your guinea pigs to burrow through. If your dying cavy still lingers on for more time than expected, then you may have to change his bedding at least every third day. You can ensure your cage is kept dry by providing your piggies with a leak-free water bottle.

Also, guinea pigs are extremely sensitive to noise. It’s wise to maintain a quiet environment around them as this will help ease stress and fear. More importantly, the cage should be spacious and placed in a room with plenty of fresh air so that any bad odor can be quickly eradicated.

5. Shower Them With Lots Of Attention

Now, you may have separated your dying guinea pigs for valid reasons, he is most likely going to feel lonely and bored. Through this period of time, the least you can do is to give him enough love and attention.

Guinea pigs enjoy human company but may not like to be held for too long. However, they still need some petting, cuddling and interaction but just know when to stop because they also cherish freedom. You can tell when they need some time alone based on their behavior. If you live with kids, you must prevent them from roughhousing your cavy.

Do a good job of looking after your guinea pigs especially at this point in their life. Never abandon them. Some signs you are likely to notice include twitching movements, loss of appetite, forced breathing, lethargy, or diarrhea. You can contact your vet to see if anything can be done to improve the condition.

6. Ensure That They Are Kept At A Suitable Temperature.

Guinea pigs rely upon other members to stay warm. So, when you separate a dying cavy from the herd you need to ensure that an optimum temperature is maintained in the environment.

You can make sure that your guinea pig is warm by keeping their cage indoors and shutting the windows at night or during winter to prevent the cold breeze from wreaking havoc on your cavy’s health. Pine beddings, wooden hide-outs, towels and blankets will help to better maintain a comfortable temperature.

A great way to keep your guinea pigs warm is to use a pet-safe electric heat pad. With snuggle safe microwavable heat pads, your cavy is in safe hands and there is no chance of overheating. You can place a thermometer in their cage to measure the temperature and regulate it when necessary.

Too hot temperatures can cause your guinea pigs to develop heat strokes so avoid exposing them to sunlight and use well-regulated heating pads. The video below highlights 10 things that your guinea pigs hate and you definitely need to be aware of them all.

7. Provide Them Tasty Food Alongside Fresh Water

Owners often feed their guinea pigs on a balanced proportion of pellets, hays and fresh vegetables, in order to make sure they are always healthy. Well, now your guinea pig is about to give up the ghost, you don’t have to totally comply with these rules. Up the game for your piggy and give him that special treat you have been reserving.

When your guinea pig approaches death, he may have a hard time eating and drinking as normal. Do well to contact your vet and explain the condition to him.

Make sure your piggies have easy access to food and fresh water. They cannot go for a very long time without food so do not allow them to starve lest they can come down with intestinal blockage.

Guinea pigs normally eat a lot of dry food and the only way to keep them hydrated is by providing a fresh and clean supply of water. If your guinea pig goes with water for a long time dehydration can occur. This is a medical emergency and could even lead to death.

Dehydration can be corrected if the cause is known. Various reasons why your guinea pig may be dehydrated include diarrhea or lack of water supply. Also, lethargy can prevent your guinea pig from reaching out for his water bottle when thirsty, potentially leading to severe dehydration.

Rehydrating your guinea pig involves either oral delivery of water with a syringe into his mouth or intravenous administration of water (which will be done by your vet).

8. Relieve The Pain By Giving Medications (Only If Recommended By Your Vet)

Guinea pigs do not make it obvious when they are in pain. So you may need to observe closely for any symptoms or behavioral changes associated with pain.

The common symptoms of pain in guinea pigs include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Restlessness
  • Teeth grinding
  • Continuous squeaking in a loud voice
  • Fast Breathing
  • Curved posture with spiky hairs
  • Aggressive Behavior

If your guinea pig is displaying any of these symptoms, your vet may recommend medications for the treatment of the symptoms and the relief of pain so that your fur baby can have a more tolerable ending. Ensure you don’t give your guinea pig any over-the-counter pain medication without veterinary approval.

Signs That Your Guinea Pig Is About To Die

Muscle Twitching

The common cause of involuntary muscle contraction in guinea pigs is the infestation of mange mites which burrow into their skin and creates an itchy sensation resulting in a seizure-like contraction and pain. This causes the guinea pig to bend his head sideways or maintain a hunched posture while dying.

A muscle twitch is also seen in seizures, where there is abnormal electrical activity in the brain. This is often accompanied by loss of balance and mental confusion.

Loss Of Energy

Guinea pigs are playful, aggressive and bouncy creatures. So, when they are dying, you’ll notice that they just lie in a single spot without being able to move. They may lack the energy to carry out their daily routines such as eating, drinking, jumping and exercising.

Sometimes, this may be caused by stress and your cavy suddenly becomes lively when the factors inducing the stress are taken away.

If your guinea pig is not eating and drinking as normal, this could be fatal. You can force-feed it by using a syringe or pipette. It is best to contact your vet to know the cause and whether or not the condition can be corrected.

Change In Body Vitals

In the final days of your cavy friend, there is likely going to be a sudden change in the vital signs. If the abnormal vital signs like fever, high blood pressure, increased breathing or heart rate, do well to contact your vet. I have listed the normal value of the most important vital signs to check in your guinea pig.

  • Normal body temperature ranges between 98 to 103F.
  • Normal heart rate ranges between 230 to 250 beats per minute.
  • Normal respiratory rate ranges between 42 to 104 per minute
  • The average normal blood pressure is 70/48 mmHg.

Not Eating Or Drinking

It’s not uncommon for an sick animal to refuse eating or drinking of any form. A dying guinea pig is no exception. However, they need food to provide them with energy and allow the proper functioning of their system. A good intake of freshwater ensures your guinea pig is healthy and well-hydrated.

In the case where your guinea pig stops eating or drinking, they are going to be malnourished and severely dehydrated. This is usually caused by dental injuries, hot environmental conditions, sudden dietary changes, water deprivation, stress or infections. If left untreated, this may have a fatal ending.

Try giving them their favorite food to see whether they will eat them. If not, Force-feeding or oral rehydration can bring about an immediate relief but to get the best result, it’s advised to let your vet handle the condition.

Make sure your guinea pig is placed in a calm and stress-free environment to know whether there will be any behavioral change.

Social Detachment

As death draws closer and closer, your guinea pig may have a difficult time responding appropriately to the happenings in their surroundings. They may no longer give much attention to their toys or best treats and usually lose interest when petted by people. Very often, they tend to become tired and sleep longer than normal.

Make sure you respect their need to be left alone sometimes. This does not mean that he has stopped loving you. It may just be that they are lethargic, in pain, or unable to move and express their emotions even when they want to.

A dying guinea pig could also show some symptoms of anxiety that can make him withdrawn from the environment.

Labored Breathing

As your guinea pig is dying, his respiratory system may no longer function in a regular manner. He may experience difficulty in breathing and a longer time is required to complete full respiration.

Labored breathing is one of the final signs that appear in a dying guinea pig and at this point, the part of the brain responsible for regulating respiratory reflexes may be impaired. This may also occur as a result of the narrowing of the airways or weakness in the respiratory muscles.

You may notice that cavy begins to gasp for air, causing him to put in greater effort in order to inhale and exhale air. This condition is often intensified on mild exertion.

Whenever you notice your dog struggles to breathe, it is important to contact your vet for medical intervention. Most times, with proper management medications, this condition can be treated and the free flow of air through the airways can be established.

Bowel and Bladder Incontinence

Incontinence is more common in guinea pigs that are in their declining years. This happens when there is a loss of control of the bowel or the bladder causing the contents to be emptied involuntarily. In this case, If you apply pressure on their abdomen, you may notice a discharge of the intestinal contents or urine.

This is often a sign of a deeper condition that may either involve brain function or non-neurological factors such as muscle injury or urinary tract infection.

If your guinea pig is having incontinence, this does not always indicate that they are dying. Simply, visit your vet to find out the cause and determine whether it can be treated. Incontinence caused by non-neurological factors has proven to be more treatable.

Clean your guinea pig with a damp cloth when their body is soiled with feces or urine. Do not pour water over them as they are susceptible to pneumonia. Always keep an eye on your furry buddy and make sure you clean their cage and change their bedding regularly.

Unusual Squeaking and Teeth Chattering

Guinea pigs normally squeak to draw their owner’s attention, but when they squeak without stopping, it may indicate that they are experiencing discomfort, in pain or even dying. They also squeak when fighting with their cage mates.

Teeth chattering denotes happiness and ecstasy, but it could also mean that your guinea pig is stressed, too cold or in severe pain. Do well to find the cause or better call your vet.

Reasons Why Your Guinea Pig Is Dying

Watching your lovely cavy pass out is often a painful experience, especially when you have bonded so well with them. It is natural to wonder what went wrong and whether it can be corrected.

As a cavy parent, it is your responsibility to ensure that the chances of your pet getting ill are minimized at all costs. Guinea pigs are very easy to care for, regardless of that, inadequate care and hygiene on the part of their owners can lead to many serious illnesses, some of which can be fatal. It is very important to be strict with what you feed your pet and keep a close eye on them to ensure they are in good health and are living amicably among one another.

Just like in humans, a myriad of factors can cause death in guinea pigs, whereas only a good number of them occur very frequently. They include but certainly not limited to :

  • Pneumonia
  • Vitamin C Deficiency
  • Stroke
  • Bacterial and viral Infection
  • Gastrointestinal Stasis (Ileus)
  • Diarrhea
  • Ectoparasites
  • Pregnancy Toxemia
  • Hypothermia or Heatstroke
  • Heart Attack
  • Toxicity Following Antibiotic Intake
  • Cancer/ Malignant Tumors
  • Abscesses
  • Old age

Is My Guinea Pig Dead, in Shock or Hibernating?

Sometimes, when guinea pigs are sick, they may become very weak and stop moving, seemingly appearing dead to their owners. To know whether your guinea pig is really dead, try checking for the two important vital signs which include heartbeat, and respiratory rate. If they no longer exist, then it is a sign that the bodily function has completely stopped. In this case, their body temperature is often colder than normal.

When guinea pigs are exposed to loud noise or terrifying incidents, they may go into shock such that their body function deviates from normal. There is usually weakness, reduced heartbeat, hypothermia, and increased respiratory rate.

It may seem like they are dead, however, a guinea pig is pronounced dead only when there is a total shutdown of every biological function including respiration and the pumping action of the heart. If you are unsure whether your guinea pig is dead or in shock it’s best to contact your vet for medical advice.

It is important to know that guinea pigs do not hibernate. They cannot survive for very long without food and water. During winter, their body temperature may fall and they could become lethargic and withdrawn from their environment. This should not be presumed as death or hibernation because, after all, your guinea pig may just be seriously ill. Do well to call your vet for clarification.

How To Humanely Kill a Dying Guinea Pig

If your guinea pig is in so much pain and discomfort or has an incurable illness, you may want to consider putting him to sleep in a less cruel manner. This is termed “euthanasia” or “mercy killing”

Humanely killing a guinea pig involves the use of carbon dioxide to induce unconsciousness such that no pain or distress is experienced. The carbon dioxide used in this procedure is produced by a reaction between baking soda and acetic acid. It is known to have both analgesic and anesthetic properties, making it very suited for euthanizing small animals.

Mourning Your Beloved Cavy

Your guinea pig is not just a pet but also a member of your household. If their death triggers any emotional pain inside you, do not feel shy or try to bottle them up because it may become even worse.

While some families may just take the death of their guinea pig as a less serious incident, others are thrown into a deep emotional state and hardly ever pacified. The death of your cavy friend can evoke the memories of a previous loss, making the experience unbearably difficult.

At times, how intense one grieves for a pet boils down to his age, behavior, the length of time their pet spent with him, or the circumstances resulting in the death.

It’s normal to be hurt by the death of your pet and you may need to solicit emotional support from one trusted family member or companion. If there is no such person around, ask your vet to direct you to anyone with a similar experience, so they can share their story and commiserate with you.

Sometimes, guilt, doubts and anxiety kick in and we begin to ask ourselves what we could have done better to save our furry companion or if killing our cavy by euthanasia was the best option. You have to relieve yourself of any blame and move forward.

Final Goodbye

Now, you have to decide whether to bury or cremate the deceased. Consider burying your pet at home if you own the property because it is more discreet, peaceful and relatively cheap compared to cremation. You can check for the laws guiding your state or country in case of any restrictions. Whichever route you are taking, you are going to need a casket or urn designed particularly for pets.

Arrange a funeral service and invite your family and loved ones to mourn with you while you give rest to your beloved furry companion. You can recite a poem or say a short speech regarding the beautiful moments you shared with your pet. Memorial photographs and keepsakes will help you remember the special moments you spent together.

A Poem For The Loss Of Your Guinea Pig

You will never leave our memories, our beloved cavy who has made every moment of our life special.

In mysterious ways, you let us know our spirit still lives on.

The old good times still make us think we hear a squeak from the hutch.

And sometimes, watching you chew those hays, we missed them terribly.

A million times we needed you, a million times we cried.

If love alone could have saved you, you would never have died.

Although, time may bring new friends, that one place in our hearts belongs to you… and will always be for you.

Thanks, “your pet name”.

Also Read : Do Guinea Pigs Poop A Lot? [What Owners Should Expect]

Celestine Gomez

I'm Celestine Gomez, worked for 5 years in an animal shelter in Los Angeles, California. Having noticed the inherent passion and zeal in me to care for pets, I took a step further to create a team of I and like-minded individuals to provide an informative resource in order to broaden the knowledge base of a regular pet owners.

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