Digestive problems can be one of the most uncomfortable problems you may face in your life. Unfortunately, your guinea pig can also suffer from digestive problems, and when they do they will be just as unhappy and uncomfortable as you can be. Constipation is a particular nightmare, but there is a lot that you can do to help them.
Guinea Pig Digestion
Guinea pigs have a particular digestive system that can seem a little gross to us humans. They produce two types of fecal matter – hard and soft pellets. You are probably quite familiar with their hard pellets as this is the fecal matter that you must clean up regularly from their cages.
The soft pellets are less often seen. This is because guinea pigs consume this fecal matter – known as cecal pellets – due to it’s nutritional value. Cecal pellets offer guinea pigs a crucial source of vitamin B. A healthy guinea pig will have both forms of bowel movement.
Unfortunately, there is no normal pattern of bowel movement across all guinea pigs, so you must look for other symptoms. If you are concerned that your guinea pig may be suffering from constipation, look out for these symptoms:
- Deviation from your own guinea pig’s normal bowl movement routine
- Straining to pass fecal matter
- Changes in the appearance of the fecal matter
When to Call a Vet
Although it is possible to deal with guinea pig constipation on your own, you probably won’t know what you need to do unless you are sure of the cause. There may be dietary issues to resolve, and you will need to know if the condition is chronic.
Another reason to visit the vet is to check for secondary concerns related to constipation. For example, constipation can also be a breeding ground for the eggs of certain species of fly. These eggs become maggots, and the maggots often bore into your guinea pig, killing them. This is, of course, very rare, but still a concern that is worth investigating.
Constipation in guinea pigs is actually quite rare on the whole, and so it is always safest to contact your vet if you notice any of the aforementioned symptoms. In preparation for your visit to the vet, there are some things you can do that will help them with a diagnosis.
- Regular weigh-ins as constipation will result in additional weight from fecal matter
- Note down bowel movements
- Note down what they are eating and how much they are drinking
You will want to ensure that your vet is experienced with guinea pigs. The best way to do this is to search for one accredited by the Association of Exotic Mammal Veterinarians (AEMV). This will ensure your guinea pig will receive experienced care and attention.
Listen to what they suggest and follow their instructions carefully. It is also a good idea to have a follow-up examination once your guinea pig has recovered. You can confirm the cause, and, if necessary, consult about preventative treatment to discourage future constipation issues.
There are many potential causes of constipation in guinea pigs. Often it is caused by diet, but elderly, pregnant and obese guinea pigs can also struggle to reach their anal openings in order to consume their cecal matter. This would then result in a blockage that prevents both hard and soft pellets from leaving their body.
If this is the case, you may need to help your guinea pig manually. This process is called digital evacuation, and is a true testament of your devotion to your pets! It involves you carefully easing out the blockage yourself, and requires a few steps when done properly.
- Wash your hands with antibacterial soap and put on gloves. This is essential for ensuring the process is hygienic as guinea pigs can pass infection on to humans. You will also want to cover your workstation with paper towels.
- Check for the blockage. Impaction is usually quite visible, and should be able to be seen when you carefully reveal the anus for inspection. It will appear as a brown mass blocking the exit and may cause the anus to protrude.
- Use lubricant. Petroleum jelly or mineral oil can be used to encourage the fecal matter to exit comfortably. The stool can also be softened using water by submersing your guinea pig’s bottom half.
- Very gently squeeze to encourage the blockage out. Don’t think of your guinea pig as a tube of toothpaste, but instead ease it out using alternating pressure on either side of the anus. Stop if you suspect you may be hurting your pet. Do not use any tools and do not insert anything into the anus.
- Depending on the cause of the impaction, you may need to repeat this treatment. If the cause was temporary, you only need to repeat as long as the problem persists, but some chronic conditions may mean you need to create a regular digital evacuation schedule for your guinea pig.
If you are uncomfortable performing digital evacuation, you can bring them to the vet for the treatment. They will be more than happy to help you. Although, it is worth noting that if your guinea pig is suffering from a chronic issue, a weekly visit to the vet, or more, for treatment may start to add up financially.
Improve Their Diet
Most importantly, it is worth reviewing the diet of your guinea pig no matter what the cause of the constipation. An improved diet can both help to cure constipation issues, and prevent future issues. Some dietary tips to help your guinea pig’s constipation include:
- Do not force them to eat or offer them food from your hand. They will eat when they feel up to it
- Add some soft fruits and vegetables to their diet, which will loosen bowels
- Do not add too much fruit as it has such a high sugar content
- The best fruits have a low-sugar content, for example unpeeled apples
- Add greens to their diet – although too much can cause the opposite problem of diarrhea
- Avoid cabbage, cauliflower and raw beans, as they can cause gas and bloating
- You can add a drop of olive oil to their treats, which should also help bowel movements
- Encourage water consumption using a water bottle, or even a syringe
- Consider the use of probiotics, which are microorganisms that balance the bacteria in the gut. Ensure you use probiotics designed for guinea pigs, and consult their usage with your vet