“Guinea pig pregnancy”, there is a fine line between it sounding scary and it sounding heartening. Not knowing how to care for your furry pal when she’s pregnant makes the whole thing scary, while knowing all about it makes the news heartening.
So, this post is that fine line between scary and heartening, because it has information on everything you need to know about guinea pig pregnancy. Starting from how to know if your guinea pig is pregnant, to how to care for a pregnant guinea pig, to all characteristics of the gestation period, to the birth of the litter, I will lead you through every little detail of guinea pig pregnancy in the upcoming sections of this post!
Guinea pigs are certainly cute. So how about the baby guinea pigs? Of course, much much cuter! But as blissful as it is for a mother to give birth to children, it is also stressful and painful. So, as your guinea pigs are part of your family, you should take care of them just as well as you would take care of a pregnant sister or wife or mother! That is exactly why you need to cautiously read all the following so that you can make the hard and painful process of pregnancy easier on your guinea pig!
Basic Questions About Guinea Pig Pregnancy
For how long is a guinea pig pregnant? Anywhere between 59-72 days.
At what age can guinea pigs mate? As early as six weeks of age.
How many babies do guinea pigs get per litter? Between 1 and 8 guinea pig babies with 4 being the most common number of guinea pigs per litter.
At what age can you neuter your guinea pig? Neutering is advised only after the age of 4 months.
How Can You Know if Your Guinea Pig is Pregnant?
Guinea pigs are brilliantly expressive creatures. They interact to convey everything they feel, with distinct voices and physical gestures, irrespective of the nature of the emotion. So, there are obvious signs that you can look for to identify pregnancy in your guinea pigs. Again, let’s go step-by-step with this too.
Has She Interacted With an Unneutered Male?
What is the one thing that could get a guinea pig pregnant? An unneutered male guinea pig! So, the first step in knowing if your guinea pig is pregnant? Yes, it’s to know whether she interacted with an unneutered male in recent days.
Even though a male guinea pig over three weeks of age is capable of causing pregnancy in a female, neutering is advised only after the age of 4 months. Moreover, neutering does not take immediate effect. So, even a male who was neutered only a few weeks before could cause pregnancy in females. Recovery from neutering could take as long as 6 weeks.
If you are thinking that your few weeks old female guinea pigs cannot be pregnant, you’re wrong! Guinea pigs reach sexual maturity early in their life- as early as six weeks! So, remember that when you are wondering about the probable pregnancy of your guinea pigs.
Can You Feel Any Bumps and Lumps?
After about two or three weeks of pregnancy, the baby guinea pigs can be physically felt. By gently running your hand on your guinea pig, you can feel bumps and lumps, which could be because of one of two reasons. One, it could be your baby guinea pigs. The other? It could be a disease causing the accumulation of excess metabolic products.
Either way, one thing is pretty clear: You have to take your guinea pig to the vet. If it is pregnancy, your veterinarian will give you an appraisal of the progress and give you advice on how to care for your piggy. Or if it is the bad news version of the lumps, the vet will help with treating it.
Does She Eat More?
Another sign is a hike in food intake. Since they no longer eat just for them, but also for the baby piggies inside, they eat more than the usual amount. Although, guinea pigs tend to eat extra in cold weather too. But even if your locality has cold weather, it is still worth enough to take your guinea pig to the vet. Being wrong about the pregnancy couldn’t hurt more than the consequences of neglecting it!
There are actual people that I know who neglected the weight gain in their guinea pigs. Once, I had a friend who didn’t care about a drastic weight change in his female guinea pig. He never thought of the idea that his pet was pregnant. So obviously he didn’t provide the level of care needed for a pregnant guinea pig. She died along with the litter. I didn’t know whether to hit him in the face for the negligence or to feel sorry for his loss. But what I was certain about, is that no other guinea pig should face the same fate. So, better to be overly cautious than to be negligent.
Make sure you monitor your guinea pig’s weight every week. Two consecutive weeks with a noticeable hike in weight should probably mean that the piggy is pregnant. Again, it could also be because of fat. But it is better if you take her to the vet just to be sure.
Does She Smell Different?
Another weird yet interesting way to find out pregnancy in guinea pigs is their smell! Males are territorial. So when they mate with a female, they mark the female with their urine! Since every individual has a separate scent profile, other males would not approach the urinated female! Yeah, sounds weird, but it actually works with several other animals too. If you are a woman reading this I bet that you are thinking “thank god there ain’t anything like that in humans!”
How Can You Know How Far Along Your Guinea Pig’s Pregnancy is?
Unless you are a qualified veterinarian, the only other way to know is to go to someone who is an actual veterinarian. Some people may think that knowing how far along the pregnancy is, could not yield any benefit. But believe me, it does. It is not very different from human pregnancy.
Every trimester of the pregnancy in humans, there are differences in the methods of taking care, right? It’s just the same in guinea pigs. For different stages of progress, there are different medicines, food supplies, the quantity of food and water, and more! So, it is vital that you know which stage of pregnancy your guinea pig is.
What are the Similarities and Differences Beetwen Humans and Guinea Pigs in Pregnancy?
Some of you might think of this question as absurd. But I am only writing about this because it was actually asked by someone online! So I am morally obligated to answer it.
- Species: Well, for starters. they are guinea pigs and we are humans. Their biological name is Cavia porcellus while ours is Homo sapiens. I guess that counts as a difference.
- Timeline: Their pregnancy duration could be around 10 weeks while ours is about 40 weeks.
- Number of Babies: Humans mostly give birth to one baby. Although the cases of twins, triplets, etc., are not that rare. According to the Guinness World Book of Records, the most number of babies delivered in one pregnancy is 8 in case of humans. Even though there isn’t a record like Guinness which records statistics on guinea pig births, from the reported numbers, 14 is the most number of babies delivered in one litter. The litter size is usually between 1 and 8 guinea pig babies. 4 is the most common number of guinea pigs per litter. So, that counts as a difference.
- Eyes and Ears: Baby guinea pigs are born with open eyes and ears while human babies are born with their eyes closed for a while.
- Nutrition: Baby guinea pigs do not rely on their mother for nutrition as much as human babies depend on their mothers.
Well, not too many similarities are shared by guinea pigs and humans in their pregnancy.
- Birth: One very noticeable similarity is that we both are mammals. So, we do not lay eggs for reproduction. We give birth to young ones and nourish them during their neonatal stage with breast milk.
- Loving Parents: Another thing that can be counted as a similarity to any animal, is the love they have for their babies!
Timeline of Pregnancy in Guinea Pigs
1. Estrus Cycle
Guinea pigs go through four or five estrus cycles every year. Since guinea pigs attain sexual maturity as early as 6 weeks in their life, even young guinea pigs are bound to get pregnant. So do not be surprised if a young little guinea pig you just brought home is already pregnant!
2. Getting Pregnant
Of course, as you probably already know, a break between two consecutive estrus cycles can be caused only by a pregnancy. The intercourse with an unneutered male guinea pig causes pregnancy in a female obviously.
3. Gestation Period
The period of time between getting pregnant and the birth is called the gestation period. This is when the single-celled zygote develops into full baby guinea pigs by cell division. Of course, all these are high school zoology concepts.
The gestation period in guinea pigs could be anywhere between 59-72 days. Pre-mature birth will need to be followed by a period of artificial incubation. The average number of days female guinea pigs stay pregnant is 65 days. The female doubles in weight and hence gets bigger in size too during pregnancy.
Fun Fact: You may think that the more the number of babies, the longer it takes for them to get born. Right? Because yeah, more the number, more the time to nourish them, sounds logical. But it is quite the opposite. The more the number of baby guinea pigs, the shorter is the period of pregnancy. The larger the size of the litter, the shorter the time they could stay inside in the same area where a smaller litter could stay longer. The latter logic transcends the former.
Also called as parturition in scientific terms, the birth, of course, is the part where the litter is delivered. Birth can sometimes be more complicated because of several medical reasons. Not always is it ensured that the mother will deliver her litter by natural means. Sometimes, surgery could be necessary. But doctors these days make the surgery sound like the only choice so that they could fill their pockets. This happens not only in human pregnancy but also in the case of animals. So be sure to consult fair- minded veterinarians, and a second opinion could never hurt.
Unlike humans who may experience contractions for hours at a stretch, guinea pigs do not take longer than half an hour for the delivery of their litter. Even though the birthing can be handled by yourself, it is better to leave it to licensed veterinarians to avoid last minute complications.
After birth, the recovery is pretty speedy in guinea pigs. And the babies? Well, they can be described as an epitome of cuteness! With cute little fingers, hair, and adorable teeth, open ears & eyes, they are just the apt definition of awesomeness!
5. After Birth
Guinea pigs have a much shorter timeline of pregnancy than humans. So they recover pretty quickly. For the first week, the babies do not actually rely on the mother for food. They eat solid food right after being born, unlike human babies.
Mothers start lactating after about 8 days. While their lactation is essential for some nutrients that cannot be provided in the babies’ diet, baby guinea pigs are noticed to be able to survive even without their mother’s milk. The mother’s lactation period lasts for about two or three weeks.
Caution: What makes guinea pigs very different from humans in pregnancy is their lactation patterns. If you let your guard down after one litter being born, without watching the female’s interaction with un-neutered males, the mother who just delivered a litter could get knocked up once again!
The lactational amenorrhea method (LAM) can be a helpful natural contraceptive in case of humans for a brief period after the birth of a child. But that isn’t the case in guinea pigs. So you have to be cautious enough to prevent another pregnancy in your guinea pig. Just because they can get pregnant again, doesn’t mean that it won’t have adverse effects on their well being, not just physically but also emotionally.
How to Care For a Pregnant Guinea Pig
Well, I guess this is the most important section of this post. If you wanna make the process of pregnancy easier on your pal, you better read this section with maximum attention. Because guinea pigs have a high infant mortality rate. As if that is not bad news enough, even mothers suffer death immediately after delivery because of malnutrition.
Tests, Tests, Tests Everywhere!
Yeah, tests are very very important to take appropriate care of your pregnant guinea pig. While there are many hereditary diseases that you should foresee, there are several other basic tests too. Not all guinea pigs are capable of handling the stress of a pregnancy. Due to several factors including age, weight, other diseases, nutritive health, etc., females could be inefficient of nourishing and/or delivering the litter.
If you show negligence in ensuring that your guinea pig could handle the pregnancy, you are not only putting the mother’s life at risk, but also that of the babies in the litter. And believe me, you would not want to live with the guilt if something goes wrong. The minute you are sure your guinea pig is pregnant, make sure you get it to your vet’s attention. Your vet will instruct you with all the necessary tests to be taken.
Help Them Avoid Stress
I guess it is not too difficult to believe that hormone levels go crazy during pregnancy irrespective of which animal it is. Guinea pigs, even when not pregnant, are vulnerable to mood swings. Their physical and mental well-being are directly linked to their emotional state. That’s right, they have a distinction between emotions and the mind, just like humans, even though both are processed and caused by the same brain!
Stress is one of the most common reasons for death in guinea pigs, during pregnancy no less! Diseases such as toxemia are caused easily in pregnant females. Other adverse effects include a loss of appetite out of fear, which could also result in fatal effects.
To Avoid Stress, You Need to Take Several Measures Obviously. Which Can Include:
- Keeping them away from direct sunlight
- Keeping them in the rooms of your home where loud noises can’t be heard
- Guinea pigs tend to get stressed when they do not have a pattern in their food, drinking, and outdoor timings. So follow a routine
- Do not handle her all the time like before. Even a slight mishandling could lead to enormous amounts of pain.
- Have a visiting vet every once in a while.
- Giving them their favorite toys and treats. But consult with your vet first, just to be on the safer side.
- Do not cage them. Most pregnant guinea pigs do not move as actively as their normal days. So you wouldn’t have to worry about them running away to places they are not supposed to go. But still, to be on the safer side, having boundaries to the free space she runs is advised.
Being vigilant about their activities is vital to their well-being. Maybe in the woods, they can take care of themselves. But now that they are arrested in your home, you must be ready to step up and take responsibility. Make note of all the foods that you offer her, with the quantity and time. Make note of the time and amount of water during each refill. And hand those records to your vert during his weekly visit so that he can comprehend the situation in hand better.
Understanding and Implementing
No relationship can survive without understanding. You need to understand that your guinea pig cannot bear the pain of her pregnancy when she gets handled by you. Not only does it scare her, but also causes pain due to the pressure put by our arms. It is not enough if you understand that. You should be able to implement it.
You may think that personal hygiene of your guinea pig is important during pregnancy. So you may think that grooming them with regular attention, or even more during pregnancy, is needed. But that’s wrong! Grooming requires a lot of handling. In long-haired breeds, it gets even worse. Safety from injury should take precedence over hygiene. But that does not mean a complete compromise of their hygiene.
You can crop their hair to maintain hygiene, even if you cannot cut it perfectly. But make sure your handling of her is minimal. You may think a little touch or petting couldn’t hurt. Normally, it wouldn’t. But to a pregnant guinea pig, it does!
For obvious reasons, your guinea pig needs extra nutrition when she is pregnant. Giving her higher quality hay (Amazon link), more fruits & vegetables, essential nutrient pellets(Amazon link), abundant fresh water, are all things that should be done even when she is not pregnant. But compromising on the perfection of those necessities won’t cause much immediate trouble when she is not pregnant. But when she is, you have no choice but to give nothing less than the perfect.
We can understand why a guinea pig would need extra comfort during pregnancy, given that she does not move as much as she used to. But that does not mean that you should not give them access to outdoors. It goes without saying that they need emotional stability during pregnancy when they are drowning in fluctuating hormone levels. So having their cagemates with them could be a good choice. But that should be done only when you are present to monitor. Outdoor time, again, with your availability to monitor.
Things to Remember About Guinea Pig Pregnancy and Breeding
- Guinea pigs have a 20% post-delivery mortality rate. That is, 20% of females die after delivering their litter. So if you are thinking about voluntarily breeding your guinea pig, I would advise against that.
- Incest is no crime in guinea pigs. Male babies can impregnate their own mothers as early as their 3 weeks of age. So you should separate the family after the first 2 weeks.
- Males born in the same litter are brothers, right? So they won’t fight with each other. Right? WRONG! You should absolutely separate males because they get territorial and start fighting, even leading to mutual death in some cases.
- Alfalfa hay is rich in calcium and protein. But it contains more than necessary amounts for a regular guinea pig. But when pregnant, the mother needs to enrich herself for the pain she is about to endure and should provide nutrition for her babies. So you should replace the regular timothy hay with alfalfa hay once you find out your guinea pig is pregnant.
- The vitamin C required by a pregnant female is obviously more than that required by one that isn’t pregnant. So increase the supplements you already provide for vitamin C.
- Pregnant females are more vulnerable to ketosis and toxemia. So taking note of her body weight, her food intake, her excretion patterns, and levels of activity is essential. If and only if you provide your vet with those details, he can diagnose any illness at the earliest possible. And you know what they say about diseases, the earlier we detect them, the easier they are to treat.
- The labor: You can hear distinct cries of her before she goes into labor. Even though having a vet all the time is not convenient, admitting her to a vet’s clinic as she enters the last week of pregnancy is advisable. Each pup takes about 5 minutes to get delivered. An amniotic sac is a membrane-like structure covering each newborn. The mother eats it upon the birth of the baby. If you find any pup that still has its sac over it, you can open it with your fingernails. When all the babies of the litter have been delivered, the placenta will come out. The mother guinea pig eats that too.
- After birth, within a few hours, the newborn guinea pigs would want to eat solid foods. So make sure that you have enough food stocked at home for them. Your guinea pig still is faced with a lot of medical complications post-labor. So getting her medical attention from a licensed vet after labor is quite vital. Although, it is recommended to get the mother to a vet even during or well before the labor.