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Specialist Guinea Pig Suddenly Won't Eat Her Food

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Jane Eyre

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One year ago, we adopted two guinea pig sisters we named Nora and Beryl. They are almost 2 years old, sotheir still young piggies. These two sisters have markedly different personalities; Nora is confident, fiesty, bold, chubby, and whole-heartedly in love with food. Beryl, on the other hand, is extremely nervous, timid, and hesitant. She typically follows Nora around the cage nervously, which irritates Nora. However, these piggies live together well with minor (normal) disputes.

3 months ago, we noticed that Beryl had lost weight, and a weigh in showed that she had lost 3 oz. We started separating them at meal time to ensure that Berly was able to eat her veggies in peace. Roughly 2 weeks after her weigh in, Beryl continued to lose weight. We started feeding her veggies in the morning in addition to her nightly feeding. We bought new hay, and have currently tried her on Timothy hay, orchard grass, sweet grass, oat hay, botanical hay, and alfalfa from different companies. Nora likes all the hay we've bought, but Berly will only bite the hay, nose through it, and turn away. From her heaviest, she has lost a total of 9 oz, 5 of which have been in the past three months.

We took her to a vet in mid July, and he examined her mouth but could not find any dental problems. He also could not feel any lumps/ tumours and suggested limiting her veggies to try and mae her more interested in hay. We also bought Oxbow Critical Care, which we are feeding to Beryl 6 times a day, 3 tsps per feeding. I've added ground up vitamin B to try and boost her appetite, and we've also added vitamin C to the water bottle. We have also had blood work done on Beryl, but everything came back at normal levels, prooving that she doesn't have any infections. I've tried hand feeding her hay, and tonight I even put the hay in the fridge to see if she would prefer it cold, but she still won't eat it. We also got her a little stuffed animal so she could have some "company" beside Nora, but it hasn't made any difference.

Feeding Beryl Critical Care has become extremely constaining and expensive. She adamantly refuses to eat her hay or kibble. I think nearly all of her daily calories come from the Critical Care we are force feeding her every few hours. We give her lettuce and some other veggies every night, which is the only thing she will eat by herself. After nearly a month of Critical Care she still has not gained any weight. She used to weight 2.5 pounds, but she is now hovering just above 2 lb. Her problem, whatever it is, is extremely frustrating. I don't know why she won't eat! We weigh her every morning and every night, and since her weight drops up to 2 oz over night, I think she's starving herself through the night.

She used to love her hay (I think it was Timothy hay) but now she just won't eat any hay or kibble. I've tried giving her grass, but after two days, she isn't interested any more. We cannot continue to feed her Critical Care every couple of hours for the rest of her life, and yet there doesn't seem to be anything medically wrong with her. I often see Nora foraging through the hay during the day, but Beryl just lies down all the time. It is as though she just isn't interested in food any more. Is this fussiness or something else?

ANY help, ideas, or guidance would be greatly appreciated. I think we've tried everything. I want to help my little piggie, but I just don't know what to do.
 

I <3 piggies

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I'm very sorry, this sounds extremely worrying and sad ): At first I thought of malocclusion, but then you said there were no dental problems, so I really am stumped! Not sure if this would work and DEFINITELY not trying to make you get another piggy, but the same thing happened to my rabbit once, she lived with a very bossy (neutered) male cage mate who she adored, but she all of a sudden became like a fluffy skeleton. We took her to a vet, but all he did was search up on the internet and print off a rabbit care sheet. (vets are great, he was just a cat/dog vet) We separated them for meals and pretty much tried everything. Anyway my sister who had moved away from home needed to drop off her pet baby rabbit so that she could travel. As soon as we put her baby bunny in with our rabbits, underweight rabbit (Mabella) was grooming her, cuddling her and started treating her like her own little baby. Within a few months she was no longer a skeleton and was IN LOVE with this baby bunny. So I don't know if it would work or not but maybe find a baby that Beryl could take care of, it could work. If you did this you would probably need to find a new cage mate for Nora aswell, and have two cages. So, I'm not trying to pressure you into doing this as it is a drastic decision, and I'm not even sure if it would work, so I'm just sharing my experience, sorry if it sounds pushy (: And i hope your piggy feels better soon.
 

Freela

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In your position, I would probably err on the side of having her teeth checked again, and making sure the vet in question is familiar with guinea pig teeth. In my experience, pigs who sniff at food but refuse to eat have always had tooth/mouth pain. I know during one of Sundae's dentals the vet was really not able to see anything wrong at first glance, but did find a molar spur and an ulcer in her mouth when she was anesthetized to have a better look (I'm in Canada, and conscious dentals really aren't a thing here at this point.) Since she hasn't been seen since mid-July, even if the teeth looked okay then, they could be overgrown now without her eating normally to wear them down. It might be worth another look at this point. When she does eat her lettuce, does she ever pull her lips back or paw at her mouth or otherwise act like food is stuck and won't go down? That was something I commonly saw with dental problems, along with weight loss and refusal to eat hard-to-chew foods like pellets and hay. I hope you find a solution here... I've been there, and I know it's frustrating!
 

Jane Eyre

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Thank you for yours responses! We've actually taken her to two different vets, one of whom was a specialist, who both examined her teeth. Neither vet could find anything wrong. However, since she's been surviving on a diet of Critical Care for a month, I'm also starting to be concerned that her teeth can't be ground down by hay and harder foods. Beryl doesn't pull her lips back or paw at her mouth with lettuce or veggies. I did, however, see her put her head down so her mouth was touching the ground, and move her head around when I tried to feed her hay earlier today. I've tried wetting her kibble and dripping strawberry juice (which she adores) of it, but she only sniffed it. But even if her teeth are getting long or if there is a dental problem now, I don't know if it explains why she stopped eating hay originally. For all I know, it could have been a psychological problem to start because of her frantic behavour with Nora. Nevertheless, I'll try to make a vet appointment this week. Thank you again!
 

Jane Eyre

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I'm very sorry, this sounds extremely worrying and sad ): At first I thought of malocclusion, but then you said there were no dental problems, so I really am stumped! Not sure if this would work and DEFINITELY not trying to make you get another piggy, but the same thing happened to my rabbit once, she lived with a very bossy (neutered) male cage mate who she adored, but she all of a sudden became like a fluffy skeleton. We took her to a vet, but all he did was search up on the internet and print off a rabbit care sheet. (vets are great, he was just a cat/dog vet) We separated them for meals and pretty much tried everything. Anyway my sister who had moved away from home needed to drop off her pet baby rabbit so that she could travel. As soon as we put her baby bunny in with our rabbits, underweight rabbit (Mabella) was grooming her, cuddling her and started treating her like her own little baby. Within a few months she was no longer a skeleton and was IN LOVE with this baby bunny. So I don't know if it would work or not but maybe find a baby that Beryl could take care of, it could work. If you did this you would probably need to find a new cage mate for Nora aswell, and have two cages. So, I'm not trying to pressure you into doing this as it is a drastic decision, and I'm not even sure if it would work, so I'm just sharing my experience, sorry if it sounds pushy (: And i hope your piggy feels better soon.
Thank you for trying to help! I really appreciate anything at this point. I really don't want to get two new piggies, since we are going to be moving in a year's time. However, I used to have another piggie named Sprite who started eating everything in sight when we tried to get her a friend who was a very young pig. I think Sprite gained two ounces in a very short period of time just because she started eating so much! I'm sure friends could work with some pigs in certain situations, but I don't think Beryl would take kindly to a new baby pig even if she was perfectly healthy; she can be nervous aggressive and pushy. Thank you for your suggestion, though. The second vet we saw actually suggested giving Beryl a stuffed animal, which we have. She sometimes sleeps next to it, but she still won't eat. Thank you again :)
 

Wiebke

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Hi and welcome!

As we have members from all over the world, can you please add your country, state/province or UK county to your details, so we can tailor any advice better. Click on your username on the top bar, then go to personal details and scroll down to location.

Not eating hay (which should make up to 80% of the daily food intake) is a serious issue and usually connected to severe pain. Is she still able to eat her pellets normally, as she won't be able to do it if her mouth is painful?
Has your girl had an x-ray of her teeth to check for problems as well as of the rest of the body to see whether there are any issues anywhere? Dental abscesses and elongated roots can cause severe loss of appetite before they become evident, as can thrush in the mouth and throat area. Many vets are not familiar with dental care in guinea pigs.

How much Critical Care are you feeding in a day? A healthy adult piggy in its primed needs about a daily intake of solids either eaten or syringe fed of 100-120ml to keep up the weight. Is she on any painkillers?
Complete Syringe Feeding Guide

@MintyAndGarry (TEAS) @furryfriends (TEAS) @Abi_nurse
 

Jane Eyre

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Hi and welcome!

As we have members from all over the world, can you please add your country, state/province or UK county to your details, so we can tailor any advice better. Click on your username on the top bar, then go to personal details and scroll down to location.

Not eating hay (which should make up to 80% of the daily food intake) is a serious issue and usually connected to severe pain. Is she still able to eat her pellets normally, as she won't be able to do it if her mouth is painful?
Has your girl had an x-ray of her teeth to check for problems as well as of the rest of the body to see whether there are any issues anywhere? Dental abscesses and elongated roots can cause severe loss of appetite before they become evident, as can thrush in the mouth and throat area. Many vets are not familiar with dental care in guinea pigs.

How much Critical Care are you feeding in a day? A healthy adult piggy in its primed needs about a daily intake of solids either eaten or syringe fed of 100-120ml to keep up the weight. Is she on any painkillers?
Complete Syringe Feeding Guide

@MintyAndGarry (TEAS) @furryfriends (TEAS) @Abi_nurse
Thank for for the suggestion! No, she won't eat the pellets either, and although we've tried them on many different types of food, neither pig is very interested. We're currently feeding them Oxbow Adult Guinea Pig and National Geographic Entree pellets.

An x-ray is the only thing we haven't done yet. The first vet we took her to said that bloodwork would show more than an x-ray, so we instead chose to have bloodwork done on her. I think an x-ray would be a good idea; after that we will have tried everything.
We are feeding her tons of Critical Care a day, because she will continue losing weight without it. Over 200 ml, which is about 6 tbsp of the dry powder, is how much we feed her daily. I know it's alot but it's what it takes to maintain her already low weight.

The specialist we took her to prescribed low dose antibiotics (Baytril) and a mild painkiller (Metacam oral). After about 4 days, she gained 2 oz. However, by that point the bloodwork results came back and showed she had no infections. Sadly, the medicines upset her stomach; she had very soft unformed poops and seemed uncomfortable. When we saw that she didn't have an infection, the vet said we should take her off the medications. Her stomach returned to normal, but she lost the 2 oz very quickly.

If she does have a dental problem, why is she so eager to eat her vegetables? She even eats hard veggies like carrots and celery quite happily. I think we will take her in to get an x-ray, but I don't see any pain or discomfort when she eats. She seems disinterested more than anything.
 

BonBon2010

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I know how much of a pain it can be to find the right food for your piggies, i'm trying to change my piggies diet, and they won't wean off P@H nuggets. Can you remember what food she was on when you got her?
Have you tried gripe water? I have a piggie with a tummy problem, that loves food, but just doesn't eat enough of it, she's gained weight since I put her on this, and is loads better. She still has vets scratching their heads as her symptoms (though only mild now, some have gone since I started her on this) pointed to her teeth, but they're fine.
I've since found she can't tolerate acidic food, like apples and strawberries, they upset her tummy. What are her droppings like? Are they small versions of what they should look like, or squishy?
 
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Elwickcavies

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Not eating is a big worry and it is very important to keep the throughput up, so you have been doing the right thing in getting as much Critical Care into Beryl as possible. However, syringe feeding is not a long-term option as you obviously realise, so you need to get to the bottom of the problem. You haven't mentioned if she is pooping? My guess would be that if she is not eating any hay, then she won't be getting enough fibre and her poops will be small and misshapen. It can be a bit of a vicious circle as not eating enough will make her feel bad so she won't want to eat. Coincidentally, I have just had a piggy that completely stopped eating quite recently. My vet thought his abdomen felt full for a guinea pig that hadn't eaten anything for a day, so she figured it must be a touch of bloat or some kind of blockage. After some injections of painkiller and gut motility meds, he started eating and was very quickly back to normal.

You said Beryl put in a bit of weight when she was on metacam and Baytril, and I wonder if it was the metacam that was helping, and that the issue is pain (which could also suggest bloat/blockage). An X-ray would show up both of those possibilities. I think it would be worth going back to the vet to discuss trying rinitidine, cisapride and metacam.

I don't know how this all stacks up with eating veggies OK, but not pellets or hay (my boar wouldn't touch anything), but in some ways the fact that it has been going on for months points to it not being a serious blockage or bad bloat.

The only other avenue I would think about it tooking at the pain aspect - if it's not an infection, it could still be inflamation (e.g. interstitial cystitis).

Please let us know how it goes!
 

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Hello there.

So sorry to hear your having such a bad time with your little one. I'm going to suggest a few things to try and consider. If she pretty much hasn't eaten any hay for the last month and has been relying on critical care then her teeth will likely be overlong now and may well need a trim, but not sure how much hay she has been getting. You could try... Changing her to a better quality hay (if it's not already?), something like oxbow Timothy hay is great. As for further investigations I would really consider some of the following, in this sort of order to rule out illnesses or diseases.
- bloods - what bloodwork did they do? A full blood count and biochemistry or just an in house pcv and blood glucose? She would need a full profile if not
- full body X-rays and skull X-rays to rule out dental or skull problems
- a urine sample tested to check for any issues there
- a feacal sample to check out for any parasites
- a longer course of a good high dose of pain relief - if she picks up you know your dealing with something painful

Not much help here as I don't really know what else the vets have or haven't found.

Keep us posted.

x
 

Jane Eyre

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BonBon2010, I don't know for sure what pellets she was eating when we adopted her, but I remember it looked like very plain, basic food. As far as her droppings, they are completely normal. They are normal shape and colour, but she isn't producing nearly as many as Nora. My guess would be because she just isn't eating as much (hay) as Nora. Strawberries are actually by far her favourite food; she eats them like there's no tomorrow. I don't think she has a stomach problem, as she eats her veggies without a problem, and she has been able to maintain her weight for the past month.

Elwickcavies, I was also curious if the metacam was making her feel better. However, I tried to give her only metacam (no baytril this time) about a week ago, but it made her have really soft unformed droppings again. Her stomach seems to be really sensitive to medications. The Critical Care has tons of fibre, so I think that's why her droppings are ok. We also mix some plain pumpkin (no sugar added) to her Critical Care for extra fibre. She no has another vet appointment for Monday. Thank you for the suggestions! I'm glad you pig is doing better.

Abi_nurse, we've tried 6 different types of hay and currently have oxbow timothy, but she really isn't interested. She normally eats a few strands then walks off and lies down somewhere else in the cage. I've tried placing hay directly in front of her but she just ends up using it as a pillow. The blood work included a ful blood count and biochemistry and everything came back at normal levels. We're going to do x-rays on her to see if her mouth is bothering her. We haven't done urine or feacal tests and from what I can see, everything seems to be ok. I'm wary of high dosage medication, since the metacam alone really bothered her stomach, but it's worth a try. As I mentioned, I'm taking her to the vet on Monday.

One thing I have noticed: when I feed her Critical Care from the syringe, she will only take it from the left side of her mouth. I don't know if this habit is pain or preferance based, but she has been doing this the whole month we've been syringe-feeding her. Thank you everyone for your suggestions!

Since she's consuming SO much Critical care and veggies daily, can anyone guess why she isn't gaining weight? I think I'm feeding her enough calories so it's odd she hasn't put on (and kept) and weight. This morning she only weighed 2 lb 2.1 oz and she once used to weigh about 2lb 7 oz.

Thanks again for all the suggestions!
 

Elwickcavies

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Perhaps it is the underlying problem that is stopping her from gaining. @Abi_nurse has made some good suggestions of things to try. I hope you and your vet can sort her out. x
 

BonBon2010

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Is she on probiotics? I had to take bonbon off metacam as it was upsetting her tummy. She's on fibre plex but I'm weaning her off it.
Bonbon loves apple, but I've taken her off that as a precaution just in case its that.
It won't hurt to rule out acidity being a cause. X
 

Poppy'sMum

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If she will only take food from one side of her mouth I am almost 99 % sure she will probably have some problem within her mouth. If the vet is certain it is not dental then ask them to check for an oral thrush infection as well. Is she getting adequate pain relief? Often piggies will not eat if they are in pain.
 

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Having had a piggy with a facial abscess recently and antibiotics that upset the stomach and led to a severe loss of weight that just wouldn't improve - an x-ray showed badly formed teeth roots that were still infected even though no infection could be seen by looking in the mouth and the facial abscess has gone - whenever I have had aproblem with a piggy it is usually an ultrasound or an x-ray that has found the problem - an ultrasound is about £45 - 50 at my vets - this might also help to find / rule out the problem - good luck - I know how you feel - 2 of mine are currently under the vets - one rushed in tonight at 10-45 .
 

Jane Eyre

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We gave her probotics when her tummy was bothered from the medications, but no longer give it to her. She seems to be digesting the food without a problem (since her weight has been basically constant the past month), but she really won't eat hay or pellets of her own accord. I wouldn't be at all surprised if she does have a dental problem. Several times now when I've picked her up I've found a piece of hay stuck in her top front teeth like a hillbilly. I've never seen this on Nora, so maybe Beryl's teeth are not straight and are causing her pain or discomfort. However, with all the food we're feeding her, shouldn't she have gained weight by now? She's eating so much Critical Care and gets veggies every night. I wish I knew why she can't gain.
I don't know if Nora eats very quickly and Beryl eats at a nomal speed, but when I compare the two girls, Beryl definitely eats much slower than Nora. Sadly, I don't remember if this scenario has always been the case. As I said, Beryl's going to the vet on Monday, and I definitely want her to have x-rays. That's a very good point about infected roots. For whatever reason, she seems quite interested in her timothy hay today (thank goodness!), but I'm sure tomorrow will be completely different. She's a fussy little lady.

TAN, I hope you pigs are ok, and thanks to everyone else for the suggestions. You're very helpful and supportive.
 

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If she's only taking syringe foods from one side, I would really wonder if there is a problem in the roots of her teeth not visible to the naked eye. One of my pigs was treated for a large jaw abscess a couple of years ago. However, she had a very difficult time eating for about six months before the abscess puffed up enough to be identified and lanced. She went off hay/pellets and lost weight, refused food other than easy-to-chew softer veggies, and generally acted as though she was uncomfortable (sad/mopey most of the time.) Because she was not chewing on one side, her teeth on that side overgrew about three times and needed to be corrected, although that would only buy her a month or so of slightly better eating before they would overgrow again. Ultimately, the abscess was the underlying issue that we were missing and once it was lanced, all the other appetite/dental problems resolved. Hope this helps a bit... lots of luck and keep us posted!
 

Jane Eyre

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It seems like ages since I last posted on here, even though it's been less than a month. In 7 weeks, little Beryl visited three vets, had two ultrasounds, two sets of x-rays, two types of antibiotics, blood work, and a urinalysis. The (phenomenal) vet saw she had a bladder stone, which she was able to remove. We also found an ovarian cyste, which was drained (2 ml of clear liquid) and we gave her hormone shots. While both problems could easily have caused weight loss in Beryl, she continued to lose weight even after boh problems were resolved. Her teeth were absolutely fine. In short, we could not find anything medically wrong with little piggy. She slept all the time in her cage because she simply didn't have enough energy to get about her day. We even tried getting her a friend (named Edith), but Beryl was very aggressive and antagonistic, even though the new piggy is quite submissive. Nora started shunning Beryl, which our vet said is instinctual toward a sick pig. We realised that this elusive problem was not going to be resolved, and sadly reached the conclusion that putting her down would be the kindest option for her. Her quality of life dropped significantly since she stopped eating her hay and she just seemed "checked out." Yesterday morning, she weighed only 1lb 14.7 oz. We made an appointment for today (September 9th) for her final vet visit. It felt like my own death sentence looming all day. Sweet little piggy is now out of any pain or suffering.
I did not for a moment think we would lose another pig so soon; it's only been just over a year since we lost Sprite, who lived until just past her seventh birthday, Little Beryl hadn't even reached age two. Beryl was the most unique pig I have ever encountered; both she and her sister have black hairs with white tips, so they look like lumps of coal from a distance. Beryl would swoon when we held her, and was very comfortable lying on her back. She seemed to have a permanent although sporadic nose-whistle that was nothing short of adorable! It feels so strange to not to feed her Critical Care anymore, especially since I keep looking at the clock to determine her next feeding. I miss my piggy. I wish there was something else we could have done to find the problem, just something to still have her with us. Farwell, little darling. You are very, very missed.
 
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