Can Guinea Pigs Swim? Is It Dangerous For Them?


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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 infectionsEar 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.

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?

TEACH-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.

Final Thoughts

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.

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