Cold Weather Advice…

Extremely cold weather can be fatal for guinea pigs. If hypothermia sets in and is allowed to go from mild to severe the outcome is quite likely to be death. This is, of course, much more likely to happen to the ill/weak/ or old guinea pigs but cold is uncomfortable for all guinea pigs. Even a hutch in a sheltered ‘lean to’ will be reaching temperatures much the same as those that are outside exposed to the elements. An indoor/outdoor thermometer is a good way to see this , particularly if it is also records the maximum and minimum temperatures.

  • 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!
  • 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 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.