What to Do for an Overheated Guinea Pig

Kitty has been around animals since she was a little girl. She lived on a farm for over fifteen years. She likes writing about animals.

Guinea Pigs have one major problem that new guinea pig owners might not know about—they can get overheated very easily.

Signs and Symptoms of an Overheating Guinea Pig:

  • Guinea pig goes "limp", or is laying down/lethargic
  • Breathing becomes rapid, extremely slowed down or very shallow
  • Heart-rate is increased
  • Eyes are fixed or closed
  • Drooling or slobbering excessively

If you notice these signs in your guinea pig, it is likely overheated and will require immediate care.

How to Care for an Overheated Guinea Pig

  1. Remove them from the heat source.
  2. Get them to a cool place.
  3. Cool them down.
  4. Hydrate them.
  5. Take them to the vet as soon as you can.

1. Remove Your Guinea Pig From the Heat Source

If your guinea pig has been in a hot place and is exhibiting one or more of the above symptoms, move them out of the heat immediately and continue to step two.

2. Get Them To a Cool Place Immediately

If your guinea pig is overheating, the first and most necessary thing to do is to remove them from the heat.

Get them to a cool place immediately:

  • If they were outside, bring them into the AC indoors.
  • If you can't go inside, get them into the shade.
  • If they were in an exercise ball or a cage of any kind, pull them out of it.

3. Cool Them Down ASAP!

The next thing you'll want to do is to cool their body down with cool water. Be careful not to soak them in cold water as this could shock their system.

You'll want to gradually cool them down by massaging droplets of water into their fur and skin. You'll also want to wet some old washcloths or towels with cool water, wring the extra water out, and then wrap your guinea pig in the cool, wet towels.

These techniques will work to cool down their body without shocking their system and putting them into a worse state than what they're already in.

Once you've removed them from the source of heat and used moist cloths to cool them down, you can also put them under a fan. Put the fan on medium to high and make sure it's blowing directly on them. This will not hurt them; it will aid in cooling down their body temperature.

4. Hydrate Your Guinea Pig

In the midst of cooling your guinea pig down after he's overheated, you'll want to also think about re-hydrating him. When a guinea pig is overheated, his body's water supply becomes depleted so replacing it is an important part of keeping him/her from getting too dehydrated and going into shock.

You can hydrate your guinea pig by immediately doing the following:

  • Offering your guinea pig his water bottle
  • Feeding him/her water via an eyedropper or medicine dropper (if he/she is unable to drink on his/her own).
  • Offering veggies that have high water content, i.e. cucumber, iceberg lettuce, melon.

5. Take Your Guinea Pig to the Vet ASAP

So you've rehydrated and cooled down your guinea pig, but he still isn't acting like himself. Perhaps he is acting tired, not moving around a lot and/or not eating or drinking on his own. Now is the time to think about taking him to the veterinarian's office. Sometimes this is a difficult thing if the incident occurs over a weekend, but remember: many towns/cities have emergency vet hospitals for incidents such as these. So get on google and look up a nearby vet hospital!

It is important that no matter your guinea pig's condition after the overheating episode that he or she is taken to the vet's office to be looked over. Often, if the guinea pig is thought to have a chance of survival, your vet will provide the guinea pig with fluids to rehydrate him. He might also provide something for any pain if he feels it is necessary for your guinea pig.

Even if your guinea pig snapped out of the overheating quickly, it is always smart to take him to the vet just to be sure.

Your vet will probably recommend that you monitor your guinea pig's recovery over the next 24–48 hours. This might require feeding your guinea pig a specific type of powdered food (provided by your vet) from an eyedropper until your guinea pig is eating on his/her own again. You might also want to think about monitoring your guinea pig's behavior. Is he going to the bathroom regularly? Is he drinking water on his own? Is he walking around without problems or is he still lethargic?

If your guinea pig's behaviors don't improve within 24–48 hours after overheating, you might want to consider calling your vet again.

Ways to Prevent Guinea Pigs from Overheating

Now that you are sadly aware that guinea pigs can overheat easily, is this something that can be prevented in the future? Can we prevent our darling pets from getting into this predicament? Yes, we can!

How to Prevent Overheating in Guinea Pigs

  1. Don't leave your guinea pig unattended in an exercise ball of any kind.
  2. Don't put your guinea pig outside or in a room that's temperature is over 78 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. Be sure to keep your guinea pig hydrated during the summer months and if taking him outside is necessary.
  4. Keep him/her in the shade when outside, even on a cooler day.

Participate in a poll:

© 2014 Kitty Fields

Mackenzie Sage Wright on April 15, 2014:

Awww, poor babies. We live in the subtropics so we have to be very vigilant when we would let our cavi bask outside on the porch for a while, only in early morning hours for a couple of hours. Unfortunately our little guy recently died-- old age. I guess the best way to go if you gotta go. His boy was heartbroken but we're thinking of getting another one. This is good advice to keep in mind. Never know.

denden mangubat from liloan, cebu, philippines on April 08, 2014:

wow they are so cute but sensitive

Michelle Liew from Singapore on April 06, 2014:

This is so useful!!! Will forward to all the pet lovers out there.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on March 30, 2014:

I don't have guinea pig but enjoyed reading your valuable tips here. A useful hub indeed.

Eiddwen from Wales on March 29, 2014:

many years ago we kept Guinea Pigs and they were delightful. This very interesting read is also so useful.

Voting up and sharing.


Danette Watt from Illinois on March 29, 2014:

This hub brought back memories of the guinea pigs we had when my kids were growing up. We got a pair when our older son was about 8 and the last of the line didn't die out until he had graduated from High school! Early on, we bred them and sold them to a local pet store. They were very cute, especially when they were young. They were always very healthy until toward the end of the 10 year span we had them. Then the remaining few we had got some sort of mange-like disease. I ended up treating them with a flea treatment for small dogs. It worked.

Kitty Fields (author) from Summerland on March 29, 2014:

heidi - Yes, I'm sure they can get overheated too! Thanks for posting. :)

Kitty Fields (author) from Summerland on March 29, 2014:

MysticMoonlight - Please be careful with them outside, especially in direct sunlight. Ours almost died from a heat stroke because we had her in an exercise ball outside in only 75 degree weather! I learned these things by experience, unfortunately. :) Congrats, though. Guinea Pigs are fun!

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on March 28, 2014:

I can relate to the overheating issue with my dogs. When it's over 70 some outside, they really suffer. Usually they just want a cool surface like a tile floor. Thanks for sharing your tips with us pet lovers!

MysticMoonlight on March 28, 2014:

How handy this is, Kitty. Perfect timing, my daughter recently received a guinea pig and we were not aware of them being heat sensitive and prone to over heating. So glad you posted this! With Spring here and Summer on it's way, we will be outdoors with our pig so this information is most welcome and helpful!

Kitty Fields (author) from Summerland on March 28, 2014:

Thank you! Unfortunately I learned by experience. But fortunately, our guinea pig survived and is still happy and healthy!

FlourishAnyway from USA on March 28, 2014:

How cute these fellas are! I don't have one but I enjoyed the care and detail that you put into your hub on this important topic. I am pinning this to my Animals board, as there are some of my followers who are guinea pig lovers.

Does My Guinea Pig Need A Heat Lamp?

There are some cases where your guinea pigs may need a heat lamp and there are some cases where they won’t.

So for example, if your guinea pigs are kept in temperatures that are above 60 degrees Fahrenheit or 16 degrees Celsius then they won’t really need a heat lamp.

Above that temperature, they will be able to do a good job of keeping themselves naturally warm all by themselves.

That means that your guinea pigs won’t need any extra assistance on your part when they’re kept in an area above that temperature.

They’ll be able to easily keep themselves warm by huddling with each other and also by using other things in their cage that can keep them warm like a blanket.

But it’s possible that you may need a heat lamp if your guinea pigs are kept in temperatures that go well below 60 degrees Fahrenheit or 16 degrees Celsius consistently.

They won’t do too well if the temperature gets that low and in some cases, they can even get hypothermia if they’re left too cold for too long.

The heat provided by other guinea pigs and blankets won’t be enough to keep them warm if the temperature drops that low.

This is especially the case during the night time when it starts out cold and then gets colder throughout the night.

So if you know that they’re in a situation that’s too cold for them then it might be time to start thinking about getting a heat lamp for your guinea pigs or at least one of the alternatives that you can use to help keep them warm.

Can You Cut A Guinea Pig’s Hair Yourself?

Guinea pig’s hair can grow very quickly and sometimes you’d rather cut it yourself instead of taking them to a groomer.

You can cut your guinea pig’s hair yourself, as long as you know how to do it well.

You should make sure you’re paying a lot of attention when cutting the hair of these little pets because you can easily hurt them if you’re not being careful.

In fact, it’s highly recommended that an adult does the job, as opposed to persons below 12 years old.

The chances of risk are higher when a child is cutting the hair of a guinea pig compared to an adult.

If you are able to cut their hair not too close to the skin, then you are able to do it yourself.

Again, as you do the trimming, it’s important that you avoid coming too close to the eyes to avoid cutting them accidentally.

The bottom line here is that cutting the hair of a guinea pig is a sensitive exercise that you should do with a lot of care, using the right equipment.

Should I Stop Them From Fighting?

Absolutely. Fighting among social animals is natural behavior, and can be a healthy way for them to establish a social hierarchy.

However, fighting should not be encouraged or even left to run its course. It is a means of communication for them, but one that can potentially lead to later issues such as injury or stressed piggies.

How Can I Deal With Fighting Guinea Pigs?

The first step is to break it up! Communication or not, fighting brings physical risks with it. And not only for your Guinea Pigs!

When breaking up a Guinea Pig fight, remember that they are in a different state of mind. Even if they would normally never bite you, during a fight they can lash out at anything that comes neas.

This means you should wear protection such as oven mitts. Be gentle with your piggy and simply place it away from the other contendant.

A key point about breaking up the fight is that you should try to remove the aggressor first. They are proving themself the danger in this scenario. Removing the non-aggressor piggy might just open the door for a final quick sneak attack from the aggressor.

Check for Damage

Before moving on, be sure to check for any serious marks from the fight!

If you see any damage to either Guinea Pig, it is important to deal with that first. Treat their wounds or take them to a vet who knows their business.

Once Separated and Safe, Find the Source of the Fight

This might be easier said than done. But look at the clues.

  • Were they eating?
  • Were they arguing over a toy?
  • Are they out of food or water?
  • Are either of their huts flipped over?
  • Any miscellaneous clues?

Of course, there are plenty of other reasons for a fight, but the point remains: if your Guinea Pigs are fighting, there is a REASON. They don’t do it randomly, and once the reason is identified, it can be dealt with.

Guinea Pig Illness Warning Signs

An Ounce of Prevention…

A cavy’s health can deteriorate very quickly. By the time problems become apparent, illnesses may be life-threatening. Find a cavy-knowledgeable exotics vet soon after adopting a guinea pig so you know whom to contact in an emergency. Prompt, competent veterinary care is crucial to saving the life of a sick cavy. When caught early, most illnesses can be cured fairly easily with a course of antibiotics safe for cavies.

A responsible guardian will learn the warning signs of illness and be willing to seek veterinary care when necessary. See a vet immediately if your cavy shows any of these signs:

  • Refusal to eat or drink
  • Labored breathing, wheezing
  • Crusty eyes, sneezing
  • Rough or puffed-up coat
  • Dull and/or receding eyes
  • Lethargy, hunched posture
  • Drooling
  • Watery diarrhea
  • Blood in urine
  • Limping
  • Hair loss, excessive scratching
  • Loss of balance
  • Any behavior unusual for your pig, e.g. facing a corner and being slow to respond

To help monitor health, be sure to weigh your cavy weekly. A two- or three-ounce loss may indicate the onset of a problem. If your cavy has lost four or more ounces, see a vet immediately. A guinea pig who is not eating is seriously ill and must be seen by a vet for treatment and must be hand-fed. Be observant!

Your vet should know that some medications that disrupt the intestinal flora, like penicillins, are deadly to cavies. Do not allow your vet to prescribe Amoxicillin! If your pet is prescribed antibiotics, ask how quickly the medication should take effect. If your cavy does poorly on a particular antibiotic and stops eating, call your vet to discuss changing antibiotics.

Lyn Zantow maintains an informational cavy care website and active message board at www.guinealynx.info. She lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, with her two guinea pigs, Nina and Snowflake.

Reprinted from ASPCA Animal Watch, Spring 2004 Vol. 24, No. 1, with permission from The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, 424 East 92nd Street, New York, NY 10128-6804

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