Winter Warmers and Cold Management
With the onset of winter approaching it is important to take
precautions to ensure your guinea pig is kept warm this winter. As
with summer and the danger of heat stroke, colder conditions bring
about their own hazards which can include URI (Upper respiratory
Infections), arthritis pain in joints for older cavies and the onset of
pneumonia and related conditions.
What is the ideal temperature for my guinea pig?
Guinea pigs prefer an environment which presents an ideal
temperature range of 18 - 22 degrees Celsius. According to the
ANZCCART and The Institute of Medical and Veterinary Science
Australia, the environmental requirements of domesticated guinea
pigs are similar to those of the common laboratory species.
"Sutherland and Festing (1987) recommend the following conditions: Temperature 18-22C, 8-20 air changes/h, relative
humidity 45-70%, 12-16h light/day cycle. Group- housed guinea pigs provided with bedding withstand colder conditions,
but neonates have reduced survival at temperatures below 17C. Temperatures over 30C are not tolerated well, particularly
by pregnant sows.'' (The Institute of Medical and Veterinary Science Australia)"
Keeping a thermometre close to hand on or in the guinea pigs environment can help you monitor the current changes and
fluctuations in temperature especially early in the morning and late at night when temperature falls.
Where should I house my guinea pig in winter?
Keep your guinea pig indoors! This is one of the most important factors to stress especially in the cooler months. If
outdoors is cold for you imagine how cold it is for your guinea pig. Guinea pigs should not be housed outside in cold
temperatures below 15C even with bedding and cage mates the survival rate falls; nor should they be housed in hot
climates above 30C. They should always be housed in an environment that offers them a cool and comfortable
temperature. Indoor housing offers a cool, protected and sheltered environment. It has the benefit of using electrical
appliances, human monitoring is closer to hand, pests and predators are not an issue as it offers a hidden, secure area
with other valuables, and your cage is not seen as a easy target. Your guinea pig needs and must be monitored in any
temperature extreme, cold or hot.
If an indoor solution cannot be secured please see our tips below in maintaining your guinea pigs health in the cooler
months. However it is again important to stress that if any suitable and adequate indoor housing solution can be obtained
please do so.
When choosing where to house your guinea pig is is imperative to ensure any area is:
Draft free - Free from any wind or drafts from windows, doors or any other openings. Drafts can lead to URI's and other
Bight - A nice bright room free from direct sunlight which offers a nice source of natural light. Natural light provides your
cavy with a source of vitamin D. A plain pellet such as Oxbow Cavy Cuisine is also fortified with Vitamin D and C.
Low Humidity - In Australia especially it can be hard to avoid hot and humid days. However it is advised to place your
cage in an area which will not be as susceptible to these conditions. Rooms such as laundries and bathrooms where hot
water can be used can create humid conditions which are not adequate or suitable to house your cavy in or near. Any area
must be draft free, bright and not humid.
Stable Temperature - Ensure any area you house your guinea pig in does not suffer from extremes in temperature hot or
cold. The room must present a stable, secure and safe environment. Ensure your temperature guidelines adhere to those
specified above by the The Institute of Medical and Veterinary Science Australia.
Household Activity - Cavies need social interaction 24/7 even if it is not direct. They must be able to see, hear, smell and
be present in all family activities, even if it is from the safety of their cage. They must be part of the family. Depriving a
guinea pig of this interaction is not valuing it as a member of your family or as a valued companion. Keeping a guinea pig
isolated from household life even if it is only for short periods of time during the day is not ideal. They must have a
permanent presence in the household to be able to effectively benefit not only socially but psychologically as well.
How To Keep your Guinea Pig Warm In Winter
The below guide will assist in ensuring your guinea pig has a safe and healthy winter. Some key points in assisting your
guinea pigs in the cooler months include:
Blankets/Donas: Cardboard and cage covers all provide further shelter from the chill of the
winter air. Even if housed indoors the air temperature can become quite cool. Drape blankets,
fleece, cardboard, sun visors or a warm material over your cavies cage to provide extra
protection. Ensure that your guinea pig always has an adequate source of air circulation at all
times via leaving one side open for air ventilation.
Rice Socks: A very innovative and inexpensive idea. A winter warmer is an old sock stuffed
with rice. Simply pop it in the microwave for 60 seconds and the rice will warm up making it
nice and warm to cuddle up too, the heat will last for hours. Socks should always be double
folded and make sure you check the temperature and let it cool down if too hot. Socks should
be warm to the touch, with no chance of the rice escaping. Socks can be sewn shut if this is
an issue. They can also be used as a cooler during summer. Simply pop a cold water bottle or
ice pack into the sock.
For a pictorial on how to make rice socks see Balkan Style Blog Spot.
Piggy pouches/hideys: Guinea pigs love to burrow to keep warm during winter. A fantastic
way to ensure your guinea pig has a warm place to snuggle is a piggy pouch, happy sack or
similar item. We offer a wide range of hand made polar fleece products perfect for your
guinea pig in Winter. Click here to visit our online store.
Hay: Dry, Fresh grass hay is an excellent form of insulation in your guinea pigs cage.
Choosing a corner which your guinea pig regularly rests in, a simple cardboard box with a
hole cut as an opening stuffed with hay will provide an ideal, warm resting area during the
cooler nights. To purchase fresh grass hay, place an order enquiry on our Sweet Meadow
Hot Water Bottles: Hot water bottles purchased with thick fur covers are a great source of
heat throughout the night. Ensure that the lid is capped on tightly to avoid any chance of
leakage. Your water bottle cover should enclose the opening where the lid is. The addition of
towels and fleece can also provide further deflection of heat if your water bottle is too warm.
Test the warmth of your bottles on your wrist prior to placing in your guinea pigs cage.
There is some controversy to the usage of hot water bottles as guinea pigs may chew the
plastic. However is covered efficiently this should not pose an issue. Some owners prefer to
use small animal pet heat pads which can be warmed in the microwave.
Draft Protection: Blankets, donas and quilts can be placed at the openings of doors and
any areas where drafts are present. You must protect against and chill winds that can
Heaters: Heaters can be used to keep and warm a room for your guinea pig. Please ensure
any heater is not directly close to the cage but simply in the room. A cavies cage is a high fire
hazard with hay, blankets and other materials. Always ensure if there is a heater in your
guinea pigs room that you also have full adult supervision. Never leave a room unattended
where a high fire hazard such as a cavies cage is present. Do not leave heaters on during
the day or when no one is at home.
Lunch Box Cozies: Another inexpensive way to make a nice warm polar fleece pouch is an
old large plastic lunch box. Line the box with a thick layer or polar or Sherpa fleece. Binder
clips can be used to hold the fleece in place. A guinea pig can hop into the box and remain
warm. Ensure the box can allow the guinea pig to also jump out of.
TIPS to monitor your guinea pigs health
Weight Weekly: Weigh your guinea pig weekly especially in cooler months. Weight loss is often one of the first signs of
illness. Record your guinea pigs weight and if you find any worrying fluctuations get your guinea pig to a vet immediately.
Health Care Chart: Print off or keep a copy of our Health Care Chart. Check for what is normal and what is abnormal. If
you see any signs of URI's take your cavy to a competent exotics vet ASAP. See our Health Care Chart Here.
Increase Vegetables High in Vitamin C: Offering and increased the variety of vegetables high in vitamin C currently in
the diet such as capsicum, coriander, tomatoes, carrots, rocket, cos lettuce and other green fresh leafy green vegetables
can help increase your guinea pigs immune system and strengthen the body to better combat illness. Capsicum for
example contains antioxidants such as Beta-carotene. Beta - carotene traps free radicals, and a few studies in animals
suggest that it may also reduce tumour development. It also boosts the immune system and has been suggested to have
anti cancer effects.
Dry Bedding: Keep your guinea pigs bedding clean and dry. Urine soaked bedding or wet bedding from dropped food,
faecal matter or water can quickly become colder in winter. It also has the chance to harbour bacteria. Change bedding
more frequently if needed or switch to polar fleece during winter. For information on bedding options see our Bedding
Two is better then one: House your guinea pigs in same or de sexed pairs. Guinea pigs will huddle for warmth and help
retain core body temperature during the colder months.
Senior Guinea pig Care
Many owners can experience issues during the winter primarily with older guinea pigs. Arthritis can become quite painful in
the joints and guinea pigs may have dry skin on the ears and feet.
Keep your guinea pigs feet well moisturised during the colder months with a non toxic, all natural formula such as a small
amount of natural Aloe Vera gel or some great ointments available by Gorgeous Guineas UK. They are a fantastic way to
maintain your guinea pigs skin which can dry out due to the cold weather.
At times when guinea pigs are suffering from arthritis it may be advisable to see your vet at a later stage and consider pain
medication if you feel your cavy is suffering as a result from pain induced swelling in the joints.
Keep senior pigs warm and always provide a nice safe hiding place to maintain body warmth during the winter months.
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