Keeping your guinea pigs safe during the
heat of Summer.
Guinea pigs are very susceptible to changes in the weather and temperature and in particular sudden changes. A guinea pigs health can deteriorate quickly if procedures aren't put in place to help keep your guinea pig comfortable during these changes. Summer in Australia can be harsh for humans and also harsh for guinea pigs. When the temperature changes suddenly from cool to hot or when the temperature is very high or humid this is where heat management techniques to keep your guinea pigs safe and happy need to be put in place .
Their have been many cases reported to ACS whereby guinea pigs have been housed outdoors and left in their cage in part or full sun for as little as 1 hour and this has been enough to cause severe heatstroke and death in these cases.
The most comfortable temperature for a guinea pig is between 18-22 degrees.
Guinea Pigs rely on their owner for every aspect of their care and they are not able to remove themselves from their enclosure or apply what they need to, in order to survive weather extremes or changes. The easiest tip for guinea pigs owners is to treat your guinea pigs just as you would yourself. If you are cold your guinea pigs will also be cold and if you are hot and wouldn't stay outside in the sun on a summers day then your pets shouldn't be either. If methods are needed for you to keep cool or warm throughout the months of the year then methods will need to be applied for your guinea pigs as well.
In the summer months Guinea pigs can generally tolerate temperatures up to the very low 30's and/or with average humidity levels but when temperatures rise above the low 30's or when the humidity is quite high (over 55%) then this is when the summer heat management techniques need to be put in to place so that your guinea pig does not suffer harmful permanent health effects or death.
Tip! Keep cautious during sudden weather changes. Although both heat and cold can affect the health of your guinea pig an extreme change in temperature or weather between one day to the next at any time of the year can also affect your guinea pigs health. In particular the sudden change in temperature for only a couple of days from autumn to winter and a sudden change from spring to summer can be the times that your guinea pigs will be most prone to falling unwell due to trying to adapt to the new seasons.
Who is most at risk? Old guinea pigs, young guinea pigs, dark coloured guinea pigs, guinea pigs in poor health and pregnant sows are most at risk of developing heat stress although in saying this any guinea pig can still fall prey to heat stress.
Housing in Summer: Lawn/Outdoor Hutches need to be kept in complete shade on a warm to hot day. (Note that leaving a cage in the sun and covering it with something like a towel or piece of timber is not the same as having a cage in the shade of a tree or other high solid structure and that this will not ease heat stress on your guinea pigs). A cage with half to full sun over it can quickly become surprisingly hot inside and humidity can also rise up from the ground. Metal cages or part metal cages are 'ovens' in Summer and 'chillers' in Winter and ACS strongly suggest to not house guinea pigs in metal lawn hutches.
Shaded indoor or patio housing (if cooler and more shaded than outside) is recommended either permanently or temporarily during the summer months in particular if nobody will be home during the day.
Guinea Pigs need housing that has good air circulation particularly during the summer months. A cage with three or four open wired sides will give good ventilation during the summer months. The air needs to be able to pass through the enclosure.
Be cautious if your Guinea pigs have plastic 'igloos' and other solid plastic houses inside their enclosure. Guinea Pigs do not realise that the heat and humidity will build up higher inside these little houses. If you think that this may be a risk with your guinea pigs it is best to remove their little houses during the heat of the day.
Conditions that can result from the heat include:
Heatstroke: If your guinea pig develops heatstroke immediate action needs to be taken in order to save your guinea pigs life and before serious internal damage occurs resulting in death.
Symptoms of heatstroke are:
- Sunken eyes (dehydration)
If your guinea pig is suffering from heat stress but has not
succumbed to severe heatstroke the symptoms may include:
- Less interest in food
- Discharge around the eyes/dull eyes
Your guinea pig will need to be cooled down immediately in cool (not cold) water to cool down their body temperature. Your guinea pig will then need to have re-hydration fluids administered. Contact your local guinea pig recommended vet for further steps on how to continue with treatment from here. (Recommended Vets can be found on the ACS Website in the Contact Us section). Alternatively contact someone from the ACS Team immediately if your guinea pig has heatstroke.
further information on how to treat heatstroke and suggested procedures to
use please see our Heatstroke article link below.
TIPS TO KEEP YOUR GUINEA PIGS COOL!
Guinea pigs need good airflow and ventilation all the time. It is advised
to house your guinea pig in an enclosure with a minimum of two wired
- WATER! Make sure your guinea pig always has fresh cool water available. Guinea pigs will not drink warm or hot water so be sure that their water bottle is kept out of the sun. If you use bowls then these need to be sturdy enough so that the guinea pig will not be able to tip it over and lose there supply of water.
Water in a Bowl
a bowl of water in the guinea pigs cage will allow them to dip their feet
or bodies in to keep cool if they feel the need.
- Moist towels can be draped over the cage with a fan blowing on them to lower the temperature inside the cage
Bathing your guinea pig
in luke warm water on a hot day will definitely help to lower their body
your guinea pig swim if they want to and enjoy it. Do not force your
guinea pig to swim against its will.
Do not let your guinea pig swim in chlorinated pools.
Use a shallow baby bath or similar so your guinea pig can be easily monitored and kept safe at all times.
(c) Copyright 2006, Australian Cavy Sanctuary. All rights reserved.