Wondering how long it’s safe for guinea pigs to go without food or water? Maybe you have a new guinea pig that is hiding and refusing to come out and drink. Or perhaps you’re going away and curious if the piggies are okay on their own.
No matter the reason, we’ll cover topics such as how long they can go without side effects, what to do if your guinea pig doesn’t want to eat or drink, and signs of dehydration or gut stasis to look out for if your guinea pig hasn’t been eating much.
How Long Can Guinea Pigs Go Without Water?
Guinea pigs have small bodies, and they are constantly eating dry forage like hay. Guinea pigs need to be frequently drinking for proper digestion, or the gut can slow down and go into GI stasis. For these reasons, they can become dehydrated pretty quickly.
Some guinea pigs can go 12 hours without water and suffer no adverse effects, but this varies from one pig to another. Healthy guinea pigs might be able to go 24 hours without drinking, but they will likely develop other side effects by this point, such as dehydration or stasis. If your guinea pig is eating watery vegetables during this time, they can go much longer, as they are getting some fluid from the food.
These times are reduced significantly if the weather is hot or if your guinea pig is elderly, sick, pregnant, or nursing. Pregnant and nursing guinea pigs need to feed several mouths, so they need constant access to water and proper food.
Guinea pigs should drink 80-100ml of water per day. This number increases in hot weather and for pregnant or nursing piggies.
Guinea pigs can go longer without drinking if they have access to watery foods. If you’re concerned that your guinea pig isn’t drinking, offer some vegetables that are high in water, such as cucumber or lettuce. This can be a good idea for guinea pigs that are new to your home and just settling in.
However, after a short time, you should encourage them to drink independently. You can do this by providing them with a fresh pile of hay and placing the water source close to it. Sit back and observe to see if they start eating hay and drinking. Guinea pigs generally get very thirsty after eating hay.
If your guinea pig doesn’t drink enough water over time, it can lead to the development of bladder stones, urinary infections, and impaction. If your guinea pig is not a big drinker, you can encourage them to increase their water intake by providing multiple water bottles and keeping their water close to the food. Also, be sure to empty and refill water bottles daily, so the water doesn’t taste stagnant when your guinea pig drinks it.
Water bottles jam from time to time, so make it a habit to check them twice a day to ensure that water is still flowing. I’ve found that some water bottles need to be shaken once or twice after refilling to get the water flowing again. This is also a good reason to have multiple water bottles. If one fails, your guinea pigs won’t be without water.
Some guinea pigs prefer water bowls or glass bottles over plastic bottles, so it may be worth experimenting if your guinea pig doesn’t like to drink much. Bowls are messier, so you may want to place them further from the food and leave a water bottle close, so your guinea pig has more options.
How Long Can Guinea Pigs Go Without Any Food At All?
Guinea pigs should not go longer than 6-8 hours without food. Guinea pigs do not starve in that time, but their body can go into GI stasis.
This is where the gastrointestinal tract slows down and stops digesting food and moving fluid throughout the body.
This causes guinea pigs to feel bloated with gas, stop eating and become dehydrated. This is a severe condition that can turn fatal in a matter of hours.
Guinea pigs’ bodies are designed to eat and digest food constantly. The best way to prevent GI stasis is to provide unlimited amounts of hay at all times.
Some guinea pigs can go longer than 8 hours without food, but every additional hour only increases the chances of GI stasis coming on suddenly and requiring emergency vet intervention. It is important to prevent this by all means.
How Long Can Guinea Pigs Go Without Pellets?
If guinea pigs have hay and water, they can go without pellets for quite a while. Make sure they have access to unlimited hay at all times. If you run out for longer than a few days, you should supplement your guinea pig’s diet with veggies that are high in Vitamin C. Parsley, and bell peppers are good choices. Check out this article on what to feed when you run out of food for more information on this topic.
How Long Can Guinea Pigs Go Without Vegetables?
Guinea pigs do not need a large number of vegetables to survive. 80% of their diet should be hay, as guinea pigs are herbivorous foragers in the wild. The main nutrient that guinea pigs get from vegetables is Vitamin C. Pellets contain this essential nutrient, but guinea pigs may need an additional source to avoid long-term deficiencies. This could be accomplished by feeding a single slice of bell pepper or a supplement such as Oxbow’s Vitamin C tabs.
If you have no access to vegetables, guinea pigs can usually go for several weeks on a diet of pellets formulated for guinea pigs, along with unlimited grass hay and fresh water. However, without an additional source of Vitamin C, there may be a risk of your guinea pig developing scurvy after some time.
Signs of GI Stasis and Dehydration
GI stasis and dehydration are serious conditions, so knowing the signs is crucial. Signs of GI stasis include the following:
- Refusing to eat or drink (a lack of appetite for their favorite foods is a serious symptom!)
- Less frequent pooping
- Abnormal droppings (weird shape, size or texture)
- Stomach that feels bloated
- Labored breathing
- Hunched over (can indicate pain)
- Puffed up fur (can indicate pain)
- Teeth grinding (can indicate pain)
- Whining or squealing when picked up
- Other types of abnormal behavior
Signs of dehydration in guinea pigs:
- Dark colored pee
- Smelly pee
- Skin on neck tents and comes down slowly when gently lifted up
- Hard, dry droppings
- Crusty eyes
- Poor appetite
- Abnormal behavior
How Long Can Guinea Pigs Be Left Alone?
Guinea pigs can be left alone for up to 24 hours. Before you leave for short periods, ensure that they have large piles of hay and multiple water bottles in case one leaks or jams while you’re away. Clean the cage right before you leave and make sure no fresh food is left in the cage that could potentially go rotten.
If you are going away longer than a day, it’s a good idea to have someone check on them daily to offer fresh veggies, make sure they are healthy, and replenish hay and water.
To Sum It Up
Guinea pigs can go up to 12 hours without water, less if the piggy is senior, sick, pregnant, or living in hot conditions. Some guinea pigs can go up to 24 hours, but this is usually accompanied by dehydration and related side effects.
Guinea pigs can go into GI stasis after as little as 6-8 hours without eating. Some can go longer, but this increases the risk of their digestive system shutting down. As such, it’s imperative that guinea pigs have constant access to hay and fresh water.
Many factors can cause guinea pigs to stop eating or drinking. Moving to a new home or unfamiliar environment, losing a cagemate, and stress are common reasons. Feeding watery vegetables can help prevent GI stasis and dehydration in the short term. If you’re concerned about your guinea pig’s refusal to eat, a vet visit is best to rule out any serious health complications.