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Weight Loss Senior pig - old age or health issue?


Cavy Slave
Sep 5, 2023
My 6.8 year old guinea pig has been having heavier breathing. It doesn't seem strained, just heavy? His sides flare up and down pretty obviously and sometimes you can hear a huffing noise if you listen very closely (not a crackle or a hoot, it just sounds kind of like a person sniffing hard? Not sure how to describe it). His body also rocks/nods, mainly when sleeping upright, and I've heard nodding isn't a good sign. I tried to get a video of these things but I don't have a good quality camera so it doesn't really show up. It's quite visible in person though. He doesn't sneeze at all or have a runny nose.

He has been to the vet, they listened to his heart and lungs and said they sounded fine, no fluid or heart murmurs. He did have conjunctivitis in one eye, which has been treated. There's only about one other vet in my area that will see guinea pigs, and we don't have the best history with them.
He also still acts normal, eating and drinking and being himself. He does sleep quite a lot but I figured that most older pigs do, and I still see him up and eating frequently. His weight is also going down a bit (another reason we went to the vet), on August 12th he was 1142 grams, today he's 1038. He seems fine but I know guinea pigs hide their illnesses. Is he just old and I'm being paranoid? Or should I press the issue somehow? It might be difficult to convince my mom as he's already been given a clear by the vet, and she thinks it's just "old age." I've also been having bad anxiety about their health lately, so she thinks I'm paranoid. Any similar experiences and their outcomes/advice would be appreciated.

Sorry if this is a bit disorganized or long, I wanted to make sure to include everything important
I'd want a chest x-ray to see if his heart is enlarged. It's about the only non-invasive test that can be done to diagnose heart problems in guinea pigs. Anything else would require blood work at a minimum, and that's hard to get from piggies. Other diagnostics, like ultrasounds or scans, are prohibitively expensive.

If it is enlarged, most of the cases I know about have been treated on a trial-and-error basis -- put them on appropriate meds, and tweak as necessary. It's an art, not a science, and the drugs may need to be tweaked frequently.

Weight loss in senior pigs is the rule, not the exception. They often follow a pattern of weight loss, plateau for a few weeks, lose some more, plateau again, rinse and repeat. So unless his weight is going steadily down without a pause, or if he's losing it very quickly, I wouldn't worry too much about it.

He is a senior pig, and nearly seven years is a good long life. In the absence of any alarming symptoms, he may just be slowing down. It wouldn't hurt to supplement him with some vitamin C -- that can sometimes cause them to perk up a bit. You can get Oasis Vita Drops, but just don't put it in the water as they suggest. Vitamin C degrades very quickly in the presence of light, and shortly you've only got funny tasting water. You can mix it a bit of watermelon juice or diluted orange juice, and syringe it to him.
I completely agree with everything @bpatters has said. I've experienced exactly what you are going through, and it DOES sound to me like he could be at the beginnings of congestive heart failure. It IS treatable, and as bpatters has said it requires almost constant tweaking.

Do let us know how your boy makes out.
Thank you for the input :) I'm going to try to get him an xray soon then.
The x-ray of his heart and lungs supposedly looked fine, however now we have a different problem.

On Thursday he seemed very lethargic/had much less interest in food, and was pooping very little. He sat in the corner puffed up and seemed to be in pain, and would cry when you touch his stomach. We took him to the vet Friday (fastest we could get in... we don't have an emergency vet for guinea pigs sadly, often the only vets that will see them are away on certain days) and they said he has bloat and something white in the middle of his stomach, which they claimed was possibly a hairball and gave us Metoclopromide to give him every 12 hours and recommended pineapple juice to help dissolve the hair.

Now he's back acting more normal and his poops look much better, but my main concern is that his stomach is still very tender to the touch and he still goes without pooping for 3-4 hours at a time (currently there's only been one new poo in his cage since around 12 pm, and its currently 4). He's also lost quite a bit of weight rapidly (he's 954 grams today, versus yesterday morning when he was 1,045 or so, he seems to be eating much better so I'm wondering if that loss is gas, but either way I'm feeding him critical care again).

Is it normal for it to last this long? 😟 He does seem to be getting better so maybe I'm being impatient and overly worried as it's only been four days, but actually getting rid of all the gas seems like an uphill battle. I've noticed when his meds wear off he starts to feel bad again. He gets them 5 AM - 5 PM and he hasn't seemed to feel too well this past hour, looking puffed up and uncomfortable. Currently he's laying down so hopefully he's more comfortable.

Not even sure what caused the bloat to begin with, he doesn't eat anything I've heard of being "gassy." At the moment the only things he's consuming are hay, water, critical care, his medication, a little probiotic, and a very small bit of pineapple juice since the vet was worried about too much being too sugary.
Just realized I've never shared his name, here's the boy a few weeks ago. His name is Patches 🥹
[GuineaPigCages.com] Senior pig - old age or health issue?
Moving around would help him get rid of the gas. Holding him on a warm pad and using a vibrating pillow or gently bouncing your knee a bit could also help move that gas out of his system and get his digestion moving better. It does take a few days to get bloat under control, but I think he should have more output. I hope you see some improvement soon.
I don't have a vibrating pillow, but I have made a makeshift "bloat box," which is a towel in a box, one of those vibrating massagers I found, and another towel on top of it. I've only been using it a couple of times a day since it doesn't seem to help much, but I might try to use it more.
[GuineaPigCages.com] Senior pig - old age or health issue?
[GuineaPigCages.com] Senior pig - old age or health issue?

It's not really visible on my terrible camera but in the second image his side is a bit poked out. He feels thicker and thinner depending on time of day. I've noticed 12 PM - 5 PM he poops little to none, then he gets his medicine and for a few hours he's a lot more active and pooping normally, then around 12 AM - 5 AM he slows down and poops very little again until he gets his meds, then repeat.
I'm thinking inactivity might be the culprit as most of the slow hours he stays in one place sleeping, he got out of the "bloat box" about 30 minutes ago and is already laying down asleep, and if I let him he'd probably lounge around for a few hours. It's very difficult to keep him active without pretty much constantly bothering him since he's old and he doesn't have a friend anymore.🥲
I guess I'll just have to give him vibrating sessions every few hours ? I'm at a loss. The vet is supposed to do a check-in call today so hopefully we can try something else.
Hi I know this is a couple month old but wanted to see how your piggy is doing. I have one experiencing almost the same exact symptoms as you described in your first post. She is also an older pig, a little over 6. She’s had lots of bouts with bloat! Hope everything was ok with him ❤️
Hi I know this is a couple month old but wanted to see how your piggy is doing. I have one experiencing almost the same exact symptoms as you described in your first post. She is also an older pig, a little over 6. She’s had lots of bouts with bloat! Hope everything was ok with him ❤️
I'm even later with replying, but the bloat issue has long past thankfully.

He has a vet appointment however because he's been sitting puffed up facing the corner.
He's been doing this for a while, it started with just sitting puffed up a couple of times a day, but now he spends 90% of the day full face in corner, he's been doing that most of the month. He rarely lays down anymore.
I don't think he's sick (?) since it seems like this probably wouldn't last this long, I think he's in pain. The vet diagnosed him with arthritis months ago and he is on Metacam everyday, but I don't really think it does much.
I'm not really sure what to do. It doesn't help that critical care is never in stock these days...

If anyone has advice for pain management I'd appreciate.
Also not sure if anyone else experiences this but he has a specific "active time of day" around this time (2 - 4 AM), where he eats/drinks, and jumps up for his meds and cookie. He'll seem fine if you look at him around this time.
Puffed up and facing the corner usually indicates pain. Metacam is usually effective to control pain. Is he eating and maintaining his weight?

I’ve noticed mine have certain times of the day that they are more active. Usually mid-morning and then around 4-6 pm. I’m a night owl myself, so midnight to 1 am they get active for a while as well.

I hope the vet appointment goes well and you get some answers.

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