If you have guinea pigs at home, it is understandable that you worry about them, especially during the cold winter months. You probably asked Google something along the lines of “do guinea pigs hibernate?” or “how to keep guinea pigs warm?”.
In this extensive guide, the most common questions asked by guinea pig owners will be answered. This post will also discuss a few tips on keeping your guinea pigs warm and healthy during freezing situations.
Do Guinea Pigs Hibernate?
You can easily feel worried about your beloved pets, especially during the cold winter months. If you have a guinea pig, you are probably wondering if they go through hibernation during winter.
What Does Hibernation Mean?
Hibernation refers to the state of reduced activity and metabolic decline among warm-blooded animals. It is a periodic heterothermy indicated by slow heart-rate and breathing, low metabolic rate, and low body temperature. Hibernation typically occurs during the winter season.
The main purpose of hibernation among endotherms is to help their bodies conserve energy, especially when food is not readily available.
Hibernation Among Guinea Pigs
Moreover, do guinea pigs hibernate? The answer to that question is no. Guinea pigs don’t go through hibernation even if the condition gets too cold. For this reason, guinea pigs require the utmost care, especially when the temperatures drops below 60°F.
Several guinea pigs even find early fall very chilly for them. Thus, when the cold months start to roll in, make sure that your guinea pigs’ home is comfortable and warm at all times. The extreme cold conditions can bring many potential health issues, and you can avoid them by keeping their habitats warm.
Why Don’t Guinea Pigs Hibernate?
Because guinea pigs originally came from Peru, South America, they are accustomed to the dry and warm weather hence why they don’t go through hibernation.
Because guinea pigs are not naturally used to the extreme cold, they don’t do very well in the winter months. Thus, every owner must keep an eye on their pets and keep their homes comfortable and warm.
Temperatures Suitable for Guinea Pigs
65°F to 75°F are the temperature ranges that are most suitable for guinea pigs during the day. During night time, on the other hand, the temperature should not go below 60°F for guinea pigs to stay feeling comfortable.
The very lowest possible temperature a guinea pig can withstand is 50°F, given that the air in their surrounding is dry. However, if there is a presence of condensation in the air, guinea pigs may experience cold-related issues even if the temperature is slightly higher than 50°F.
Although small drops in temperatures are not harmful to guinea pigs, they do not function well in extremely cold temperatures. In fact, they usually seize up in very freezing conditions, and you might think they are dead. To prevent such a situation from happening, always keep them warm and make sure to replenish their hay.
What Does It Mean If It Looks Like Your Guinea Pig Is Hibernating?
Although it is a known fact that guinea pigs don’t hibernate, you can still feel extremely worried if they are somehow showing signs of hibernation during freezing situations. If you notice that your guinea pigs are not being as active and showing signs of metabolic depression, there is most likely an underlying reason behind it.
If the temperature gets too cold for guinea pigs, you will notice a decline in their activity, and they may also sleep longer than usual. However, inactiveness and oversleeping is not a great sign for guinea pigs. If the temperature gets way too low, they have a high risk of suffering from hypothermia.
Hypothermia in Guinea Pigs
Hypothermia refers to a medical emergency that involves the quick loss of body heat among guinea pigs. This diagnosis is extremely alarming as it leads a guinea pig to experience a critically low body temperature.
Moreover, a guinea pig may start to experience mild hypothermia when its body heat goes below 95°F. If the guinea pig’s body temperature continues to drop, it can threaten its life.
Ill or old guinea pigs are the ones that are more likely to experience hypothermia as well as other cold-related issues. Hypothermia can also quickly become extremely life-threatening for old or ill guinea pigs, thus, leaving them fewer chances for treatment and recovery.
How to Keep Your Guinea Pig Warm In The Winter?
Bring your guinea pigs into an indoor space.
If your guinea pigs are living outdoors, it is ideal for bringing them to any indoor space, such as your garage or inside your home. Keeping them indoors can greatly minimize the amount of cold they are going to experience during the winter months.
Place your guinea pigs’ cage away from the windows and doors.
Keep your guinea pigs’ cage away from a door or window to prevent them from getting exposed to the outside air as much as possible. If you are keeping your guinea pigs in your garage, make sure their cage is placed away from the doorway because even if it is closed, the cold air can still seep through the drafts under the door.
Add towels and blankets.
Adding a couple of towels or blankets can increase the level of warmth and comfort in your guinea pigs’ cage. Fabric is also a good material for them to curl up on, especially when they are sleeping. Thus, if you have an extra blanket or towel, your guinea pigs would make good use of it during the cold.
Replenish their hay regularly.
Aside from a blanket or towel, hay is also great for adding some warmth to your guinea pigs’ cage.
Spread a thick layer of hay throughout the cage. If you don’t have hay available, you can use shredded paper as an alternative. They can burrow themselves underneath it, and it can also help preserve their body heat.
Add in a couple of small hutches in their cage.
You can put a couple of small hutches inside your guinea pigs’ cage. You can find small igloo hutches in pet stores. This will help them have a place to cozy up in, and it will also help maintain their body heat.
Provide them with pet-safe heating pads.
A pet-safe heating pad is a great investment to keep your pets warm and comfortable during the winter months. They are affordable, and you can use them multiple times, hence why it is one of the most cost-effective ways of keeping your guinea pigs comfy during cold weather situations.
Insulate your guinea pigs’ cage’s flooring.
As much as possible, your guinea pigs cage, especially the floor, should feel warm. You can use a thick layer of hay, shredded paper, or a pile of newspaper to insulate your guinea pigs’ cage’s floor.
Make sure to keep their beddings dry.
Wet bedding can make your guinea pigs feel colder. It can also cause fungal infections and respiratory diseases. Thus, make sure to check on your pets’ bedding. If it’s wet or dirty, then change it to a new and clean one.
Place a thermometer inside their cage.
Using a thermometer can help you identify the temperature level in your guinea pigs’ cage. If you have extra cash to spare, a smart thermometer is a great option as it can send you updates via your smartphone whenever the temperature drops drastically.
Block any source of outside ventilation near their cage.
If there is an open outlet near your guinea pigs’ cage, such as a broken window or door, then do your pets a favor and put some covering to it. This is to prevent the amount of cold air from the outdoors that breezes through your pets’ cage.
Avoid frequently opening and closing the doors.
Again, you want to keep your pets from getting exposed to the outside air, thus, avoid frequently opening and closing the door to prevent the cold air from entering.
Utilize your home’s heating system.
If your guinea pigs are inside your home and you feel like they are not warm enough, then it’s about time you used your heating system. Using the heating for a couple of hours can help your pets increase their body heat. As a result, they feel more comfortable and happier.
Make sure to provide them with adequate food and water.
As guinea pigs burn a lot more calories during the cold, it is extremely important to provide them with fresh water and food daily. Provide them with fresh veggies, along with high-quality hay.
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What Happens If Your Guinea Pig Gets Too Cold?
As mentioned earlier, guinea pigs are not used to cold weather, especially during the winter months. When they feel cold, they typically become less active and sleep longer than usual. However, inactiveness among guinea pigs should be a call for concern.
Hypothermia is one of the main health issues a guinea pig can experience when it gets too cold. Mild hypothermia can progress to a life-threatening level if a guinea pig’s body temperature continues to go down. Moreover, hypothermia is especially alarming among old and ill guinea pigs as they have fewer chances of survival.
What’s worrying about hypothermia is that its symptoms are unnoticeable. In fact, the most visible sign of this health emergency is a lack of appetite. Given that hypothermia signs are not easy to point out, many guinea pigs die from the ailment due to the lack of timely and appropriate treatment.
If you notice that your guinea pig sleeps a lot, refuses to eat, and is not as active, then you need to take immediate actions.
How to Treat Hypothermia
One of the first things you need to do is find a way to increase your pet’s body temperature quickly. You can turn on your home’s heating and cozy up your guinea pig in a warm blanket or towel.
If you don’t have a heating system at home, you can use heating pads as an alternative. Place the pads in the microwave for about 15-20 seconds, and then place them in your guinea pig’s bedding to increase its body heat.
If your guinea pig’s body temperature continues to drop, then you will need to call your vet for help.
Guinea pigs do undergo hibernation. However, they are not accustomed to cold weather conditions. You need to make sure that they are always warm and comfortable, especially during the freezing winter days. Or else, they might experience health issues such as hypothermia.