If you’re going on vacation, or even if you’re unexpectedly stuck away from home overnight, you might wonder if your guinea pigs will be okay on their own. How long can they go without food or water?
Guinea pigs can go into GI Stasis, a deadly condition where their digestive tract slows, after just 6-8 hours without food. If they’re also without water, this might happen more quickly. Guinea pigs should never go more than 24 hours without water.
Please note that if your guinea pig is already suffering from underlying illness or is otherwise unhealthy, they might go downhill without food or water more quickly than a healthy guinea pig.
In this article, we’ll discuss how long guinea pigs can go without food and water, how long they can be left alone, and more.
How Long Can a Guinea Pig Survive Without Food?
Guinea pigs can die if they don’t have access to food for just 6-8 hours. This is because their digestive system is built to be constantly processing food, and without it they can quickly go into GI Stasis.
GI Stasis is a deadly condition where the gastrointestinal tract slows, or goes stagnant, which means food and water is no longer moving through the guinea pig’s body.
This is why guinea pigs need constant access to fresh hay. It’s best to offer it in large piles, and to continue replenishing it throughout the day. After piggies flatten their hay from walking on it or even pee on it, they won’t eat it!
What About Vegetables?
Of course, guinea pigs also need daily veggies. While vegetables are not an optional part of their diet, your guinea pig will not die or go into GI Stasis without veggies for a day or two so long as they have fresh hay available.
Longterm, though, they can develop scurvy from not getting enough vitamin C. Their poops will also become firm and dry from having an unbalanced diet.
Can Guinea Pigs Survive Without Pellets?
When it comes to pellets, some people don’t feed them at all! But this diet is best left to experts on guinea pig diets, because guinea pigs can suffer from nutritional deficiency if pellets aren’t replaced by a wide range of veggies that meet their nutritional needs every day.
As with veggies, though, your guinea pig is unlikely to suffer if you have to wait a couple of days for pellets to be delivered. Extra vegetables in this case can help make up for the nutrients they’d usually get from pellets.
And, of course, make sure your piggies still have access to plenty of fresh hay while they’re waiting for that pellet bowl to be refilled!
GI Stasis in Guinea Pigs
Guinea pig’s systems are built to constantly eat, drink, pee, and poop. You might notice your piggy eating hay and pooping at the same time–this is super common!
Gastrointestinal Stasis, also known as gut stasis or GI Stasis, is when a guinea pig’s digestive system essentially shuts down from lack of use. It typically happens when guinea pigs don’t get enough to eat.
A guinea pig in GI Stasis might stop pooping or peeing, and may not eat even when offered food.
Symptoms of GI Stasis in guinea pigs include:
- Teeth grinding
- Soft poop or diarrhea
- Small poops or not pooping at all
- Decreased appetite
- Heavy, rapid breathing
- Hunching over
Scurvy in Guinea Pigs
Scurvy in guinea pigs occurs when they don’t get enough vitamin C.
Guinea pigs should get vitamin C through their pellets and daily vegetables, not through drops in their water. These drops are often unhelpful because the vitamin C disintegrates in sunlight and they can also discourage piggies from drinking due to the taste.
The best veggies that are high in vitamin C are bell peppers and dark, leafy greens.
Symptoms of scurvy in guinea pigs include:
- Vocalizing in pain
- Decreased appetite
- Moving less than normal
- Rough coat
- Slow healing of wounds
- Teeth grinding
- Chronic disease
- Petechiae (pin-sized, red dots from bleeding beneath the skin)
How Long Can a Guinea Pig Survive Without Water?
Guinea pigs shouldn’t ever be without water. Even a healthy guinea pig will be dehydrated after just 24 hours, while some will see consequences sooner.
Dehydration can lead to kidney damage in severe cases and if your guinea pig is also without food, they’re more likely to go into GI Stasis. Without water, your guinea pig might also develop urinary problems such as bladder stones or urinary tract infections (UTIs).
If your guinea pigs are kept in a hot environment, lack of water can make them more susceptible to heat stroke as well.
It’s important to keep in mind that piggies get some water through their vegetables. Some piggies rarely drink because they’re fed lots of watery veggies. Their people can help them out by leaving them a little damp after washing them, and giving vegetables high in water content.
Other piggies will drink more during the summer when it’s hot, and they need extra hydration, but will drink less in the winter months.
So, it’s not necessarily time to panic if your guinea pig isn’t drinking a lot. But if your guinea pig’s drinking habits change suddenly and without cause, please bring them to the veterinarian quickly as this is a sign of illness.
Do Guinea Pigs Prefer Water Bowls or Bottles?
Research shows that guinea pigs don’t have a clear preference one way or the other. However, they do tend to drink more from water bottles than from bowls. It’s hypothesized that drinking from bottles is enriching for guinea pigs because of their need to chew.
Of course, every guinea pig is different, so the only way to know what your piggy prefers is to try both.
Other things to keep in mind are cleanliness and safety. For instance, bowls can become dirty quickly and this might cause your guinea pigs to not drink their water. Water bowls should be heavy enough that your guinea pigs cannot knock them over, as this will leave them without water. It can also get the cage or piggies wet.
Water bottles can also be knocked over and some styles will spill, while others are more tightly sealed. It’s important to check the spouts regularly to ensure they aren’t blocked up and are releasing enough water for your pigs.
I recommend always keeping at least two water sources in the cage at all times, so that you know your piggies won’t ever be without water if something happens. This can also reduce resource guarding where one pig chases the other away from the water.
How Long Can Guinea Pigs Be Left Alone?
If you’re going on vacation, you’ll need to hire a pet sitter for your guinea pigs. They shouldn’t be left alone for more than 24 hours.
Leaving big piles of food and lots of water isn’t enough, and leaving enough vegetables for the time you’re away isn’t practical. Vegetables need to be refrigerated to stay fresh, and they can make your guinea pig sick if they begin to rot before they’re eaten.
This might also lead to bugs in the cage, especially if it goes multiple days without being cleaned.
There’s also a chance that something goes wrong, such as their water bottle leaking and them having nothing to drink for the whole time you’re away.
Guinea pig illness progresses quickly as well, and not having someone around to monitor them can be dangerous if they get sick while you’re gone.
It’s important to constantly be on top of feeding your piggies and refilling their water, because they need constant sustenance. Remember to never let your guinea pigs go without hay, and that they can go into GI Stasis if they’re without food for just 6-8 hours–sometimes less.
We hope this article has helped you to learn more about keeping your piggies healthy and safe!