Skip to Content

How Do Guinea Pigs Breathe? (Normal Breathing & When To Worry)

How Do Guinea Pigs Breathe? (Normal Breathing & When To Worry)

You may notice your guinea pig is breathing too fast, mouth breathing, increased respiratory effort or releasing nasal discharge. Understanding how do guinea pigs breathe normally will help you understand if your guinea pig is in a healthy state or not. 

As guinea pigs are nasal breathers, which means that they can only breathe form their nose and not from their mouths. Nose breathing allows guinea pigs to breathe while they eat. 

Guinea pigs breathe much faster as compared to humans. Respiration rate of adult guinea pigs is 42 to 105 breaths per minute.

You can even find your guinea pigs breathing quickly, and this happens when they are feeling stressed or overheating.

Guinea pig breathing process

Guinea pig’s nasal cavity, which is inside their nose, is situated dorsal to the mouth. The soft and hard palate is located between the mouth and the nasal cavity. The palate is called a roof of the mouth. The front region of the roof of the mouth is the hard palate, and the soft palate lies in the back part.

The nasal cavity is divided into the left and right sides, with the presence of a cartilage barrier in the middle. The inner part of the nose is covered with the fine hairs that help to purify the air, which enters by collecting dust before it comes to the respiratory tract.

Guinea pigs have sensory pads at the entrance of the nostrils that makes the nose sensitive to touch. The nostrils become still once it is completely relaxed. Guinea pig’s nostrils can twitch several times per minute.

As guinea pigs have a great sense of smell, they twitch their noses to expose more air and allow the scent- detecting organs in their nostrils. And it also allows them to capture even the smallest bit of smell in the air.

As guinea pigs breathe, their alar folds open up to permit the flow of air through their nostrils. The air then further moves to the nasal cavity, through the trachea and the larynx and lastly enter into the lungs.

Guinea pig’s voice box is called the larynx, and the trachea is a long tube present in the guinea pig’s respiratory system that is surrounded by cartilaginous rings. These rings help to prevent the tube from collapsing when the air moves in and out.

The trachea then branches into two airways, which is the left and right bronchus.

These two bronchi then meet the lings at the hilum. The bronchi then progressively get divided into narrower branches called bronchioles, which branch into the respiratory bronchioles and lastly, end at the alveolar ducts.

Guinea pigs also have a muscular structure which is called a diaphragm that lies beneath the lungs. The function of the membrane is to contract and relax to facilitate respiration.

Why guinea pigs breathe through their nose?

Guinea Pig Breathing And What It Tells You.

As guinea pigs are nasal breathers, they can’t breathe from their mouth. Guinea pigs epiglottis is implanted in the backmost area of the soft palate, which becomes the primary reason for them to breathe through their nose. The soft palate is the backside part of the roof of the mouth.

The epiglottis helps to prevent the food from entering into the air passages. Guinea pigs can breathe while eating due to the separation created by the soft and hard palate.

Inside the mouth of the guinea pigs, there lies a layer of tissue that sits on top of the opening of the glottis.

The tissue’s function is to block the air that flows from the mouth and into the trachea.

If guinea pigs inhale from their mouth, the air in any way will not make its way to the lungs.

Are guinea pigs obligate nasal breathers

Animals like rabbits, horses, rodents, and human infants are all examples of obligate nasal breathers. Obligate nasal breathers can be defined as the physical requirement to breathe through the nose instead of the mouth.

Thus can even lead to confusion because it states that an obligate nasal breather can only breathe through its nose, as in reality, this is not so true.

An obligate nasal breather can breathe through the mouth, but they prefer to breathe through their nose. Mouth breathing is not that successful as compared to nose breathing, such as in guinea pigs.

Obligate nasal breathing means the ability to breathe through the nose while eating.

Obligate nasal breathing can be called an adaption, found in prey animals, such as guinea pigs. It helps guinea pigs to eat, and also to quickly detect scents from their predators.

How many breaths per minute is normal for a guinea pig?

Respiratory rate can be called as the number of breaths taken per minute. The average respiratory rate of guinea pigs is 42 to 105 breaths per minute.

You can check your guinea pig’s respiratory rate by counting the number of breaths your guinea pigs take in 15 seconds.

You can then multiply this number by four. Guinea pig’s breathing can also be evaluated by the rise of their chest.

You can also place your hand in front of their nose and count whenever they exhale.

If you notice your guinea pig breathing fast, it may be due to stress and overheating.

Is it normal for guinea pigs to breathe fast?

If you discover your guinea pigs breathing faster than usual, but are acting, eating, drinking, pooping, and eliminating regularly, there is no need to worry.

We would suggest you place your guinea pigs to a quieter and cooler place with enough drinking water.

The following table shows whether your guinea pigs are fine or need veterinary attention when they are breathing rapidly.

Good Signs Bad Signs 
Quick  BreathingQuick Breathing
Eating normallyLabored breathing
Pooping  normallyMouth-breathing
Friendly and calm natureNervous movement as they are in pain
Joyful as usualActing scared
Drinking normallyStaying Hunched
Eliminating normallyNot being able to move 
Normal surrounding temperature You will discover them grunting

Heatstroke can be caused due to rapid breathing. According to studies, guinea pigs lead to heatstroke when high temperature limits the flow of blood to the brain, eventually leading to the pass away of guinea pigs.

If you discover your guinea pigs breathing rapidly and twitching their nose, along with some other symptoms like:

  • Lethargy
  • Tossing of the head
  • Ears & feet turns warm
  • Open-mouth breathing
  • Restlessness
  • Lack of appetite

Then it may be possible that they are suffering from hyperthermia which requires immediate medical attention.

We will suggest you never ignore such issues, as it may lead to your guinea pig’s serious health condition.

Do guinea pigs breathe from their mouth?

Health Checkup

According to studies, mouth-breathing may be a sign of obstruction in the upper airway. That can cause severe dyspnea ( Shortness of breath), which can be shown by increased respiratory effort and wheezing. 

Your guinea open- mouth breathing can also indicate dental diseases, such as odontogenic abscesses. It may lead to upper respiratory illness and rhinitis as complications.

Humans can continue respiration by breathing through their mouths, mostly in cases where breathing from the nose is not possible, such as with an Upper RTI ( Respiratory tract infection).

But guinea pigs are not the same as they are physically required to breathe through their noses.

If your guinea pigs are breathing too fast or too slow, or making strange noises when they breathe, they may require the vet’s immediate attention.


As guinea pigs are obligate nasal breathers, they can’t breathe from their mouth. They can only breathe from their nose. Guinea pigs have an average respiratory rate of 42 to 105 breathe per minute.

If you discover your guinea pigs breathing rapidly and twitching their nose, they need immediate medical attention. Rapid breathing can cause heatstroke in guinea pigs. 

Lastly, we would advise you to take care of your piggie and shower them with all your love and attention. In addition to this, always take care of them, as they are prey animals they will always try to hide their problems.

Sources: Respiratory infectionsViral Pneumonia in Guinea PigsRespiratory Bacterial Disease in Guinea PigsMechanics of Respiration in Unanesthetized Guinea Pigs

Similar Posts: