Signs Your Guinea Pig Is Imminently Dying

Any pet owner’s worst fear is checking on their pet and noticing that something is not right. If they are older, the first panicked thought that pops into your head is, “Are they dying?!” I’ve been through the same process with several of my piggies so far and it’s never a fun experience when they enter the final stage of their life.

But it can be hard to tell whether your guinea pig is at the end of their life or if they are sick. Should you rush them to the vet or comfort your furry potato at home in their final moments?

While it’s crucial to take your guinea pig to the vet if they are sick, a dying guinea pig may be more comfortable at home in a quiet, familiar environment as they pass on.

If your guinea pig dies quickly and without too much pain, this decision is made easier. However, if they are suffering for an extended period or show signs of pain, it may be best to have them humanely euthanized to help them pass away without prolonged discomfort. These decisions are always tough, and it’s a call you have to make based on your situation and how your guinea pig fares at the end of their life.

Guinea pigs generally live 5-7 years on average, and they become more prone to health conditions as they get older. It’s important to be vigilant of their health as they age and know the signs that your guinea pig is approaching the end of their life so you can adjust their care accordingly.

In the list below, I’ve compiled several signs your guinea pig is imminently dying, and a few more that may indicate they may be close to this phase of their life.

How to Tell When Your Guinea Pig Is Imminently Dying

Sometimes you can tell immediately when you check on your guinea pig that something isn’t right. A guinea pig that is very close to dying is unmistakable and generally shows the following signs.

Unresponsive and Limp

A dying guinea pig will usually be laying on their side, limp and unresponsive. They may still be twitching or moving, but they are generally not aware of your presence. Guinea pigs that are close to passing won’t move when you pet them and will remain limp when you pick them up.

You can tell your guinea pig is close to dying if you can gently move your finger over or above their eye without a blink or any other kind of response.

Involuntary Body Motions

In addition to the guinea pig being limp and unresponsive to touch, they may also be twitching or moving their legs or body in some way. Involuntary body motions can vary from one guinea pig to another. Some may twitch and move more than others as the body shuts down.

Agonal Breathing

Agonal breathing is the last process the body goes through before shutting down. This process can last anywhere from a few minutes to an hour, but it typically ends within 20-30 minutes. The guinea pig will be completely unresponsive and unconscious at this point.

Agonal breathing appears like heavy, labored breathing. The entire body usually makes a heaving motion and the guinea pig often opens their mouth wide with each breath. You may also hear a slight whistling or small squeaks with each breath.

This process is normal but it can be upsetting to watch. However, it’s important to keep in mind that agonal breathing is not a sign that the guinea pig is suffering or struggling to breathe. Your piggy is completely unconscious and unaware at this stage. Agonal breathing is an involuntary reflex of the dying brain and the piggy has essentially passed on by this point.

Signs Your Guinea Pig May Die Soon

The following signs may occur in the days leading up to your guinea pig passing away. In some guinea pigs, these signs can start on the same day they pass, while other guinea pigs may die suddenly, showing no prior symptoms at all. This can vary so much from one guinea pig to another.

Keep in mind that these symptoms can also be signs of illness, many of which are curable and don’t necessarily mean your guinea pig is dying. If you’re at all unsure, please get your guinea pig to a vet as soon as possible for a diagnosis.

Wobbly or Difficulty Moving

Not all guinea pigs lose their balance before they pass away but some do, particularly in their last couple of days of life. I’ve had a couple of piggies personally that started to have difficulty walking or became shaky on their feet a day or two in advance of their passing.

Similar signs include having difficulty holding their head up or dragging their feet. Some guinea pigs may even stumble and fall on their sides if they get too wobbly.


Older guinea pigs generally spend a lot more time sleeping than their younger counterparts. However, this time will increase even more as they approach the end of their life. When they are a day or two away, they may even stop coming out of their house to greet you or stop getting excited about food.

Hiding and sleeping a lot can indicate a deeper problem.

Pain Signs

Guinea pigs often experience some degree of pain as they are starting to pass on. Some signs of pain in guinea pigs include:

  • Fluffed-up fur
  • Chewing aimlessly (often paper or edges of their houses while they are hiding.)
  • Sitting hunched up in one spot
  • Lethargy
  • Grinding their teeth

If you notice these signs in your guinea pig, it’s best to take them to a vet for a diagnosis and to determine the right course of action. The vet can also prescribe pain medication to ease their symptoms.

Refusal to Eat or Drink

Loss of appetite is a common sign of your guinea pig’s body starting to shut down. It is also a common symptom of pain and illness, so be sure to have them checked by a vet if you are unsure!

However, loss of appetite is a normal part of the dying process as the guinea pig’s body prepares to shut down. They will often start to eat and drink less, perhaps only accepting their favorite treats or even refusing food altogether.

You can try to offer some water or mashed food like critical care in a syringe, but don’t force it if they do not want to eat. As their body shuts down, force-feeding can be very uncomfortable and may do more harm than good.

As a by-product of refusing food, you may also notice their poop become very small, dry, or abnormally shaped. They will also begin rapidly losing weight. Usually, guinea pigs pass on quickly after they stop eating, but if they don’t, you may want to consider euthanasia to avoid any prolonged pain and suffering.

When guinea pigs stop eating, it’s a sure sign that something is up!

Rough Appearance

Guinea pigs will often develop a rough appearance and start to gradually lose weight as they get older. This can lead to a dull and sunken appearance. Senior guinea pigs also tend to have sharper and more pronounced hip bones.

These signs of aging can occur months in advance of a guinea pig’s passing, but they tend to become more obvious as your piggy approaches the end of their life cycle.

Discharge From Nose or Mouth

Some guinea pigs may develop a fluid discharge from their nose or mouth right before they pass away. However, drooling can also be a sign of overgrown teeth, and nasal discharge can indicate respiratory distress, so it’s a good idea to have these conditions cleared by a vet before passing them off as an end-of-life sign.

Anytime your guinea pig starts acting differently, a vet visit is in order!

How to Tell When a Guinea Pig Has Passed Away

Guinea pigs pass away shortly after agonal breathing stops if you witnessed your piggy passing away. However, there are a few more ways to know for sure that your guinea pig is gone. First of all, your guinea pig will be completely unresponsive, limp, and will have ceased any movement. They will remain completely limp and motionless if they are picked up. The body will also start to get cold and stiffen after a short time.

The eyes can be open or closed, but they are usually partially open to some degree. Another way you can tell is by looking at the mouth. Usually, after a guinea pig has died, the mouth remains partially open and the teeth are meeting in the middle.

In Conclusion

As guinea pigs get older and approach the end of their natural life, they can show varying degrees of signs and symptoms. However, this can range from one guinea pig to another as some pass on very suddenly with little or no symptoms at all.

Regardless of how your guinea pig passes away, losing your furry potato is always a tragic and difficult event. It’s important to take time to grieve and remember the best moments of your piggy’s life.

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