You might be enjoying the long summer days here in the UK, but your cavy might not be as happy. Because guinea pigs don’t sweat, they are unable to moderate their temperature and are prone to overheating. Knowing how to keep guinea pigs cool when it gets hot is an essential part of being a responsible piggy parent.
Carry on reading to find out which guinea pigs are the most at risk and what you can do to keep them from overheating. We also look at the common signs of heatstroke, and what you can do to help your guinea pig in the summer heat.
Guinea Pigs at Risk of Heatstroke
Some guinea pigs are more susceptible to heatstroke than others. Knowing if your cavy is one of them will help you keep your pet happy and healthy throughout the year, but especially during summer and spring.
Youngsters and senior citizens
As is the case with humans and other animals, very young and older guinea pigs are not able to control their body temperature when it is too hot or too cold. This is because of their small size or as a result of them becoming frailer as they get older. If your guinea pig falls into either of these categories, you must keep a close eye on it during the summer heat.
Long-haired breeds of guinea pigs need help keeping cool during summer. Regularly trimming its hair and making sure it has access to water is essential to prevent your guinea pig overheating.
Overweight guinea pigs
Overweight guinea pigs aren’t only at risk of heart disease, arthritis, high blood pressure and cystitis, they also find it challenging to stay cool when it gets hot.
10 Top Tips to Keeping Guinea Pigs Cool
A guinea pig needs moderate temperatures to thrive and doesn’t do well when it gets too hot. Here are 10 handy tips to keep your guinea pig cool during our hot summer months.
1. Make sure your guinea pig has access to clean, fresh water
One of the easiest and most effective ways to keep guinea pigs cool in hot weather is by making sure they have access to cool, clean, fresh water all day, every day. If necessary, add extra water dispensers around the hutch so that there is plenty of water on tap. A good idea is to get a water bottle cover that keeps water cold in the summer months and prevents it from freezing when it is cold. If your cavy has a water dispenser, be sure to check that the spout is working correctly.
2. Give your guinea pig frozen treats
Who doesn’t love frozen treats, particularly when it is a blazing hot day? Giving your guinea pig some frozen fruit or fruit juice is a smart (and tasty) way to keep his temperature down, from the inside out. Simply cut up apples, strawberries, or watermelon and place it in an ice tray with water. Allow it to freeze and serve. You can also use fresh fruit juice. A word of caution, though, the fruit juice has to be fresh. Guinea pigs shouldn’t have any juice that contains sweeteners, artificial flavours or colours and preservatives. Also, keep an eye on how many treats you give. These fruits are high in sugar.
3. Keep your guinea pig out of direct sunlight
Always check to make sure your guinea pig isn’t in direct sunlight. Even if they are kept indoors, guinea pigs need to be in a cool spot. If you are unable to move their hutch into a shaded area, you might want to move them indoors until the temperatures become a bit more bearable. If you have more than one guinea pig to move and space is a problem, you might want to consider getting a shade cover for their run.
4. Keep guinea pigs cool with a fan or air conditioner
If your guinea pig is battling with the soaring temperatures indoors, you can use a battery-operated fan or air conditioner. But make sure the air isn’t blowing directly at your cavy or its cage, as this can cause upper respiratory infections. Also, if you plan on using air conditioning, it is worth investing in a safety plug to prevent a fire.
5. Use a damp towel to cool your guinea pig down
Another cost-effective way to prevent your guinea pig getting heatstroke is to wet a towel with cold water, wring it out and place it over a small section of the cage. For sweltering days, you can use a fan or air conditioner together with a damp towel. Don’t cover the entire enclosure as this can restrict airflow and also make sure the cloth isn’t dripping wet.
6. Let your guinea pig chill out with an ice pod
Ice pods are a great way to keep guinea pigs cool. Simply freeze the pod and then place it in your cavy’s cage. For it to be more effective, it is best to keep the ice pod out of direct sunlight.
7. Freeze ice packs or water bottles
If it is scorching and you are worried about your guinea pig, you could make your own pet-friendly ice pack. All you need to do is wrap a clean towel around a frozen water bottle or an ice pack, and place it inside the hutch. Lying close to the frozen pack will cool your guinea pig down in no time at all.
8. Remove excess hair
When it gets warm, it is worth getting rid of your guinea pig’s excess hair. You can do this with regular grooming to get rid of tangles and knots, regardless of how long your cavy’s coat is.
9. Give your guinea pig a cool wipe-down
Sometimes the most straightforward solutions are the best. If you see your guinea pig is getting too hot, use a clean, damp cloth to wipe it down. This will freshen your piggy up and help control its temperature. You could also try a spray bottle. Just make sure your guinea pig appreciates this gesture. Also, check that it is a fine mist so that your pet doesn’t get drenched.
10. Add a tunnel
Activity tunnels don’t only provide your guinea pig with physical and mental stimulation, they also give them a shady spot when it gets too hot. Avoid plastic igloos (or pigloos as they are affectionately called) because they don’t have enough ventilation and will heat your piggy up rather than cooling it down. Lounging logs are also a good option, as these can be shaped into a cave or tree stump.
Symptoms of Heatstroke in Guinea Pigs
Knowing how to cool guinea pigs down in summer is vital, but what happens if the temperatures rise and your cavy gets too much sun. Recognising the common signs of heatstroke is the first step in keeping your pet safe.
Symptoms of heatstroke include:
- Excessive salivating
- Increased heart rate
- Discoloured gums
If your guinea pig shows any of these symptoms, you must act fast as heatstroke can be fatal.
What To Do if Your Guinea Pig Gets Heatstroke
If your guinea pig has been exposed to the sun, veterinary care is necessary. However, if you are unable to get the vet immediately, there are a few crucial things you can do to lower its temperature.
Place your guinea pig in a cool spot
The first thing you need to do is place your guinea pig in a cool area, out of the sun or other heat sources.
Use a towel to bring your guinea pig’s temperature down
Next, cover your guinea pig with a cool, damp towel for approximately five minutes. Keeping it wrapped up for too long can also be dangerous. Whatever you do, avoid putting your pet into cold water and don’t pour cold water over your guinea pig. This can cause it to go into shock.
Give your guinea pig water
Although your guinea pig needs water, it is essential that you don’t give it too soon. Rather than trying to get your cavy to drink out of a bowl or water dispenser, use a drip-feed bottle or a syringe. If your piggy is looking a little more alert, you could try feeding it foods that have a high water content, such as watermelon or cucumber.
Even if your guinea pig looks better, and is no longer showing any signs of heatstroke, it is still a good idea to get it to the vet for a thorough health check. Severe dehydration can lead to long-term illnesses and in some cases, death.
Hopefully, you have found this article helpful, especially with the balmy summer days we are currently experiencing. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.