A Complete Guide to Critical Care for Guinea Pigs
It’s a scary moment when you realize your guinea pig won’t eat. Whether it’s a result of illness or injury, any time a guinea pig won’t eat on it’s important for you to step in! A guinea pig that doesn’t eat can go into GI stasis – a fancy term for a serious situation that can cause a guinea pig’s digestive system to shut down.
The best thing to do if your guinea pig won’t eat is to syringe feed them. That’s where critical care can save the day! This guide will explain the basics of critical care, when to feed it, how to feed it, and what to do when you don’t have any on hand!
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What is critical care for guinea pigs?
Critical Care is actually a product specific to the Oxbow brand, but it has become a general term used in the guinea pig community to refer to recovery food.
Recovery foods for guinea pigs are powdered mixes basically meant to be force-fed to a guinea pig who won’t eat on their own. They are mixed with water and fed to the guinea pig using an oral syringe. These recovery foods are usually made of ingredients similar to pellets, with a few things added to help a sick piggy. Most recovery foods have extra vitamin C and sugars to help a piggy recover a bit faster.
There are two popular options for recovery foods on the market – Oxbow Critical Care, which comes in multiple flavors, and Sherwood Rx Recovery Food, which comes in original and weight gain formulas. I have used both of these products and they both work well!
Why is it important to keep critical care on hand?
When a guinea pig is healthy, it is constantly eating something – usually hay. This means food is constantly moving through its digestive system. This is how a guinea pig’s digestive system is designed to work, and when the piggy isn’t getting food things start to slow down. When the digestive system stops moving it’s called GI stasis, and it can become life-threatening very quickly.
If you start feeding critical care to your guinea pig when it first stops eating and at the very first signs of stasis, then you can keep the digestive system going. Hand-feeding your guinea pig when they won’t eat on their own can be the difference between life and death.
This is why it’s so important to know what to do and to have recovery food on hand in case you ever find yourself with a guinea pig who won’t’ eat!
When should I feed critical care?
There are a few different situations where you might need to feed critical care to your guinea pigs.
First up and most importantly, as we mentioned before, it’s a must-have if your guinea pig refuses to eat. You can head off stasis and keep your guinea pig getting the nutrition they need. This is unfortunately a common situation and is why it’s so important to keep critical care on hand.
I have also fed recovery food to guinea pigs that either will have or just had recent surgery. A piggy that is uncomfortable or in pain is not going to want to move around a lot to eat and find food. Feeding extra critical care can help the recovery since the guinea pig will get some extra energy and nutrients from the extra food.
Another common situation is if a guinea pig breaks or chips a tooth. This actually happens more often than you would think, and it can make it very hard for a guinea pig to eat! Even if they can eat a little bit on their own, I like to supplement in these situations to make sure the piggy is getting all their nutrition – and make sure they aren’t hungry!
Sometimes I also give critical care to my senior guinea pigs as they get older. Feeding a bit of extra critical care can’t hurt, and it makes me feel better that they are getting all the nutrition and vitamin C they need.
How do I get my guinea pig to eat critical care?
Getting your guinea pig to actually eat critical care is the tricky part!
With a really sick guinea pig that is in stasis, you will likely have to force-feed them. This requires using an oral syringe to put the critical care directly into the guinea pig’s mouth. This can sound really scary if you’ve never done it before, but it’s really not too bad.
To syringe feed a guinea pig, you’ll want to mix up the recovery food mix and have a syringe ready. I’ve found a more liquid mixture is easier to get into a syringe. A larger oral syringe works best for most of my piggies, but you might have to try a few things to find what works best for you.
Once you have your mixture ready, you’ll fill the syringe and get ahold of your piggy. You then want to try to go in the side of the guinea pig’s mouth and squirt a small amount of the critical care into their mouth.
Check out the video below for a full walkthrough of the process!
There are a few key things you want to keep in mind:
- You’re really just trying to put it in the piggy’s mouth. Don’t overload their mouth or they could choke.
- If they’re chewing, that means they’re eating it!
- If they aren’t chewing and are just letting it fall out of their mouth, DO NOT try to force more into their mouth. They can easily breathe it in or choke on it.
What do I do if I don’t have critical care?
If you run out of critical care or don’t have any on hand – don’t panic! There are a couple of things you can use as a short-term fix to get you through.
First up, you can soak some regular pellets in water and mix them up into a soupy liquid. This will give you something pretty similar to what critical care is.
Some people do this every time to make their own critical care and mix in other vitamins as well, but I prefer to use a premade critical care formula since they contain extra vitamins and ingredients to help a sick piggy recover. It’s just more convenient and less stressful to keep a bag ready to go in an already stressful situation!
You can also try giving your piggy baby food. If a guinea pig isn’t eating then you really want to entice them to eat whatever they’ll go for. Make sure it’s organic and contains no ingredients other than fruit or veggie and water! You don’t want any added sugars, yogurt, or anything else a piggy shouldn’t have. I will also use baby food to mix with critical care to make it taste better or give some variety as well.
Where can I buy critical care?
Luckily, critical care is pretty easy to get your hands on!
I also highly recommend keeping some Sherwood SarX Appetite Restore on hand! It really helps with giving fluids and electrolytes to a sick piggy.
Most vets offices that see exotic pets also sell some form of critical care. Our vet has given us critical care after guinea pig surgeries several times. If you can’t find it online for some reason, you can always check with your vet.
Final thoughts on critical care for guinea pigs
When a new guinea pig owner asks me what supplies they need, critical care is always on the list of must-haves! Being prepared for a worst-case situation can make things a whole lot less stressful if it ever happens. If you don’t have critical care in your guinea pig’s emergency kit, make sure you order it today! It really could save your piggy’s life.