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What Happens As Guinea Pigs Age?

What are the characteristics of a senior guinea pig?

By Shannon Cauthen
Posted: November 13, 2009, 5 a.m. EST

pig portrait photo
© Gina Cioli/I-5 Studio
Guinea pigs usually begin to slow down at 4 or 5 years of age.

Q: What does the aging process of a guinea pig involve? What are normal signs of aging and what are the health concerns?

A: The average life span of most guinea pigs is 5 to 8 years of age. Not unlike humans, a guinea pig’s life span is affected by genetics, environment and diet. Some guinea pigs live longer or shorter lives, depending on these and other factors. To my knowledge, the breed of guinea pig can affect life span. Silkies/Shelties or Peruvians have lived 12 to 14 years. The hairless breeds tend to be short-lived at 3 to 5 years.

It is difficult to determine the age of a guinea pig, but looking at its feet can give you a clue. As a guinea pig ages, its toes tend to roll. This roll starts at the outside toe and works inward to the largest toe. The toes end up twisted to the outside of the feet and may even thicken.

Guinea pigs tend to slow down as they reach four or five years of age.

Aging guinea pigs may develop some of the same ailments or characteristics as aging humans. These include cataracts, stroke, heart attacks, arthritis, dementia and graying (guinea pigs may develop gray fur around the nose and mouth).

In the last 10 years, tumors are becoming more and more common in guinea pigs. Watch for those bumps and growths, and have them checked by a veterinarian.

Sleeping a lot, not eating and melancholy are other signs that should be checked out by a veterinarian if your guinea pig develops them.

Like this article? Please share it, and check out:
10 Common Guinea Pig Behaviors Explained
Life With Your First Pet Guinea Pig
Three Guinea Pig Enrichment Myths Debunked
See questions and answers about guinea pig behavior 
See questions and answers about guinea pig health
See Shannon Cauthen's author bio


Posted: November 13, 2009, 5 a.m. EST

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Reader Comments
I would add that some of these ailments can be treated. We had a guinea pig that lived to be 8, but suffered from a tumor, and later, arthritis. The tumor was drained and the guinea pig recovered. We had a chiropractor who treated animals and having the guinea's pig spine adjusted monthly kept it mobile, which allowed it to clean itself. In the past, my guinea pigs with arthritis didn't have the dexterity to keep up with their hygiene, which led to other problems and they seemed to pass within a year of being unable to clean themselves properly. I would also add the guinea pigs age, keep an eye on their stools and increase appropriate fresh fruits/veggies to help keep them from having hard (and likely painful) stools.
Sharon, Worcester, MA
Posted: 4/18/2013 9:34:43 AM
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