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I just wrote this article for an online pet magazine upon request although want to pop it here for any newbies to the guinea pig scene. Sadly I've already received a number of phone calls this winter from members of the public who have lost their guinea pigs to the cold and I'm sure some of the other ACS Shelter Managers have as well.
Anyway will pop a copy of the article below for reference. If there's anything anyone feels should/could be added please feel free to let me know as this hasn't bee published yet and I can add it in.
Photo taken by Nicole featuring her guinea pig ' Charlie ' in his bed.
Guinea Pig Winter Awareness
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 and safe during these changes. The most comfortable temperature for a guinea pig is between 15-22 degrees. Due to the unpredictable Australian weather guinea pig owners need to provide their guinea pigs with the right environment and diet for them to remain healthy and well throughout weather and seasonal changes.
Guinea Pigs can be susceptible to pneumonia, colds and respiratory infections depending on their environment, overall health and diet during the cooler months.
Who is most at risk? Old guinea pigs, young guinea pigs, guinea pigs in poor health and pregnant sows although in saying this any guinea pig can still fall prey to the cold.
The right environment
Chilly cold nights where the frost comes out in the morning is a sure sign that your guinea pig will need to have warmth and insulation in their cage in order to prevent them from falling ill. If you are feeling the cold then your guinea pig will be as well. It is recommended to bring your guinea pig indoors during cold nights or for permanent living which is the safest way to ensure that they do not catch a chill. For guinea pigs housed outdoors or on the family patio their are other things that you can put in place to ensure your guinea pig remains warm.
Some environmental things you can provide include:
- draping thick blankets over the entire cage at night
- placing a big pile of grassy hay in an enclosed end of the guinea pigs cage to provide insulation
- purchasing of making warm fleecy beds for your guinea pig to sleep on/in.
- making sure that your guinea pig has a friend so that they can share body heat to remain warm
- providing dry/clean and absorbent bedding for your guinea pig at all times. This can include untreated pine wood shavings, paper kitty litter, fresh hay, fleece/toweling or shredded newspaper.
- placing a cardboard box in the cage and filling it with hay, fleece or towels can also help to provide insulation.
- making sure that your guinea pigs cage is not placed where drafts/wind can come through
The right diet
Guinea pigs with a strong immune system are more likely to be able to fight off infection during the cooler months. Making sure your guinea pig receives a correct and high amount of Vitamin C in their diet each day is essential to keeping them healthy. It is recommended to give your guinea pig a cup of fresh food daily alongside their guinea pig mix and constant supply of hay/grass. The nutrition in the fresh food will vary though depending on what your guinea pig is fed.
Some high Vitamin C recommended fresh foods which can be fed daily to boost your guinea pigs immune system include:
- Broccoli (feed sparingly due to high calcium content)
- Brussel Sprouts
- Chinese Cabbage (Pak-choi)
- Cos Lettuce (not ice-berg)
- Orange (feed sparingly due to acidity)
- Rock melon
Signs and Symptoms
If your guinea pig develops a respiratory infection or goes off their food this is a medical emergency. Keep your guinea pig warm by bringing them inside and isolating them and providing them with a hot water bottle covered in a towel and it is recommended to see your vet immediately for antibiotics, critical hand-feeding supplements and further treatment for the condition. Guinea pigs can go downhill very quickly once they show an onset of symptoms and if left untreated the condition can quickly become fatal.
Signs and symptoms that your guinea pig may be developing a respiratory infection include.
- Rattling/Wheezing/Labored breathing
- Refusal to eat or drink or loss of interest in food
- sneezing / coughing
- weight loss or no feces as a result of not eating
- crustiness around the eyes and/or nose
- discharge from the eyes and/or nose
- sunken eyes
- ruffled coat and hunched posture
We hope that you and your guinea pigs have a safe and warm winter!
For further information regarding guinea pig winter awareness please contact the Australian Cavy Sanctuary at www.australiancavysanctuary.com
Article written by Jessica Proietti
(c) Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.