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Much like the man in the red suit who delivers gifts on Christmas, guinea pigs are typically pleasantly plump. But when that chubbiness turns into obesity, lots of problems ensue. Telling if a cat or dog is obese isn't too difficult, but determining if your pig is packing too much weight tends to be more challenging. Paying attention to his behavior and examining his droppings can tell you if your pal needs to go on a diet.
A guinea pig who's packing on too many extra ounces often seems to prefer being a couch potato, or in his case a bedding potato. Obese pigs tend to sit around, eat, drink and sleep. They're not too crazy about exerting themselves. Lugging around all that extra weight can quickly tire out your guinea pig, so he's very fatigued every day. Obese pigs also tend to suffer from a few medical problems that cause lethargy, such as diabetes. However, a whole slew of other problems can cause fatigue, so don't rely on that as the only indicator of obesity.
Presence of Caecotrophs
When your guinea pig eats, his digestive system starts working in a much different way from that of most other animals. Some of the food your pig eats comes out the other end in the form of a caecotroph, which somewhat resembles normal feces. However, unlike straight feces, caecotrophs contain nutrients from the food your guinea pig ate. Your pig eats the caecotrophs right as they're passing through, so you rarely see them scattered around his enclosure. If he's obese, he may be unable to reach his anus, causing the caecotrophs to pile up in his cage. Caecotrophs often look a bit lighter than regular feces and have a softer texture.
There's a reason ketosis is also known as pregnancy toxemia: it occurs mostly in pregnant guinea pigs. But males, especially obese ones, may also get the condition, which is characterized by the overabundance of ketone bodies in your pig's system. His body makes ketone bodies when it feels there's a need for energy but that energy isn't being supplied efficiently enough with food intake—sometimes because of a poor diet. Too many ketone bodies can cause a host of problems, including making your pig's blood toxic. Symptoms include lethargy, loss of appetite, a drunken gait and even coma. He might also drink less. Ketosis is a serious condition that can be fatal.
Vet Appointment and Remedy
All of the aforementioned signs and symptoms of obesity call for a vet visit as soon as possible. Most symptoms associated with obesity are also symptoms of other conditions, so it's important to make sure something even more serious isn't the problem. If you notice your pig has a drunken gait or falls into a coma, take him to your vet immediately. If obesity is the root of his problems, you need to make changes to your pig's lifestyle. More exercise is a must, which may call for a larger enclosure, more toys and about 15 to 20 minutes a day spent outside his cage in a secure area where he can run and play. You may also need to feed him less or feed him a different food, but talk to your vet about that before changing his diet.
- guinea pig sitting in a car on white background image by Dmytro Tolokonov from Fotolia.com