Cold Weather Advice…

Once again much of the country is under a thick layer of snow or experiencing extremely low temperatures. Guinea pigs need extra care at these times in particular:

  • Insulation (lots of extra bedding etc) is only useful where the environment is already at an ideal temperature. Insulation will only keep guinea pigs as warm as their current temperature, it will not warm them up!
  • Where water bottles are freezing the temperature has obviously reached freezing point and the environment is too cold! Domesticated guinea pigs cannot seek out shelter like their wild ancestors would.
  • It is important that the environment around the cage/hutch/pen is at least 10 degrees C or 50 degrees F minimum, if there is condensation on the windows it needs to be warmer, electricity provides the driest form of heat or invest in a dehumidifier to remove water from the air. Small holes can be drilled in the shed in places where they will promote air circulation and exchange but won’t cause draughts for the guinea pigs. A dry environment is the one you are trying to achieve, a warmer one is good too.
  • Guinea pigs need a constant temperature, even those that live in the house can be the victims of a change in temperature when the heating goes off. Keep the room they are in at a constant temperature by using an oil filled electric radiator to heat the environment when the heating goes off. A thermometer is obviously of great use here too.
  • Guinea pigs that are ill will be more vulnerable as will the older ones. The body will shut down gradually if it gets too cold, if the guinea pig is ill or old it is likely to happen faster leaving an even smaller window of opportunity for catching and treating any illness.
  • Symptoms of Hypothermia (when the body drops to less than 35 degrees C/95 degrees F (mild) ), maybe that breathing becomes quick and shallow, hair may stand on end (in an effort to insulate the body), and they may appear lethargic and be unwilling to eat. Not all symptoms may present.
  • If you find your guinea pig suffering from cold related issues bring them inside to a warmer environment but do not try to warm them up too quickly. Place them on dry bedding (a veterinary fleece bedding if possible) and insulate them by putting a fleece/blanket/ towel over their body to insulate any body heat. A Snugglesafe heatpad that has been covered (with a tea towel or similar) can be used as a source of heat but the guinea pig must be ‘turned over’/moved every 20 minutes if they are not moving themselves or other issues can occur.

‘Phone your vet for further advice based on how the guinea pig has responded to the immediate treatment you have given. Like heatstroke the worst thing you can do in these cases is nothing. Taking the guinea pig’s temperature is not overly important (and can be a waste of time) in these cases, responding to symptoms is.

Get to know what is ‘normal’ for your guinea pig’s appearance so recognising signs of illness are easy.

January 6, 2010   Posted in: Seasonal care