Do guinea pigs really eat their own poop? Yes. In a way, guinea pigs do eat a substance that is extracted the same way as their poop. But they do not actually eat their poop, per se. Guinea pigs need to eat their food twice before it is fully digested. Therefore, the substance they are eating should be thought of as a nutritional pellet. Plus, it's just easier on the ears to say your guinea pig is eating nutrition pellets, rather than referring to it as poop. Eating one's own fecal matter is called coprophagy.
What is coprophagy? As explained above, coprophagy is the act of eating one's own excrement. Many animals practice this. For some, like the guinea pig, it is normal and healthy. Many animals actually need to digest their food twice in order to benefit from the nutrients. Therefore, do not be alarmed if you see your guinea pig doing this.
How much coprophagy is normal? Generally, a guinea pig will not eat anymore of these pellets than is necessary. A general rule is to make sure your guinea pig is also eating his regular diet and drinking fresh water. Coprophagy helps your guinea pig digest the rest of the food in the diet. If a guinea pig is not doing this regularly, a deficiency in protein and other nutrients may occur. While guinea pig food includes nutritional pellets, the pellets consumed during coprophagy are better for your pet's health.
Can I prevent coprophagy in my guinea pig? It is natural and necessary for your guinea pig to partake in coprophagy. In one study, guinea pigs who were prevented from partaking in coprophagy suffered nutritionally. This was true , even with those guinea pigs being fed commercial pellets. Therefore, unless your vet recommends it (generally in an extreme case), you should never try to stop your pet from eating pelleted excrement. If you do need to prevent your guinea pig from doing this, your veterinarian will advise you on what to do based on your guinea pig's individual needs.
What happens if my guinea pig does not eat his own pellets? Eating the pellets (or poop) is vital to your guinea pig's health. If your guinea pig does not show signs of doing this, it is best to see an appropriately licensed animal care professional. Your pet's veterinarian will be able to tell you how to help your guinea pig meet nutritional needs , as well as any other steps you can take.
*I originally published a version of this via Yahoo Contributor Network