As you likely already know if you are reading this article, guinea pigs are popular, lovable, and surprisingly smart pets.
While guinea pigs are often regarded as low-maintenance starter pets because they are small and quiet, these animals actually have quite specific care needs and a relatively long life expectancy.
In this article, we discuss the topic of how long do guinea pigs live in detail so you can decide if the guinea pig is a good pet choice for you.
How Long Do Guinea Pigs Live
According to the Humane Society of the United States, the average age for a guinea pig is between five and seven years.
This is not to say your guinea pig might not live even longer. Read on to learn about important factors that can contribute to your guinea pig’s longevity.
Learn How to Tell a Guinea Pig’s Age
In this interesting YouTube video, you will learn helpful clues to figure out how old your guinea pig might be if you are not sure.
If your guinea pig came to you as an adult from a family member or a local animal rescue, you might have no idea how old your cavy actually is! This can make it hard to plan for the future. This video can help you put some clues together to answer the question.
Understanding the Guinea Pig Lifespan
Earlier here we talked about how, while the average life expectancy for a guinea pig pet is between five and seven years, sometimes it can be shorter or longer.
In fact, the full life expectancy for a healthy cavy is between four and 10 years.
As VCA Animal Hospitals points out, part of the reason for this age range is because there are 13 different breeds of cavy or guinea pig.
The breed of a guinea pig is just one of many factors that can create a longer or shorter life expectancy for your pet.
Next, we will take a look at some factors that may influence how long your guinea pig lives.
Factors That May Influence the Guinea Pig Lifespan
Just as with people and other animals, guinea pigs may live longer when they inherit good genes and live in an optimal environment, eat the best food and get enough exercise.
In this section, we highlight a number of factors that can contribute to your guinea pig’s life expectancy.
According to Northern Nester, the Alpaca and American guinea pig breeds maybe two of the longest-lived breeds, with a typical life expectancy of six to ten years.
However, the breed is far from the only determinant of a guinea pig’s life expectancy.
The gender of your guinea pig may also play a role in life expectancy, with males (boars) outliving sows (females) according to Home and Roost.
This is more likely to be the case if you have a female and she has been bred. Breeding can cause dietary depletion and systemic stress which can lead to less optimal health in later life.
Merck Veterinary Manual points out that guinea pigs can have genetically transmitted health conditions just like any other animal.
In particular, hair loss and metabolism issues are both known to have genetic origins.
Diet is one of the most important determinants of overall health, which in turn is an important component of longevity.
As Metropolitan Guinea Pig Rescue points out, guinea pigs need to have access to fresh produce (vegetables and fruits) on a daily basis.
This is in addition to their staple diet of hay and pelleted foods.
And guinea pigs need supplemental Vitamin C because they cannot make this essential vitamin on their own.
Guinea pigs also need continual access to clean, freshwater.
Female guinea pigs can experience a number of pregnancy-related complications. This is particularly the case if the sow is eight months of age or older and has not been pregnant previously.
If a pregnant sow is not provided with a proper diet that includes extra calcium, she can develop pregnancy toxemia which can be fatal. Sows that are mated too frequently can quickly become depleted and experienced reduced life expectancy as a result.
Guinea pig husbandry often sounds easier than it is. Your guinea pig has very specific environmental and habitat needs that must be met to maintain optimal health.
For example, your guinea pig needs to chew constantly. This is the only way cavies can keep their continuously growing incisors (front teeth) filed down and healthy. Cavies also need to chew for enrichment purposes.
Guinea pig habitats should have proper flooring that is solid and will not aggravate their sensitive feet and cause bumblefoot.
Bedding should be non-toxic and free from dyes, chemicals, or additives that may cause harm or impaction if ingested.
Food and bedding must be changed out frequently to prevent the growth of bacteria and fungus.
According to the Louisiana Veterinary Medical Association (LVMA), wild cavies are predominantly nocturnal, at least when it comes to foraging for food.
However, in a captive setting, guinea pigs do not neatly fit into any category: diurnal, crepuscular, or nocturnal.
Rather, guinea pigs tend to simply pace themselves, sleeping and waking at regular intervals throughout the day and night.
It is important to allow a pet guinea pig to follow their natural rhythms by adjusting the environment to provide for dark, quiet, enclosed resting places as well as areas for moving about, feeding, interacting, and playing.
As the RSCPA points out, a healthy adult guinea pig needs physical and mental enrichment to simulate what life in a wild setting might be like.
Toys, items to chew on, out of cage time to run around, foraging opportunities, social interaction with other cavies, and plenty of exercises can all help keep your guinea pig fit and healthy in both body and mind.
In the wild, guinea pigs are a small, vulnerable prey species. In fact, in some places, cavies are considered a delicacy that people like to eat!
Guinea pigs can be high strung, especially if their habitat is not suitable or they are handled too often or too roughly.
Over time, chronic stress can cause decreased immune system function and lead to illness and disease.
This stress can come from a variety of sources, including improper diet, lack of activity, too-cold or too-hot temperatures, overgrown teeth, repetitive breeding, and genetic causes, among other issues.
The important thing to know is that there is a lot you can do to reduce the amount of stress your pet guinea pig is subjected to. The safer your guinea pig feels, the more healthy your cavy is likely to remain.
When to Bring Your Guinea Pig to the Veterinarian
There is no universal sign that a guinea pig is near the end of its lifespan. Unfortunately, this often means that death is a huge shock to you, the owner.
Sometimes, you may see signs such as thinning of the coat, lower activity level, less appetite, or desire to socialize with you or other cavies.
Often, it is simply knowledge of your guinea pig’s age that will be your most reliable indication that your piggy is entering true old age.
Always consult with your veterinarian to find out how to make your cavy comfortable and pain-free at the end of life.