Anal Impaction in guinea pigs

Guinea pigs are coprophagic, a long word used to describe the reingestion of certain faecal pellets which for some animals is a perfectly normal part of their digestive systems.

These pellets, which are taken from the perineal sac are seldom seen for the simple reason that the animal does not excrete them. You will often see a guinea pig, head down hard between it’s back legs, rummaging like mad. What it is doing, nine times out of ten is taking one of these pellets from the sac.

In some boars, I have yet to come across this problem in a sow and know of no other owner who has seem it in one, the sac becomes impacted with these pellets. It maybe because the muscle spasms which enable the pellets to be presented to the boar become weak. Alternatively, it could be because the pellets, which are softer than those that are excreted, get softer still and form into a large ball.

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It is more common in elderly boars but is by no means unknown in younger ones. I have been told that these animals die after a short time because they are not getting the essential elements needed to sustain the digestive system. If they they do not get some help from their human friends they certainly will do, but those who get a little bit of help from their human friends go on to live out their normal life spans.

The help needed may not be very pleasant for those who give it but it is incumbent upon owners to perform this duty to the animal who has given them the pleasure of its company. It is simply a matter of rolling back the opening of the sac over the lump and expelling it with finger and thumb over the toilet pedestal. It doesn’t smell very nice but it takes a couple of seconds to do. How regularly it has to be done varies between animals, some need it daily, other only two or three times a week. I have come across a few cases where after a couple of weeks of ‘toilet duty’ the problem is resolved by the animal resuming is usual coprophagic behaviour but these have been in the minority.

After I first notice this problem I will put the boar on 0.4Feroglobin once a day for a week to keep up the B vitamins, some of which I believe are in the faecal material reingested. I’m sure that after a short while these boars begin to eat more of the dry food and this is where they get most of the B’s from, so I don’t continue with the supplement.

I am convinced that when guinea pigs have been ill they do not produce sufficient of these pellets, perhaps they do not even need them when they are not using as much energy. Why I have come to this conclusion is because of the behaviour such animals display when they are beginning to get back onto their feet again. They literally become a pain in the butt to other guinea pig they live with by persistently shoving their snouts between their legs and becoming more frantic when the animal they are pestering defecates. To me this is always a welcome sign for it invariably means that they are ‘in business’ again, so to speak.

What I think this behaviour indicates is that though they are feeling a bit better their systems have not properly kicked in to produce enough of the reingestible pellets, while all those about them have what they need and they simply take them as best they can. After a few days this behaviour will cease. Presumably by this time animal is able to produce it’s own reingestible pellets

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