Guinea pigs are popular pets all around the world today. Some owners choose to keep their guinea pigs indoors with them. For other owners, it makes more sense to house their guinea pigs outdoors.
Regardless of where your guinea pigs live, you need to know what to do to protect your pets during cold weather. How cold is too cold for a guinea pig? For that matter, do guinea pigs get cold?
Let’s find out!
Learn About Keeping Guinea Pigs Warm
In this YouTube video, you can learn how to keep guinea pigs warm during the winter whether your piggies live indoors or outdoors.
As you will learn, there are lots of easy and economical ways to keep your guinea pigs warm and cozy in their habitat no matter what the weather is forecasted to be in your area.
Do Guinea Pigs Get Cold?
Do guinea pigs get cold? They sure do! Guinea pigs, like people, are warm-blooded mammals. Like people, guinea pigs can get cold rather easily.
In this article, learn how to tell when your guinea pig is cold and how to fix your pig’s environment to keep your pet warm and healthy.
The Right Temperature for Guinea Pigs
As Guinea Pigs Australia explains, guinea pigs prefer a temperature range of 64 degrees Fahrenheit to 71 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees Celsius to 22 degrees Celsius).
This is not to say that a guinea pig cannot survive if the temperature gets a bit colder or warmer than this. But this is the optimal range that guinea pigs prefer.
In general, guinea pigs should not be exposed to temperatures below 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees Celsius) without taking extra precautions.
Similarly, when temperatures rise higher than 85 degrees Fahrenheit (29 degrees Celsius), it is important to find ways to add ventilation and shade to lower the temperature.
Ways to Tell That Your Guinea Pig Is Cold
There is more than one way to determine whether or not your guinea pig is uncomfortable due to cold temperatures.
Watch their behavior
Green Cross Veterinary recommends that you observe your guinea pigs and watch their body language.
Do you see your pet shivering or shaking? Is your pig trying to ball up in a corner or enclosed area to stay warm? If you have more than one guinea pig, are they huddled together? Or is it hard to find your pets because they are burrowed in their hay?
These are all possible signs that your guinea pig may be cold.
Another telltale sign is when your cavy becomes inactive. If your pet stops moving around, is uninterested in food or water, or seems to sleep all the time, the temperature might be cold enough to slow down your guinea pig’s metabolism.
Feel their ears
This popular Guinea Pig Owners Forum suggests feeling your cavy’s ears.
Guinea pigs let off heat through their ears. If your cavy’s ears are warm, chances are good your pig is also warm. If the ears are cold to the touch, chances are good your pig is also feeling cold.
Take their temperature
Your small pet veterinarian can teach you how to take your guinea pig’s temperature.
As Flynn Vets explains, you can’t take your guinea pig’s temperature the way you would take your own temperature.
You need to take it the way you would take a baby’s temperature – through the rectum. The best thermometer to use is a digital rectal thermometer.
This is what you want to do to make sure it is comfortable for your cavy:
1. First, put a little petroleum jelly or another pet-safe lubricant on the tip of the thermometer.
2. Have a friend or family member hold your guinea pig on their lap and gently turn the animal on their back.
3. Lift your pig’s tail and insert the tip of the rectal thermometer into the anus so that no more than one inch is inside the animal’s rectum. Make sure it is touching the inner wall of the rectum.
4. Wait one minute or until you hear a beep (if your digital thermometer has this feature).
A normal temperature for a healthy adult cavy ranges from 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit to 102.2 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius to 39 degrees Celsius).
If your pig’s temperature falls outside this temperature range, read on for what to do next.
What To Do If Your Guinea Pig Gets Cold
Your guinea pig may get too cold for a number of reasons.
In some cases, the natural changing of the seasons may bring a sudden cold front that causes the temperature to drop sharply.
Drafts can also cause a guinea pig to get cold.
Your guinea pig may also get too cold if they are not feeling well.
The most important thing is to know what to do right away if you think or know that your guinea pig is too cold. Guinea pigs can quickly become ill if they are allowed to live in too-cold conditions for too long.
The Guinea Pig Manual suggests taking these steps to help your guinea pig warm up quickly:
1. Add more bedding (hay, wood shavings, clean paper) and make sure that the bedding is dry and clean.
2. Evaluate your guinea pig’s habitat for drafts or cold spots. If you find a draft, either move your pig’s habitat or cover the enclosure so the draft cannot find its way inside.
3. Put some soft blankets or towels into the enclosure for your guinea pigs to burrow into to stay warm. Alternately, add some covered hides where your pig can shelter.
4. Keep the habitat and bedding very dry at all times!
5. If the habitat sits directly on a cold patch of ground, use some blocks or bricks to elevate the habitat off the ground.
6. Warm up a hot water bottle in the microwave, put it inside a towel or big sock, and put it inside your guinea pig’s enclosure for them to cuddle up to. Make sure the hot water bottle does not leak!!
7. For guinea pigs that live outdoors, consider bringing your cavies inside for the winter season. If your pigs need to stay outside, cover the enclosure or move it into a garage or storage shed for warmth.
8. Blue Cross for pets suggests increasing a guinea pig’s food portion during the winter because your pet’s tiny body will have to work harder and burn more calories to stay warm.
What To Do If Cold Makes Your Guinea Pig Sick
Yarmouth Veterinary Center states that guinea pigs can be surprisingly susceptible to respiratory illness just like people.
Your guinea pig might sneeze or have a runny nose just like you do when you catch a cold. Discharge from the eyes, drooling, lethargy, lack of interest in food or mates, wheezing, respiratory distress, and sleeping a lot are also signs of illness in cavies.
It is important not to wait if you suspect your guinea pig is sick. Cavies, like most pet animals, will try to hide signs of weakness or illness. So by the time you see visible signs that your pet is sick, the illness may be severe.
Make an appointment with your small pet veterinarian right away. As VCA Animal Hospital explains, a sick guinea pig may need to be admitted to a veterinary hospital for monitoring and treatment.
Your veterinarian can prescribe antibiotics for a bacterial or fungal respiratory illness.
If your guinea pig has gotten chilled to the point of developing pneumonia, the treatment focuses on easing the health symptoms. Vitamin C is very important for guinea pigs and your veterinarian may recommend supplementing with extra vitamin C.
Your pig may also need extra fluids, assisted feeding (through a tube or syringe), and oxygen therapy. Pneumonia can be difficult to treat and even more challenging to resolve so you need to be persistent about following your veterinarian’s guidance.
As PetMD points out, one of the hardest causes of pneumonia to resolve is streptococcus pneumonia.
If your guinea pig is too cold but is also ill, you may not be able to tell by feeling your pig’s body or even taking the temperature as we described here earlier. This is because pneumonia can often cause cavies to have a fever.
The Best Guinea Pig Habitat to Keep Your Cavy Warm
These are the most important components of habitat or enclosure that will give your guinea pig the best chance to stay warm and healthy all year long.
First, the habitat needs to be protected from drafts, direct sunlight, and the elements.
Next, the habitat should be kept completely dry at all times. Bedding should be changed out regularly. Water should be served in the spill and leak-proof bottles, not dishes.
Finally, the habitat should be outfitted with a temperature and humidity gauge so you can check the environment.