GUINEA LYNX

A Medical and Care Guide for Guinea Pigs

Hand Feeding

Home > Medical Guide > Hand Feeding

Hand Feeding Your Ill Guinea Pig

Hand feeding can save your guinea pig's life. Sick guinea pigs very seldom get over an illness without help and can decline VERY QUICKLY. Do not hesitate to seek competent veterinary care if you suspect your pig is ill.

Hand Feeding

    Quantity     Quality     Probiotics     Pellet Preparation     Feeding Techniques

If your guinea pig has stopped eating (shown little or no interest in food over a 6 to 12 hour period, with a drop in elimination and urine), it is imperative that you see a vet to treat the cause and start working immediately to get food moving through the system. Some conditions like torsion or blockage MUST be treated before feeding. (See Anorexia)

Remember: Food is life. Food, water, and a vitamin C supplement are essential to keep your guinea pig alive, to prevent dehydration, and to stimulate the digestive process.

Quantity - How much does your pig need?

Your vet can advise you regarding the amount of food to provide. Harkness and Wagner note that in one day, adult guinea pigs eat approximately:

Weigh your pig to estimate dietary needs. A 1 kilo pig (2.2 pounds) might require 60 grams (2 1/10 oz.) dry food and 100 ml (6 2/3 Tablespoons) of water. Keep in mind many pigs have lost weight before the anorexia is noticed. If you have difficulty determining how much food your pet is consuming, weigh him/her before and after feeding. Caging an ill animal separately (but near companions if not infectious) will allow you to measure what your pig can consume on its own. Go Up

Note:

Quality - What are the best foods?

For the pet guinea pig, a pellet slurry or Critical Care are superior to baby food as they contain more fiber (read about the importance of fiber). Critical Care has received high praise from those who have used it. Available online, the Oxbow Hay Company prefers that you contact your veterinarian (who should examine and diagnose your pet's illness) to order it. They provide a phone number for emergencies.

Some Critical Care users combine the product with Pedialyte, Odwalla juice, wheat grass juice, or natural cranberry juice (no added sugar or preservatives) instead of water to improve palatability and nutrition (see discussion).

Alternatively, one can use plain food pellets or combine pellets dissolved into water (or one of the above suggested alternatives) with minced parsley, vegetables, and carrots. Soften pellets in warm water. Pelleted feeds typically contain 18 to 20% crude protein and 10 to 16% fiber.

Sources in the UK: Check out JC's list of sources for hand feeding supplies in the UK. Go Up

Probiotics Your pet may have been prescribed antibiotics. All antibiotics affect the normal gut flora to a greater or lesser extent. Dangerous antibiotics like penicillin are deadly because they affect the normal flora of the gut, causing a fatal and irreversible diarrhea. But even recommended antibiotics may cause problems like diarrhea (antibiotic advice).

A half of a dropping from a healthy guinea pig dissolved in a small amount of water and added to the food is reportedly the best way to re-inoculate the good bacteria and boost appetite, especially if your pet is on antibiotics. Other people feel the addition of a small amount of powder from an acidophilus gel tablet will help to restore gut flora. Yogurt has live acidophilus cultures but is not the best choice as it is a dairy product. Since guinea pigs are herbivores, milk products are not recommended. The probiotics would be given an hour or two after administering the antibiotic.

Pellet Preparation The day's ration of your guinea pig's usual food pellets can be crushed in a coffee grinder (or ground with a mortar and pestle) or soaked overnight in a refrigerator and crushed by spoon. About 20 grams of powder and 5 mls of water will make a good paste (experiment). A stiffer paste reduces the danger of asphyxiation.

Some guinea pigs will appreciate the mash being warmed. Pellets work the teeth (especially a drier mash) and stimulate the digestive system more effectively than baby food, though prepared peas, mixed veggies, etc are much smoother than pellets. Check out Sef's simple recipe too. Go Up

Feeding Techniques Perhaps 20 to 25 grams of mash mixed with 15 ml water on the side will be all you will be able to do at one time. Several (4-6 or more) feeding sessions per day will be necessary, to keep things moving through your pet's system and provide adequate nutrition. A 1 cc. syringe with the restrictive tip cut off (to leave a tube of even diameter -- pictured below) and sanded smooth is useful for feeding. A spare 1 cc needleless syringe can be used to offer water (with vitamin C, if needed) in between bites and to administer medications. A straw can be used in a pinch, though it is tedious.

syringe

There are many techniques -- most basic is to feed slowly and do not rest your pig on its back ( a greater chance of aspiration). Some people find a vertical position works well.

Some people wrap their pet in a little "pouch". Others hold the guinea pig facing away from them. For the truly uncooperative pig, Pinta's technique of administering oral medications may help (see pic). Make sure the pig is swallowing. You do not want to get food into the lungs. A stiffer mix may help prevent aspiration.

In Talishan's experience, their mouths will hold about 1/3 of a 1 cc syringe's worth of food at one time. She also suggests (using only a 1cc syringe with the tip cut off and the rough end smoothed) to go deep near the guinea pig's molars and depress the plunger VERY SLOWLY. Give no more than about 1/4 to 1/3 of the syringe at one time. Wiggle the syringe if needed a bit to get him to chew. Then, once the food has been chewed and swallowed, give another 1/4 to 1/3. Don't remove the syringe until it needs to be refilled. She feels that if a guinea pig is chewing, it is swallowing -- that if you watch a guinea pig drink, they actually chew their water! If guinea pigs aspirate, they will cough violently so you should know if that is what has happened.

Vicki of JPGPR finds pigs feel more secure when they have their feet on a hard surface. Place your pig on a towel on the counter, corralled in the crook of your arm. Experiment with gently holding your pet's chin. You can be firm if necessary.

Your goal is to get your guinea pig back to a normal eating routine, so offer food occasionally while you are hand-feeding and make sure there is food always available in their living quarters. Some people find their ill guinea pig responds enthusiastically to grass. If you have fresh, clean, pesticide-free grass available, be sure to offer it to your pet. Avoid areas next to busy roadsides or those frequented by dogs or livestock. Food intake can be monitored by weighing the guinea pig before and after feedings if you question how much is actually being eaten.

Check out Regiane's video for tips: Handfeeding your Guinea Pig Go Up

Young Pups

Some pups lose their mother to pregnancy related complications. Other pups do not thrive. Weigh your pups promptly after they are born and daily for at least a week to make sure they are getting the food they need. JHand notes that in 5 different litters, the pups all lost a small amount of weight for the first 2 days and then showed a gain on the 3rd. She emphasized observing how the pup is acting and being very careful with syringe feeding the pups as they can aspirate food. If one pup seems to be losing significantly more weight for the first 2 days than the other pups, be sure to hand feed.

I noticed that when they started gaining weight, it would be 1/8 of an oz a day for maybe the 1st week, then it would up to 1/4 oz a day, after about 3 weeks, it would go up to like a 1/2 oz a day. This was basic averages.

A couple pups failed to gain at the rate JHand observed but eventually began gaining. Check JHands chart to get an idea of what kind of weight gain you can expect in pups. Salana found that a later failure to gain weight at the same rate as littermates can be a sign of tooth problems: she noticed that in the second week her pup Einstein wasn't gaining as fast as her other pup. An examination revealed Einstein's tooth problems.

Tips for the weak and the young:

Tips For The Ill Guinea Pig

Towels: You may wish to keep your pet on flat folded towels instead of loose bedding, as it is easier to walk on if he/she isn't feeling well, and you can keep better track of urine and stool output.

Warmth: A few pigs benefit greatly from extra warmth. Linda enthusiastically recommends Thermacare wraps -- designed to relieve sore muscles, they heat up when exposed to air and stay warm for up to 8 hours. She has used them with orphans and ill guinea pigs.They can be purchased in supermarkets and pharmacies. (See: www.thermacare.com) WARNING: Children and pets should not ingest this product as it may be poisonous when consumed.

Some people will use a wrapped water bottle or light (for its radiant warmth) at one end of a cage. Any heat source should be positioned so the guinea pig can move away from it if uncomfortable.

Pain Management: If your guinea pig is in pain, it may be reluctant to move or eat. When appropriate, be sure to get pain medication for your guinea pig. Do not give any pain medication unless it is under the supervision of your veterinarian. Meloxicam and rimadyl are both effective. Read about post surgical pain.

WEIGH DAILY! While your guinea pig is ill, weigh it once or twice a day. This is especially important if your pet is not eating, in which case you should be monitoring to see if your hand feeding is able to maintain your pet.

Hand-feeding takes practice and patience by both of you, Try to make it fun and relaxing. Although it is a time consuming process, it will offer you the opportunity to bond more closely to your pet. Go Up

Feylin's sick pig tips:

Fiber In A Hand Fed Diet

Pinta feels:

"If the food doesn't keep moving through their system, it will ferment causing gas and lead to bloat. Pigs are basically designed to keep grazing all day long. Proportionate to their size - they consume and process amazing amounts of food. They are essentially pooping machines.

"I have a theory, backed up by absolutely nothing but observation, that it is extremely important to include fibre when hand feeding. I have noticed in a few cases of baby food feedings, that bloat has occurred, usually when it appeared the pig was out-of-the-woods. I think that the intestines become adjusted to the soft, effortless texture of the baby food and when fibre works it way back into the diet (in the form of hay and pellets) the intestines have difficulty moving the suddenly bulkier matter through. Clogs and blockages occur leading to bloat.

"Through many years of hand feeding with a pellet slurry, we have never had bloat occur. (We have had one case of bloat due to surgical adhesions.) The 2 times we were forced to feed baby food (the only food that could be chewed) we lost both pigs to the underlying problem before fibre could be reintroduced. As I say, this is only a theory. Might be completely wrong."

Guinea Pigs are for Life