If you own the female of any species of common household pet, whether it is a dog, cat, rabbit, rat, or ferret, you are aware that, unless it has been spayed, it can become pregnant and give birth to very adorable puppies, kittens, etc. This article provides the information you need to know if you own a female guinea pig. By being well informed about guinea pig pregnancy and birthing, you can help your female guinea pig give birth to a litter of very healthy and adorable baby guinea pigs, while also keeping her strong and healthy throughout the process.
Typical Guinea Pig Pregnancy
A female guinea pig's pregnancy normally lasts between 60 and 75 days, but the average duration is 63-68 days. The greater the number of baby guinea pigs that will be born, the shorter the pregnancy will be. She will gain a significant amount of weight during her pregnancy. Three to four weeks into the pregnancy, a pregnant guinea pig will begin drinking more water than normal. At around four weeks into her pregnancy, her abdomen and lower sides of her body will become more firm than usual; her body will do this to help her give birth. To feel the unborn guinea pigs in their mother's womb, place the female guinea pig on your lap and gently feel her abdomen with your thumb and first finger. A litter size for expecting female guinea pigs is usually one to six baby guinea pigs, and the average number is three baby guinea pigs. Very rarely, eight baby guinea pigs can be born. If it is possible, try to prevent older female guinea pigs from becoming pregnant.
Pregnant Guinea Pig Care
The most important thing in caring for pregnant guinea pigs is to take them to your veterinarian regularly in order to make sure that everything with her pregnancy is going well. It is also very important to avoide handling a pregnant guinea pig too often, so do your best to handle or hold her only when it is absolutely necessary. If you have to remove a pregnant guinea pig from her hutch or cage to clean it, lift her gently and provide lots of bodily support, with your hand supporting her now very enlarged underside. Longhaired female guinea pigs should have the hair surrounding their vulva clipped short. If you are keeping a pregnant guinea pig with a male guinea pig, it is fine for her to stay in the same cage with a male guinea pig until about one week before she is due to give birth. This is because a male guinea pig could accidentally trample on the litter (the baby guinea pigs). Give her a personal cage away from any male guinea pigs and any other guinea pigs you may own. This is especially important to do as her delivery time approaches. It will also prevent other guinea pigs from eating her specialty food, which is specially formulated for pregnant and lactating guinea pigs.
A pregnant guinea pig's personal nesting cage should be clean, with soft bedding. Using soft nesting material, such as recycled paper pulp, will be more comfortable for her and her babies. Care Fresh is also very good nesting and bedding material for a pregnant guinea pig and her babies. Also provide some sort of guinea pig enclosure or "cave" in which she can hide and be alone when she wants. Regularly clean out her personal birthing cage, and make sure to remove any bedding which has become soaked by dripping from her water bottle. Also clean up any other stained areas, and replace these areas with fresh, new bedding. Never allow pregnant guinea pigs, or any guinea pigs in general, to walk around in a cage that has wire flooring. This type of flooring can inflame the toes of heavily pregnant sows (female guinea pigs).
Pregnant Guinea Pig Nutrition
It is also crucial for pregnant female guinea pigs to have an adequate diet. Do your best not to let a pregnant guinea pig become overweight. Give a calcium supplement to pregnant guinea pigs a few times a week. Inadequate feeding of pregnant guinea pigs can result in pregnancy toxemia and ketosis. The need for vitamin C (ascorbic acid) increases in pregnant female guinea pigs. Pregnant guinea pigs need twice as much vitamin C to prevent toxemia. Give pregnant guinea pigs 10 mg of vitamin C orally. Feed pregnant guinea pigs alfalfa hay instead of timothy hay to provide her with more protein and calcium. Also feed guinea pig pellets/guinea pig food that is specially formulated for pregnant and lactating guinea pigs.
Illnesses and symptoms to look out for
If a pregnant female guinea pig acts overly lethargic, has any vaginal discharge, has dribbling from her mouth, or exhibits any other unusual symptoms, take her to your veterinarian immediately. Pregnancy toxemia and ketosis in pregnant female guinea pigs can be caused by inaequate food portions, infection of the breasts (mastitis), failure of the uterus to adequately cleanse after birth (metritis), and dehydration. Genetic susceptibility can also cause these diseases. Pregnancy toxemia or ketosis most commonly occurs during a female guinea pig's first or second pregnancy. If a female guinea pig has these diseases, she will stop eating and drinking and will quickly become dehydrated. Her stools may become mucoid or covered with mucus. As the disease progresses, she will become weak, develop labored breathing, and will often die in two to five days. Pregnant guinea pigs with these diseases are hypoglycemic, which means that their blood sugar (glucose) is abnormally low (less than 60 mg/dl). Their normally basic (alkaline) urine becomes more acidic; their normal urine pH is 9. Their metabolism will be disrupted, causing the liver to produce excessive acetoacedic acid and other ketone bodies. Then, proteins and ketones will spill into her urine. All of these symptoms can be quickly detected with urine chemistry check strips and a few drops of her urine. To help prevent pregnancy toxemia and ketosis, do not breed guinea pigs that are too young, too old, and try not to stress out and let female guinea pigs become overweight or obese. Also make sure that female guinea pigs to not have borderline vitamin C deficiencies.
Dystocia (difficult delivery) is common in pregnant guinea pigs. It is caused by failure of the pubic symphysis (a joint within the pelvis) to relax fully at parturition (birthing) to allow baby guinea pigs to pass through the birth canal. The primary cause of dystocia is breeding female guinea pigs older than seven months for the first time. Other causes of dystocia are obesity or having to deliver one or two very large baby guinea pigs. Clinical signs that a baby guinea pig may not be able to pass through the birth canal include depression in the pregnant guinea pig, failure to eat (anorexia), a bloody greenish-brown vaginal discharge, and signs of ketosis.
The birthing process
Labor in pregnant guinea pigs usually occurs during the daytime and lasts for a maximum of 20 minutes. The first baby guinea pig should appear after five minutes of labor. The time between the birth of each baby guinea pig is between three and five minutes. If labor lasts longer than 20 minutes, be prepared to take the pregnant guinea pig to the veterinarian immediately, as she could die of exhaustion.
During labor, the female guinea pig will remain sitting while her babies emerge underneath, head first. The mother will pull off the amniotic sac with her teeth by reaching between her legs. As each baby guinea pig appears, she will clean them off. When all of the baby guinea pigs are born, a small amount of blood and the placenta will appear. The female guinea pig will eat the placenta.
After giving birth
Baby guinea pigs that weight less than 55 grams (or 0.12 pounds) at birth rarely survive. Litters of three or four baby guinea pigs generally survive the best. Make sure that smaller baby guinea pigs are specially reserved their own nipple or bottle feeding time, because larger, more vigorous baby guinea pigs can push smaller guinea pigs aside. Orphaned baby guinea pigs, or those born to mothers that lack milk, will need to be bottle fed. Check the milk supply for quantity and quality frequently. Any evidence that milk from a lactating guinea pig is clumped, off color, or if her milk gland (breast) is hard, painful, and bluish, are all evidence of a mammary gland infection (mastitis). Remove baby guinea pigs from a mother that has mastitis, and take the mother to your veterinarian for treatment. During the second week of a baby guinea pig's life, supplement bottle feeding with baby food vegetables. By the third week of a baby guinea pig's life, feeding it milk will no longer be necessary.
PLEASE NOTE: This article is not to be used as a substitute for professional veterinary care. If you have a pregnant guinea pig, make sure to take her to your veterinarian regularly as well as for any emergency care.
Animal Care-Caring for Pregnant Guinea Pigs. www.kindplant.org/gppregnancy/html
Guinea Pig Pregnancy: Reproductive Disorders in Guinea Pigs. Ron Hines, DVM, PhD. 2014. www.2ndchance.info/gpreprodprobs.htm
Nesting Areas for Pregnant Guinea Pigs. Ledan Seja. www.animals.pawnation.com/nesting-areas-pregnant-guinea-pigs-1856.html
Guinea Pig Pregnancy. www.lovingyourpet.co.uk/guinea-pigs/guinea-pig-pregnancy.php