A guinea pig's weight is an important indicator of their general health. Guinea pigs are prey animals, so they're usually pretty good at hiding symptoms of illness to avoid looking weak to predators. But the one thing they can't hide is weight loss or gain. By regularly weighing your guinea pig, you can monitor any unexpected or worrying change, and take appropriate action such as making a check up appointment with your vet.
Reasons for weight gain in Guinea Pigs
One of the main reasons why guinea pigs may gain too much weight is simply because they are being fed too much food. Guinea pigs have small stomachs, and they cannot process large amounts of food efficiently. They need a consistent, balanced diet of hay, water, nuggets/pellets and a small amount of fresh fruit and vegetables to stay healthy and fit. If you are giving them too many high-calorie treats, they may start to gain weight and can suffer from bloating.
Lack of exercise
Guinea pigs are active animals that need plenty of exercise to stay healthy and fit. If they don't have enough opportunities to move around and play, they may become sedentary and start to gain weight. A large enclosure with lots of accessories such as tunnels and hideaways will keep your guinea pigs engaged and active.
In some cases, guinea pigs may gain too much weight due to underlying health problems. For example, if they have a hormonal imbalance or a digestive issue, they may not be able to process food efficiently and may start to gain weight. If you notice that your guinea pig is gaining weight even though they are not being overfed and are getting enough exercise, it's a good idea to take them to the vet to rule out any underlying health issues.
As guinea pigs age, they may naturally start to gain weight due to a slower metabolism and a decrease in activity levels. To help prevent weight gain in older guinea pigs, it's important to maintain a consistent, balanced diet and to encourage them to exercise as much as possible.
Reasons for weight loss in guinea pigs
Another reason why guinea pigs may lose weight is due to an underlying illness. Some common health problems that can cause weight loss in guinea pigs include respiratory infections, digestive problems, and dental problems. If you suspect that your guinea pig may be sick, it's important to take them to the vet as soon as possible for a proper diagnosis and treatment.
Guinea pigs are sensitive animals that can be easily stressed by changes in their environment or routine. If your guinea pig is experiencing stress, they may lose their appetite and start to lose weight. To reduce stress in your guinea pig, make sure to provide a calm, quiet, and consistent environment, and avoid making sudden changes to their routine or diet.
As guinea pigs age, they may naturally start to lose weight due to a decrease in appetite. To help prevent weight loss in older guinea pigs, it's important to maintain a consistent, balanced diet and to encourage them to eat as much as possible.
Pregnant sows and nursing mothers are also at risk of losing weight due to the increased demands of providing for their babies.
How to recognise when a guinea pig is underweight or overweight
Use a weight chart
There are several weight charts available online that provide guidelines for what a healthy weight range is for guinea pigs of different sizes and ages. You can compare your guinea pig's weight to the chart to see if they fall within the recommended range.
Look at their appearance
A healthy guinea pig should have a smooth, rounded shape when viewed from above. They should also have a visible waistline when viewed from the side. If your guinea pig is too thin, you may be able to see their ribcage and spine easily. If they are too heavy, their abdomen may hang down and they may have difficulty moving around. Check out the Pig-Size-O-Meter infographic from pet food manufacturers association, PFMA.
Consult with a veterinarian
If you are unsure if your guinea pig is at a healthy weight or if you have concerns about their diet or overall health, it is always a good idea to consult with a veterinarian.
Weighing your guinea pig - when and how
Weighing your guinea pig one time will not give you a complete picture of their weight over time. To really track your piggy's weight and ensure they are at a healthy level, it's important to make regular weigh-ins a part of their care routine. The frequency of these weigh-ins will depend on the stage of life your guinea pig is in, but it is generally recommended to weigh your guinea pig once a week to monitor their weight and ensure that they are at a healthy weight.
To weigh your guinea pig, you can use a small kitchen scale or a pet scale specifically designed for small animals. Follow these steps:
- Place your scale on a flat, stable surface
- Place your guinea pig in a carrier or on a towel
- Place the carrier or towel on the scale
- Record the weight
- Subtract the weight of the carrier or towel from the total weight to get the accurate weight of your guinea pig
Now, if you're anything like me, you might be wondering how you're supposed to get your guinea pig to stay still on the scale long enough to get an accurate weight. Don't worry, we've all been there. My suggestion? Bribe them with a few pieces of their favourite veggie or a tasty treat. Trust me, it works like a charm.
What should a guinea pig weigh?
It's important to note that these are just averages, and individual guinea pigs may be larger or smaller. Factors that can affect a guinea pig's weight include their breed and age. Some breeds of guinea pigs tend to be larger or smaller than others, which can impact their size and weight. For example, the Abyssinian guinea pig is known for its distinctive, rough coat and is generally larger than other breeds, while the Peruvian guinea pig is known for its long, silky hair and is generally smaller.
Guinea pigs also tend to grow and gain weight as they age. Young guinea pigs (under 6 months) are still growing and may have different nutritional needs than adult guinea pigs. They may also be more active and have a higher metabolism, which can impact their weight. Adult guinea pigs (over 6 months) are generally fully grown and have reached their adult size and weight.
Here are some general guidelines for what a healthy weight range may be for adult guinea pigs:
- Small guinea pigs - under 600 grams
- Medium guinea pigs - 600-900 grams
- Large guinea pigs - 900-1200 grams
Fluctuations in weight
It's not uncommon for adult guinea pigs to experience small fluctuations in weight from time to time. However, if you notice a significant change in your guinea pig's weight, it's important to pay attention and potentially seek medical attention.
A weight change of 25 grams in a week is generally not cause for concern If you notice that your guinea pig's weight regularly changes by this amount, it may be worth a visit to the vet.
If your guinea pig's weight changes by 50 grams or more, it's important to monitor them closely and weigh them daily.
If you notice a sudden weight loss or gain of 75 grams or more, it's time to take action and see the vet as soon as possible.
In the case of a sudden weight loss or gain of 100 grams or more, it's considered an emergency and you should seek veterinary care immediately.
My guinea pig is underweight, what should i do?
First consult with a veterinarian to identify any underlying health issues that may be causing your guinea pig to be underweight. They can provide recommendations for treatment and help you determine the best course of action.
Here are some techniques you can use to help your guinea pig gain weight:
- Provide the recommended food amounts for guinea pigs. Check out our basic guide to feeding your pet guinea pigs!
- Offer a variety of nutritious treats, such as oat flakes and banana slices, to supplement your guinea pig's diet
- Gradually introduce new foods to avoid upsetting their digestion
- Keep their living space at a comfortable temperature between 17°C and 20°C (60°F and 68°F)
- Hold and check your guinea pig frequently for any signs of illness or injury
- If your guinea pig refuses to eat, consider syringe feeding to ensure they are getting enough nutrition
Tips to avoid your Guinea Pig becoming underweight
Provide a healthy diet that is high in nutrients and calories. This includes plenty of fresh hay and a high-quality pellet food formulated specifically for guinea pigs. You can also offer a variety of fresh vegetables and a small amount of fruits as treats. Stick to the recommended serving sizes, and be sure to monitor their weight and appetite closely.
Providing a clean and comfortable living space can help your guinea pig feel more at ease and encourage them to eat more. Regular exercise can also help your guinea pigs overall wellbeing and will help them to maintain a healthy weight.
My guinea pig is overweight, what should i do?
First consult with a veterinarian to identify any underlying health issues that may be causing your guinea pig to be overweight. They can provide recommendations for treatment and help you determine the best course of action.
Here are some techniques you can use to help your guinea pig lose weight:
- Don't exceed daily recommended food amounts for guinea pigs. Check out our basic guide to feeding your pet guinea pigs!
- Limit fruit due to high sugar content
- Avoid unhealthy snacks and treats
- Give daily floor time for exercise
- Use a large cage for exploration
- Provide chew toys and enrichment opportunities
Tips to avoid your Guinea Pig becoming overweight
Provide a healthy diet that is low in calories and high in fibre. This includes unlimited fresh hay, a high-quality pellet food formulated specifically for guinea pigs and a variety of fresh vegetables. Be sure to avoid feeding your guinea pig high-calorie or sugary foods. It is also important to monitor your guinea pig's portion sizes and avoid overfeeding.
You should also provide plenty of toys and opportunities for your guinea pig to play and explore, and consider setting up a playpen or exercise area for them to use.
In conclusion, weight management is important for the health and happiness of your guinea pig. A balanced diet, regular exercise, and a little bit of monitoring can go a long way towards keeping your furry friend fit and healthy.