In The Heat of The Moment…

In The Heat Of The Moment…
… you may be required to treat your guinea for heatstroke. Whilst all guinea pig treatment should be prompt heatstroke requires attention immediately- attention to the guinea pig as opposed to phoning for a vet.
Guinea pigs may come from South America but they have the freedom to move out of the heat, often down abandoned holes dug by other animals. They do not search out the nearest lake and go for a swim, they do not have access to a fridge with some ice, neither do they apply suncream!  A guinea pigs instinct is to prevent the problem happening in the first place- ie get out of the heat.
Guinea pigs are unable to control their heatloss through sweating and panting- they can do neither of these. The excessive rise in body temperature coupled with dehydration can lead to death if not treated promptly.
Whilst it goes without saying that guineas should be kept in the shade, it should be remembered that the sun moves round and the shade may need altering too.
Going out in the run:
Guineas pigs are safest when put out in the run in the late afternoon/early evening. South facing gardens with little or no shade are great suntraps, place the run under a parasol for shade, or put damp towels over the run, or even bring the run into the shed if it is cooler; guineas do not HAVE to go outside to exercise and will probably exercise more and be happier the cooler it is. These will need moving periodically.Water pistols are great for maintaining wetness and great fun for any little Humans you may have! Put a water bottle in the run and make sure it is in the shade. Guinea should at least have the choice of whether to drink or not. Check guineas at least every 20 minutes.
Fungal Guineas:
Currently fungal guinea pigs and those that have previously been fungal are even more at risk from heatstroke. Monitor them more frequently than 20 minutes and be prepared to act promptly should you discover heatstroke.
Marbles was in his run late one afternoon, in full shade and receiving 20 minute checks from his Human but still managed to suffer from heatstroke and nearly lost his little life to it. Marbles had previously been fungal.
Guineas with respiratory problems need close monitoring too.
  • Often indoors is cooler than out, indoors can be a shed or a house- as long as its cool. An air conditioning unit is a good investment and better than a fan which simply moves the hot air around.
  • Plastic drinks bottles filled with water and frozen and wrapped in a towel can make good coolers for guinea to lie against if he wishes. A cool atmosphere is best though.
  • Plenty of water should be available, where there are a lot of guineas kept in a group provide each guinea with a bottle- no one should need to wait for a drink in the hot weather. Ensure water bottles are working.
  • Food should be fed at the usual temperature- room temperature, frozen foods (even when melting) are dangerous, they can upset the digestive system and cause fatal diarrohea. Ice will do little to hydrate a guinea pig, it is water they need.
  • Nothing need be applied to the skin, if it is that hot then guinea will be safer inside.
  • Wooden houses or cardboard boxes are better houses than plastic igloos that will be like an oven. If towels etc are draped over all the run there is no need for houses.
  • Ceramic tiles that have been in the freezer overnight provide some relief from the heat.
  • Longhaired guineas should have their coats thinned and trimmed, most will grow again.
Signs of heatstroke can range from:
  • A limp body, guinea may be on his side and unwilling to move.
  • Slobbers: a wet chin.
  • Laboured breathing
  • A rapid pulse
  • May feel hot too touch, particularly the ears.

On discovery of a guinea with heatstroke:

  • Ask someone to call a vet and make an appointment.
  • Remove guinea from the immediate environment and bring him in somewhere cooler.
  • Fill a bowl with tepid not cold water. Cold water can send guinea into shock.
  • Dab some water on the ears and just behind them (where there is no hair).
  • Put guineas feet in the bowl of tepid water- let him stand in it if its shallow enough and he is able to stand.
  • Soak a towel/flanel in the tepid water and wrap guinea in it, it is of great importance that you do not use cold water.

This action should be sufficient until you can get to the vet where guinea will need rehydrating. Do not attempt to give fluids yourself- this can be dangerous if breathing is not normal- do offer guinea water though either in a dish or bottle.

New Grass: Guineas going out on grass for the first time (as in first few wheeks) should be introduced gradually and only given 30 minutes at a time on the grass. Another option is to put a lot of guineas in a smallish run to limit their intake, that way they can stay out longer.
Prior to grazing they should be given a meal of hay to ensure the gut is moving well.
Bloat is a very painful condition anhd often fatal, take care to introduce the new grass gradually. Call your vet at once if you see a balllooning of the abdomen that sounds hollow when you flick it.
This is not intended to replace good veterinary advice. You have a legal obligation to seek good veterinary care if your animal is sick.


August 17, 2012   Posted in: Seasonal care