Caring for the Elderly.  

Caring for the Elderly. 


The average lifespan for a guinea pig is about three to five years, however some have been known to live up to ten or eleven years old. Most vets consider a four-year-old guinea pigs to be geriatric, but there is no hard and fast rule regarding age, as they all age at different rates depending on their breeding or any health issues they may have. Unfortunately, most guinea pigs tend pass away due to an illness rather than old age and their little bodies are so fragile and miss understood by many vets.

Do you have an elderly Guinea pig?

 Here are some of the Signs you may have an elder.

  • Your Guinea pig has become less active and not  ‘Popcorn’ or  do ‘Zoomies’ like they used to. 
  • They may loose weight, and have muscle tone loss. Feeling less chunky than they used to.
  • You may notice them develop walking problems and hop more than walk like they used to when they were younger.
  • They may be Sleeping more and are not so active at playtime or when they are out on the grass.
  • Not eating much and drinking less or more.

All of the above is a sign of old age but could also be a health issue too. It’s a good idea to get your guinea pig checked by a vet if you think your piggies is aging, just uncase it is something more serious and not related at all to old age.

Here are some tips on how to care for the elderly Piggies in your family.

Weight loss.

It’s always important to keep a track of your guinea pig’s weight, but it’s even more important for your older piggies. We recommend weighing them now on a weekly or fortnightly basis. Guinea pigs tend to lose body fat and muscle tone as they age, with their rear legs and hips will often start to feel more bony.

 If you notice your guinea pig is rapidly losing weight, in the range of 50-100g; in a short period of time, it is advised to contact your vet. Fast weight loss is often an indicator of a developing health issue, like teeth problem.


Keep an eye on their eating and make sure they are eating well. Watch them when they eat to make sure the younger members of the family are not eating the majority of the dinner time veggies. Check that they are eating a good amount, that they can eat easily and are not chewing and spitting the food back out, as this can be a sign of teeth issues too. Only eating soft foods, like the inside of cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce but not the stems, can be a sign they have a tooth issue.

. Weight loss accompanied by the following symptoms signifies tooth problems

  • Drooling
  • Eating only the soft parts of veg and leaving the rest
  •  An interest in food but an inability to eat
  • Dropping pellets instead of chewing them
  • Neglecting to eat hay and tough foods like carrots and broccoli.
  • Biting veggies into tiny pieces, then spitting them out

Teeth spurs or overgrown teeth are a big problem in elderly Guinea pigs, due to the loss in muscle tone in the jaw and can prevent your guinea pig from eating properly, which then causes molars to grow unevenly. Left untreated, your guinea pig will stop eating and starve to death. If overgrown molars and other illnesses have been ruled out, weight loss isn't as scary and is just a sign of old age.


If it’s just a case of them eating slower than the rest of the pack, feed them separately when they are having cuddle time and give them a bit extra than the rest of their favourite foods.

Plenty of food rich in Vitamin c and low in Calcium helps to keep your piggie in good health and prevents bladder stones.

As a precaution, we recommend getting your piggies teeth checked by a vet at least once a year, once they become 3 years of age.

Walking issues

If you have noticed your guinea pig walking ‘funny’ it could be a sign of Arthritis that's easily managed with medication from your vet. Or, it could be a sign there is something more going on. Check nails, toes and the soles of the feet for abnormalities. If a guinea pig isn’t walking about too much and sitting in their own wee, they can get sore feet from the urine. If this is the case, we suggest giving them a fleece mat or a comfy bed to lie on which is changed daily.  Well, we all need a bit more comfort as we get older, to protect aching joints and muscles, don’t we?

Other Problems

Eye sight- Just like us, eyesight can get worse with age. Cataracts also very common in piggies too. If your guinea pig is blind in one eye, or both, try to keep the layout of your cage the same so they know where everything is. It’s a good idea to make sure your piggies can hear you about, before reaching into their cage, you don’t want to make them jump.

Impaction- This is a common problem with elderly Boars, where they have problems passing there own poo.

Ovarian Cyst- are common in female piggies. Spotted by the tell-tale “light bulb shape” (small in the front, wider at the belly), often accompanied by bilateral hair loss, is usually a sign that hormones are causing problems.

How to help your elderly companion.

Be cautious with temperature control.

Your guinea pig will be more susceptible to temperature changes as they get older and find it harder to regulate their own body temperature.  Try to keep them at a nice temperature between 15- 20 degrees all year round as they have more difficulty maintaining a stable body temperature.

In the winter, avoid the cold by bringing them inside until the spring.  Be mindful about keeping them away from drafts, like doors and windows and not by a radiator, but keep a constant temperature. Don’t let them get too hot, so don’t give them a heat pad unless your home is cold. Your guinea pig will more likely sit on it until they get too hot and then not move off it, making them over heated. This can lead to fur loss and dehydration.

Give them a  comfortable home.

Keeping your guinea pigs cage clean & comfortable is important to providing them a happy life. Your older piggies will sleep more & stay in one place for a longer period of time, so keeping a clean cage is very important.  You may think about changing to fleece bedding if your piggy normally is on woodshavings or other bedding. There is nothing like a soft bed to lay in.  Change your fleeces regularly so they are always dry. Keeping your piggies clean and dry is important as urine and poo can cause skin infections more easily. Older guinea pigs tend to be more susceptible to bumblefoot too, if they are exposed to wet bedding and dirty cages.

 Keep food and water in an area that is easy for your senior guinea pigs to get to, especially if they have mobility issues. If you hutch has ramp, consider changing the layout to all one level, to help with mobility issues.

Limit the toys they no longer play with, to give them more room to get about without climbing over things.


Knowing your piggy is very important, so if you aren’t doing weekly health checks, please start now so you’ll know that you did everything you could to give your guinea pig a happy and healthy life. Older guinea pigs, usually welcome the extra attention, especially if they live alone as their partner has already crossed the rainbow bridge.


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