Guinea pigs are usually healthy, but like any animal, these endearing furry friends can get sick, making their owners anxious and stressed.
It is prudent to have some prior knowledge of what health problems can occur. An important question to answer is whether guinea pigs can throw up.
Guinea pigs cannot throw up. The physical mechanism which causes vomiting is absent in guinea pigs. On rare occasions, Guinea pigs regurgitate food or fluid, which is different from throwing up. There are various issues that can result in guinea pigs regurgitating.
It may be confusing to say that guinea pigs can regurgitate but not throw up. There are some crucial differences that are important to understand.
Is It Possible For Guinea Pigs To Throw Up?
Most mammals are capable of vomiting or throwing up. The exceptions are rodents and horses. Since guinea pigs are rodents, they are not capable of throwing up.
Mammals that can vomit do so because of two important factors. They have a vomit center in the brain which triggers a vomit reflex. Guinea pigs do not have an area of the brain that functions as a vomit center, and they do not have a vomit reflex.
The second vomit factor is a stomach anatomy which allows food to be pushed back up through the valve at the junction of the esophagus and the stomach. Guinea pigs have an altered anatomy that does not allow throwing up.
Guinea pigs have a relatively long esophagus, making it necessary to use a large force to propel food all the way up to the mouth. They have a thin diaphragm muscle that cannot supply enough force to cause vomiting.
The diaphragm is the muscle that divides the chest cavity from the abdomen and is critical for throwing up. Mammals that can vomit have a strong, thickly muscled diaphragm.
Scientists did studies where they gave rodents medicine that induces vomiting and found it did not affect them. It did not matter how much they increased the dose; the rodents did not throw up.
Is It Good That Guinea Pigs Cannot Throw Up?
Many guinea pig owners may sigh with relief, thinking they do not have to worry about vomiting. On further consideration, though, they may wonder if it is a good or a bad thing that guinea pigs cannot throw up.
Animals vomit as a means of ridding the body of toxins or bad food. The fact that guinea pigs cannot vomit removes one of their natural protective mechanisms. Scientists are unsure why rodents evolved in a way that lost the ability to throw up.
They have discovered that rodents are very sensitive to taste and smell and seldom eat bad food. Researchers found that if rodents eat something toxic, they look for clay and eat this to absorb the toxin and remove it safely from the body.
So the fact that guinea pigs do not throw up can be problematic if they consume something toxic or rotten. Pet guinea pigs living in cages do not have the opportunity to look for clay to correct a digestive issue.
This emphasizes the importance of owners feeding the correct food to their guinea pigs and ensuring it is of good quality. You can find a complete list of safe foods for guinea pigs here and we also have a list of 45 things you should never feed your guinea pig.
Guinea Pigs Can Regurgitate
Guinea pigs may regurgitate in some instances. Regurgitation is different from throwing up. There is no force behind it, and the food or fluid passively ‘leaks’ from the stomach. As can be imagined, this does not occur in a healthy guinea pig.
One reason a guinea pig may regurgitate food is if the stomach is blocked somehow. The food cannot go into the stomach and flows out of the esophagus. Bloat and torsion are very dangerous conditions where the stomach becomes filled with gas and can twist on itself.
The esophagus can also block or twist, resulting in the regurgitation of any food the guinea pig tries to eat or has eaten recently. Any blockage is extremely dangerous, and the guinea pig should be rushed to the veterinarian to deal with the emergency.
Poor muscle tone in the esophagus or esophageal valve can also result in regurgitation. There are various causes for this, and it is essential to let a veterinarian investigate it to make a diagnosis.
Researchers have observed that rodents may regurgitate when they are stressed. If a guinea pig is unhappy or distressed, give them a quiet, dark area to hide in and relax.
It is common for guinea pigs moving to new homes to become overwhelmed and stressed, particularly if they are handled too much. Avoid stress regurgitation by giving the guinea pig time to adjust and get used to being handled.
There are some obvious signs of sad or depressed guinea pigs that allow owners to act quickly to alleviate stress and prevent regurgitation.
Why Is There Drool or Mucus Coming From My Guinea Pig’s Mouth?
Some pet owners may be confused about seeing fluid coming from their guinea pig’s mouth. There are causes for this besides vomiting or regurgitation.
Guinea pigs are rodents, and their teeth grow constantly. They must constantly gnaw on hard, fibrous substances such as wood and hay to wear down their teeth.
If a guinea pig cannot access fibrous foods to gnaw on, their teeth grow too long, and dental abnormalities occur. They may also develop tooth abscesses.
Dental issues in guinea pigs cause excess saliva production and drooling, which leaks from the guinea pig’s mouth. The owner may mistake the salivation for throwing up or regurgitation.
Guinea pigs are also prone to respiratory infections resulting in excessive mucous production. Guinea pigs may have mucous or phlegm from their trachea or sinuses, which come from their mouths or noses.
In addition, guinea pigs may get hair caught around their teeth while they groom themselves. The hair can irritate the mouth and cause excessive salivation, which may be seen as the guinea pig drooling.
Guinea pigs do not vomit, but they can regurgitate in some cases. Regurgitation is commonly a sign of illness or stress and needs to be investigated. Any time a cavy owner notices a guinea pig apparently ‘throwing up,’ they should promptly make an appointment with their veterinarian.
Excessive drooling, salivation, or a discharge of mucus from the mouth or nose can point to dental issues, abscesses, or respiratory conditions, all of which require specialized treatment from an exotic vet.