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Why Do Guinea Pigs Eat Their Own Poo

Last Updated: 06.04.20

 

 

You will find more info here about this behavior guinea pigs have, that seems weird at first, but once you understand that their overall health depends on it, things get clear. Guinea pigs redigest part of their food by eating soft droppings to get all the vitamins and probiotics from them. 

 

Guinea pigs make great pets, especially to children, helping them to learn about what caring for another living being means. Those cute faces, friendly temperaments, and small-sized bodies make them a suitable choice for many families, so they are highly popular pet nowadays. However, there is one thing that these animals do, that seems more than creepy, at first.

Have you ever noticed your guinea pig curling into a ball and sort of sniffing at his or her rear end? Well, there is a lot more going on there than sniffing! Guinea pigs do that when they eat their own poop. Although it will seem disgusting or weird to any owner, do not stop your pet from doing that, as this behavior is essential for them.

This behavior is called coprophagia and it is a part of any guinea pig’s life. You may wonder how is this possible and why do they do that? Well, to answer those questions, we need to take a closer look at their diet. Guinea pigs eat a lot of plant matter, and they use coprophagia as a way of getting maximum nutrition from those plants. How does it work?

 

Pseudorumination

Guinea pigs eat mainly plants and seeds, whether they come in the form of specially designed pellets, fresh greens, hay, and vegetables. Most of these daily diet ingredients do not completely break down during the digestion process and are eliminated as feces without the animals fully absorbing all of their nutrients and vitamins.

The same thing happens with cows that need to ruminate their food to fully extract all of the nutrients from it. Ruminating means chewing and digesting the food twice, to make sure all the vitamins and nutrients are absorbed by the animal’s body. The same way, guinea pigs are making the most of their food by eating their poop and digesting their food twice.

There are two types of poop guinea pigs make, and you only get to see one of them. There are the hard, dark brown dropping that pet owners typically see on the bottom of the cage. This type of droppings is the one they do not eat, therefore you get to see it, and it mainly consists of undigested food residue, unlike the second type of guinea pig poop.

The second type of droppings is light brown to dark yellow in color, and a lot softer than the dark brown ones. They are also called caecals, and this is the type of droppings your guinea pig will eat. Caecals do not usually get to touch the bottom of the cage, as guinea pigs usually eat them as soon as they come out. Caecals are mainly made of partially digested food.

By chewing and digesting their food twice, guinea pigs get to extract all vital vitamins and nutrients from the same amount of food, while also getting probiotics and all kinds of good bacteria into their stomach and intestines, because the caecals are filled with good bacteria they need since they already passed the intestinal system once.

 

 

What if my guinea pig doesn’t eat droppings?

If for some reason, guinea pigs would be prevented from eating their soft droppings, they would soon suffer from malnourishment, especially a lack of vitamin K and B-complex, alongside a large number of proteins, thus altering the pig’s metabolism and immune system. It is widely known that guinea pigs rely on essential vitamins, so let’s take a closer look at how these work.

Vitamin K is responsible for healthy bones and regulating the calcium level in the bloodstream, therefore a lack of vitamin K may lead to a wide variety of bone-related health issues, not to mention that calcium is one mineral that can cause serious damage to the guinea pig’s urinary system when there is too much of it in the blood.

Also, the B-complex is a series of B vitamins that are essential to the proper function of the nervous system, as well as many other organs, including the skin. So, to keep your guinea pig happy and healthy it is essential that it gets the proper amount of vitamins, minerals, proteins, and many more much-needed elements.

Yet another important and interesting aspect here is that droppings are filled with “good” bacteria, also called probiotics, that help the intestinal flora develop properly. A lack of proper intestinal flora means the entire digestive system suffers, and from that point on, there is nothing good that can come out of this – your guinea pigs will surely get sick and need help to recover.  

 

Helping others

A lesser-known fact about the habit of eating droppings is that guinea pigs actually help each other out this way – of course, if kept in a small group – otherwise, you will need to step in and assist your tiny friend to recovery. How does it work? Well, remember we said soft poop contains a large number of probiotics, so this can be used to help other guinea pigs too.

If any guinea pigs feel they have disturbed their digestive system and that they cannot regulate their intestinal flora by eating their own caecals, then they will turn to their group members for help, chasing them around the cage and eating droppings from them. This means they get high-quality probiotics from healthy individuals and get back on their feet in no time.

In case you have just one guinea pig, and he or she has no other buddy to turn for help, there is something you can do about it. Studies showed that by mixing soft droppings collected from a healthy guinea pig with luke-warm water, you will obtain a solution that can be fed with a syringe to sick guinea pigs.

Of course, it’s best to seek veterinarian advice on this matter before proceeding to it, but it was proven effective in both guinea pigs with intestinal issues, and during antibiotic treatment, as antibiotics will kill both good and bad bacteria in the body. That means that some help restoring the good bacteria in the intestinal flora is of utmost importance. 

 

 

Probiotic supplements

As time went by, and people started learning and understanding more and more about these cute-looking, fascinating creatures, specially designed formulas started appearing on the market. This includes food formulas and vitamins and probiotic supplement formulas. This type of supplements is a good investment, as these will help strengthen your tiny friend.

Mainly in the case of pregnant females, but not only in their case, adding this type of supplements in the daily diet helps the guinea pigs get added vitamins, have access to probiotics and keep their digestive system, and overall health, in tip-top shape. This can only mean one thing: you will see your buddy happy for a long time to come.

One of the benefits these commercial supplements come with is that they are made in the form of tasty pellets, therefore you can simply add them to the daily amount of food and they will eat it. Also, you do not need to keep them in the fridge, but you should avoid exposing them to high heat or direct sunlight. 

One of the drawbacks here is that you never know if the amount added to your guinea pig’s food is the right amount for him or her, and it is difficult to control whether they really eat the supplements, or they just bury them in the bedding. So, keeping a close eye on them, at first, may be a very good idea, just to see exactly what happens.

Also, you may want to watch out for any changes in your tiny friends’ droppings, as they start receiving the probiotic supplements. If you notice changes in texture, color, or smell, it’s best to stop using them until you get to a veterinarian for advice. Although this type of supplements is not prescription medicine, it is always a good idea to ask a veterinarian before using them.

 

 

Irina Ionescu

As a long-term learner and animal lover, Irina helps her readers find the best products and accessories for their pets, as well as the latest training techniques, tips & tricks on how to handle animals.

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