Force feeding - an acquired taste
If you own a guinea pig for any
length of time, and care for it properly, you will one day find yourself
force feeding it. This sort of comes with the territory. As prey
animals, guinea pigs hide discomfort and affliction, because in the
wild, the first thing a predator looks for, is animal that is in
distress, and thus easy prey. So, often, the first sign of a problem
will be a hunger strike, or an unexplained loss of weight. It is
particularly important to be aware of these things with guinea pigs,
because they can become critically ill, so quickly.
A guinea pig that goes 24 hours
without eating, will probably die. Actually, as little as 8 hours, with
no food passing through them, can be fatal, due to bloat. It's just the way they are
designed. Guinea pigs are grazers, designed to eat pretty much all day.
Because of this, they have a pretty quick digestive tract. When the food
stops coming, the digestive tract stops pushing food through, and
fermentation within the stomach, and intestines begins. This builds up
gas, which will prove fatal. The same thing happens to horses, and
cattle, also grazers. So a minor affliction, from which a pig might
easily recover, can turn fatal if it stops the pig from eating.
So guinea pig hunger strikes must be
taken very seriously, and can not just be waited out. A pig that will
not eat, or only picks at food, should be force fed. The technique
requires a syringe, and a liquid or paste form of food. Fortunately,
both are available from a good vet. I have saved, or at least
greatly extended the lives of several guinea pigs, by force feeding.
||The tools of force feeding. In addition, you
may want to have a blanket or towel. You should also have
patience, a gentle tone, and a reassuring attitude. Ordinarily,
guinea pigs love to eat. Only when they are seriously unhappy
will they stop.
Critical care can not usually be found at a pet shop, and will
probably have to be purchased at a vet's. Oxbow will not sell
critical care on-line; but you may view their site at
||This is what it looks like. It is essentially
timothy hay meal, with additives and nutrients.
||Instructions advise to mix it half and half
with water. This will sometimes make it too thick to use in a
syringe, so you will need to use your judgment. If you have to
make it thinner, then just feed more. It won't work at all if
you are unable to get it into the syringe, and down into your
little pig's stomach.
||Mixing into a paste. I usually use the tip of
the syringe to mix. I never put a spoon, or anything else
metallic in there. Metal destroys vitamin C.
||Once the proper constancy has been attained,
draw it up into the syringe. Oxbow, or your vet will tell you
how much to give. As a general rule, give as much as the little
guy will eat. For an average sized guinea pig, probably 15 - 25
CC, maybe four times a day or so. A guinea pig has a two to four
hour digestive cycle, so if your pet is depending on you for all
of his feeding, this is the cycle you will have to feed on,
unless you wish to risk bloat.
||My friend Red, has kindly volunteered to be a
guinea pig, for this demonstration. Actually, by guinea pig
standards, this stuff tastes great, and they really like it. Note
the ease with which he takes the syringe. Generally, it will not
be this easy. Usually,
when a pig won't eat, it is because he doesn't want to eat. He
will fight you, he will turn his head, he will try to block the
syringe with his tongue, and when you finally get the paste in
there, he will let it dribble out of his mouth, and won't
swallow. When this occurs, you must use a smaller syringe, and
get it deeper into the mouth.
||The small syringes are hard to fill from the
front, but can be easily filled from the back, by the large
||Most of the time, you will have to feed like
this. Push the smaller syringe, deep into the mouth, past the
tongue, and around the back teeth and entrance to the throat.
This will pretty much force the little pig to swallow, and
discourage attempts to spit the paste out. Red is just a little
displeased by this, as most guinea pigs are not crazy about
having their heads grabbed and pulled back. Who can blame them?
I feel the same way about my head. You need to be careful
though. Don't feed too much in one attempt, and don't push the
syringe into the throat. A guinea pig can choke, or get
pneumonia from food dribbling, or being forced into the lungs.
You may need to place the syringe at the side of the mouth, to
get it past the back teeth.