Q: My 4.5-year-old, female guinea pig has been losing weight. I offer her favorite foods, and she barely eats at all. Nothing has changed. She is in the cage with another female who is fine. There are no obvious signs of illness other than weight loss and staying to herself a bit. I’ve had her all her life. Any ideas what could be wrong? This is the first time I’ve ever had this problem.
A: Unfortunately, anorexia (scientific term for an animal that will not eat) in guinea pigs can be caused by so many different diseases and disorders, it would be impossible to tell what is wrong with your guinea pig if the only sign is not eating.
That being said, one very common cause of anorexia in a 4-year-old guinea pig is dental disease. Because it is impossible for you to open your guinea pig’s mouth and observe all of her teeth, a visit to your veterinarian is necessary for a thorough dental examination looking for evidence of disease. As dental disease continues to develop, a guinea pig will gradually stop eating and will begin to lose significant amounts of weight.
One contributing factor to dental disease that is unique to guinea pigs is the lack of vitamin C in the diet. As a guinea pig ages and vitamin C is deficient, the dentition can change, which causes dental overgrowth and misalignment of the teeth. Another reason for anorexia is metabolic or organ disease.
In an older female, such as this one, I would be concerned with disease of the reproductive tract. Ovarian disease and uterine disease occur with some frequency in older, intact female guinea pigs. The only sign of disease you may see is anorexia. Other signs can occur, such as bilateral, symmetrical hair loss on the sides of the body. Sometimes a foul-smelling discharge is present at the rear of the guinea pig.
Whatever condition is causing the anorexia, this is a serious health issue that requires care as soon as you are able to take your guinea pig to the veterinarian.