KEEPING YOUR CAVY COOL IN SUMMERGuinea pigs require a level of care especially in relation to heat management. Providing the correct environment in which to keep your guinea pig cool in summer is of vital importance.Guinea pigs can also be provided items in their cage which will ensure they are provided with the needs in which to maintain a moderate temperature and prevent heat stroke.What is the ideal temperature for my guinea pig?Cavies should ideally be housed in an environment which is 18 - 22C.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)Thermometers are an excellent tool to keep near your cavies cage. This will enable you to ensure the temperature is adequate for your guinea pigs health and well being. Heat Management: In Australia summer months can be particularly hot with temperatures often exceeding 30C.To assist your guinea pigs in dealing with these high temperatures we have compiled a list of helpful methods below which you can use to ensure your guinea pig does not overheat, and protect against fatal heat stroke.Water: The most important factor to remember in summer is to provide your cavy with plenty of cool fresh water! Always ensure water bottles are filled, water is fresh and not warm, and supply extra water bottles if you have multiple guinea pigs. A large water bottle is also best to ensure the water lasts the entire day especially if you will not be home to supervise your guinea pigs daily water requirements.Ice packs/Bottles: These items are a fantastic way to cool down your guinea pigs cage area and also provide a cold place to sit if temperatures rise. Water bottles and ice packs can be placed in the freezer overnight, hence ready for daily use.Always ensure any frozen bottles or ice packs are wrapped in a tea towel or similar to ensure your guinea pig does not get too cold and to protect the skin on their paw pads.TIP: An easy way to warp a frozen water bottle is to slip on an old sock!House your guinea pigs Indoors: Indoor housing offers a cool, protected and sheltered environment. It has the benefit of using electrical appliances such as air conditioners and fans, water and ice are nearby, and cavies can be monitored closely in these extremes. For more information on housing your guinea pig indoors see: Indoor HousingDamp cloths/Towels: Placing moist towels over the cage using pegs or binder clips can be used to create a shady cool area.Frozen Ice Treats: Placing fruit or fruit juice that has been frozen in ice is a great way to keep your guinea pig cool. Not only does it taste nice to your guinea pig, the cooling sensation of ingesting this summer treat will be helpful in cooling down your cavies internal temperature.Method: Cut up fresh summer fruits such as watermelon, rock melon, apple, strawberries etc. and place in an ice tray with water. Freeze overnight. Place in a heavy bowl that cannot be easily tipped over. Freshly squeezed juice can also be frozen in ice trays and given.*Note: Please use these treats sparingly as fruits are high in sugar. Juices should only be fresh. Never give your guinea pig fruit juice which has preservatives, artificial colours, flavours, extra sugar, sweeteners or added vitamins. Juice must be 100% natural and fresh. Tiles/Bricks: Tiles and bricks are excellent items to place in your guinea pigs cage on a hot day. They naturally repel heat and often stay cool for prolonged periods of time. Have you ever noticed your bathroom always tends to be much cooler than the rest of the house in summer?Fans/Air conditioners: If you house your cavy indoors electrical appliances can be used to help keep their environment at an adequate and healthy temperature.Please ensure when placing a fan or air conditioner near your guinea pigs cage that the air is not blowing directly at the cage but indirectly. Direct air flow can cause drafts which may lead to URI (Upper Respiratory infections).TIP: If you do not have an air conditioner for use, a bucket of ice or damp cloth draped over a fan can cause the air to become much cooler. Please ensure if these appliances are being used all day that you invest in an electrical safety plug. Electrical safety plugs can help prevent fires from sparks flying from electrical sockets and devices. They are a wonderful investment when using these appliances near your guinea pigs!Ice cushions: Using a waterproof zip lock plastic bag or similar crush up some ice and fill up the bag. Place a towel over the top. Guinea pigs love to lay on these “ice cushions” as it keeps their stomach nice and cool.*Please make sure the ice cushion is thoroughly wrapped as guinea pigs may chew the plastic bag if accessible.TIP: Using an old pencil case with a zipper is a great way to ensure your guinea pigs can’t access any plastic bags. Some cavies are very smart and can find a way to get the plastic bag underneath a towel or clothing. Placing all plastic bags with ice inside a pencil case with a zip will ensure your guinea pig cannot access these hazardous materials. Gel Packs: Ice gel packs can be bought from Woolworths, Big W or other supermarket chain stores. The gel beads inside retain cold air when frozen and can also be heated for use in winter. We recommend placing these gel pads in an old sock and then laying them on top of your guinea pigs hidey house, pigloo or shelter. When the guinea pig enters the shelter it will be much cooler than the rest of the cage due to the cold air from the ice pack seeping downwards inside the pigloo/hidey house. Ice packs and cold water bottles can also be used in a similar method.TIP: Some pigloos do not have adequate air circulation and can get quite hot. It is advised that more holes be drilled at the top of these pigloos or on the sides. The plastic can be run under hot water to make drilling and cutting easier. Some owners will remove these pigloos altogether during the summer months and only use during winter. Hidey ice pads/cushions: Using an old pillow cage or some polar fleece you can make a hidey ice pad. Hidey ice pads are a great idea as they create a cold floor in which your cavy can lay on whilst having the benefit of a secure shelter over head. Ready made waterproof Hidey Ice Cushions will be available to sale in our online store at the end of February. Ice pack inserts will also be available to help with the summer months. If you would like to be updated when they become available please sign up for our wheekly newsletter for regular news and updates. Heat StrokeEven the most prepared cavy owner should be aware of the potentially and often fatal heat stroke and its treatment options. Heat stroke can strike quickly and actions need to be taken immediately to ensure your guinea pig survives. Always seek medical help from a competent exotics vet. If immediate medical assistance is not accessible the below tips will assist however your guinea pig may not survive heat stroke. It is up to the owner to ensure medical assistance is sought. Signs of heat strokeShould your guinea pig exhibit the following signs in hot summer weather you must ensure you seek medical assistance! Do not wait! Your veterinarian will inject fluids subcutaneously by hypodermic needle that will save your guinea pig life. Bathe and wrap your guinea pig in a towel following the below 2 steps and rush you guinea pig to a vet immediately. To help locate an exotics veterinarian please see our Recommended Vets page: •Drooling•Discolured gums•Panting•Rapid heart beat•Convulsions•Weakness in limbs•Lethargic/unable to moveFirst Aid treatments for Heat Stroke: CTFEMC - Cool T - TowelF - FluidsE - EnergyM- MonitorC - CoolAt the first signs of Heat stroke is is vitally important to cool down your guinea pigs core temperature. Place your guinea pig in a sink which is filled with Luke warm water. Test the water temperature by placing a few drops in your wrist. Make sure the water is not too high. It should only be 3 -4 cm in height. Gently wet your guinea pig with the water and gradually cover their entire body. Bathe your cavy for approximately 10 minutes. TIP: Do not immerse your guinea pig in cold water. This can lead to shock. T - TowelWet a damp towel and place around you guinea pig body after bathing. This will ensure your guinea pigs temperature remains at a lower level and will also helps aid in keeping your cavy cool. A fan slowing over your cavy will help continue to cool their body down.F - FluidsAfter your guinea pigs core temperature has cooled, it is vital they receive fluids in the form of a rehydration mix. Examples of rehydration mixes include: Vitrate (medical supply via your vet), Gatorade powder and Letade Powder. The latter can be purchased via your local supermarket. Using a 1ml syringe slowly hand feed your guinea pig a rehydration powder mixed water. If no rehydration mix is on hand syringe feed water to your guinea pig. Your cavy needs immediate fluids. If at all possible get your pig to a vet immediately! Your veterinarian will inject fluids subcutaneously by hypodermic needle.TIP: Ensure you continuously check you guinea pig as your cavies temperature can also become too low and your cavy could go into shock due to the quick temperature drop. It is vital you do each step gradually thus cooling down you guinea pigs temperature gradually. Sudden body temperature drops can lead to shock. E- EnergyA guinea pig which has suffered heat stroke will also require energy. Using a 1ml syringe gradually hand feed your cavy Glucose in the form of Nutrigel (available at your vet) or a small amount of honey mixed with 3/4 water. Feed 2ml approx every hour until your guinea pig is more responsive. M- MonitorEnsure you monitor your guinea pig closely. Breathing - Ensure breathing becomes less rapid, panting ceases. Standing - Can you guinea pig stand? The above treatment should ensure your guinea pig can stand gradually within 2 hours. Ensure your guinea pig can recover ins a quiet, cool, dark area. A guinea pig is often traumatized by treatment, heat, and a drop in body temperature hence it is important to minimise stress as much as possible. Continue to hand feed your guinea pig fluids. Critical Care TM via oxbow is a great tool to help slowly get your guinea pigs hind gut moving and the process of eating start again. Mix in with plenty of water to mate a runny porridge consistency and hand feed slowly. Should you guinea pig be unresponsive within 24 hours you MUST seek medical attention.
KEEPING WARM IN WINTERWith 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 illnesses. 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 Burgess Excel Guinea Pig Nuggets with Mint 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 WinterThe 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 hereto 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, see our storeHot 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 become present. 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 healthWeight 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 Page. 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 CareMany 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.