Every mammal has some level of intestinal gas, a byproduct of digestion. However, guinea pigs have no ability to pass this gas; excess buildup can lead to bloat, as can intestinal blockage. You can help prevent gas and bloat by watching for symptoms and avoiding feeding cavies certain foods.
Gas and Bloat Connection
Guinea pigs are not able to pass any gas produced in the intestines. This can cause a painful and potentially fatal gas buildup, one of the main causes of guinea pig bloat. Another cause is intestinal blockage, or a twisting of the intestines, says Guinea Lynx, a medical and care guide for guinea pigs. SmallAnimalChannel.com says other triggers include hairball impaction, bacteria, parasites and viruses. Certain foods also produce excess gas.
If your guinea pig's belly looks swollen or distended, it may be a sign of bloat or associated gas buildup. Other signs include weakness, lack of appetite, heavy breathing, restless movements, or stoppage of bowel movements. According to SmallAnimalChannel.com, bloat or associated gas buildup can worsen in a short period of time, so it is vital to get a guinea pig to a vet clinic if you notice any of these symptoms.
Treatment and Prognosis
Prognosis is difficult to determine, says Dr. Lori Hageman of the Ark Pet Hospital in Antioch, California. Veterinarians try to treat bloat with anti-gas medications or antibiotics in an attempt to get the intestines to function normally. They may also give pain medication. Surgery is also an option. Unfortunately, bloat is likely to repeat itself. Wlliam Ridgeway, DVM from Long Beach Animal Hospital in Long Beach, California, says 10 percent to 20 percent of guinea pigs he sees come in for bloat.
Foods to Avoid or Limit
Some foods are more likely to produce excess gas; guinea pigs should have them only occasionally in small quantities. They include bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, peppers and radicchio. Give your guinea pigs hay and other high-fiber foods to provide roughage, and make sure plenty of fresh, clean water is available; water helps flush the system and reduce gas. Offer side dishes of pineapple and other foods that aid in digestion.
- Guinea Lynx: Emergency Medical Guide
- SmallAnimalChannel.com: Beware of Guinea Pig Bloat
- The Peter Gurney Guinea Pig Pages: Bloat in Guinea Pigs
- The Humane Society of the United States: Vital Vittles for Your Guinea Pig
- Guinea Pig Manual: About Guinea Pigs
- Cavy Companions: What You Should Know Before You Get Guinea Pigs
- The World's Healthiest Foods: Pineapple
Sarah Whitman's work has been featured in newspapers, magazines, websites and informational booklets. She is currently pursuing a master's degree in nutrition, and her projects feature nutrition and cooking, whole foods, supplements and organics. She also specializes in companion animal health, encouraging the use of whole foods, supplements and other holistic approaches to pet care.