Guinea Pigs and Their Ability to Go Without Water

Guinea pigs must always have hay and fresh water available. Their digestive systems move quickly and require constant sustenance. Cavies are notoriously fussy drinkers and may refuse to take in enough liquid because of changes to the taste or an unfamiliar drinker. Illness or stress can also affect fluid intake, which leaves many owners wondering how long guinea pigs can go without water.

A healthy cavy may survive between 24 to 48 hours without water but would suffer long-term effects. Dehydration will set in after only 12 hours without water, which can lead to serious complications, including kidney failure and GI stasis. Guinea pigs must never be without fresh water.

A cavy that isn’t drinking or doesn’t have water available will deteriorate fast, so it is essential to know how to encourage the animal to drink. Let’s find out what to do if your piggy isn’t drinking and what you can do to ensure that it stays hydrated.

How Often Do Guinea Pigs Need Water?

Guinea pigs need to munch constantly to maintain good gut health, but it’s not only hay that is essential. Cavies cannot go without water for long as they can quickly become dehydrated.

Fresh water must be available to cavies constantly. The little animals don’t keep the same schedule as humans, and in fact, they very seldom sleep. They must have fresh water in their cage 24/7 so they can top up at any time, day or night.

Dehydration can set in very quickly if a guinea pig doesn’t have water available or stops drinking. Because their digestive system is set up to move continuously, even mild cases of dehydration can be potentially fatal.

A guinea pig with no water can die in as little as 24 hours. Some may survive longer, but this is not something you should ever risk. If a piggy is not drinking, it must be taken to a veterinarian immediately to diagnose the cause and receive fluids.

Fresh water must always be available and should be changed daily. In summer, when the weather is hot, it is a good idea to refresh the drinkers more often and to provide extra watery vegetables for them to nibble on.

To safeguard the water supply in a cavy cage, it is always better to have more than one water bottle or bowl available. If one empties or a nozzle gets blocked, alternative drinkers should be available.

How Much Water Should A Guinea Pig Drink?

A healthy adult guinea pig needs to consume between 2.7 and 3.3 ounces(80 – l00ml) of water each day. They usually require more in hot weather, and stress or illness can also affect water intake.

Pregnant or lactating sows require more water than the usual daily intake. Newborn guinea pigs may only drink water once they are a few weeks old, as they will get all the hydration they need from their mother’s milk.

Signs Of Dehydration In Guinea Pigs

Illness and dehydration go hand in hand. It is sometimes difficult to tell whether a guinea pig has become dehydrated because it is ill and not drinking as much as usual or if it is sick because it became dehydrated.

Whatever the cause, dehydration in guinea pigs must always be taken seriously. Cavies have a fast metabolism and can quickly go downhill if they don’t eat or drink enough water.

If you suspect that your piggy isn’t drinking enough, look out for the following signs of dehydration:

  • Thick sticky saliva
  • Dark urine
  • Hard, dry poop
  • Crusty eyes
  • Reluctance to eat
  • Tenting skin – You can test this by gently pinching a loose section of your piggy’s skin. If it is dehydrated, it may not immediately jump back into place.

What Happens If A Guinea Pig Doesn’t Drink Enough Water?

Dehydration is the first stage of a series of severe health conditions that can result from not drinking enough water. Although a healthy piggy may be able to survive up to 48 hours without water, it would suffer lasting health effects after only a few hours.

When a guinea pig does not take in enough water and becomes dehydrated, some life-threatening health problems may result. These include:

  • GI stasis – This can set in relatively quickly. The digestive system stops working to move nourishment through the animal’s system.
  • Bladder stones – When guinea pig urine becomes concentrated, the pet can develop a bladder stone, which makes them unable to pee.
  • Kidney damage – Going without water for too long can cause irreparable kidney damage.
  • Urinary tract infection (UTI) – An uncomfortable condition that will require antibiotics to treat.

How Can I Get My Guinea Pig To Drink More Water?

A cavy that suddenly stops drinking or is suddenly drinking more water than usual should set off all sorts of alarm bells. However, there are some possible explanations you should check before making an appointment with a veterinarian:

  • If the piggy has eaten a lot of watery vegetables, it may drink less than usual.
  • A cavy may drink slightly less than usual if the weather is cooler.
  • Check that the nozzles on the drinkers are all working. They sometimes get blocked, which is why there should be more than one drinker in a cage.
  • Newly adopted piggies may need time to feel confident enough to come out and drink.

Sudden refusal to drink should always be regarded as an emergency, but there are some things you can try to get your piggy to remain hydrated.

  1. Position food and water close to the animals. New or submissive piggies may not feel confident enough to move into the open to drink.
  2. Offer them watery vegetables to tempt, like romaine lettuce and cucumber.
  3. Check that the water is clean and fresh. There should be no additives in the water that may put the piggies off. Things like Vitamin C drops are well intended but sometimes change the taste of water.
  4. Try using a water bottle and bowl. If you have a newly adopted piggy, it may not be used to using the type of drinkers you have.
  5. Space drinkers out. We may not always understand piggy politics, but more timid personalities may prefer drinking in a secluded space in the cage.

If none of these measures has any effect within a short time, it is essential to rush the piggy to a veterinarian. Dehydration can start to set in within 6 hours of not drinking, which can quickly result in GI stasis.

What Water Do Guinea Pigs Like?

Your guinea pig should drink whatever kind of water you drink. Tap water is fine if you drink it.

Since they are highly sensitive to change, it is better to give cavies water that you always have available so that the taste remains consistent.

Water should be at room temperature. If you have outside piggies, check regularly that their water hasn’t heated up in summer or frozen in winter. Piggies need to drink often regardless of the weather conditions and must have a reliable water supply even when it’s cold.


Guinea pigs should always have fresh water. Dehydration can set in after only a few hours. A cavy that isn’t drinking should always be regarded as a medical emergency. Owners can encourage their pets to drink by placing additional drinkers around the cage to make getting enough water as convenient as possible.