how long can guinea pigs go without eating

How Long Can Guinea Pigs Go Without Eating and Drinking?

SUMMARY: Guinea pigs need constant access to hay and water as they can develop gastrointestinal stasis in just 6-8 hours without food and show signs of dehydration within 12 hours without water. An essential balance in their diet should include generous amounts of hay, fresh vegetables, occasional fruit, guinea pig pellets, and vitamin C to prevent health issues.

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Have you ever gotten dangerously low on guinea pig food, hay, or veggies and wondered how long they could go without? Or, do you have a new pet guinea pig and you’re worried because it isn't eating or drinking? Understanding the urgency of this situation can make a significant difference in your pet's health and survival. The truth is, unlike some animals, guinea pigs cannot endure prolonged periods without hay, veggies, or water. 

As a piggy owner of 6 furry potatoes, I’ve stressed about this after getting down to the bottom of the hay bag and realizing my delivery wasn’t going to arrive for another 2 days. Yikes! I had to do something quick. So, I ran out to the pet store to grab a small bag of hay (that was way overpriced) just to get them through until their bulk hay delivery arrived. 

I'm going on vacation. How long can I leave my guinea pig alone?

Maybe you're going on vacation and you wonder how long they can go without someone coming to feed them or give them fresh water. Spoiler alert…please get a pet sitter to feed them and clean their cage every day!

In this article, I’ll share the essential care tips surrounding the duration guinea pigs can go without food and water, exploring the risks, potential health consequences, and crucial signs that require immediate action. Read on to ensure you're providing the best care for your furry companion.

How Long Can Guinea Pigs Go Without Food?

The truth is, unlike some animals, guinea pigs cannot endure prolonged periods without food. It's crucial to their health that they have a steady supply of fresh hay. 6-8 hours without food can lead to GI stasis and digestive shutdown. They can die from starvation after 36-48 hours.

So, why the concern? Well, guinea pigs have a unique digestive system, and going without food for even a short period can lead to dangerous health complications.

When pondering the question of “How long can guinea pigs go without food?” the key takeaway is this: constant access to hay and daily veggies is key.

After all, a well-fed guinea pig is a happy guinea pig.

The Risks of Food Deprivation in Guinea Pigs

Guinea pigs are built to eat continuously. They graze throughout the day and night for consistent nourishment. When deprived of food for a mere 6 to 8 hours, these fragile creatures can enter a dangerous state known as gastrointestinal (GI) stasis.

GI stasis is not just a lack of eating; it's a potentially fatal slowdown or stoppage of the normal movement of the digestive system. This condition requires swift veterinary intervention to prevent long-term health issues or worse.

Health complications from food deprivation can quickly escalate. Without their regular intake of hay and fresh vegetables, the delicate balance of a guinea pig's digestive flora is disrupted, leading to severe problems. Notably, their teeth, which are continually growing, rely on frequent chewing to maintain proper length and health.

Recognizing the symptoms of GI stasis can be the key to saving a pet's life. These may include:

  • a decrease in appetite
  • noticeable fecal changes like dry or crumbly poop
  • lethargy
  • signs of pain like hunching or reluctance to move
  • and a general decrease in activity levels.

I encourage you to monitor these symptoms closely and act promptly if your guinea pig shows any signs of distress.

Reasons Behind a Guinea Pig's Lack of Appetite

Guinea pigs may exhibit a lack of appetite for a variety of reasons. Knowing what to look for and acting promptly can help prevent serious health issues like GI stasis.

Some common causes for a guinea pig not eating include:

Dental Problems: Guinea pigs' teeth grow continuously throughout their lives, and if their teeth become overgrown or misaligned, it can cause significant pain and difficulty eating.    

Stress: Environmental changes and poor living conditions such as a cramped dirty cage can lead to stress and a decreased desire to eat. Piggies need a large clean cage to stay healthy and happy.

Disease: Underlying medical conditions, such as upper respiratory infections (URI), tumors, kidney stones or bladder stones can all affect your guinea pig’s appetite.    

Inadequate Diet: A diet lacking in essential nutrients, particularly vitamin C which guinea pigs cannot produce on their own, may lead to health problems and a subsequent decrease in food intake.

Understanding the root cause of a guinea pig's loss of appetite is crucial for timely intervention and care. Regular observation of their eating habits and health checks can ensure any issues are detected and addressed early.

How Long Can Guinea Pigs Go Without Water?

Guinea pigs, like any living beings, need water to thrive. So, when it comes to this question of “How long can guinea pigs go without drinking?” – the answer is: Not very long. Water deprivation for 6 to 8 hours can start serious complications, with signs of dehydration appearing after about 12 hours. 

These petite piggies should have access to fresh water at all times. Dehydration can hit them fast, causing health issues, so it's crucial to keep those water bottles filled and available.

Remember, it's not just about quenching their thirst; water is vital for digestion and helps regulate body temperature. So, to ensure our guinea pig buddies are happy and healthy, let's make sure they have a constant supply of water. Because when it comes to the well-being of our furry friends, hydration is non-negotiable.

Understanding the Consequences of Water Deprivation

Guinea pigs require constant access to clean water to avoid the risks associated with dehydration. Without it, they can begin to show clinical signs of dehydration after approximately 12 hours. These symptoms can escalate quickly and may become severe if not addressed.

What happens if a guinea pig doesn't drink water?

If your guinea pig stops drinking water or they don't have access to water they will become dehydrated. Dehydration in these small animals is life-threatening.

Clinical signs of dehydration in guinea pigs manifest in several ways. These symptoms and behaviors can indicate that a guinea pig is dehydrated and needs immediate attention.

Symptoms to look for:

  • lethargy
  • an unkempt coat
  • thickened saliva
  • crusty eyes
  • dull or sunken eyes
  • change in eating behaviors
  • dark smelly urine
  • small dry hard feces

It is crucial to monitor your guinea pig’s water intake and ensure they have a constant supply of fresh, clean water. Immediate action should be taken if signs of dehydration appear, as this condition can progress rapidly and lead to serious health problems or even be life-threatening.

Pro Tip: Check the ball in their water bottle by tapping it with your finger when you refill it to double-check that the little metal ball isn’t stuck or blocking the water from flowing down the tube.

I’ve seen many posts from frantic guinea pig owners who refilled the water bottle, but the ball was unknowingly stuck at the top and didn’t allow any water to flow for their piggies to drink. After finding their little pigs lethargic and hardly moving, they realized that they couldn’t drink their water and became dehydrated.

I have a habit of tapping all of the water bottles with my fingertip to check for water flow when I go by their cage, just to be sure. My piggies are very noisy drinkers and if I hear the repetitive “tap-tap-tap” of the water bottle ball, then I know it’s their way of telling me that it’s time to refill their water.

How Much Water Should Guinea Pigs Drink a Day?

Guinea pigs should drink about 3-6 ounces of water each day. Some drink even more! Like my Peruvian long-hair Poppy. She is always visiting the water bottle!

Keep in mind that this is just a general recommendation, and the actual amount may vary for each guinea pig.

To make the process easier, consider using a water bottle with an easy-access flip-up top so you don't have to take it off the cage to refill it. This not only makes it easy to refill the water but also allows you to monitor their intake more effectively.

Remember, factors like diet, weather, and activity levels can influence their water needs, so it's essential to stay observant. Cheers to keeping those water bottles filled and our little pals hydrated and healthy.

How Long Can Guinea Pigs Go Without Eating Vegetables?

Guinea pigs require a consistent supply of fresh vegetables to meet their daily nutritional requirements. Because they need to get vitamin C from their food, they shouldn't go more than a day or two without 1 cup of veggies or fruit.

Here's a handy list of vegetables that are beneficial for our furry friends:

1. Leafy Greens such as kale, endive, chickory, parsley, basil, dandelion leaves, cilantro, and romaine lettuce provide essential vitamins and minerals.

2. Bell Peppers (red, orange, yellow, and green): Rich in vitamin C, bell peppers add color and flavor to their meals. I feed my piggy herd of six, 1 cup of bell peppers almost every day!

3. Carrots: A crunchy favorite, carrots are high in beta-carotene! But not every day due to having higher sugar content.

4. Cucumber: Hydrating and low in calories, cucumber is a refreshing option. Leave the skin on so they get the added nutritional benefits.

5. Broccoli: Packed with nutrients, broccoli adds vitamin C and fiber boost to their diet.

6. Parsley: These herbs not only add flavor but also contribute to their vitamin intake.

Crafting the Ideal Guinea Pig Diet

A properly balanced diet is the cornerstone of a guinea pig's health. To ensure your guinea pig thrives and to avoid the development of health issues such as GI stasis, their diet must consist of the following:

Unlimited access to Hay: 80% of their diet should be hay! Timothy hay or Orchard grass hay should be the primary component of a guinea pig's diet as it provides the necessary fiber for a healthy digestive system. Offer large piles of hay every day.   

Vegetables: 1 cup of fresh vegetables, such as red, yellow, green or orange bell peppers, or dark leafy greens like romaine lettuce and kale, should also be included daily to provide essential nutrients and Vitamin C.    

Pellets: ⅛ cup per day of commercial guinea pig pellets can supplement a guinea pig's diet to ensure they get all the necessary vitamins and minerals, with a focus on those pellets fortified with vitamin C.    

Vitamin C: As guinea pigs cannot synthesize their own vitamin C, they need a supplementary source. This can come from fortified pellets, vitamin supplements like these Oxbow Vit C treats, or vitamin C-rich foods such as bell peppers and broccoli.

Each guinea pig's individual needs may vary, and it's important to adjust their diet accordingly. Regularly consult with your vet to determine the best dietary plan for your specific guinea pig.


While guinea pigs should not go more than 12 hours without food, it's essential to maintain a consistent supply of hay and daily veggies to meet their nutritional needs.

Adequate water intake is crucial for guinea pigs, and they should not go without water for more than 6-8 hours.

A proper guinea pig diet is more than just hay; it should include vegetables and pellets to ensure a supply of critical nutrients, notably vitamin C.

Guinea pigs thrive on a balanced diet, and veggies are a must. Aim for a variety, but remember, moderation is key to preventing digestive issues.

Guinea Pig Care FAQs

How long can a guinea pig safely go without food before GI stasis occurs?

Guinea pigs can begin to experience GI stasis after as little as 6 to 8 hours without eating. Since their digestive systems are designed for constant grazing, it's critical to ensure they have uninterrupted access to hay to prevent this painful and potentially life-threatening condition.

What are the potential health risks if a guinea pig goes without water?

If a guinea pig goes without water for 4 to 6 hours, dehydration can set in. Beyond 12 hours, dehydration can lead to severe symptoms, including lethargy, crusty eyes, dark urine, and dry feces, which can be very dangerous to their health. It is essential to provide continuous access to fresh water for your guinea pig.

What should I do if I notice signs of dehydration or decreased appetite in my guinea pig?

If you notice signs of dehydration or decreased appetite, you should immediately consult with an exotic veterinarian. These signs can indicate serious health issues that require prompt attention.

Pro Tip: Offer them watery vegetables like cucumber or a piece of their favorite fruit like strawberries or banana slices to help perk them up. Or, you can syringe feed them critical care or this appetite restore support

Why is hay so important in a guinea pig's diet?

Hay is an essential component of a guinea pig's diet because it provides the necessary fiber to maintain their digestive health and support dental health by wearing down their constantly growing teeth. It should constitute the bulk of their diet to help avoid gastrointestinal issues and ensure proper nutrition.

Pro Tip: Buy your guinea pigs’ hay in bulk to save money! I get mine delivered from Chewy with auto-ship discounts.

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