Every guinea pig owner will experience the moment in life where he or she needs to say the final farewell to a beloved pet.
Sometimes our guinea pigs leave this world without any symptoms and sometimes they go through a difficult period before passing on.
For an inexperienced guinea pig owner, it can be a bit challenging to distinguish the stages of a dying guinea pig.
Moreover, some symptoms of a disease can mimic and resemble what one usually sees in a dying guinea pig.
So how exactly can you spot the signs of a dying guinea pig?
Usually, dying guinea pigs refuse to eat or drink, shake or uncontrollably defecate or urinate and in severe cases, pain and slow movement can be observed.
The diseases and signs that led the cavy to the final moments of his life usually last for 24 to 72 hours.
Most dying guinea pigs refuse to eat or drink water before the end of their lives. Even when you try to force-feed them it’s just too uncomfortable for them to accept food.
Some guinea pigs with severe sickness will experience episodes of diarrhea and bloody urine. Straining to defecate or urinate can also indicate a serious problem.
The vast majority of cavies will be feverish and shaking in their final moments. The fever is probably due to lung infection (no. 1 leading cause of death in guinea pigs) and it’s accompanied by sneezing, coughing, wheezing, panting, and labored breathing.
Very sick guinea pigs have a hard time moving and show signs of pain.
Many owners recognize poor coat condition, inflamed skin, crusty eyes, and crusty nose as something that can put the pet’s life at risk soon enough.
Whether a guinea pig can be healed and brought back to normal can only be determined by a veterinarian specializing in exotic animals. The prognosis depends on the severity of the diseases, the progression of symptoms, the animal’s age, the existence of concurrent health problems, etc.
Is My Guinea Pig Dead or In Shock?
Even though your guinea might seem dead while actually being in shock, the fact that a guinea pig is in behavioral, anaphylactic, or hypovolemic shock alone can definitely lead to death.
Guinea pigs are prey animals and very timid ones. They can die from being scared in almost an instant. The situation is referred to as behavioral shock or scare-shock.
What can cause this type of shock in a guinea pig?
Even the slightest change of environment can lead a guinea into a shock. There are many scenarios when the scare can make your pet tragically die, but not all scared cavies die.
When things get out of control their hearts stop and they collapse and stop breathing. Just think of them as elderly people with fragile hearts and avoid doing anything imaginable that might trigger guinea pig fear.
Aside from the behavioral shock, there is pathological shock involving the function of different organic systems.
One type of shock is anaphylactic shock. It happens when the guinea pig’s circulatory system collapses due to hyper-reacting to allergens. The situation seems similar to dying. The animal suddenly starts breathing hard, the gums become pale, and quite suddenly all vital signs fade.
Hypovolemic shock occurs with severe loss of blood or dehydration. Guinea pigs with Hypovolemic shock may seem agitated and confused, their skin is clammy and cool and show generalized weakness and rapid breathing.
Any type of shock in guinea pigs can lead to death in an instant and sometimes it’s impossible to tell them apart because all of them can appear suddenly.
Whenever there is a chance your guinea pig is in shock contact your vet as soon as possible. Unfortunately, not many guinea pigs survive conditions of shock so try your best to prevent any way you can.
Guinea Pig Death Process
A dying guinea pig will withdraw from your or other pets and move to a quiet spot, usually the corner of the cage. When they are preparing for the act of dying they tend to stand on all four legs instead of lying in a resting position.
When the symptoms of the disease lasted for a few days, your guinea pig will probably have a loss of normal body tone and weight. The things that follow are very distressing for most guinea pig owners.
When the beginning of the end starts the guinea pig is on his side. You may notice that his body goes through a series of what might seem like electric shocks. The electricity is produced by the central nervous system that tries to revive the failing heart.
Most guinea pigs start moving their legs rapidly as they approach death. This act confuses most people because they think that the animal is suffering. A lot of owners take their pets to the vet while this happens to have them euthanized.
We suggest you not rush with the vet visit and check if the guinea pig is feeling something. When you point a light source in the animal’s eyes you try to observe whether the iris remains wide open or starts shrinking.
When there is no shrinking whatsoever it means that the pet is completely unconscious and doesn’t feel any sensation. After this event death occurs very soon.
Guinea Pig Seizure before Death
What seems like a seizure just before a guinea pig dies can be a reaction from the nervous system trying to revive the body – just like hospital defibrillators. The leg paddling is also part of the dying process, but it’s always hard to tell what exactly happened with the guinea pig.
Although true seizures are rare in cavies, they do happen and can cause sudden death.
In the warmer parts of the planet guinea pigs often get too hot and develop seizures because of the resulting brain damage.
All cavies can have seizures if they are poisoned, infected with microorganisms (especially ear infections), or when they have a head injury.
Vitamin C deficiency and tumors may sometimes be responsible for guinea pig seizures as well.
The only thing you can do in a case of heat-induced seizure is cool your guinea pig down using a wet washcloth. In all other cases, you need to take him to the veterinarian and get him thoroughly checked.
A certain type of guinea pig mange called Trixicara cavis produces symptoms in guinea that appear just like seizures. This behavior happens due to the strong itching sensation the mites are causing so the animal simply falls to one side and starts twitching and crying.
Why Your Guinea Pig is Twitching and Dying
There are many voluntary and involuntary body movements in a dying guinea pig.
Twitching is the most prevalent one, but things like a visible heartbeat, fast breathing without moving, suddenly jumping around have all been noticed.
To some point, it’s a natural scenario because the organs of the guinea pigs are gradually shutting down. Soon the light in their eyes shuts down and that’s the moment when your guinea pig has left this world for good.
When the twitching stops, death most likely occurred already and even though the animal’s lungs and heart may continue to work for a certain period it’s nothing more than retained reflexes.
Can You Save a Dying Guinea Pig
Whether you can save a dying guinea pig or not depends on many factors. Really old guinea pigs don’t have a big chance of continuing their lives. For younger ones the chances of being saved are somewhat bigger, depending on their health condition.
If you are not sure about the age of your guinea pig you should look for signs such as twisted & thickened toes, stiffness, small skin tumors, and cloudy eyes that characterize older individuals.
Apart from when death comes suddenly without any symptoms, you have a few days to react.
While your guinea pig is sick for whatever reason you need to take him to the vet. That’s probably the only way and only time when you can help a dying guinea.
Even when he is being checked up and treated, the prognosis might not be that good. Always be prepared for the worst news especially when the symptoms are severe.
When a vet tells you that the chances of your guinea pig getting better are poor you can still try and make the end of his life more comfortable.
One thing you can do is offer the furry baby water from a syringe and even put some ground hay and pellets inside – just offer, never force-feed!
In the last few moments of your guinea pig’s life when the body functions stop working there is absolutely nothing you or anyone else can do to stop death from occurring.
However, you can do a few things that will make the passing more comfortable for your darling pet.
Dying guinea pigs will feel most comfortable in a warm and quiet space with medium illumination. Natural and soft sounds can be very comforting for the guinea pig.
You can place his favorite toy next to him and gently cuddle him to show affection. This way, dying guinea pigs will be assured that they are not alone and shouldn’t be afraid.
Spend as much time with your as needed. If you have more than one guinea pig, put the dying one aside and don’t separate from him until his last breath.