Guinea pigs are extremely heat sensitive animals. They should be housed in an environment between 18 and 22ºC, considering that temperatures over 30ºC are not well tolerated and can develop into a fatal heat stroke.
Heat stroke can strike quickly and symptoms to look for are:
Total apathetic. The animal will be lying flat on its tummy or side and will be unable to move.
- Rapid pulse
- Laboured and rapid breathing
The best way to beat the heat stroke is to avoid it. Always provide plenty of cool fresh water. Make sure water bottles are filled and supply extra bottles if you have multiple guinea pigs.
Indoor housing on hot days offers a cool, protected and sheltered environment. Air conditioners and fans can be used but never blow air directly into the cage as this can cause respiratory infections.
Heat stroke can be exacerbated when guinea pigs are left in a confined area where they cannot control their own temperature. Make sure to provide adequate shade and proper ventilation all the time.
If temperatures rise frozen bottles or ice packs can be used in the cage, but always wrap in a tea towel to protect the skin; or place moist towels over the cage to create a shady cool area.
What to do if you discover your guinea pig has heatstroke?
First of all, don’t panic. Remove the animal from the environment and put it somewhere cooler while contacting the vet.
Take a bowl with room-temperature water (cold water could send the guinea pig into shock) and spread some water behind the ears where there is no hair and the feet. Soak a towel in the water and wrap the animal in it.
Offer water in a bowl or bottle but, do not try to force the animal to drink.
These actions will help until you can get to a veterinary specialist, where the guinea pig will need special attention as rehydration and treatment.
With thanks to Dr Lourdes Lavilla Atienza D.V.M. at Modern Veterinary Clinic. For appointments call 04-3953131.