Guinea Pig Pregnancy
Have you just adopted a new guinea pig or think your guinea pig may be pregnant? Then this is the article for you! Here we will go through everything you need to know about Guinea pig pregnancy.
HELP! How do I know if my guinea pig is pregnant?
Firstly, guinea pigs are very prolific breeders, so if your sow has come into contact with an entire boar, then chances are she is most likely pregnant. Unfortunately many pet shops accidentally house male and female guinea pigs together so sometimes sows can already be pregnant before you bring them home.
The gestation of guinea pigs (the time between mating and giving birth), is 63 to 70 days. Generally the smaller the litter, the longer the gestation period. From about mid-way through gestation, you will start to notice weight gain, and a larger, more distended abdomen. Towards the later stages of pregnancy you will often be able to feel the foetus' moving around inside.
Your cavy-savvy vet will be able to perform an ultrasound to confirm pregnancy. Depending on the stage of pregnancy, they will normally see the embryonic vesicle, the heartbeat, or formation of the skeleton.
Confirming numbers of babies (and why this is important):
It is super useful to know how many babies you are expecting in case there are any complications during the birthing process. For example if you know your sow is expecting 4 babies, however has only given birth to 3, you know there is still another one to come, which may be in distress or require assistance. It is best to get this done at your vet about 1 week prior to the expected birthing date as by this time the skeletons will be formed enough to clearly see on the radiograph.
Diet during Pregnancy:
During gestation and lactation, sows have much higher energy needs when compared to normal adult guinea pigs. She will be using a lot of her energy and nutrient stores to go towards growing the babies and producing milk, and therefore needs a higher caloric content in her diet. Vitamin C and calcium are two of the most important nutrients that are required at increased levels during pregnancy.
It is recommended to feed your sow an unlimited supply of hay. Generally alfalfa or lucerne hay is not recommended for adult guinea pigs, however is a great addition to the diet of pregnant sows and young guinea pigs due to the high calcium content.
It is also recommended to feed a good quality pellet rich in Vitamin C, such as Burgess, Oxbow or Bunny Nature. Guinea pigs also get a large portion of their daily vitamin C requirements through a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. Some vegetables that have a high vitamin C content include red capsicum, broccoli, parsley and kale. You can learn more about Vitamin C and guinea pigs here.
Parturition usually takes between 10 and 30 minutes in total, and the average time between pups is between 1 and 15 minutes. The average number of pups per litter varies, but most commonly between 2 and 6 pups. The sow will also pass a placenta for each pup, which will resemble a small, red, squishy circle (sometimes the sow will eat the placentas, which is completely normal).
When to be concerned
Due to guinea pig pups being quite large and well developed compared to other rodents and small mammals, there is an increased risk of problems occurring during the birth which puts both mum and pups at risk.
It is always a good idea to be prepared and have a cavy-savvy vet on standby in case emergency treatment or a caesarean is needed. If you notice your sow unproductively straining, or it has been more than 15 minutes between pups, you should contact your local veterinarian for further advice.
There is an increased risk of dystocia with single pup litters, first time litters, and particularly first time litters if the sow is over 1 year old due to the fusion of the pelvic synthesis.
Guinea pigs are born fully furred, with their eyes open, and resemble a miniature version of their parents - weighing only 80grams! They are also born with teeth, and are able to eat just hours after birth. They will also suckle from the sow until weaning.
We recommend weighing your pups regularly to ensure they are gaining weight appropriately. Pups are able to be weaned from 3 weeks old - it is at this time the male pups should be separated from his mother and sisters to prevent any unwanted pregnancies.