Guinea pigs are most comfortable in temperatures between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
They live in warm to cool climates as they come from the South American Andean countries.
If the temperature drops below this range, they feel uncomfortable. Most rodents go into hibernation during winters (but not guinea pigs, more on this later).
This is because the external temperature becomes unbearably low for them.
It is a state in which an animal shows inactivity and metabolic depression. It is very common in warm-blooded animals.
If you are new to owning guinea pigs, you might be concerned if they hibernate like other rodents.
One can expect guinea pigs to hibernate as they are also warm-blooded.
However, the truth is that Guinea pigs never go into hibernation even if it becomes very cold.
If the temperature drops below 59 degrees Fahrenheit, you will have to transfer them to a warmer location.
Read on to learn more about what Guinea pigs do in cold weather:
Do Guinea Pigs Hibernate?
Unlike other members of the rodent family, hibernation is not an option for Guinea pigs.
They are used to living in warm to cool environments in their natural habitats.
Winter can be extraordinarily cold for them hence they need special attention when it is cold.
Even some days in early fall are also too cold for them.
With that said, you should make some efforts to keep their place warm. This can help avoid health problems that occur due to cold weather.
There is a serious risk of Guinea pigs going into hypothermia in low temperatures.
If you notice that your Guinea pig has become unusually lazy in winters, you should take your pet to the vet immediately.
Lethargy is the most obvious sign of a health complication in Guinea pigs.
Natural Habitat of Guinea Pigs
Guinea pigs live in the grasslands and forests of South America.
People first domesticated them a very long time ago in the Andes, which is the region now known as Peru and Bolivia.
Their natural habitat was warm and dry regions and that made them more sensitive to cold weather.
They do well in temperatures between 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit in the daytime.
During the night, they need the temperature to be higher than 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
If they are in a dry environment, the minimum temperature they can withstand is around 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Similarly, if the temperature is appropriate but it is misty, they may start having cold-related health problems.
What Happens to Guinea Pigs in the Cold?
If you leave Guinea Pigs in the cold for long, they start having health complications.
The most common medical emergency related to cold is hypothermia.
It is a condition in which Guinea Pigs start to lose body heat faster than the body can produce it.
This drops their body temperature to a dangerous level.
When the body heat of guinea pigs drops lower than 95 degrees Fahrenheit, they can suffer from mild hypothermia.
If it drops further, it can be life-threatening for them.
Guinea pigs that are sick or old are more prone to cold-related diseases.
Similarly, in sick and old guinea pigs, hypothermia can aggravate more quickly. This will leave you with less time for treatment and care.
Symptoms of Hypothermia in Guinea Pigs
The symptoms of hypothermia can be so subtle in guinea pigs that they might go unnoticed.
In winter, you should keep an eye on some signs that can alert you about any cold-related problem.
Lethargy and lack of appetite are the first symptoms of hypothermia.
If your guinea pig is resting too much and refuses to eat, you should take these as clear signs of hypothermia.
Guinea pigs tend to rest more in winters so do not be too quick in making assumptions.
You should only take unusually long periods of rest as a symptom.
Other symptoms of hypothermia are quick and shallow breathing and standing hair on the bodies of the guinea pig.
These little cavies make their hair stand in an attempt to insulate the body.
Most of the time, all symptoms are not evident until it is too late.
It is best to keep a close check on them in winter to be sure that your guinea pig is doing well.
How to Keep Your Guinea Pig Warm in Winter
Guinea pigs can suffer from various cold-related problems in winter due to the drop in temperature and change in humidity levels.
Cold weather causes respiratory problems like hypothermia and pneumonia in guinea pigs.
They are also prone to fungal skin problems because of the increased humidity. To avoid all these problems, it is important to keep your guinea pig warm.
You can take the following steps to keep your guinea pig appropriately warm in winter:
For an Outdoor Hutch
If your guinea pig is in an outdoor hutch, it is best to move it indoors.
However, if it is not possible to move them indoors, you will have to make sure that it is ready for winter.
You can move the hutch inside a heated shed with a small electric heater. Using a heater does not mean that you do not have to worry anymore.
Keep a check on the temperature in the shed with the help of a thermometer.
A greenhouse or a sunroom cannot be ideal as vapors can condense more easily on glass.
You can move the hutch to a garage but keep in mind that if you use the garage, the car’s fumes can be harmful to your guinea pig.
After moving the hutch to a warm and dry place, you should take some more precautionary measures.
Raise the hutch off the ground by adding legs to the hutch. This will prevent the bottom from rotting due to the dampness.
Also, cover the roof of the hutch with roofing felt and keep the hutch warm.
Insulate the Hutch
If you have no way but to leave the hutch outside, insulate it and cover it up properly.
This is important to keep the hutch protected from rain and snow. It will also keep the hutch warm.
You can purchase a hutch hugger that is specially made to protect the pets from inclement weather.
You can find some in the market that are specially for regulating the temperature inside the hutch.
If that is not an option for you, you can take other measures to insulate the hutch.
Place thick blankets over the hutch and then put some tarpaulin drapes over the blankets.
This will keep the hutch warm for the guinea pigs. At night, you can also cover the front of the hutch to make it warmer.
That said, make sure to leave some gaps for ventilation so that your guinea pig can survive.
You can also add more permanent insulation if your guinea pigs live in a shed where you cannot place a heater.
Permanent insulation will keep the heat inside in winters. It will also block the heat from the sun in summer.
You should use non-toxic materials for insulation like foil bubble wrap or polystyrene sheets.
Another important thing to do is to insulate the roof of the hutch. Warm air rises so it is likely that the hutch will lose a lot of warmth through the roof.
Use Extra Bedding
This might sound an obvious thing to do but it cannot be emphasized enough.
This is the most important precaution that you can take in winter. Put a lot of shredded paper and hay in the hutch.
This will allow your guinea pig to crawl under it and stay warm. You can also put a box with a hole in the hutch.
You can add extra bedding in the box as well to keep your guinea pig warm when it snuggles inside.
To make the hutch even warmer, put a small blanket inside for your guinea pig.
Provide Them with a Heating Pad
Providing your guinea pig with a heating pad is an effective way to keep it warm in cold weather.
You can find many brands in the market. Choose the one which works best for your guinea pig’s needs.
Heating pads covered with fleece are more comfortable for the pet. They are easy to use and the hard plastic of the pad prevents the guinea pigs from chewing it.
All you have to do is put the pad in the microwave for a few minutes and then put it in the hutch.
The pad will stay warm for a few hours. For a quick DIY solution, you can use a sock filled with rice.
Put it in the microwave for a few minutes and it will stay warm for a few hours.
You can follow these steps to keep your guinea pig warm in winters.
If you are not able to bring them indoors, ensure that the hutch is warm enough to keep them comfortable.
Guinea pigs do not hibernate so in low temperatures, keep a close eye on their activity.
Any signs of lethargy or loss of appetite should alert you to consult a veterinarian.
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