Guinea pigs, also known as cavies because of their scientific name Cavia porcellus, have been popular pets since the 1800s. They have an average lifespan of 5 to 8 years and are considered seniors after they reach 5 years of age. Some guinea pigs develop gray fur around their noses and mouths as they age. When they enter their senior years, there are additional signs of aging which are similar to those found in humans.
Failing eyesight and cataracts are signs of old age in a guinea pig. A guinea pig's eyes will start to look opaque, whitish or hazy. Guinea pigs do adapt to decreasing vision. But if you notice any sudden color changes, inflammation or discharge in your guinea pig's eyes, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.
You can help a guinea pig with failing eyesight by keeping his cage layout the same after cleanings and by only placing toys and items with solid colors in his cage so he can better see the solid shapes and outlines.
As guinea pigs age, their teeth may become brittle and break more easily, and even fall out. Teeth do grow back, but they can grow back crookedly or unevenly. If this happens, the teeth should be trimmed by a professional. Another dental problem might occur if your guinea pig's teeth don't grind down properly during chewing. Overgrown teeth can form what is called a lingual spike, and this can cause the guinea pig's tongue to be trapped making eating complicated and painful. You can help your guinea pig by cutting fruits and vegetables into bite sized pieces, but you should still consult a veterinarian.
Older guinea pigs are not as agile, and they may sleep more, eat less and display feelings of melancholy. Because they are not as flexible, you might want to change their bedding to a soft, flat towel so they don't have problems walking over loose bedding. Always contact your veterinarian with any concerns.
Remove anything that your guinea pig needs to jump to, such as a hammock or tunnel, and switch to flat flooring in his cage to help a guinea pig who is not as limber or has arthritis.
Old age in guinea pigs also means a weakened immune system. Guinea pigs don't recover from illnesses as quickly. Talk to your veterinarian about adding a vitamin C supplement to help your guinea pig fight off illness. Guinea pigs may also suffer from arthritis, strokes, heart attacks, tumors and dementia.
If you want the best care for your guinea pig, try to find an exotic pet veterinarian who specializes in guinea pig care.
Monitor your guinea pig's food and water intake, and his stool. Eating and drinking more or less than usual can indicate a problem as can runny stool or infrequent stool production.