Syringe Feeding.

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Syringe Feeding







Syringe Feeding Basics


Information contained in this article is for guidance only and is no substitute for proper Veterinary care.  Syringe feeding should always be done by adults and never left to children.   


If your guinea stops eating for more than a few hours or is eating much less than normal, you will need to start syringe feeding them.  Guineas are designed to graze their way through the day and always have food going through their intestines.  Sick guineas that can't eat on their own will go into a rapid decline and potentially painful death if the problem is not spotted quickly.  Syringe feeeding can often mean the difference between life and death for your piggy. 


Diagnosis from a guinea-competent Vet is important to find the underlying cause of the problem and treat it appropriately.  Conditions such as gastric torsion or gastric blockage must be treated before feeding, hence the importance of a Veterinary diagnosis. 


Signs to look out for include:

  • guineas that are are fluffed up and  looking miserable - often guineas in pain won't eat.  Take the pain away and they often start eating again. Pain comes in many different forms including lip sores, mouth ulcers, oral fungal infections, post-operative pain, cystitis, bladder stones, major skin problems, sore joints etc.
  • weightloss - this can be gradual or sudden, so regular handling and weighing will help to avoid you missing this until it is too late.
  • guineas that are picking at their food and not eating as much as usual.  This could be because of teeth problems or because they are in pain.
  • lack of poops - if there isn't enough food going through the intestines, output will decrease or there may be none at all.

What to  feed:  Oxbow Critical Care (based on Timothy Hay) is one of the most important items to have in your piggy First Aid Kit.  Oxbow describe it as "a  high fibre, complete syringe feeding formula for herbivores that are not eating due to illness or that are recovering from surgery."  Alternatives include Supreme Science Recovery or if you don't have either of these, you could make a mix from your normal dried pellets such as Oxbow Cavy Cuisine or Supa Guinea Excel.  All these products need to be mixed with a small amount of hot water until it has the texture of thick mashed potatoes.  Leave it to cool and feed it to your guinea when it is slightly warm.  Sick guineas don't usually appreciate cold food.  Consistency is something that you need to experiment with - your guinea may have problems taking the mix easily if it is too thick or too watery. 


What to feed with: 

1ml syringes are the best size to use.  You will need several as they don't last very long if you are syringe feeding a guinea for more than a day or so.  For feeding Critical Care, you will need to make a few adjustments to your syringe so that the food will go up the syringe. 


Pigture 1 shows the syringe as it comes - this is fine for giving your guinea water.


Pigture 2 shows the syringe with the end cut off and the rubber plunger sticking out.  This is dangerous because you don't want an already sick guinea eating a piece of rubber!


Pigture 3 shows a syringe where the end has been heated for a few seconds over a lighted flame (gas hob for example).  The plastic has then been pushed in slightly to round off any sharp bits of plastic and just enough to stop the black rubber plunger from being able to escape. 



How much to feed: 

The recommended daily intake for Oxbow Critical Care is 50mg per kilo of body weight, so a guinea weighing 1kg (2.2lbs) would require 50ml per day divided between 4-5 feeds per day.  These numbers are only a guideline and you may find that your guinea will take more than this, that's fine.  Only make up as much as you need for one or two feeds, keep the remainder in the fridge and warm it up before the next feed.  As you are feeding your guinea, make a note of how much food they are taking at each feed.  Weigh your guinea at the same time every day, and if they are loosing weigh, you're not getting enough food into them.  Water is also required to ensure that your guinea doesn't become dehydreated as this can lead to kidney failure.  Alternating syringes of food with 0.5ml of water usually works well.  Make sure the water is given slowly as you don't want to shoot a syringe full of water to the back of your guinea's throat and choke them or go onto their lungs.


How to feed: 

Sit your guinea on a nice soft towel or blanket on your lap.  Fill the syringe with food and gently place it in your guinea's mouth.  You are aiming to get the syringe towards the back of the mouth, so go in at the side of the mouth, behind the front teeth.  Gently squeeze out about 0.3ml of food and let the guinea eat it before putting any more in.  Patience is required here and you need to go at the pace of your guinea.  Once guineas get used to taking the syringe, you can try letting them take a little more food each time.  If your guinea is uncooperative and waves his head around, you will need to wrap him in a towel so that only his head is showing.  You can then hold his head steady and insert the syringe in his mouth.  Most guineas soon get used to taking food by syringe. 



Ensure that all equiment you use for syringe feeding is kept clean.  Warm food and saliva make a great breeding ground for nasty bugs, hence only making up small amounts of food each time.  Keep your guinea's mouth clean and ensure that you gently wipe away any food that is left around there after each feed.  When your guinea has finished each feed, make the last couple of syringes water to swill out their mouths.


These are only the basics, but should be enough to help your guinea if they stop eating all of a sudden.




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