Guinea pigs are very popular pets for families. Lately though, they have been gaining in popularity on YouTube for their apparent love of water and ability to swim.
As pet owners, we are responsible for the safety and care of our pets. Sometimes we are tempted to try something but are not sure if it appropriate for our pets.
Can guinea pigs swim?
Yes, guinea pigs can swim, but swimming can cause unnecessary side effects and could be fatal. If the guinea pig owner feels strongly that their guinea should swim, then the guinea pig should be put in water shallow enough for its feet to touch the ground.
Guinea pigs love to be clean, and you might think they would enjoy a bath. However, they are good at cleaning themselves without using water.
They do not like water and are not natural swimmers. We are going to look at the dangers of having a guinea pig swim, explore swimming-related questions, and share other things you can do with a guinea pig.
Is Swimming Dangerous?
Yes, swimming can be dangerous for a guinea pig. A guinea pig would never swim for fun. Instead, if you put a guinea pig in water, it swims to stay alive and to try and get out of the water.
Many things can potentially happen to a guinea pig when they swim. Such as:
Cause stress – Like anyone being forced to go in water against their will, guinea pigs get stressed in water. They do not want to be there, which puts unnecessary stress on them. Their goal is to get out fast. To some people that may look like swimming, but the guinea pig is trying to stop from drowning.
Ear infections– Ear infections are not common to guinea pigs, but they can be fatal if a guinea pig gets one. If a guinea pig is put in water that is too deep for them and they cannot touch the ground, there is a big potential for their head to go under the water. With the head under the water, water can go into the guinea pig’s ears and lead to an ear infection. It can cause serious health issues.
Pneumonia– Guinea pigs cannot control their body temperature. Because of that, they cannot be in water for long periods of time. When they get out of the water, they need to be dried off immediately. A side effect of not being able to control their body temperature is getting pneumonia. Read more about guinea pigs getting cold in our article here.
Depression– Similar to the stress caused by swimming, putting a guinea pig in water can also cause depression because it is doing something they do not want to do. It creates fear. Due to this fear of water, guinea pigs have actually been used to research antidepressants.
Tiring– Guinea pigs have small arms and legs and small muscles. Swimming or moving around in the water, even for a short period of time, is very tiring for them–physically and mentally.
Breathing– The physical and mental stress of being in water can make it hard for the guinea pig to breathe. Their breathing becomes labored, and they could easily swallow water.
Drowning– Guinea pigs are not built for swimming. They tire easily, they can breathe in water while trying to hold their heads up, and the stress can potentially result in them drowning.
Wet coat– Water washes off the natural oil in the guinea pig’s skin. It can cause skin and fur related diseases. Also, if a guinea pig has any cuts on their skin, then being in water can give the guinea pig an infection.
Cruelty– If swimming is entertainment for you and not fun for the animal, it is cruelty to the animal. As a responsible pet owner, your job is to care for your pet and not cause unnecessary stress or suffering.
For more information on why swimming is dangerous and not good for guinea pigs, I recommend watching this short video:
Can my Guinea Pig Swim in a Bathtub?
No, even a bathtub is not safe for a guinea pig to swim in. Baths in a bathtub are fine for a guinea pig, but the water must not be higher than thigh height.
Guinea pigs are clean animals and do not need to be bathed often. Once every few months is sufficient.
Is Swimming Natural to Them?
No, in the history of guinea pigs, guinea pigs have never needed a reason to swim. In the wild, guinea pigs are found in South America, where they live in grasslands, rocks, and forests.
They live in burrows and like to make tunnels. Guinea pigs had no need to swim or go into the water.
Most guinea pigs do not like water. Guinea pigs have a hard time maintaining their body temperature. Getting wet makes it even harder to maintain body temperature.
So guinea pigs prefer to stay dry. Some will not even drink water, and instead, they will get their water through fruit and vegetables.
Can I Teach my Guinea Pig to Swim?
Probably, but is your guinea pig’s well-being worth it. You can put a guinea pig in water and watch it paddle around trying to get out, but is your entertainment more important than the guinea pigs well-being?
If you really want to try to see if your guinea pig can swim, then try putting them in the bathtub with thigh-high warm water (an inch or so of water) and see what your guinea pig does. Watch them the entire time they are in the water.
If they show signs of stress, fatigue, or similar signs, remove them and dry them off.
What Can You Do with Your Guinea Pig Using Water?
If you really want to expose your guinea pig to water, you can place a shallow plate of water in the play area (just enough to wet the feet of the guinea pig) and scatter veggie pieces in the water.
This will give your guinea pig the choice of getting their feet wet or enjoying the veggies from the safety of dry land.
What Are Other Good Ways to Give Guinea Pigs Exercise?
You can put toys in the guinea pig cage to play with, such as balls, tunnels, or things to hide in. Or find a safe area inside your home and lay down a towel and put toys and some veggies on the towel for the guinea pig to play with and eat.
Finally, you could take the guinea pig outside and let it play in the grass on a sunny day. To contain the guinea pig, you can use a 4-sided pen. Guinea pigs also enjoy exploring mazes.
Can A Guinea Pig Swim in A Chlorine pool?
Guinea pigs should not be exposed to chemicals. A chlorine pool is full of chemicals, so a guinea pig should not be put in a chlorine pool. It can hurt their eyes and skin.
Do Guinea Pigs Like Water?
No. Our guinea pigs stay away from water and we’re happy about that. Just look at them. They are like anchors that are not built for swimming with wide and heavy upper bodies and small limbs underneath. This is a burrowing animal and not a swimmer.
What happens when a guinea pig gets wet? There are risks and complications that could occur when guinea pigs get wet. Allow us to explain.
- Lack of appetite
A wet guinea pig needs to be dried off thoroughly. They will be miserable, retreat to the back of their enclosure or refuse to interact with you or anyone else. This is what happened to us.
Our male guinea pig seemed very standoffish after such an accidental experience of splashing into a water bowl. They may not be able to return their core temperature back to normal before an illness such as hypothermia, pneumonia or an upper respiratory infection sets in.
Do Guinea Pigs Like to Swim?
No. Guinea pigs are not built for swimming. Looking at their minuscule limbs relative to their upper body size is a dead giveaway that this lovable creature was never intended to swim.
Out of great stress, fear or emergency, a guinea pig will be able to perform a doggie paddle motion to get themselves out of a predicament.
Guinea pigs have endured centuries of accidental falls into water, heavy rainfall or splashing through puddles. This doesn’t mean they swim. They can feel a lot of stress from this experience leading to a weakened immune system or sudden shock.
Can Guinea Pigs Swim in Shallow Water?
No. There will always be someone who can prove us wrong with a video or testimonial about their swimming guinea pig. This is borderline cruel for an animal that is usually terrified from water sources because they are not adapted to it.
Shallow water in the form of puddles might not be a problem for a guinea pig who will resort to their fight or flight response to escape from a stressful or urgent situation.
Thankfully, we provide our cavies with peaceful coexistence where they don’t need to fear water because we keep it in bottles and do not need to force them to swim in water of any depth.
Do Guinea Pigs Like to Play in Water?
There will always be the exception to the notion that guinea pigs don’t like water, swimming or playing with it. You may find unique guinea pigs who are willing to perform popcorning techniques of hopping up and down on a thin layer of water.
They may splash around like children on a rainy day, but this does not occur in our household. We know that they can easily get the chills without us noticing.
Guinea pigs are able to hide their emotions well and you may not find out that your cavies are developing upper respiratory infections or hypothermia from water exposure before it’s too late. No matter what, make sure these guinea pigs are fully dry after their experience with water.
Guinea pigs can do many things. Swimming safely and with enjoyment is not one of them. As a pet owner, it is important to keep your pets safe and well-cared for.
Do not follow the YouTube hype of trying to see if your guinea pig likes water instead find other ways to have fun with your guinea pig. Or, if you want to see things swim, take a trip to the aquarium.