You probably think you’re doing a favor for your mischievous buddy by switching him to a top-of-the line brand of pellets. But swapping feed has to be a gradual process, otherwise your guinea pig may not eat the new stuff. In some cases his refusal to eat could be a warning sign that something is seriously wrong, warranting an immediate visit to your veterinarian.
They Don’t Taste Good
Just like you, your little critter can have a finicky palate. He may have thoroughly enjoyed his daily feast and then when you upped and changed to new pellets, his taste buds didn’t agree. Rather than cutting out the old brand cold turkey, switch to the new pellets gradually. Mix just a few of the new pellets into a scoopful of the old stuff. Every few days, increase the ratio of new pellets to old pellets, until he’s eating solely the new stuff. This will give his mouth time to adjust to the new flavor. Lastly, always swap out pellets every day. They can get stale, making them undesirable.
They Made Him Sick
Guinea pigs are notorious for having incredibly sensitive bellies. So even though yesterday he devoured his entire bowl of new pellets, it’s possible that his gut doesn’t agree with them today. He might not have any kind of appetite because he has a bellyache. Watch for loose watery stools or just the opposite, lack of a bowel movement for days. These cues let you know that either the new pellets aren’t agreeing with him or you switched his food too quickly, and his body time didn't have time to adjust.
They’re Too Hard to Chew
Your guinea pig’s incisors, like those of every rodent, grow around the clock his whole life long. Because of this, it’s essential that you provide him with some type of gnawing toy or log specifically made for guinea pigs, to wear his teeth down. If you don't, and his chompers start getting too big, they’ll make it difficult and even painful for him to eat. Watch for signs of dental problems such as drooling, bloody gums or dropping the pellets from his mouth when he tries to eat. If you notice any of these, take your furball to the vet for a thorough dental exam. A professional tooth trim may be in order.
Something Is Wrong
When your pint-size pal refuses to eat, it could be a warning sign that something is wrong in his body. Aside from skipping out on his new pellets, if he’s having difficulty breathing, seems lethargic, has blood coming from his hindquarters, sneezes constantly, or has a bloated belly or dry, crusty eyes, get him to your veterinarian right away. Any minor illness, like a cold, all the way up to something more serious, such as internal bleeding, can make your furry friend lose his appetite.
Melodie Anne Coffman specializes in overall wellness, with particular interests in women's health and personal defense. She holds a master's degree in food science and human nutrition and is a certified instructor through the NRA. Coffman is pursuing her personal trainer certification in 2015.