Guinea Pig Head Tilting – What it Means?

Guinea pigs are adorable little pets that are exceptionally easy to care for.

They can live happily within limited spaces, unlike most pet animals, and aren’t too fussy with their diet.

All you need to do is offer them healthy food, maintain hygiene, and ensure they aren’t sick.

Speaking of sickness, guinea pigs are prone to developing head tilts. It may not look like something to worry about, but these tilts can be symptoms of a serious disease.

What is Head Tilting in Guinea Pigs?

Have you noticed your guinea pig twisting its head in an unusual manner? It could be towards a particular side or even to the back.

Head tilting, or wry neck, is when guinea pigs display this behavior and stay that way.

Head tilting in guinea pigs is a common symptom of pneumonia and ear infections. Your guinea pig would be unable to hold its head in a normal position and might even fall over as a result.

Head tilting can also cause your guinea pigs to stop eating, as they are unable to access their food trays.

However, you will be glad to know that head tilting isn’t always a symptom of a critical condition.

It is best to seek out your vet and get the necessary test done to ensure your guinea pig’s head tilting is treated promptly.

Is Head Tilting in Guinea Pigs Fatal?

Head tilting usually isn’t fatal in guinea pigs.

Most vets agree that diligent action from their owners and appropriate treatment from an experienced vet can quickly put your pet on the path to recovery.

But, it is important to note that the following points are essential to keep your guinea pig healthy and safe:

Early Detection

Head tilting isn’t fatal on its own, but it can quickly develop into a more serious disease if left untreated.

Therefore, as a guinea pig owner, it is your responsibility to ensure they get timely medical assistance.

Make an urgent appointment with your vet as soon as you notice a constant head tilt in your pig. The sooner its treatment starts, the higher the chances of a full recovery.

Normal Activity

If your guinea pig is able to eat, drink, and groom itself without any help, that is a great sign!

Guinea pigs have the highest chances of survival after developing head tilts if they can continue their normal activity.

But, if you notice your guinea pig struggling to eat, talk to your vet about how to handle this.

You might need to syringe feed them for a few days. This ensures that they don’t become excessively weak and their immune system isn’t further compromised.

Proper Breathing

Guinea pigs with head tilts are bound to face difficulty in breathing. But, if your guinea pig is easily breathing through its nose, that is a wonderful sign!

If your guinea pig is unable to breathe well through its nose, this is a cause of serious concern and requires emergency care from the vet.

Your pig will try to breathe through its mouth, but it is hardly an effective way to get enough oxygen. Your vet will need to offer them breathing assistance.

Causes of Head Tilt in Guinea Pigs

Now that you know exactly what head tilting in guinea pigs is let’s go over what causes it.

Ear Infection

One of the most commonly occurring infections associated with head tilts in guinea pigs is an ear infection.

Ear infections begin in your pig’s nose and then move towards the internal ear space.

While the infection is spreading to the ear, your guinea pig’s head tilt will become highly noticeable.

Along with head titling, you will also find your guinea pig refusing food and barely drinking any water. All of these are symptoms of an ear infection caused by the Pasteurella multocida bacteria.

If left untreated, this can quickly lead to excessive weight loss. It can even develop into G.I. stasis, which is a medical emergency.

Heart Disease

If your guinea pig is suffering from heart disease, it will be more likely to tilt its head backward.

This usually occurs because your pig is struggling to breathe, and the bent position offers some relief.

It can be hard to differentiate between heart diseases and parasitic infections because the symptoms are similar.

Both of these illnesses can result in breathing issues, reduced appetite, and head tilts.

The one distinguishing factor is that heart disease causes guinea pigs to have swollen eyes.

So, if you notice any of these symptoms in your pig, it is time to make a vet’s appointment right away.


Head tilts and wrynecks are often caused by head trauma in guinea pigs.

Since guinea pigs can be a little clumsy, they are prone to collisions which lead to head trauma.

However, in most cases, the trauma isn’t serious enough to require medical assistance.

If you do notice a serious head injury or see your guinea pig experiencing a harsh head collision, it is best to head to the emergency vet.

They will look at the severity of the trauma and prescribe pain killers accordingly.

Muscle Spasm

Muscle spasms in guinea pigs are rather tricky. They can be harmless and caused by overstimulation.

On the other hand, they could be symptoms of a serious underlying disease as well.

If you notice your guinea pig experiencing muscle spasms after playtime, that is usually okay. These spasms might be paired with head tilting as well.

It is not a cause of concern if this just happens for a few minutes.

However, if you notice the spasms lasting for a longer time or a permanent head tilt, it is best to seek medical advice.


The development of tumors in your pig’s head, face, back, or neck can be a cause of head tilts.

A tumor is caused by the unusual growth of tissues in any part of your guinea pig’s body. This lump of tissues can hold water, blood, fats, etc.

It could be benign or malignant, so it is best to take your guinea pig to the vet and get some tests done.

P.S. Try not to worry too much if you do spot a tumor. Cancer is rather uncommon in guinea pigs, and with the right medical assistance, we’re sure your pet will be just fine!

Other Symptoms to Look Out for

If your guinea pig is experiencing head tilting because of a parasitic infection, it will usually be followed by some other symptoms.

These symptoms can cause its eyes, nervous system, and kidneys to be affected.

Some of the most common symptoms that will appear along with a head tilt in case of infection are:

  • Stumbling and swaying.
  • Unable to hold up their bodies.
  • Dragging their feet.
  • Refusing food and water.
  • Coughing.
  • Difficulty in breathing.
  • Laziness and lethargy.

Diagnosing Head Tilt in Guinea Pigs

There is a huge variety of illnesses and infections that could be causing your pig’s head tilt. That is why a vet is best suited to diagnose your pet.

As soon as you notice that your guinea pig has a head tilt that isn’t going away, try to get a vet appointment.

Your vet will carry out some necessary tests and carefully consider any other symptoms. Once they have received all the data they need, they will be able to diagnose the reason behind the head tilt.

Getting medical diagnoses done promptly allows your guinea pig to receive the correct treatment.

Your vet will guide you on the best way to proceed further to treat the head tilting and any other symptoms that your guinea pig is facing.

Treatment Plans to Follow

Now that your vet has identified the exact reason behind your pet’s head tilting, it is time to consider some treatment options.

Your vet will recommend one of the following treatment plans for your pet. They might even design a combination of two or more therapies to ensure that your guinea pig gets well soon.

  • Fluid Therapy
  • Nutritional Therapy
  • Physical Therapy
  • Surgery
  • Antibiotics
  • Pain Medication

Tips to Prevent Head Tilt in Guinea Pigs

Although it is difficult to completely eliminate risk factors for head tilting, you can take measures to reduce its chances.

Good husbandry practices are the best way to prevent head tilt in guinea pigs. You should also make an active effort to ensure a relaxing and quiet space for your pet.

Do your best to make sure that your guinea pig isn’t stressed out. Place its cage away from loud noise and other stimulating factors. Also, keep the cage away from direct sunlight and harsh winds.

To further ensure minimal chances of your pig developing head tilt and other infections, maintain the highest levels of hygiene. You should clean the cage daily and use wood shavings as bedding.

Offer your guinea pig a constant supply of fresh, room temperature water and plenty of timothy grass.

All the best in taking care of your guinea pig and ensuring its best health!

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