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Please remember that the room your guinea pigs are in should have a stable temperature range of 65 to 75 degrees F (18 to 24 degrees C). The hair on a guinea pigs body is no thicker than the hair on a human head and they are very vulnerable in temperatures colder than this range. It is especially important in this kind of weather to make sure that the cage is draught free! The stability of temperature is equally as important as sudden changes in temperature can be physically traumatic. A digital thermometer is the best way of knowing for sure that your piggies are safe and you can monitor the temperature at cage level.
Many people think that guinea pigs are tougher than they are and that the likes of some of us here are quite paranoid owners. While the latter may certainly be true(!), guinea pigs are a purely domesticated animal and have never been a wild animal. They have wild relatives but those are fairly distant in needs and requirements. The guinea pig was never "designed" to live terribly long and as such they didn't need to be terribly hardy or healthy. This is why top care is such a priority for these little critters.
So other than turning the heating up, how can we keep our piggies safe? There are many, many ways.
- Another piggie - piggies keep each other warm! Huddling together is the best heat source, nothing else comes close.
- Heating pads - these are available for small animals. Only use the microwavable ones that come with a cover, and put it under a cuddle cup or wrapped in a fleece or under the bedding just to be safe. Make sure none of the plastic is exposed as these things are very HOT! You get a good few hours heat out of them. Don't use electric blankets underneath bedding as the risk of fire and wires is too great.
- Blankets - a blanket draped over one end of the cage can make a massive difference, and many piggies love this at the best of times! A great way of trapping heat.
- Cardboard boxes covered with towel - make a normal cardboard box hidey house (upside down, cut flaps off and cut two doorways) and then cover with a towel to keep the heat in.
- Cuddle cups and cozy sacks, made of fleece, piggie sized and very warm. Grab a sewing machine and make your own!
- Cosy houses, really great for trapping heat and the pigs love them! Hunt around for these online.
- Layers - place in extra fleece for piggies to burrow under when they choose - use smaller pieces to prevent any panicky trapped piggies!
- Hay piles - cheap hay can be used as play hay for piggies to burrow in and keep warm.
- Heat lamps - be very careful with these, position outside the cage so that it can in no way possibly fall into the cage. Keep at a safe distance and use a lower watt bulb. Monitor the temperature carefully when setting up.
- Thermal blinds - place these behind your windows to help retain heat in your house.
- Close curtains - keep the curtains shut when it gets dark!
I really would encourage everyone to buy a little digital room thermometer for their piggie room. My partner and I got one and were shocked at how often we had previously let the room get too cold or too hot. Humans have a much wider range of comfortable temperatures so it's harder for us to fine tune ourselves to that 65-75 range the piggies need. A thermometer is a great way of keeping on top of things and gives great peace of mind :)
I hope this has been somewhat helpful!
[If there is anything else you would like added please put it in the comments!]
The guinea pig has long been a domesticated animal, from around 5000BC in fact. As a result, and much like dogs, their genes and health are a mess. A guinea pig is very far removed from any wild animal, domesticated for such a long period of time they are very vulnerable to temperatures outside of a very strict range - 65-75 degrees F which is 18-24 degrees C. Not even the UK, where I live and where is considered a temperate climate, can keep within these magic numbers for a single day and night.
Why is the temperature such a big deal? The hair of a guinea pig is no thicker than the hair on a human head. And as we all know from being made to wear hats in the autumn and winter as small children, that hair doesn't keep you very warm! On top of that, guinea pigs lack the ability to sweat, meaning that when they heat up they have no physical way of cooling themselves down again. The death rate of pigs kept outside in summer, or even left unattended in a run is sadly high.
Many people seem to think guinea pigs are equivalent to rabbits, "designed" to live outside, happier when close to grass and so on. Now, I can't speak for rabbits, but with guinea pigs being such a social animal, housing them outside is very unfair. They love to welcome you into their herd, they love to have soft comfy things to lie on, they love to have lots of space to run around in and do their "zoomies", and they love to hear you doing things about the house. The idea that they are outdoor animals, as you can no doubt guess from their desired temperature scale, is just silly. This only came about because of this link with rabbits, which can still be seen by the number of people that keep rabbits and guinea pigs together - terribly dangerous!
Indoor guinea pigs can have a spacious cage custom built around or over your furniture and storage. Indoor cages smell less without all that wood soaking up urine. Hutches do smell faster, and guinea pigs have much more sensitive noses than we do - they love to be clean. An indoor cage can be placed in a living room or other busy room and they will adjust their times of sleep to coincide with yours and your working hours. They will get excited and greet you even when they don't want fed. They will follow you around the room, come to fetch you from another, and most importantly of all, from all this observation you can spot illnesses far more quickly.
Guinea pig care and medical knowledge has improved drastically in the last 10 years, even in the last 5 years. Library books and vets are out of date, even the animal welfare organisations that bend over backwards for larger animals are failing smaller animals, including guinea pigs.
Just ask yourself this. Would you keep your cats or dogs in wooden boxes in your garden?
Guinea Lynx, Cavy Spirit, and Guinea Pig Cages all advocate indoor guinea pig living. Doing a search on any of the forums will provide you with plenty of the sad stories of illness and death that have befallen outdoor guinea pigs, on a far bigger scale than any of the illnesses we all sadly come across in any guinea pig.
This is not part of some conspiracy, I and others are not in fact secretly guinea pigs with the power of typing seeking to bring all guinea pigs indoors so that we may take over the world. It is simply part of a revolution in pet care, of seeing guinea pigs as more than just animals we place in our garden in a box, but as family members, like our cats and dogs, who live in our family and who feel our love 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, while warm and safe in their comfy and spacious indoor cages.
I think we can all agree that when someone who is in a difficult position, such as a teenager living with parents, comes looking for help with what they can do, it is not helpful for this topic to rail road their comments of help every time. Help will always be given to those who need it, but recommending outdoor living regardless of circumstances goes against everything I and many other cavy slaves believe in. Guinea pigs deserve the best care, it's not more expensive, in some countries it might get you some funny looks, but it is the way of the future of guinea pig care. It is the care they deserve.
If you are interested in seeing examples of why indoor housing is part of modern guinea pig care and why outdoor living is frowned upon, please do read into it more :)
Here is a direct copy of some threads on Guinea Pig Cages to start you off :)
Dangers of Outdoor Housing:
Summer is Coming. Should You House Your GP Outside?
Outdoor vs Indoor
UK GP housed outside dies of heatstroke
GPs stolen from outdoor cage
2 GPs in outdoor cage killed by dog (on Animal Precinct)
HAWK, drops guinea pig in someone's yard
Violent thugs batter family pets to death
Thread about people breaking into outdoor hutches and sheds
2 guinea pigs stolen from outdoor shed
Guinea pig attacked by rats in shed
Magpies attacking GPs in their outdoor hutches
4 GPs dead. Cause is a suspected mouse infestation in shed and garden
Ant infested yard and hutches
Warning for those keeping animals outside
Guinea pigs stolen from "Cavy Sanctuary"
GPs stolen from outdoor garden
More Guinea pigs die of heatstroke
Guinea Pig Killed by Cat
Guinea Pigs Being Attacked by Cat
N.B. The bulk of the above stories are from the UK, partly because it is more common here than in almost any other country to still house guinea pigs outside. This is a "temperate" country for humans, not guinea pigs.
[x-posted from guinea_pigs after a good response there ^_^]
I really wanted to write about this to encourage anyone who suspects they may have a heart pig to get them checked out as soon as possible and DO NOT let them be sedated for x-rays or any other situation where treatment can be carried out while the pig is awake.
Rosie came down with symptoms that led us to believe she may have ovarian cysts. As things progressed though it became clear that Rosie was a heart pig and that even if there were other problems this had to be addressed first. Luckily Rosie is now okay and we have been able to treat those cysts too, but only after an emergency visit finally got her the drugs for her heart that she needed. If you suspect your pig may have heart troubles I urge you to get them checked out as soon as possible and that if they need medication to get them on it as soon as possible if not sooner.
When pigs die suddenly, maybe with what looks like no warning, often heart problems are the real cause. I urge every piggie owner to read over the symptoms and as ever, to make sure you have a real cavy savvy vet that will give correct medicines and who you can trust. Heart conditions are simply something that cannot wait!
Heart Pig Signs:
- An early sign may be loss of energy, a tendency to move less
- Finding it hard to breathe, gasping or shallow breathing too fast
- Cough or wheezing
- May produce a "hooting" sound
- Repeatedly having upper respiratory infections (URIs)
- Reduced activity, lethargy
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Ear margins may become necrotic from poor circulation
- Bluish or pale mucous membrane colour, the skin of the lips, nostrils especially (not visible on dark skinned pigs)
- Difficulty coming around after being put under anaesthesia
- Deep sleeping, easy to pick up (does not run away)
- Fluid in the lungs - detected via stethoscope, can also cause crackling breathing
- Enlarged heart on x-ray (an un-enlarged heart does not rule out heart trouble)
As with all guinea pig illness, one symptom is enough to raise suspicion!
Diagnostic tools include x-rays but as was the case with Rosie, sometimes these come back looking completely normal. The best way to diagnose or rule out heart problems with guinea pigs is to trial the heart medications. A period of at least 2 weeks is usually recommended, as most pigs do respond to treatment within a month. If heart problems are not the issue, being on the drugs for this small amount of time will do no harm.
The main difficulty arises in getting a vet to give you the heart medicines. Here in the UK, no medicines are actually approved for use with guinea pigs at all, and vets are of course almost always reluctant to listen to "some website" when in fact, Guinea Lynx is the best resource for guinea pigs in the world precisely because it isn't just "some website"! It is made up of rescuers, vet techs and owners who have had a lot of experience with ill guinea pigs and treatments, and who use the site to pool their knowledge.
It is imperative that you do not let your vet bully you out of getting these medicines, see a new vet if you must! I have seen too many pigs suffer or die because they have not got the meds they need fast enough. I waited too long a year ago and almost paid a terrible price.
It is imperative that you do not put off going to the vets if you feel something is not right. Remember that as prey animals guinea pigs are masterful at disguising the true extent of their discomfort, and many of us could never forgive ourselves if our delaying treatment had a costly mistake. Just this June, I put off a vet visit, and once more I almost paid the awful price.
( Rosie's Story (Full Length) )
References & Resources:
Guinea Lynx :: Heart
Guinea Lynx :: Rosie's thread
If you have a suspected heart pig please do not hesitate to join the Guinea Lynx forum and post in the Emergency and Medical Forum - that is where the REAL heart pig experts are, and I fully credit them with saving my Rosie's life at least twice now :)
If you are in the UK and need a reference for a vet that treats heart pigs to give to your own vet, please e-mail me and I am more than happy to help! :)
I apologise for the length, but I hope by providing all the info it will help all the heart piggies, both diagnosed and undiagnosed, and their owners out there!
[x-posted, fake cut to updated version]
[This entry in my lj is regularly bumped when updated.]
There are no links to pet shops that sell animals in any of their stores.
Any advice or links or categories or products you have to suggest are welcome - just drop me a line :)
( UK Guinea Pig Supplies Link List )
This is always kept updated!
[x-posted, fake cut to actual updated entry]
So, should I keep them in seperate cages but near each other for a week or so before putting them together in one cage? Does it really matter at this point?
Should I take my new guinea pig, Steve, to the vet? He sneezes quite often and his breathing his quick. He sounds a bit like a squeek toy when I listen to him breath. His eyes are not crusty and neither is his nose, but his nose sounds like it may be stuffy. He eats really really good and drinks a lot of water and is full of energy.
Basically, some sneezing and quick breathing are his only symptoms: do you think its a URI? Allergies? Something I should take him to the vet for?
I've only had him for a week and a half.
So, my little one seems to be coming along good...I've had him since Monday. He's eating well and drinking well. How long before he warms up to us? Also, what sorts of things should I be on the lookout for over the next few weeks before I let him meet my other pig, Ollie? I hope he continues to be healthy.