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What Gives Guinea Pigs Diarrhea? (Loose Stool in Guinea Pigs)

What Gives Guinea Pigs Diarrhea? (Loose Stool in Guinea Pigs)

There are so many things that can cause diarrhea in guinea pigs. The causes of gastrointestinal problems can range from improper diet, stress, to medication, and treatment. It is crucial to figure out the problem quickly because diarrhea can be fatal to guinea pigs, especially for those guinea pigs who are young.

Diarrhea in guinea pigs is usually a symptom of other underlying diseases like Bacterial enteritis, Escherichia coli infection, mucoid enteropathy, and parasitic infection. Owners often confuse diarrhea with unformed cecotropes that are caused by stress, unbalanced diets, lack of exercise, and undigested food.

In guinea pigs, unformed cecotropes are different from diarrhea. Unformed cecotropes are the dark pools of smelly feces, whereas watery feces are diarrhea.

Diarrhea needs early treatment, especially in young guinea pigs, as diarrhea can cause life-threatening conditions in a few hours.

You must reach out to an exotic vet who will probably suggest some supportive medication and some medical treatment to quickly treat them.

You need to ensure that your guinea pigs stay calm and hydrated. If you want to prevent diarrhea, then focus more on a balanced diet, stress-free living environment, and proper maintenance of the cage.

What can cause diarrhea in guinea pigs?

A sudden change in the diet cannot be the only trigger for diarrhea. Due to the food changes, their intestine gets upset, but this usually leads to an intestinal area blockage, an internal impaction, or unformed cecotropes.

However, diarrhea is always a symptom of a severe underlying problem and not the problem itself.

Runny or soft stools can be caused by an improper diet or a change in diet. But this does not mean that it is real diarrhea. These can be unformed cecotropes, which is another kind of feces that guinea pigs eliminate.

Digestive problems

Guinea pigs are herbivores and thus to break down the food; they have a unique pair of gut microflora.

Some specific kinds of antibiotics can upset this sensitive gut system by eradicating this microflora. In the place of microflora, fatal bacteria can grow without any control, which can cause diarrhea.

It is always suggested that the owners should need to look out for veterinary clinics that are specialized or have an expert on staff who know how to treat guinea pigs. Mostly you have to get an exotic vet for them.

An expert knows what kind of medicines are safe for your guinea pig to use, and what kind of other medications should need to be avoided unless there is no additional choice.

Erythromycin, penicillin, clindamycin, and ampicillin are the few antibiotics that need to be avoided. Also, there are many more antibiotics which can cause diarrhea.

If recently you are treating your guinea pig with an antibiotic and it causes diarrhea, then you need to stop the treatment and call your vet immediately.

Bacterial Disease

The bacterial disease is very harmful and can affect the young guinea pigs between the ages of 7-10 weeks.

Intestines of guinea pigs can be affected by this infection which leads to excess mucous production.

That always leads to mucous-laden diarrhea, bloating, and jelly-filled belly. All these can be life-threatening for your guinea pig.

The cause of Bacterial disease (mucoid enteropathy) hasn’t been known yet. However, research claims that it is mostly caused by improper diet.

Problems that occur because of improper diet are an imbalance of gut bacteria or impaction, which mostly acts as a catalyst.


Many internal parasites can cause pain or trouble with guinea pigs. The diarrhea is a sign of two: eimeria and pinworms.

The pinworms can affect the young guinea pigs more as compared to those guinea pigs who are old because the younger guinea pigs do not have stable microflora in their gut to fight with the infestations.

That allows the pinworms to infect it more efficiently and start reproducing in the intestine of guinea pigs. Pinworms can be very dangerous for young guinea pigs, as along with diarrhea, they can cause weight loss and anorexia.

When a guinea pig ingests contaminated feces, they are likely to get infected by pinworms. The treatment of pinworms can be a challenge as your guinea pig will keep getting infected through coprophagy.

A vet will recommend you an antiparasitic treatment to eliminate the tiny parasites. Along with this, you need to clean your guinea pig’s enclosure properly to eradicate pinworms altogether.

Eimeria stiedae is also a species that causes diarrhea in guinea pigs. This kind of protozoal parasite can infect the liver of the guinea pig, which is different from the rest of the family of eimeria that lives in the guinea pig’s intestine.

This parasite develops hepatic coccidiosis, which can cause diarrhea in guinea pigs. If this condition is left untreated, then it can lead to detrimental health conditions, and may also lead to a life-threatening condition.

Your vet will provide appropriate treatment for the same. Like with the other pests, guinea pig’s enclosures should be cleaned thoroughly.

Bacterial Enteritis

Unfortunately, bacterial enteritis is really common in young guinea pigs who are deprived of their mothers’ milk in the early days. Young guinea pigs should not be weaned until they are 3-4 weeks old or older.

Young guinea pigs have a clean intestinal environment until they start to consume solid foods at the age of around 2-3 weeks.

Mothers milk contains antibodies and healthy bacteria that allow the baby guinea pigs to develop healthy gut microflora during the weaning process. These antibodies and good bacteria are crucial for keeping away bad bacteria from the system.

Those guinea pigs who are weaned too young can quickly formulate the problems of intestines.

It is a probable form of bacterial inflammation of the organ. This bacterial enteritis excessively grows in the gut and will cause inflammation of the lining of the intestine, usually accompanied by diarrhea. Diarrhea can become dangerous for young guinea pigs.

When the baby guinea pig is weaned before their gut microflora was properly established, they are susceptible to harmful bacteria.

If you want to buy a young guinea pig, you need to look out for a reputable breeder or meet with a rescue group or a shelter.

E. coli

You can be aware of the shortened name of Escherichia coli as E. coli. This kind of bacteria will infect the guinea pigs and cause watery diarrhea. These kinds of stools can contain blood or mucous.

For the infection of Escherichia coli, there is no treatment. Supportive therapies can be applied depending on the seriousness of the infection. Mostly, these will concentrate on keeping the guinea pigs safe and hydrated.

Is diarrhea common in guinea pigs?

It is uncommon for guinea pigs to have diarrhea. Usually, diarrhea is a sign that means there is a severe health problem affecting your guinea pig.

Diarrhea can be life threatening by itself, too, as it can cause severe dehydration.

Diarrhea vs. Cecotropes

It is very much essential to differentiate between real diarrhea and cecotropes in guinea pigs. Diarrhea is a watery stool. The cecotropes are clots of dark, soft, shiny, and sticky stools.

Diarrhea is different from cecotropes, as cecotropes are a perfectly healthy and natural movement of the intestine(s). Guinea pigs release two types of stools, the dark-colored cecotropes and the pellets which are round in shape that you should already know about.

Maybe you are not well known from long association with these, and here is why.

When animals eat the feces, then they practice coprophagy. Either it is of other animals, or it is their own. What your guinea pigs will usually eat are cecotropes.

Usually, guinea pigs release this kind of stool during the dusk and quickly swallow it. That’s why the owners can’t see the cecotropes in the enclosure of guinea pigs.

Eating the cecotropes allows guinea pigs to absorb leftover nutrients from their food. When you find out the cecotropes in the daytime, this means that your guinea pig is not consuming them now. You need to worry about this because this indicates that your guinea pig can be sick.

Guinea pigs consume entire cecotropes and eat it directly from the anus. Usually, the guinea pigs don’t eat unformed cecotropes which we generally confuse with diarrhea.

Soft cecotropes in guinea pigs

Don’t be confused about real diarrhea and soft cecotrope stools. The unformed cecotropes are dark, smelly piles of a soft, wet, pulpy mass, which can be mashed into the fur of your guinea pig’s feet and back end or else into the floor. These can make you confused as diarrhea.

The cecotropes are generated in the cecum. That is a kind of pouch that is attached to the small intestine and large intestine. The cecum is a kind of home to a different range of essential yeast and bacteria populations.

These yeast and bacteria break down the matter, which is more robust for the digestive area to digest completely. And then, it creates the issue into mucus, which is coated with cecotropes.

The mucus protects the effective bacteria in the cecotropes until it returns to the small and large intestines; at the same time, the organic matter is entirely processed and absorbed all the nutrients. That is a function of the cecum in a healthy guinea pig, just like a fermentation chamber.

Several things can upset the cecum. Or, to be more precise it can bother the delicate microflora occupying it. The outcomes of which are always unformed cecotropes, in which we can get confused with real diarrhea.

Cecal dysbiosis is another name of unformed cecotropes, mainly when it occurs repeatedly, and the guinea pig releases standard fecal pellets thereafter.

The leftover unformed cecotropes mashed into the enclosure floor or crushed into the fur of your guinea pig may also have been completely formed before it was mashed.

Meanwhile, a guinea pig will not be able to consume unformed cecotropes. Also, it will refuse to absorb the normal shaped cecotropes if the taste, smell, or consistency are abnormal. Hence, this is another clue that can prove that there is a root cause of illness.

Improper Diet

Due to sudden changes in guinea pigs’ diet, they can respond unwillingly, as unhealthy diets can cause the problems to develop quickly.

The fiber is essential for retaining the overall health of a guinea pig. Besides, the regular pellets, guinea pigs should always eat an excessive amount of grass hay, as pellets are not enough for a balanced diet.

You will see that some guinea pigs’ internal system is slow-moving due to lack of fiber in their diet. That can delay their flushing of digested food, and their related bacteria can seriously upset the microflora in their cecum and gut.

This slow-moving or inactive internal movement can increase harmful bacteria populations, which can break out very badly. Numerous kinds of bacteria can cause diarrhea; some of them have been mentioned above.

A guinea pig with a very delicate intestine can also develop diarrhea if they eat certain varieties of pellets.

Always be careful about changing the diet of your guinea pig. If you have recently added a new food in your guinea pig’s daily intake and formulates soft cecotropes or diarrhea, you should need to remove the newly added food from their diet.

A lot of Stress

Stress can also be a cause of soft cecotropes.

The cecum can become alkaline if your guinea pig is stressed out. That can upset the microflora in the gut by allowing more bad bacteria to grow immediately without any control.

Also, this kind of imbalance can cause other conditions, for example, bacterial infections. These can cause diarrhea. However, stress itself can cause soft cecotropes.

Recently weaned or young guinea pigs are more sensitive to soft cecotropes caused by stress.

Due to the weak balance of their developing microflora young guinea pigs are more susceptible to diarrhea if they remain stressed out for longer duration.

These are several things that can cause stress in guinea pigs, including:

  1. Shifted to a new environment
  2. Improper enclosures
  3. Some Factors of the living environment (smells, noises, other animals)
  4. New guinea pigs in the household
  5. Discomfort and pain

Lack of exercise

Provide more floortime

A lack of exercise can also cause Cecal dysbiosis due to health issues that arise from obesity and neurologic disorders.

The obesity of guinea pigs is connected with some diseases related to health. Obesity can also be the cause of soft cecotropes.

It is not possible to take your guinea pig for a walk around the area. Hence, there are many other ways to make your guinea pig exercise, though.

A guinea pig’s activity can be effortless by allowing them to follow you around the home or give their toys to play in a large enclosure.

What foods cause diarrhea in guinea pigs

Guinea pigs are strict herbivores. But still, there are many fruits, plants, and vegetables that can upset the gastrointestinal tract or digestive system of your guinea pig.

Also, don’t overfeed the safe food to your guinea pig, as this can also make the digestive system upset.

Also, some kinds of foods can be poisonous. Usually, diarrhea by itself is a symptom of having toxic food and makes the internal system upset.

Most of the time, food is the only cause of diarrhea when that food is bad, and the body of the guinea pig is trying to flush out the substance on their own.

Diarrhea caused by food is watery and always includes mucous. Also, it can have an uncommon smell and color.

Vegetables that can lead to diarrhea in guinea pigs

list of vegetables for your guinea pigs

Guinea pigs are born to eat only herbs and grass hay. Also, vegetables have many benefits in the diet of guinea pigs, and it appears that they love to eat fresh vegetables.

It is okay to give a cup of vegetables daily. You need to make sure that all vegetables can not be fed every day.

Because some of the vegetables can cause unformed cecotropes or diarrhea and impaction. Those vegetables that you can provide your guinea pig every day are:

  1. Dill
  2. Bok choy
  3. Zucchini 
  4. Red leaf lettuce
  5. Bell peppers
  6. Fennel
  7. Watercress
  8. Carrot tops
  9. Romaine lettuce
  10. Cucumber
  11. Mint

Those vegetables that need to provide only once in a week are:

  1. Cabbage
  2. Broccoli ( leaves and stems only)
  3. Spinach
  4. Clover
  5. Kale

As we have mentioned above, it is essential to give 85-90% of grass hay only in the diet of guinea pigs. Diarrhea can also be caused if you overfeed vegetables to your guinea pig.

Fruits that can lead to diarrhea in guinea pigs

The fruit is one of the foods that you can safely provide to guinea pigs, but you need to be self-controlled; otherwise, it can upset your guinea pig’s digestive system.

The fruits are naturally very sugary and starchy. If you feed too many fruits to your guinea pig, then it can cause diarrhea. So, it is advisable to feed only good food to them when it comes to guinea pigs.

The owners of guinea pigs need to give the fruit only 1-2 times a week. The serving size should be small.

Keep in mind that fruits are just like a sweet treat for your guinea pig. Some of the fruits that we can serve in small quantities include:

  1. Raspberries
  2. Grapes
  3. Banana
  4. Papaya
  5. Blueberries
  6. Apples ( stemless and seedless only)
  7. Cherries
  8. Oranges 
  9. Strawberries
  10. Plums
  11. Pears

You need to serve the fruits only 1-2 times per week. Else, it can cause diarrhea in your guinea pig.

Can guinea pigs die from diarrhea?

If diarrhea is left untreated, then it would be hazardous for your guinea pig. Though, usually, it is a symptom of more severe illness. But diarrhea can also cause serious dehydration.

In young guinea pigs, diarrhea can cause life-threatening conditions within a few hours. 

Accordingly, it is advisable to contact your veterinary surgeon as soon as possible if your guinea pig has diarrhea. Especially if you notice these signs:

  1. Lethargy
  2. Hiding more than usual
  3. Shivering
  4. Dirty bottom
  5. Tooth grinding
  6. Hunched position
  7. Loss of appetite
  8. Bloating
  9. Weight loss

Obtaining a sample of diarrhea can help your veterinarian as this could be easier for your veterinarian to analyze the issue with a sample of stool.

Home remedies guinea pig diarrhea

Here are some home remedies from which you can treat your guinea pig at home with diarrhea:

  1. Don’t give vegetables to your guinea pigs if their feces are softer than before. You need to replace the vegetables with grass hay in the diet of guinea pigs. The best type of grass hay for your guinea pig is timothy hay.
  2. Make sure that your guinea pig drinks plenty of clean water. Always refill the water bottle of your guinea pig twice a day if it has diarrhea.
  3. Don’t try to treat your guinea pig on your own. Because some kind of antibiotics can make diarrhea terrible, and cause life-threatening conditions. If diarrhea doesn’t recover in a few days, you need to contact a veterinary surgeon immediately.
  4. Diarrhea can also be caused by a change in the diet of guinea pigs. If you have recently added the new food in your guinea pig’s diet and see the symptoms of diarrhea, you need to remove that food item immediately.

What food to feed to guinea pigs with diarrhea?

It is essential to be careful while changing the diet of your guinea pig. Also, don’t try to treat real diarrhea by yourself without asking from your veterinary surgeon. A change in the diet of a guinea pig can be harmful according to the cause of diarrhea.

The below food items are those you can serve to your guinea pig that can help them recover from diarrhea. These are:

  1. Carrot: Carrots helps to reduce the diarrhea
  2. Blueberries: The blueberries help to stop diarrhea
  3. Apple: An apple can help from diarrhea in small amounts.
  4. Oregano leaves: The oregano leaves improve the digestive tract health and help against the infection of bacteria of the intestine.
  5. Thyme: Thyme facilitates the appetite, helps with bacterial infections, and helps with the gas in the gut.
  6. Strawberries: The strawberries are good for GI tract health.
  7. Dill: A small sprig of dill helps to improve the appetite.

It is essential to make sure that your guinea pig drinks plenty of freshwaters. Diarrhea can lead to dehydration which can be life-threatening as well.

Sources: Clostridial enterotoxicosis in guinea pigs, Disease Problems of Guinea Pigs

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