Guinea pigs are miniature, furry animals petted in many homes. They are pretty good at training and can learn new tricks. However, they do not always make the best pet or meal choice.
Sometimes, you may notice your guinea pig acting weirdly, switching between coughing, lying still, and seizures in severe cases. And this begs the query, can guinea pigs choke?
Guinea pigs can choke easily if you feed them many fiber-rich foods like hay. In fact, your guinea pig is “gagging,” most likely due to food chewing issues. Luckily, you can tell that your guinea pig is choking by looking at signs like limpness, coughing, and breathing challenges.
Can Guinea Pigs Choke?
The first thing you want to know when dealing with any choking problem is whether or not your guinea pig choked at all.
A guinea pig’s throat is very narrow. Moreover, guinea pigs swallow air with their food when eating. The air travels down into the stomach, mixing with digestive juices before passing back up again.
As soon as the air passes through the esophagus, it gets compressed by the walls of the tube. Because of this compression, the air cannot pass easily out of the esophagus.
Instead, it builds pressure inside the esophagus until it bursts open. This causes the contents of the esophagus to come rushing out. It looks similar to vomit but does not contain bile.
In fact, it contains nothing except air. Once the air leaves the esophagus, there is little chance of it coming back.
Therefore, if your guinea pig “vomits” after eating, he most likely just swallowed his food without swallowing enough air. He probably didn’t even realize he had done anything wrong.
Why Is My Guinea Pig “Gagging?”
If your guinea pig “gags” while trying to chew something, then chances are good that they ate their food too quickly. They might have been chewing faster than usual because he was anxious or excited.
In such cases, your pet’s mouth could get stuck halfway between the teeth and the roof of her mouth. To prevent this from happening, give your guinea pig time to chew each bite slowly.
Additionally, don’t force her to eat more than she wants. Let her decide how much she needs to eat.
How Can You Tell If a Guinea Pig Is Choking?
You should watch carefully when looking for signs that your guinea pig might be suffering from choking:
You can tell if a pig is choking by looking closely at her. Look around her face and neck area.
Are her eyes wide open? Does she seem confused?
Does her tongue hang over the side of her mouth?
These symptoms indicate that your little buddy is having trouble breathing.
Choking Tale-Tel Signs
Coughing: If your guinea pig is having trouble breathing, it may start coughing. This happens because extra air compresses her trachea.
Pale Skin Color: If your guinea pig’s skin turns white, it may indicate that she is struggling to breathe.
Difficulty Breathing: If your guinea pig can no longer breathe normally, it may become weak and lethargic.
“Throwing up”: Guinea pigs can’t vomit because their bodies don’t have the mechanism to do so. But if you see food pieces coming out of your pet’s mouth, it means they swallowed too much air or ingested some foreign object.
Limpness: If your guinea puppy becomes limp, they are in distress.
Weak pulse rate: If your guinea pig’s pulse rate drops too low, it may be experiencing respiratory failure.
Lack of movement: If your guinea pig stops moving altogether, she is dying.
Unresponsive eyes: If your guinea pig loses consciousness, her eyes will roll back in his head.
Seizures: If your guinea rabbit experiences seizures, she may die within minutes.
What to Do If Guinea Pig Is Choking?
The best thing to do if your guinea pig is choking is to keep an eye on her until help arrives. While at it, call your vet immediately so that they can administer CPR and examine your guinea pig thoroughly.
Below are CPR steps when helping guinea pigs:
Check for Obvious Causes
Your first step is to check for obvious causes. Make sure there are not any objects stuck down your guinea pig’s throat.
Also, make sure that there aren’t any pieces of food lodged between his teeth. If you find anything like this, remove them immediately.
Next, you must open your guinea pig’s airway. To accomplish this, gently lift one ear off its base while holding onto the other.
You want to pull both ears away from their bases. Then place your fingers into each nostril and push outwards towards the sides of the nose. Pull hard enough to dislodge any obstructions inside the nasal passages.
Repeat these steps for the opposite nostril.
Clear Throat Passage
Once you clear your guinea pig's airways, you must clear his throat passage. Use your fingertips to press against the roof of his mouth.
Push upwards toward the top of your pet’s skull. Continue pushing upward until you feel resistance. When you reach the point where you cannot go further without hitting the bone, stop pressing.
The goal here is to force all debris out of the opening.
Monitor Respiratory Function
Next, monitor your guinea pig’s respiration. Watch carefully for signs of life. A normal breath sounds like someone blowing through a straw.
Your guinea pig’s breaths should sound similar to those described above.
However, if you hear wheezing or gurgling noises, then call your veterinarian right away. These could indicate pneumonia or another serious condition.
How Do You Stop a Guinea Pig from Choking?
If your guinea pig stops breathing, it means that something went wrong with her lungs. This usually happens when your pet chews food wrongly or inhales some foreign object, such as a piece of hay or a toy.
In order to prevent future incidents, you must teach your guinea pig how to properly chew his toys.
Moreover, it would be wise to put up safety gates around your cage. As long as they remain closed, your guinea pig won’t get outside.
Here are some guinea pig care tips to prevent your pet from choking:
Teach Your Guinea Pig Pet Proper Chewing Habits
Teach your guinea pig proper chewing habits by providing her with safe toys. Avoid giving her rawhide chews since they may cause intestinal blockages in small pets.
Instead, give her soft rubber bones or wooden blocks. They’re easy to digest and don’t pose any health risks.
Put Up Safety Gates
Safety gates are essential for preventing your pet from getting injured or killed. Place them at least two feet high and wide apart.
Also, don’t forget about the ceiling. If there isn’t anything on the floor, make sure that nothing can fall down on your pet.
While setting up boundaries, make sure your pet has enough space.
Guinea pigs need plenty of space to move around freely. Give them an area large enough so that they can stretch their legs comfortably.
Additionally, ensure that they have access to fresh food and water daily.
Be Patient With Training
Training takes time, so bear with your guinea pig as they make slight progress. Once you’ve taught your guinea pig how best to play with her toys, they slowly develop more interest in playing.
Soon, you may need to increase their toys.
Moreover, reward good behavior for motivating your pet. For example, let your guinea pig eat first after training sessions. When they do things correctly, reward them with treats.
Monitor Their Health Regularly
Make sure that you keep track of your guinea pig’s overall health status.
Check their weight weekly and look out for changes in their appetite. If necessary, consult your vet immediately.
Take Them to the Vet Whenever Necessary
Take your guinea pig to the veterinarian if they show signs of illness. A visit to the doctor could save your pet’s life.
Watch Out for Signs of Illness
Watch out for symptoms of ill-health to protect both you and your pet against potential problems. Pay attention to your guinea pig’s physical condition.
Are they coughing excessively? Do they seem lethargic?
Do you hear wheezing sounds coming from their chest? These are signs that something isn't right.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why Is My Guinea Pig Making Coughing Noises?
Your guinea pig is making coughing noises when breathing because something is in its trachea. This usually happens because of foreign bodies such as hairballs, grass seeds, or even bits of hay.
It is vital to get rid of these things before they cause more damage. Try using a soft brush with short bristles to sweep around your guinea pig’s cage.
Moreover, be careful not to touch their face or snout. Instead, use only the tip of the brush.
Do Guinea Pigs Have a Gag Reflex?
Guinea pigs do not have a gag reflex. While they experience nausea, their bodies are slightly different from humans and animals that throw up.
And since their bodies can’t elicit an upchuck response, they can’t vomit.
So, Can Guinea Pigs Choke?
One of the prevalent causes of death among guinea pigs is suffocation. Therefore, keep an eye on your guinea pig at all times so that if they do choke, you know what to do immediately.