sudden death in guinea pigs

What to do when your Guinea Pig Dies

Dealing with the death of your precious guinea pig is very hard, and as someone who has just recently lost her guinea pig, let me tell you. It hurts really bad but you’ll feel a little better over time. In this article, we’ll go over what to do when your guinea pig dies, including burial options, dealing with grief, helping your surviving guinea pig(s) to cope, and so much more.

As I said, I lost one of my guinea pigs, Popcorn, on December 6, 2023, at the age of about 6 years old from bladder stones (me and my guinea pigs’ worst enemy, especially since Popcorn was genetically more likely to have it). You can see what his last 48 hours of life were like in this video.

To say that I was devastated was an understatement, but I know you’re here to learn what you should do when your guinea pig passes away (my condolences). So, let’s dive in, shall we?

My guinea pig’s last 48 hours of life

What is the most common way guinea pigs die?

Pneumonia is the leading cause of death in guinea pigs. It’s usually a bacterial infection that causes inflammation in your guinea pig’s lungs.

According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, some signs of pneumonia in guinea pigs include oozing or discharge from the nose, sneezing, and difficulty breathing. They may also have pink eye, fever, weight loss, depression, or loss of appetite. Moreover, pneumonia is one of the disorders that can cause sudden death in guinea pigs.

Sudden death in guinea pigs 

If your Guinea pig suddenly dies without a known cause, it’s important to talk to your vet about this to find the source of your piggie’s illness and death. 

This is very important because it may be an infectious disease or that can cause your other Guinea pigs to get it as well. 

Another reason why you should find out the cause of death is because how and what you feed, house, and take care of all your Guinea pigs is mostly the same. So if your Guinea pig dies because of one of these factors, you’ll know how to adjust your surviving guinea pig’s diet to ensure its long life. 

For example, Popcorn died from bladder stones, and it is caused by genetics but enhanced with excess amounts of calcium. Therefore, we regularly take Mochi and Coffee to vet checkups and put them on a lower calcium diet.

sudden death in guinea pigs

What do you do when your guinea pig dies at home?

Having to witness your guinea pig passing away in your home is a very traumatic experience. After confirming that your piggy is dead, leave it in the cage or where they usually live for an hour or two. That way, you can let its remaining guinea pig buddies say a final goodbye to it. They may see, sniff and lick your deceased piggy in an attempt to wake it up. When they find out that it is not responding, they will accept the fact that the guinea pig has passed away.

Yes, it’s heartbreaking to watch but doing this will help your remaining guinea pigs grieve easier. Another reason is that your remaining guinea pigs may feel agitated and anxious if one of their buddies suddenly disappears.

After your guinea pigs have said their goodbyes to your deceased piggy, carefully take it out. Then place some objects like fleece towels, toys, or hideouts that have your dead guinea pig’s smell into their habitat. This way, they can remember the scent and get some comfort from each other.

Your guinea pigs will experience grief, and that is normal. Make sure to keep an eye on them and their weight, appetite, behaviour and so on.

guinea pig

What to do when your guinea pig dies in an animal hospital?

If your guinea pig passes away in an animal hospital (like how my guinea pig, Popcorn did), the vet will call and notify you. In my experience, the vet led me and my family to a small room with my piggy lying on a small table wrapped loosely in a blanket. The staff let us have privacy to mourn over his body, cuddle him one last time and say our final goodbyes.

A guinea pig passing away in an environment where professionals are will make the whole process more organized, in a way. What I mean is when I say Popcorn’s body, the vets have positioned him in a way that made him still look cute and without any bodily fluids of some sort. This also made it easier to discuss with the vet the next steps, which are either cremating or burying.

Adding to that, having your guinea pig pass away in your home can be very shocking, and traumatizing and leave you confused about why and how it happened. With your piggy by a vet’s side, they will most likely have found out the cause of its death.

Why has my guinea pig died with eyes open?

It is quite common for guinea pigs to pass away with their eyes closed, although it may not be the most pleasant sight. This can be attributed to a couple of reasons.

Firstly, being prey animals, guinea pigs instinctively keep their eyes open while sleeping. Consequently, after death, their eyes tend to remain in that position. Additionally, since keeping their eyelids closed requires minimal energy as opposed to other vital functions like maintaining a heartbeat, it is less likely for their eyelids to close naturally upon passing.

can I bury my dead guinea pig?

How do you dispose of a dead guinea pig?

Can I bury my dead guinea pig?

Burying your dead Guinea pig is one of the options to put your loving piggy to rest. However, it’s important to know that burying is also a harder option compared to cremating. That’s because some cities don’t allow pet burials in your backyard. 

There are two main things you need to consider. 

First off, how would you be burying your Guinea pig? Are you planning to bury it in your garden/backyard or a pet cemetery?

Let’s go over the first one, burying in your backyard. This might not be possible in some places because of the law. Not all countries or provinces will let you bury your pet in your backyard, and if it is allowed, there are many regulations to follow like how deep you need to dig and how far away it should be from any water sources. So make sure to check the regulations for your living area either by searching or asking your vet.

There are many small pet burial pods, coffins or caskets on Amazon that you can place your piggie in for burial. Just make sure to wrap your guinea pig’s body in a biodegradable cloth or box instead of plastic because it won’t biodegrade.

Guinea Pig Cremation

Cremation is another option that’s much more common, especially with pets. That’s because the ashes can be kept in a small urn or jar, in your own home. Remember to check the size of the urn though, because some might be too big.

Moreover, there are numerous other ways that you can keep your pet’s ashes. For example, I’m going to keep most of Popcorn’s ashes in an urn, and a little bit of his ashes in a necklace, so I can have him close to my heart at all times.

Some people also prefer spreading their pet’s ashes somewhere, like in the ocean, and what you want to do with your piggie’s ashes is completely up to you.

This is just a simplified answer, so here’s a guide to guinea pig cremation.

The Cremation Procedure in a Nutshell

Some places are different, but this is what my guinea pig’s cremation procedure is like in Canada.

  1. Animal Hospitals are partnered with a pet cremation service, and they come periodically (once a week for my animal hospital)
  2. With the pet owner’s permission and after signing papers, they will pick up the pets’ bodies and carefully transfer them to the cremation location.
  3. There, they will start the cremation process for each pet
  4. pet owner can pick up their pet’s ashes in the animal hospital.

Depending on the company and cremation location, it takes about 3-5 business days to get the ashes.

How much does a Guinea Pig Cremation Cost?

The guinea pig cremation cost varies in your country, the type of cremation and the company itself, but it costs an estimated $150-$175 in Canada.

The cremation cost for my guinea pig Popcorn that the company my vet’s animal hospital partnered with costs $175, but they came with a free urn to put his ashes in, which is something that many companies do for free as well.

guinea pig death

One of my guinea pigs died. What should I do with the other?

If one of your Guinea pigs passes away, your remaining piggie will need to have another companion. That’s because Guinea pigs are social animals and need company. Getting another friend for your piggy does not mean replacing your deceased Guinea pig, but keeping it happy and healthy. 

There are several options to keep your remaining guinea pig happy. The first and best option is, of course, to adopt another guinea pig (or guinea pigs) from the animal shelter or rescue for your piggy to have a buddy. Here’s how to introduce and bond your guinea pigs, coming from a guinea pig parent that bonded 3 adult male guinea pigs.

If adopting a guinea pig is really not possible for your circumstances, or you want to stop the cycle of having guinea pigs, another option is fostering. Fostering a guinea pig means you temporarily adopt a guinea pig(s) from the animal shelter into your home and care for them. What’s great about this is that the shelter will provide you with food and medical care for the pet until it’s available for adoption. The length of commitment can be from a couple of days to several weeks, sometimes months.

That way, your guinea pig will have constant guinea-pig interaction and maybe even make some new friends! As someone who had to separate my guinea pigs, this option is still much better for the guinea pigs than being single.

If that is still not possible, some people would consider rehoming their single guinea pig to find a buddy for it. It’s also a good idea to talk with your vet if you are unsure or have any questions.

Grieving for the loss of a guinea pig

Grieving for the loss of your precious guinea pig is not easy at all. I just recently lost Popcorn, and I miss him a lot too. Everything reminds me of him.

Take all the time you need to grieve.  Sometimes, you just need a good cry. Go ahead, let those tears flow. Take a moment to remember the good times. The zoomies, cuddles, and you taking pictures of your baby. Your time together might be over, but the memories? They’re forever.

Now, let’s talk about self-care. It’s not just for humans, you know. Take a nap, indulge in your favourite treat, or even binge-watch cute pet videos (here’s a playlist of adorable guinea pig videos to make your day better). I made one specifically for grieving guinea pig parents like you. Trust me, it helps.

How to help your guinea pigs with grief

Yes, guinea pigs feel grief too. When their buddy passes away, they may feel sad and eat or drink less. Some may move less and tuck themselves in a corner, not wanting to do the things they normally do. These symptoms show that they are depressed, and you should take them to the vet if that happens.

You can help your guinea pig work through their grief by spending more quality time together, putting more interactive toys in their cages to encourage them to move more, and getting them a guinea pig buddy to play with.

Remember, grief is a very normal thing, and that’s why letting your guinea pigs see and lick your deceased guinea pig one last time is important.

How long do guinea pigs grieve for?

Like humans, there is no exact period where guinea pigs stop grieving. However, usually, guinea pigs come out of deep mourning in a few days. Some piggies may greive for anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.

That’s also why your surviving guinea pig’s chances of dying after their buddy’s death increase. If they become sick or their health declines, please take them to the vet for a checkup.

sad guinea pig

Conclusion

Losing a guinea pig is never easy. They are more than just pets; they are our friends and companions. In this article, we discussed some of the things you can do when your guinea pig dies, such as grieving, honouring their memory, and moving on. These steps can help you cope with your loss and heal your heart.

We hope this article was helpful and comforting to you. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below. We would love to hear from you and support you in this difficult time.

If you are looking for a way to honour your guinea pig’s life, you can consider donating to a local animal shelter or rescue organization. There are many guinea pigs and other animals in need of loving homes. You can also adopt a new guinea pig when you feel ready. There is no right or wrong time to do this. It is a personal decision that only you can make.

Thank you for reading this article. I wish you all the best in your journey of healing and hope. Remember, you are not alone. Your guinea pig will always be with you in your heart.

guinea pig

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