How to Comfort a Dying Guinea Pig (Signs and What To Do)

When your guinea pig ultimately approaches the end of their natural life, it is a distressing time for both piggies and humans alike. While death is a natural occurrence, it never gets easier regardless of how many piggies you have loved and lost. Sadly, I was reminded of this again just a couple of weeks ago with my sweet girl Poppy, who passed away from a tumor.

The final picture I took of my girl a couple of days before she passed. 💔

As tough as it is to watch your sweet piggy transition to the end of their life, you want to make their last moments as comfortable as possible for them. I’ll cover several of the best ways to comfort your dying guinea pig throughout this article, as well as what to do if they have other guinea pig friends they are leaving behind.

What To Do When Your Guinea Pig is Dying

As guinea pigs approach the end of their life, there are often tell-tale signs. As Poppy entered the last couple of days of life, she started spending more time alone sleeping and gradually began to eat less. She got a little wobbly on her feet and sometimes stumbled over.

On the last day, I walked into the room and found her lying on her side, breathing strangely. Upon closer inspection, she seemed unresponsive and remained limp when I picked her up. She passed very shortly after this point since she was sadly already unconscious when I found her.

All guinea pigs may show slightly different signs and behaviors as they are close to passing away. You can read more about the signs that your guinea pig is dying here. But usually, you will see something similar in most cases. It can be distressing to watch and it can leave you feeling helpless when you don’t know how to comfort your piggy during this time.

There is no right answer when it comes to comforting your dying guinea pig. Once they are unconscious, I normally pick them up carefully and put them on a soft blanket on my lap while talking to them softly and stroking their side gently. I try not to move them around too much once I have them in a comfortable spot and just try my best to comfort them until their final breath.

Their sense of hearing is one of the last things to fade as they are dying, so it’s good to speak to them in a soft and comforting tone. Make sure they are in a quiet, peaceful environment so they can remain as calm and relaxed as possible.

Once your guinea pig becomes unresponsive, they are usually very close to the end. You’ll also see your piggy start agonal breathing as their body shuts down. This looks like they are struggling to breathe, but it’s important to know that it is normal and your piggy is not conscious or aware when this is happening. Agonal breathing is a reflex of the dying brain and does not mean your guinea pig is in distress.

Daisy – RIP October 2022. ❤️

If your guinea pig is still conscious and responsive to you, you’ll want to read their body language and let them do as they wish. Some guinea pigs like to cuddle on a soft blanket on your lap and sleep. I find that most guinea pigs on their last day often sleep almost constantly throughout the day.

However, if your guinea pig is fidgeting or uncomfortable outside their home, you can make them a cozy corner in their cage with some soft blankets in a quiet, secluded corner so they feel safe. You can also provide them with a big pile of soft hay to lay in if they want. Some guinea pigs like to burrow in hay when they are feeling unwell or vulnerable.

If you have any pain medication like Metacam, it’s a good idea to give a dose to your guinea pig to provide some relief from any pain or discomfort they are experiencing at the end of their life. This is not always an option, but sometimes vets will prescribe you a small amount of pain medication without an appointment if you explain the situation to them. It helps if you’ve taken your piggy to visit them previously and have a scale to weigh them yourself.

Additionally, you can try offering your guinea pig some of their favorite vegetables in case they are still interested in eating. Most guinea pigs lose their appetite as they get close to passing, so it’s important not to force any food on them. However, some guinea pigs will eat small amounts up until the end.

You can also offer some water in a syringe in case your piggy is thirsty. This can help with some guinea pigs that want water but don’t have the energy to drink from the bottle themselves. Again, it’s important not to force the matter if they are disinterested.

Besides this, the best way to comfort your dying guinea pig is to be there with them and talk to them. Tell them you love them and that it’s okay to go. They may not understand your words, but they can read the tone of your voice and find comfort in that.

It’s important not to blame yourself or think of all the “what ifs” when your guinea pig dies. Death in guinea pigs can happen very suddenly and unexpectedly, but it doesn’t mean you did anything wrong. It’s quite normal for guinea pigs to go from running around and squeaking one day to doing poorly the next, especially as they get older.

Some guinea pigs even pass away suddenly with no apparent symptoms at all. Guinea pigs are prey animals that try their best to hide their gradual deterioration until they are close to passing. Some piggies also pass of a heart attack or other sudden fatality that cannot be predicted or prevented.

Should You Let Your Guinea Pig Pass Naturally At Home?

There are a couple of options you’ll face as your guinea pig winds down the remainder of their life. You can have them humanely euthanized at a vet or keep them as quiet and comfortable as possible at home to pass away in familiar surroundings. The right answer varies based on a number of factors and depends on your particular situation.

If your guinea pig is suffering, refusing to eat for multiple days, slowly wasting away, or seems very restless and uncomfortable, it may be best to take them in for euthanasia. If, on the other hand, they are calm, perhaps sleeping most of the time, and don’t appear distressed, you may be fine to let them pass away on their own at home.

How Long Does It Take For Guinea Pigs to Pass Away?

Guinea pigs generally lose consciousness and awareness when they are close to dying. Signs they will pass away in less than an hour include unconscious twitching, agonal breathing, remaining limp when picked up, and unresponsive to touch. Most guinea pigs pass away within 20-30 minutes of when they start agonal breathing (which appears as unconscious heavy/labored breathing.)

If your guinea pig is still responsive, the timing could vary based on many factors. Some pass away the same day they start going downhill. However, some guinea pigs may stop eating, experience changes in breathing patterns, and may start hiding a lot a few days before passing away.

This varies depending on each guinea pig and the health condition they are suffering from. Some guinea pigs pass away in a matter of hours and others over a period of days. If your situation turns out to be the latter, you should consider having your piggy euthanized at a vet to prevent prolonged suffering or wasting away from a refusal to eat.

Should You Let Your Other Guinea Pigs Say Goodbye?

All guinea pigs react differently to the death of their cagemates. Guinea pigs seem to know when something is wrong by instinct. When my girl Poppy passed away, my other guinea pig Pansy was a bit apprehensive and timid of the body. She sniffed her friend and moved away to watch her from a distance. I think she knew something was up, but maybe didn’t know exactly what was happening.

Generally, it is a good idea to let your other piggies see the body after your guinea pig is gone. Some guinea pigs will start looking or calling out for their friend if they disappear suddenly, so giving them the opportunity to see that their buddy has passed can help them adjust better.

If your piggies are closely bonded, you may want to leave them together as your guinea pig passes away. Guinea pigs find comfort in being around their friends and feel safe as part of the herd. However, if your guinea pig tries to isolate themselves or if the others are bothering the dying piggy, you may want to bring them out of the cage. You can also set up a barrier or fence inside the cage so your guinea pig can be comforted by the presence of their cagemates without being disturbed.

How Do Guinea Pigs Act When One Dies?

Some guinea pigs take the death of their companion better than others. It depends on their relationship and how close they were, as well as other factors. For example, a more timid guinea pig may struggle more with the loss of their cagemate than an outgoing piggy. If your guinea pigs were siblings or grew up together, they would likely have a closer bond than two that were introduced later in life.

It’s important to keep an eye on the surviving guinea pig and ensure that they continue eating and drinking. A lack of interest in food could lead to more serious health concerns, so it’s crucial to monitor this for a few weeks after their cagemate has passed. However, it’s normal for some guinea pigs to be a little less active than usual as they grieve the loss of their friend.

Final Thoughts

The death of a guinea pig is hard on the guinea pig, humans, and other guinea pigs alike. While inevitable, this time is never easy and often comes with hard decisions like whether or not to humanely euthanize.

As the end of life becomes apparent, we want to ease any suffering and help our piggies to go in peace and comfort. Sometimes this is with the help of a vet, and other times it’s at home cuddled in a soft blanket or surrounded by their friends in their cage. Regardless of the situation, it’s always best to keep the piggy calm and comforted as best we can in their final moments.

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