Even though you are not interested in breeding guinea pigs, you may end up with a pregnant piggy. How could that happen? Maybe you purchased a guinea pig mom-to-be at the pet shop but you didn’t know about the pregnancy. Or you were misinformed about the sex of your piggies so instead of two girls, in reality, you got a couple.
However, the truth is that your sow might be pregnant. What to do now?
First, make sure your guinea pig is really pregnant. Many owners will advise you to gently press the piggy’s tummy and try to feel some lumps which may be piglets.
But at the same time, those lumps could be a sign of some illness. Better to visit the vet and let him determine if your sow is pregnant. If she is, you will get useful information about proper care, feeding, potential risks, and reproductive problems that might happen.
A Few Facts About Guinea Pig’s Pregnancy
- Pregnancy in guinea pigs is harsh and risky business. According to the experts in Lake Shore Pet Hospital, 20% of guinea pig mothers die at birth. Many others that survive, do have numerous complications which are very painful to them and pretty expensive to you.
- If you plan to intentionally breed your sow, make sure you do that before she turns 6 or 7 months of age. After that, the hip bones grow too close together making natural delivery almost impossible and tragic.
- Guinea pig’s pregnancy lasts very long if you compare it with other rodents. The duration of the pregnancy depends on the litter size. The larger the litter, the shorter the pregnancy. Usually, a guinea pig’s pregnancy lasts from 59-72 days. In theory, guinea pigs can give up to 5 litters per year.
- Remember that guinea pig litters may count 1-6 piglets. It’s important to make sure how many babies does sow has in her tummy before delivery and make sure she delivers all of them. This will help you to be sure that there is no baby that is stuck in the womb.
How To Tell If My Guinea Pig Is Pregnant?
If you didn’t breed your sow intentionally, you won’t know if she is pregnant for the first few weeks. There will be no change in her appearance.
If you suspect that she might be pregnant, be careful when you are picking her up. Don’t do that without supporting her back part in order to protect the babies inside her.
Plus, it’s better to pick her up in the fleece pocket instead of bare hands just to keep her safe. Never pick her up by her stomach, that could harm the babies.
Note that all signs of pregnancy could be also symptoms of some disease so it’s recommended to take your sow to the vet who will examine her, to rule out possible disease and confirm the pregnancy.
The pregnant sow will :
- Drink more the usual
- Eat more than usual ( she might eat up to triple the amount she usually eats)
- Not show signs of going in heat ( aggressive and dominant behavior, swollen vulva )
- Gain weight. Did you know that many pregnant sows double their body weight?
- Get pear-shaped body
Two weeks after mating, you will be able to feel fetuses in her belly. You have to be very gentle, place her on a towel which you have put on a firm surface. Make sure her head is not turned towards you.
Use one hand to hold her firmly ( but gently ) around her shoulders and with the other hand try to feel the babies. Don’t be harsh, don’t squeeze her or press her tummy too much.
You can feel 1 or 3-4 babies in form of lumps but notice that some internal organs such are kidneys or liver might be mistaken for babies. Lumps in her abdomen may also be cysts or tumors so it’s better to see the vet.
How Does The Vet Examination of Pregnant Guinea Pig Look Like?
Even if you are sure that your sow is pregnant, it’s better to make an appointment with your vet.
He /she will do the physical examination, perform an ultrasound, and rule out some diseases that have the same symptoms as pregnancy.
As guinea pigs’ pregnancies are huge risk for a mother, it’s better to have a professional to look after your pet and make sure nothing bad happens.
The physical examination will look pretty much the same as the one you tried at your home. The vet will palpate the sow’s abdomen in order to feel the babies.
Unlike you (or me), the vet knows the difference between babies, tumors, kidneys… He/she might be able to detect to babies’ heartbeat inside the mother’s belly.
Not to forget, any vet will also check the body temperature of the mother, her heart and lungs, ask you about eating/drinking habits, will weigh her ( for this you should have your own record of her weight so the vet can compare and see how much weight she has gained lately )
Some vets will perform an ultrasound. This technique will definitely confirm or disconfirm the pregnancy. Ultrasound is a non-invasive procedure that doesn’t require sedation. It’s much more comfortable for piggies than blood tests.
Taking blood is very stressful for piggies so these tests should be avoided if possible.
If your vet confirms the pregnancy, he/she will give you advice on how to take care of your sow. The pregnancy in guinea pigs is very stressful for their organs as well as the circulation system.
How To Take Care of My Pregnant Guinea Pig?
Pregnant guinea pigs require special treatment.
- Separate your pregnant sow from her cage mates, especially from boars. The ideal would be to place her cage mates in a different cage and leave her in familiar surroundings but if this is not possible, you can put dividers in the existing cage to give her privacy. You can also put some towels on those dividers to keep her visually separated from the others. Keep her away from loud noises and direct sunlight.
- Try not to disturb her too much. That doesn’t mean that you should ignore her but yet give her time to be alone. Don’t pick her up if it’s not necessary and if you do that, keep in mind that her hips should be supported and you shouldn’t squeeze her or pick her up by her belly. When picking her up use a fleece pocket to keep her more comfortable and safe. When you go to the vet and you need her to go inside the travel carrier, use some treats to make her get inside on her own better than to carry her.
- Make sure she has plenty of space to hide in her cage. Guinea pigs, in general, like to hide but pregnant sows, in particular, are fond of hiding
- Replace her Timothy hay ( or whatever hay she was consuming until now) with Alfa Alfa hay and make sure you feed her with food that is rich in calcium and protein. All that stuff you were giving her just occasionally due to high calcium content like kale or broccoli you can give her now without a fear. Also, increase the amount of vitamin C in her diet as, after 4 weeks of pregnancy, she needs twice as much. Make sure she eats bell peppers and other fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C on regular basis but do consult the vet if she needs a vitamin C supplement orally. Feeding her with good amounts of calcium, proteins, and fibers will prevent hair thinning and hair loss which usually happens in the last stage of pregnancy.
- No matter she is pregnant and eats more than usual try not to overfeed her. Your sow will double her body size and half of it will be her babies but she doesn’t need excess fat. Her fragile body needs to cope with great pressure and it doesn’t need extra pounds.
- Don’t discourage her to exercise just because she is pregnant. She needs to stay in shape as much as she can. She needs strength. Exercises will help your pet not to become obese.
What Can Go Wrong During Guinea Pig’s Pregnancy and Labor?
Toxemia – this serious health condition may occur in late pregnancy ( 7-10 days before birth) or shortly after birth( around 2 weeks).
Look for the following signs: lethargy, anorexia, convulsions, and unfortunately may end up fatal.
Who is in danger? Obese guinea pigs, sows that carry large litters that have large nutritional demands, pregnant guinea pigs that eat low quality food, lack of calcium, vitamin K. This disease can also be hereditary.
It can also occur in piggies that don’t exercise enough, that are exposed to chronic stress or constant lack of vitamin C in their diet.
This condition requires urgent vet attention. The cesarean section will be performed and supportive care ( fluids, vitamin C, oral feeding)
Final outcome depends on how early the illness is treated. Sometimes it ends fatal, the affected sow dies after 48-72h of the first symptoms.
Dystocia – appear when the pubic bones are grown too close to each other and naturally stiffen so therefore not able to spread out and allow natural and safe birth. This happens if the sow is older than 7 months when she has her very first labor.
Dystocia is a rather serious and life-threatening condition. It can end up tragically for both mother and babies unless you seek vet help immediately.
Your vet will try first with Oxytocin – the drug that stimulates uterine contractions and allows labor to continue. If this doesn’t help cesarean section is a must in this case although C-section is a great risk itself for piggies as a big number of them don’t survive this surgery.
The signs of Dystocia are prolonged labor, visible discomfort followed by signs of pain, vaginal bleeding, labor that doesn’t progress.
How Do I Know If My Guinea Pig Is Going Into Labor?
Guinea pigs don’t make nests as some other rodents so you cannot be sure when the labor is going to happen. In the last stage of the pregnancy, your sow’s weight will double and she will be very big.
Two weeks before birth, you will be able to feel the babies and to be certain which part of the piglet’s body, you are touching. You will clearly see them moving under her skin.
Take a look underneath your sow’s belly, just above the anus, if you notice that pelvic bones are spread apart ( like 1 inch ) that’s a clear sign that it won’t be long until birth.
Since sows are not building nests, provide some nice and soft bedding. Better to use a polar fleece than a classical microfleece, as a polar fleece much thicker and warmer.
Bear in mind that the exact duration of the pregnancy depends on the litter size. If your sow is expecting just one piglet, she might be pregnant for 70 days but if she expects 5-6 piglets note that the labor might happen after 59-60 days of pregnancy. Your vet will help you learn when the birth is going to happen.
The Normal Guinea Pig Labor – How Does It Look Like?
Guinea pig’s labor doesn’t last long. It usually happens during daytime.
Once the labor starts, the sow will start making sounds ( similar to crying ) and it will pass no more than 5 minutes before the first pup appear. Every piglet will come out with an amniotic sac which the mother will remove and eat. If she doesn’t do that for whatever reason, you should remove it from the piglet’s face.
After the last piglet has come out the placenta will appear. You don’t have to do anything, as sow will eat it as well.
The newborn piglets are pretty large, born with fur and eyes opened. They are able to walk and eat solid food together with their mother just a few hours after birth.
What Happens After The Cavie Birth?
The mother is still at risk for some health complications about 10 days or so after delivery so do keep an eye on her and also keep providing high-quality food ( rich in calcium, vitamins, and fiber ) and freshwater.
The mother will be nursing piglets no matter they eat solid food for the first two weeks for sure. She will wean them by herself ( you don’t have to intervene here ) in two or three weeks after their birth.
Remember to remove all male piglets from the cage (when they are a maximum of 3 weeks old )in which the mother and sisters are, to avoid new unwanted pregnancy as males reach sexual maturity early and can impregnate their mother (that can go in heat only 15 hours after delivery) very easily.
Breeding guinea pigs purposely is not recommended. Guinea pig’s pregnancy carries a lot of risks and a significant number of cases may end up fatal.
If unwanted pregnancy occurs, you have to deal with it but do consult a vet and provide the best possible care for your sow.
Pregnancy is a very stressful time for any sow and she needs peaceful and familiar surroundings, food rich in fibers, calcium, vitamins to keep her body in the best possible shape and successfully deliver the babies.