Pigs might fry – keeping your guinea pig cool

What you need to know about heat stroke in guinea pigs

Guinea pigs are great pets – full of personality, easy to handle, not smelly and surprisingly hardy when it comes to their health. Hardy, but not invincible.

Guinea pigs are susceptible to heat stroke once the warm weather arrives (above 28°C). Heat stroke is extremely serious – it's one of the most common causes of sudden death.

What causes heat stroke?

Beyond simply 'hot weather', there are several factors that make a pig more likely to suffer heat stroke, including:

  • thick fur
  • obesity
  • old age
  • pregnancy
  • being housed in direct sunlight
  • poor ventilation
  • a lack of fresh cool water to drink
  • crowding
  • confinement in a small carrier

How to prevent heat stroke

Looking at the list above, it's easy to see the ways that you can prevent heat stroke in your pig. For example:

  • thickly furred pigs can be given a haircut; note that chunky pigs can benefit from a short back and sides too
  • make sure your pig has access to shade and good ventilation
  • always make sure your pig has plenty of fresh water

You might also consider water sprays or a container of ice in the cage to cool your pig's house down on very warm days.

What are the signs of heat stroke in guinea pigs?

Signs that your pig has overheated include:

  • red ears and feet (the blood vessels in the extremities dilate)
  • breathing fast
  • bluish coloured gums and lips
  • being covered in saliva (rodents have large salivary glands and drool a lot when they get hot – the drool is groomed over the feet, face and body in an effort to create evaporative cooling)

Unfortunately, the most common presenting signs that we see are collapse and death.

What to do if your guinea pig has heat stroke?

If you suspect your pig has heat stroke, dip him in a tepid bath (never a cold one!), wrap him loosely in a wet towel and bring him to see us (or an emergency vet out of hours). We can give IV fluids to both bring his body temperature down and support his circulation. Sadly, the prognosis is poor and sometimes euthanasia is the best option.

raquel newmanAlbert Park Vet