Puffed Guinea Pig Cheeks: Do Guinea Pigs Store Food in Their Cheeks?

Close up of a girl holding a longhaired guinea pig with puffed cheeks

Some rodents like hamsters and squirrels tend to store food in their cheek pouches, but not our guinea pigs.

Unlike hamsters and squirrels, guinea pigs do not have cheek pouches and thus don’t—can’t—store food in their cheeks. That said, guinea pigs do keep some unchewed or partially chewed and unswallowed food at the back of their mouth for them to chew when they desire.

If your guinea pig’s cheeks seem a bit puffy, or you have observed your guinea pig chewing when he is not eating, you might wonder if guinea pigs store food in their cheeks.

Do Guinea Pigs Store Food In Their Cheeks?

No, guinea pigs do not store food in their cheeks. Guinea pigs are just not equipped (they lack check pouches) to store food in their cheeks. However, they do keep some partially chewed and unswallowed food at the back of their mouth.

There is a lot of food kept at the back of the mouth. This is the reason that oftentimes, vets have to scoop out this unswallowed food from the back of the guinea pig’s mouth to examine their teeth. 

Guinea pigs might also keep a small amount of food in their cheek pads (fat pads in cheeks) to chew on later. These fat pads in guinea pigs’ cheeks are completely normal and often make it difficult to examine guinea pig teeth.

Guinea pigs often suddenly stop eating when they hear a strange noise or some stranger’s face walks by. In such circumstances, guinea pigs stop chewing and keep the food at the back of their mouth or perhaps in the cheek pads to chew later. They will start chewing once they are no longer on “high alert.”

Sometimes, guinea pigs start chewing while their owners are handling them. This indicates that guinea pigs are completely content and feel safe with you. Perhaps they like it when you stroke their chin. Guinea pigs chewing when stroked at the chin or held generally may also be a sign that your guinea pig likes you.

Do Guinea Pigs Stash Food?

No, guinea pigs do not stash food like rats. One, they just don’t have the dexterity in their paws to hold the food and deposit it in some secret place. Second, guinea pigs are just not wired like hamsters, and rats to hoard food. They are natural grazers and like to munch on hay or whatever comes their way all the time.

That said, if guinea pigs don’t like a certain food, they may hold it in their mouth and hide it somewhere in their cage, hoping that they don’t have to eat and their owners might offer them something they like.

Puffy Cheeks in Guinea Pigs

Many novice guinea pig owners assume that puffy or swollen cheeks mean that the guinea pig has stored some food in their cheek pouches. But guinea pigs don’t store food in their cheeks as they don’t have cheek pouches.

So, if your guinea pig has puffed-up cheeks, know that there is something wrong with him. He might have dental issues, mouth abscesses, or lumps at lymph nodes.  

Puffy Cheeks in Guinea Pigs Due to dental Issues

Guinea Pig Eating and apparently storing food in cheeks

Guinea pig teeth are always growing. This is the reason that guinea pigs are always eating and pooping and peeing so much. Munching on timothy hay all the time wears down guinea pig teeth and keeps them to the proper length.

Sometimes guinea pig teeth overgrow or wear down at a strange angle, misaligning them. With misaligned or overgrown teeth, the guinea pig may injure their tongue, making it to sore and swell. With a swollen tongue or gum, guinea pig cheeks may start to look puffed up. With such puffed cheeks and uneven teeth, eating becomes hurtful to guinea pigs and they may stop eating, resulting in significant weight loss and lethargy. Therefore, if your guinea pig cheeks look puffed, you should immediately take them to a vet and syringe feed them until you see the vet.

Puffy Guinea Pig Cheeks Due to Abscess

Guinea pigs are susceptible to cuts and punctures on their face while fighting other guinea pigs, chewing on the cage bars, or making contact with a splinter or some other sharp thing in their cage. These cuts and injuries on the face make guinea pigs prone to infection. As the wound gets infected, the guinea pig develops a pus-filled lump, called an abscess. These lumps make the guinea pig cheeks look puffed up.

Guinea pigs may also develop abscesses inside their mouth, which is more difficult to treat. So, your guinea pig might have to stay with the vet for a couple of days. In case of an abscess on the face, the vet will lance the lump, clean it, and prescribe antibiotics to prevent further infection. 

Lumps In Guinea Pigs

Lumps are different from abscesses as they are particularly formed in the lymph nodes along the neck and under the jaw. When developed under the jaws, guinea pig cheeks may appear puffed up. Given that these lumps are developed at lymph nodes, they may spread fast throughout the guinea pig body. Where simple abscess is treated by lancing and cleaning, lumps and lymph nodes might require surgery along with antibiotic therapy.

Whether the guinea pig cheeks are puffed up because of dental issues, abscesses, or lumps at lymph nodes, you should immediately take him to a cavy-savvy vet. With puffed-up cheeks, guinea pigs are in extreme pain and may even stop eating, which could make guinea pigs go into gastrointestinal (GI) stasis.

Relevant Read: Why Do Guinea Pigs Fluff Up?
Scroll to Top