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                                                       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 syringe.
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.