Long summer days may make you think of sunshine, beach trips and barbecues, but as temperatures rise it’s also important to spare a thought for our pets. While the dangers of walking dogs on sunny days are widely known, and we all know that you should never leave dogs in hot cars, what about our smaller friends? If you are pet parent to a guinea pig, read on for all you need to know about caring for these small pets in summer.
Holiday care for guinea pigs
First things first, if you are planning some quality time away, whether in a far off holiday destination or a bit closer to home, make sure you plan holiday care for your guinea pig. Maybe you have a friend or neighbour who can care for your piggie? Or how about a guinea pig hotel? Whichever is right for you and your pal, book in well in advance to avoid any last minute panic!
Do guinea pigs overheat in the summer?
Guinea pigs can overheat in the summer. In fact, they are more susceptible to heat stress than many other animals. Native to South America you might think that these cute creatures are well suited to warmer climates. However, in the wild they tend to live in crevices and burrows, the perfect spots for keeping cool. Our pet guinea pigs can be at risk of heat stroke at temperatures of 24oc or even lower.
Signs of heat stress in guinea pigs
It is important to know the signs of heat stress in guinea pigs and to call your vet immediately if you think that your four-legged friend is suffering in the heat. As prey animals, guinea pigs are experts at hiding signs of illness, and they are often seriously ill by the time they start to show signs of being unwell. Signs that your guinea pig may be suffering from heat stress include:
- Rapid breathing
Heat stress is very serious in guinea pigs. It can be fatal and is a medical emergency. Prompt veterinary treatment will give your pet the best chance of recovery.
How to keep guinea pigs cool in hot weather
As is often the case, prevention is better than cure and knowing how to keep guinea pigs cool in hot weather is the name of the game! Read on for our top tips to keep your piggie cool as a cucumber.
Ten top tips to keep guinea pigs cool in summer
- Move your guinea pig hutch to somewhere cool
Moving your guinea pig hutch to somewhere shady is a priority. If there is no natural shade, a garden parasol can fit the bill just as well. Whichever option you use, check regularly to make sure that the hutch stays in the shade as the sun changes direction. On hot days, you may find that indoors is the coolest place. Remember to close the curtains and keep your guinea’s living quarters out of direct sunlight. And when can guinea pigs go outside again? It’s best to be cautious with these sensitive souls and wait until temperatures have cooled down.
- Make sure your guinea pig has a cooling breeze
A cool breeze is just the ticket for us on a hot summer day, so make sure your guinea pig benefits too. Position the hutch to take full advantage of natural air flow and if the weather isn’t obliging why not get your guinea pig a fan?
- Offer cool treats
Feeding tasty snacks straight from the fridge will make you popular with your pet. A handful of cold leafy greens especially if they have been soaked in icy water, or a small piece of carrot will always be a winner. Remember to feed these in moderation though to avoid upset tums!
- Provide plenty of fresh water
Make sure that your guinea pig has access to plenty of fresh water. Providing an extra water bowl or drinking bottle is a good idea to encourage them to drink and make sure you four-legged friend doesn’t run out. Why not pop in a couple of ice cubes to keep water cooler for longer?
- Buy a cooling mat
Available from most pet stores, cooling mats filled with non-toxic cooling gel are perfect for your piggie pals. Make sure you choose one that is suitable for small pets!
- Make DIY ice packs
Keeping pets cool doesn’t need to be expensive. A frozen water bottle wrapped in a towel makes a great DIY ice pack. Your pet will soon learn to lie against it when they start to feel too warm. Or why not keep a ceramic tile or slate in the fridge, ready to get out on those warmer days and just perfect for your pal to lie on for a cooling forty winks. Don’t leave tiles in direct sun though, as they can quickly become hot.
- Groom your guinea pig
A good groom to remove excess hair and any matted fur will help keep your piggie comfortable. This is particularly important for long-haired breeds. Don’t forget that regular grooming should carry on all year round to keep your friend in tip-top condition.
- Wipe your guinea pig with a damp cloth
A gentle wipe down with a damp cloth can help to keep your guinea pig’s temperature down. Giving your pet a cold bath on the other hand is not a good idea; they are likely to find it very stressful and could even go into shock.
- Give your guinea pig a tunnel to hide in
Providing your piggie pal with a tunnel can be a good choice, but make sure it’s not made from a heat-absorbing material. Cardboard boxes or even just hay can be great hidey-holes but avoid plastic tunnels as they can quickly become super-hot.
- And finally……remember to keep an eye out for flies
While not strictly a cooling tip, no discussion about hot weather and guinea pigs is complete without a mention of flies. These pesky insects love to lay their eggs anywhere warm and smelly, such as a mucky guinea pig bottom. In warm weather newly laid eggs can hatch into maggots in as little as a few hours and these gruesome creatures then start to munch away on guinea pig flesh. This condition is known as fly strike. It is incredibly painful and is fatal without emergency treatment. To make sure your guinea pig stays safe, keep their living quarters spick and span and check their bottom twice a day, cleaning it if necessary.
So that’s our top tips for keeping your guinea pig cool in summer. For more great information on caring for guinea pigs in summer have a read of Flystrike in guinea pigs and rabbits next. Be sure to follow our Instagram and Facebook pages.