Why is My Guinea Pig Coughing When Eating?

The main reason a guinea pig coughs while eating is because they are eating too fast. Coughing while eating could also result from not chewing the food thoroughly. Over time, the teeth can become too long, causing pain while eating, resulting in the guinea pig not chewing correctly before swallowing.

The last thing a guinea pig owner wants to hear out of their precious companion’s tiny mouth is a hacking cough.

Worry wraps around you like a wet blanket, and you’re asking them out loud if they are okay…but of course, they can’t answer you back, so panic immediately ensues.


It’s Important Not To Panic

Just like all mammals, guinea pigs can cough. They have respiratory reflexes and can even experience a tiny tickle in their throat. But we all know how hard it is to not go to the worst-case scenario, searching the internet for the rarest diseases that could cause your guinea pig to cough.

It’s important to just be familiar with the signs and symptoms of something normal, like a clearing-of-the-throat noise versus something that could be cause for concern.

Yes, a little cough here and there is normal for your guinea pig. They eat, swallow, and breathe just like us, so it’s not uncommon to hear a little cough as long as it is not accompanied by other symptoms such as weight loss, lack of appetite, increased nervousness, and lethargy.

Scarf and Barf

The most common time you will hear a guinea pig cough is when they eat. We all know what it’s like to get carried away during our favorite meal and these little piggies are no different.

If guinea pigs eat too fast, they can make themselves sick. Guinea pigs are herbivores, so their stomachs work a little differently, but they can still get nauseous.

The main difference and the only important one regarding your concerns is that what goes down cannot actually come back up. Guinea pigs lack the bodily functions that allow food to travel back towards the esophagus.

A little coughing noise could indicate that they are forcing some food down that didn’t want to go down in the first place.

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However, because they cannot vomit, it is important to be certain they did not ingest something other than food. If you are unsure, visit your emergency vet right away.

Stressed and Depressed

You may ask, “Is my guinea pig eating too fast just because they like the food so much?” “Can you teach a guinea pig self-control?”

As mentioned, yes, they can just get carried away sometimes. However, there are often times a guinea pig will eat too fast because they are stressed out, which will cause them to cough or huff out bits of food that they didn’t chew properly.

Again, if this happens once or twice, we can call it a bad day. But, if this is accompanied by your guinea pig hiding a lot or being bullied in the cage by their furry pals, it could mean they are stressed out and feel the need to eat as much as they can, as fast as they can, because they do not feel safe.

Picture your first day of high school when you scoffed down the sandwich your mom made you in the bathroom because you were too scared to go to the cafeteria.

To avoid making your guinea pig feel like an outcast, make sure there are plenty of food areas that are enough distance away from each other, so everyone knows there is enough to go around.

Vetting It Out With Your Vet

If you continually see your guinea pig not thoroughly chewing their food, it could be a sign of something more serious.

Guinea pigs are prey, so they hide their symptoms for as long as possible to not show weakness to any potential threats around them.

If you notice anything out of the ordinary, it’s important to visit a professional right away because chances are they haven’t been feeling well for a while.

Tooth Pain

The most obvious reason a guinea pig is not chewing their food properly is because they are experiencing tooth pain.

Guinea pigs have 20 teeth, and 12 of those are molars, so it is very possible they can get a tooth infection. Guinea pigs also have open-rooted teeth, which means they constantly grow, which also means they have a higher chance of getting infections than most animals.

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If your guinea pig keeps coughing while eating, look out for unpleasant breath, drooling, weight loss, avoidance of hard foods, or any swelling/open wounds around the mouth.

Chances are they are in pain because of a bad tooth or an abscess, and you should see a vet immediately. They will most likely need antibiotics or even surgery.

Respiratory Issues

Other reasons to be more concerned about a coughing guinea pig are allergies, a cold, or worst-case scenario, an upper respiratory infection.

Simple things such as bedding can have a severe impact on your guinea pig’s respiratory system. Be sure to avoid dusty or sandy bedding that can irritate their lungs. Pine and cedar shavings can also cause an allergic reaction in guinea pigs and cause infection. Stick to soft grass or fleece for safety and comfort when choosing bedding.

Unfortunately, guinea pigs are extremely prone to upper respiratory infections and pneumonia, even with preventive measures.

A stressed guinea pig can become even more prone to infection because stress can lower its immune system. Keep them happy by giving them enough space, socialization, and hiding spots.

Guinea pigs can also get Bordetella and Streptococcus and can transmit it to each other, so it is important to catch the signs early.

Weigh Your Guinea Pig Weekly if Concerned

A pro-tip for any guinea pig pet owner is to weigh your piggies once a week using a gram scale. Slight fluctuations around 5% in weight are normal, but more drastic and consistent drops are the easiest way to tell if your guinea pig isn’t feeling well.

If they have a cold or infection, you will most likely hear coughing accompanied by labored breathing.

You may also notice a lack of appetite, weight loss, as well as lethargy. If your guinea pig is showing any of these symptoms, they should be seen by a vet right away for treatment because chances are it wasn’t them just cheating on their diet that day.