Pet parents who consider housing their guinea pigs outside often wonder whether or not their pet guinea pigs can hibernate. I’ve wondered it myself. So, I took some time to do some research on it for you.
Guinea pigs don’t hibernate, but they will slow down their metabolism and activity in order to stay warm during the colder temperatures. This slowing of their heart rate also helps them conserve energy and stay warm. However, if it gets too cold , then they’re at risk for hypothermia. That’s why it’s important to make sure you have a shelter and bedding for your guinea pigs to keep them warm.
Let’s dive into what’s going on with your piggie during the winter months, and how you can keep them safe.
What’s The Difference Between Hibernation And Torpor (Deep Sleep)?
Hibernation is the state in which an animal spends the winter months, typically on its own below ground den or burrow. And it’s nearly impossible to wake up an animal that’s hibernating.
A hibernating animal is able to lower its body temperature by reducing the amount of energy it uses, and to slow their heart rate. Animals that hibernate spend the warmer months eating as much food as possible to store up fat, which they burn off during their resting time.
When some animals are cold, they sort of pass out and slide into a deep sleep. If you warm up that animal , they’ll wake back up again. That’s torpor – which helps animals survive during the winter months.
Depending on the environment that you have your piggies living in (if it’s too cold), it may seem like your little friends go into deep sleeps during winter.
They might even do this if you keep them hutches outside without proper shelter and protection (when cold weather is around).
“Like, come on. I know I’m a guinea pig, but did you know that I can literally freeze my butt off?”
What Temperature Is Safe For Guinea Pigs? How Cold Is Too Cold?
Not many people know how sensitive to cold guinea pigs are, especially compared to other rodents. Any major change in the outside temperature can make your guinea pigs sick or even kill them.
Guinea pigs need a specific temperature range to stay comfortable and healthy, which falls between 65°F (18°C) and 75°F (24°C).
So, how cold is too cold for guinea pigs? Any temperature drop to 60°F (16°C) – or less – is considered too cold for guinea pigs. Cavies are usually able to deal with cold a lot better than heat.
However, at that point, it’s too cold for your piggie to maintain their body temperature (and stay warm).
You’ll notice that your piggies start to sleep (torpor) for a long time – not hibernate. This way, they use less energy and stay warm. During this time your guinea pigs might seem lethargic (sluggish), be slow to respond and have a lower heart rate (which is very unusual, because they’re active animals). They can even appear sluggish and half dead.
If your piggies stay too cold for too long, they’ll get hypothermia. Hypothermia is when their body temperature gets so low that it causes serious health problems, and can even cause death.
This is why it’s important to care for your guinea pigs properly. You’ll know if your piggies are getting too cold by the way they look and behave.
What Do You Need To Know About Guinea Pig Winter Care?
If you live in an area that experiences colder temperatures during the winter months, then it’s important to keep your guinea pigs warm.
It’s easier to this if your fur babies are housed inside with you. But, there’s things a few things you can do if you have them outside, such as:
- Make sure your guinea pigs have a warm and insulated shelter in an area protected from wind, rain, and snow.
- Give them extra bedding (hay, shredded paper, or wood shavings) to snuggle into for warmth; this is something your cavies would use if they were going to hibernate
- Keep the shelter off the ground, so it stays dry.
It’s also important that your guinea pigs don’t get overheated during winter months either. Guinea pigs don’t have much of an ability to cool their body temperature; they can’t sweat.
Hot weather or warm weather is riskier, but they can overheat during winter if their living conditions are inappropriate.
This is why you shouldn’t place your guinea pigs anywhere where they can’t get away from any heart source you might decide to use in their enclosure.
For example, a heat pad (although a popular way to help piggies keep their body heat stable) need to be used with extra care – they can overheat your piggies (even in cold seasons)!
It’s quite easy for cavies to get heat exhaustion and heat stroke, so always keep the environment for them to be comfortable in.
How Do I Know If My Guinea Pig Is Too Cold?
Your guinea pigs will show signs of being too cold if they aren’t warm enough. Here’s a few suggestions below:
- If you notice your cavy’s ears, nose, or feet are cold to the touch, then their body temperature is too low.
- If you have a thermometer, you can use it in their enclosure to see if they’re too cold. Remember, if the temperature isn’t between 65°F (18°C) and 75°F (24°C), then your pigs aren’t going to be comfortable.
- They’ll also shiver and huddle together (if you have more than one).
- Also, if your guinea pig sleeps most of the time (especially during the day), this is another indication they’re too cold. They are conserving energy by sleeping instead of staying active and moving around.
So, keep a close eye on your piggies if you notice they’re acting lethargic, sleeping too much, or are in any way uncomfortable.
The rule of thumb is if it feels too cold for you, then it’s probably too cold for your cavy too. If all else fails, you might want to consider keeping your guinea pig indoors. That might be the only way to keep keep your guinea pig warm.
Keep in mind that you also want to avoid having your guinea pigs be too hot, so make sure the temperature stays comfortable.
What Are The Signs Of a Dying Guinea Pig?
Well, there are several signs that your guinea pig might be dying:
- your guinea pig won’t eat or drink (a very bad sign and cause for concern)
- not active (sluggish – without reason)
- diarrhea or pain
- crusty eyes or nose; have a hard time breathing
Be sure to always watch for those signs of dying in your piggy! If you do find any of the above symptoms please take your Guinea Pig immediately to a vet. I have seen several Guinea Pigs die because their
How Long Does It Take for Guinea Pigs To Die?
Whelp, this is a sad thought. But, to answer your question, the time frame in which to expect your pet guinea pigs death can be quite varied. Some guinea pigs will keel over and die within 24 hours of when you see the signs of death, while others may last several days.
It’s important to note that piggies are very good at hiding their illnesses. It’s something that they do in the wild, so that predators won’t pick them out as weak and try to attack them.
A lot of times when piggies get really sick they’ll wait until they’re in the last stage before showing any signs of pain or discomfort (I once heard of a guinea pig hide a broken leg from his owner!). Subsequently, by the time you notice that your furry friend is sick, he may already be seriously ill.
For this reason, it is a good idea to bring your guinea pig to the vet for an examination and routine check-ups at the very least once a year – even if you don’t notice anything wrong with them.
Weekly health checks (weight them during this time, too ) are recommended to ensure that your piggy stays as healthy and happy as possible.
How Can I Make My Guinea Pig Live Longer?
By making sure you get a guinea pig from a reputable source (healthy, siblings, parent). A good breeder will keep a record of each pigs medical history – including any signs of illnesses the pet has experienced in the past. This can be quite helpful to you, the new owner of the guinea pig, and helpful in preventing any health issues from age 6 months onwards.
If you’re are adopting a pet guinea pig – visit shelters and rescues regularly for a better chance at finding a piggy with great genetics (see what I did there?).
Then the rest is up to you. A large cage, appropriate food to eat, and a healthy, happy environment will definitely help your guinea pigs live longer.
Final Thoughts On Hibernation And Guinea Pigs
So, there you have it. Guinea pigs don’t hibernate. Even though they’re warm-blooded animals that originate from a colder climate, it’s not something that they do.
However, they do have a few ways to withstand cold temperatures – such as torpor. But, they’ll need you help to stay warm during the colder months of winter.
To keep your guinea pig warm, make sure your little friends have a nice, cozy home to stay in – and plenty of bedding to burrow into – especially if there’s a sudden drop in temperature. Otherwise, they won’t have anyway to keep their body heat stable.
Watch for signs of cold. If your guinea pig is shivering or huddling together then this could be an indication that it’s too cold for them. You can also use a thermometer to check the temperature inside their enclosure; if you notice they’re sleeping more than usual, acting lethargic, or experiencing other symptoms like diarrhea then a trip to the vet is necessary.
How long your guinea pigs live and how happy they are has a great deal to do with how well you take care of them. Grossly overfeeding, not providing adequate space and a healthy diet will shorten their lifespan. Be sure to check out my guinea pig diet blog post for more info on that subject – and make sure your piggie stays happy!
If you have any questions about caring for your pet guinea pig then please feel free to leave a comment in the section below. I’ll do my best to answer as soon as possible!
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