Guinea pigs have extremely sophisticated and delicate digestive systems, and any disruption to normal digestion can become a serious health problem very quickly. Unlike other small mammals like hamsters and gerbils, guinea pigs need a constant supply of fibre in their diet, in the form of timothy hay, to help safeguard them against serious ailments, including bloat. Characterised by a distended abdomen, bloat is typically caused by a blockage within the intestines, and it can be extremely painful and possibly fatal.
An intestinal blockage can be caused when a guinea pig ingests a foreign object, such as a piece of plastic, shards of wood from a table leg, or a large amount of hair that has become tangled in its digestive tract. This blockage can result in bloat, indicated by a distended abdomen that sounds hollow when you tap on it. Treatments, according to the Small Animal Channel website, can include antibiotics prescribed by a veterinarian to get the gastrointestinal tract functioning normally again; and fluid therapy, administered either orally or via subcutaneous injection under the skin.
While many fruits and vegetables are safe for guinea pigs to consume, others should be avoided due to their penchant for producing gas, which can lead to bloat. In fact, the same vegetables that are known to cause a build-up of gas in the human digestive system can have the same effect on guinea pigs. According to the Tri-County Humane Society website, these include beans, broccoli, cabbage and bok choy. Safer alternatives include romaine lettuce, carrots and cucumber.
According to the Pet Query website, bloat can also result when bacteria or viruses from contaminated water or vegetables get into the guinea pig's digestive system. A bacterial infection can cause the lining of the stomach to expand in the presence of gases that have taken over the intestinal tract.