Thinking about what to do when your guinea pig dies is never fun, but it’s crucial to know what to do when the time inevitably comes. Losing a guinea pig is always a stressful and grief-stricken time for any pet owner. It can be difficult to think rationally and practically while still dealing with the grief that comes from losing a beloved pet.
However, there are many things to consider when your guinea pig passes away. How do you deal with grief yourself or with kids? What do you do with the body, especially in the middle of winter or if you don’t have a backyard? Additionally, how do you comfort a lonely guinea pig that has just lost their companion? I’ll cover all these topics and more throughout the rest of the article.
How Do You Know When Your Guinea Pig Is Dead
I don’t know if others have this same fear, but I am always terrified of burying or freezing a pet that turns out to be still alive. However irrational it may seem, I always want to double-check that they are gone before proceeding. Although unlikely, guinea pigs can potentially go into shock or experience a seizure that makes them unconscious.
Usually, you can tell if a guinea pig is dead when you can pick them up and they remain limp and unresponsive to touch. Guinea pigs also stiffen shortly after passing away. You will be unable to detect any breathing or heartbeat, and should not detect any response when shining a light into their eyes. Usually, the mouth will remain partially open when the guinea pig has passed, with the teeth often appearing elongated and usually meeting in the middle.
To be absolutely positive, you can also leave your guinea pig for a few hours or even overnight. The body does not generally start to smell immediately after they die, so it’s usually safe to leave them gently wrapped in a blanket inside for a short time if you’re unsure. I’ve done this a couple of times when my guinea pigs have passed, especially if it occurs late at night or in the early hours of the morning.
Related: How to Comfort a Dying Guinea Pig
What To Do After Your Guinea Pig Passes
Once you’ve confirmed that your guinea pig is gone, you’ll be faced with the pressing responsibility of what to do with the body. First of all, it is a good idea to give your other guinea pigs a bit of time to see the body of their deceased friend if possible. This helps them to understand that their companion is gone and didn’t just up and disappear one day.
All guinea pigs react differently to seeing their unresponsive companion. Some guinea pigs will stay back and observe from across the cage, while others may try to come close and investigate. You can give them anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour with their friend before removing the body from the cage.
What To Do With a Dead Guinea Pig
When your guinea pig passes away, you generally have two options for safe disposal. You can bury your guinea pig outside in your yard or garden, or have them cremated. This choice is a personal one and depends on your finances and living situation.
If you can’t bury your guinea pig right away or take them to a crematorium, you can keep the body from decomposing and starting to smell by putting them in the freezer. You can put the box in a temporary plastic container or bag to give another layer of separation from food items.
It’s a good idea to use gloves when handling the deceased body, particularly if the guinea pig has been dead for some time or has already begun to decompose.
Burying Your Guinea Pig
Generally, you are allowed to bury a small pet in your own backyard if you have one or in a registered pet cemetery. However, it’s a good idea to check the laws for burying animals in the country and state where you live, as the rules can vary based on your location.
You can also generally bury your pet in a friend or family member’s backyard with their permission. If you rent your home, you may need to ask your landlord’s permission before proceeding.
Additionally, there are some best practices you should follow when burying your guinea pig:
- Avoid burying your guinea pig near any water sources.
- Try to avoid digging directly beside a tree as the roots can be quite difficult to dig through.
- Do not bury your pet in a public place like a park.
- Dig a hole at least 3 feet deep, and more if you can. You don’t want wild animals to be attracted to the spot or try to dig up your guinea pig.
- Bury your guinea pig in a biodegradable box. Avoid plastic, metal, and ceramic containers.
- If your guinea pig was euthanized or took other strong drugs before death, check with your vet to see if you are allowed to bury them. Certain chemicals can leech into the soil and pose a public health risk.
As mentioned above, it’s important to use a biodegradable container to bury your piggy. Some examples are cardboard boxes, biodegradable pet pouches or coffins, or wooden boxes. It can be difficult to find a perfectly sized cardboard box, but you can also cut one down to the correct size if you find one that’s slightly too big. Try to use a minimal amount of tape when closing up the box, as plastic doesn’t decompose very well.
Although it sounds a little morbid, I usually collect a few appropriately sized boxes ahead of time to have on hand when a guinea pig passes away. It’s always a tiring and stressful event when a piggy gets sick or passes away, so having a box handy makes everything so much easier, especially if they pass away late at night.
I like to wrap my guinea pigs in a thin soft blanket and then place them in a box. You can also surround them with shredded paper. I also write their name and date of passing on the outside of the box along with a short note about how much they were loved.
After you bury your guinea pig, you may opt to get a small plaque or memorial stone for the top. This provides a good way to remember them and also helps deter wild animals from digging. Some people also put a planter with some flowers on top or plant a tree, bush, or other pretty perennial plant as a memorial and symbol of new growth.
Can You Bury Guinea Pigs in a Flower Pot?
If you cannot bury your guinea pig in the ground but have other outdoor space like a patio or balcony, you could bury your guinea pig in a very large flower pot with a pretty plant. It’s important to keep the pot outdoors, as the decomposition can smell a bit if it is kept inside. This can be a good option if you rent your house, as you can take them with you if you move.
Cremating a Guinea Pig
Cremating your guinea pig is another good option, especially if you don’t have anywhere to bury them. Vet offices can usually refer you to a pet crematorium, and can even take the animal and make all the arrangements for you. If your guinea pig passes away at home, you can call a vet clinic and ask for recommendations for cremation. You can also seek out a professional pet crematorium on your own.
As far as cremation goes, you have a couple of options. You can opt for a communal cremation, where your guinea pig is cremated along with other pets. With communal cremation, you can’t keep the ashes, but this method offers an affordable way to dispose of the deceased body in a safe manner.
You can also have your guinea pig cremated individually where you can choose to keep the ashes or have them stored at the crematorium. An individual cremation gives you the option to keep the remains of your pet close at all times in a small box or urn in your home.
Prices for pet cremation can vary depending on the area, but naturally, communal cremation will be more affordable than an individual cremation. However, most crematoriums charge based on the size of the pet, meaning it generally costs less to cremate a guinea pig compared to a cat or dog.
Dealing With Grief
Guinea pigs generally have a long lifespan for a small pet, ranging between 4-8 years on average. However, this doesn’t make it any easier when your sweet piggy reaches the end of their life. Despite their small size, these little potatoes can take a massive piece of your heart.
Grief can be unique to everyone, so do what feels best to you when coping with the loss. It’s perfectly normal to feel upset at the loss of a beloved pet, no matter your age or the animal’s size.
It can help to talk to supportive family members or friends about your loss if they are understanding of the situation. However, some people in real life simply don’t understand the love of a guinea pig. If others in your life aren’t sympathetic to what you’re going through, it can help to reach out to other guinea pig lovers online who empathize with what you’re going through.
It can also help to take some time for yourself and do things that bring you joy or comfort, like binging a favorite show or movie, listening to music, going for a walk outside, or taking some time for a hobby or activity you love.
Grief is a natural but complex way of processing a loss in your life, and it’s normal to experience a flood of emotions. Some common ones are guilt, anger, regret, disbelief, and an intense sense of loss.
Although it can be challenging, it’s important to acknowledge these feelings and shut down the negative thoughts. No matter what happens, you did the best you could and gave your guinea pig the best life you could. Think about all the happy times and good memories you had with your guinea pig over their lifetime.
Sometimes putting your thoughts and memories on paper can help you work through your emotions and grief. If you buried your guinea pig, having a mini grave, even something small like a stone with their name written on with a sharpie, to visit can be comforting as you process the loss.
Finally, if you have a remaining piggy, spend extra time with them, hold them, and talk to them. Chances are, they will be feeling a bit down and lonely as well and will appreciate the extra love and attention.
Grief in Children After a Guinea Pig Dies
Children can get very attached to their pets, and coping with the loss can be difficult, especially if it’s their first experience losing a pet. It’s always a good idea to talk with kids honestly about the death of a pet, in a way that is appropriate for their age.
It’s a good idea to emphasize the good times they had with their pet and happy memories. Sometimes making a scrapbook of favorite pictures and drawings can be a nice memorial project for kids.
You can even host a small funeral or memorial if they want, where the kids can write a poem about their pet or talk about them. If the guinea pig was buried, you can have the kids paint their own memorial stone to go over the burial site for a personal touch.
Determining Why Your Guinea Pig Passed Away
In some cases, there are signs when your guinea pig is dying, like going off their food or hiding excessively. However, many times guinea pigs go downhill and pass away very quickly, and it can often come as a shock.
Some health conditions can take them very quickly, and other times they hide their symptoms until the very end. Some reasons that guinea pigs die suddenly include respiratory infections, pneumonia, heart problems, seizures, undiagnosed health issues, or organ failure.
Most of these are not contagious. However, if you suspect your guinea pig died from a respiratory infection or something else that could be potentially contagious to other guinea pigs, it’s important to keep a close eye on any remaining piggies and take them in for a vet checkup at the first sign of illness.
What To Do About a Lonely Guinea Pig
The death of a guinea pig can be hard, not only on people but on any other guinea pigs left behind. Guinea pigs all react in different ways to the loss of their cagemate. Some bounce back very quickly and go on as normal, while others can go into a depressed and lethargic state.
If your guinea pigs had a very close bond, the remaining piggy is more likely to suffer from the loss. Guinea pigs often recover easier if they are part of a group rather than a pair, as they still have the comfort of one another.
Regardless, it’s important to keep a close eye on any surviving guinea pigs and make sure they are still eating and active. It is normal for guinea pigs to eat less and be a bit quieter than usual after the loss of their companion, but refusal to eat at all can indicate a more serious problem.
If your remaining guinea pig loses interest in food, try tempting them with their favorite treats to keep them interested in eating. If you’re concerned, it’s a good idea to weigh them daily to make sure they are not dropping too much weight.
If they are really struggling with the loss and refusing to eat anything, you may need to syringe feed them some mashed food like critical care to prevent any issues like GI stasis. A vet visit is also in order to rule out any health problems.
If you notice your surviving guinea pig becoming inactive, lethargic, or hiding a lot, this can be a sign that they are lonely. It’s a good idea to spend more time with a lonely guinea pig and get them out for floor time to encourage them to move around.
You can also try some enrichment ideas like scattering treats around the cage or giving them some boxes, tunnels, and shredded paper to run around in. Additionally, it helps to move the cage to a central location in the home if possible so they can see and interact with you more.
After a few weeks, you may want to consider getting another friend for your lonely guinea pig if possible. Some guinea pigs can live alone, but most thrive on having a companion, particularly if they are used to living with other guinea pigs. It is easiest to bond an adult guinea pig with a baby, but an older rescue piggy can work too if the personalities are a good match.
While the death of your guinea pig is not something you ever want to think about until it happens, it is an inevitable and unfortunate part of having guinea pigs or any other animals. However, being prepared can help you get through this trying time and minimize stress as much as possible.
While guinea pigs often die of preventable or age-related conditions, there are some silent killers you should watch out for to decrease the odds of losing your piggies too soon. This list of 10 common guinea pig illnesses you can prevent will share the signs and early symptoms to watch out for in the future.