Hypothermia in guinea pigs - can guinea pigs freeze to death?

Can Guinea Pigs Die from Cold Temperatures? Hypothermia

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If you have a guinea pig, it’s essential to understand the risks of hypothermia, which can occur if your pet gets too cold, especially if you live in cold areas. Hypothermia in guinea pigs is a potentially serious condition which can lead to death if not treated promptly. Therefore, it’s crucial to understand the warning signs, potential causes of hypothermia in guinea pigs and what to do.

I lost one of my beloved guinea pigs, Popcorn, from a bladder stone surgery that would’ve been successful if he hadn’t developed hypothermia which caused complications (you can see what happened in this video) So this article is coming from my heart, and by the end, you’ll know that hypothermia doesn’t just develop when your guinea pig is in cold temperatures.

Can guinea pigs have hypothermia?

Yes, unfortunately, hypothermia in guinea pigs is not uncommon. If the temperature drops below 60°F or 15°C, there is a risk that your guinea pig may begin to experience hypothermia. However, the exact temperature threshold for hypothermia can vary depending on factors such as age, health, and breed.

What guinea pigs are more likely to have hypothermia?

Although all guinea pigs can have the risk of getting hypothermia in cold weather, young and elder guinea pigs have a higher risk of hypothermia. Piggies who are smaller in size, weak, sick, or just had surgery are at a higher risk as well.

Can guinea pigs freeze to death?

Yes, Guinea pigs are sensitive to low temperatures and can develop hypothermia and even freeze to death if they are exposed to cold temperatures if they are not kept warm.

guinea pig hypothermia

Guinea Pig Hypothermia Causes

The cause of hypothermia in all humans and animals is due to low body temperature. And the most common cause is, of course, being exposed to cold temperatures.

However, there is more than one way that can result in that. Here are some causes of hypothermia in guinea pigs.

1. Exposure to cold or wet temperatures

This is one of the most common causes of hypothermia in guinea pigs because your body temperature decreases naturally when the environment you’re in is cold. That’s why it’s really important to keep your guinea pig warm in the winter.

The worst part even though guinea pigs can handle cold temperatures better than heat, unfortunately, guinea pigs can get hypothermia in as little as a few minutes.

A wet environment adds even more damage and risk of hypothermia too, so make sure your piggies are indoors and dry during winter.

water bottle for guinea pigs

2. Not eating or drinking

In certain cases, guinea pigs can be susceptible to hypothermia if they do not eat or drink. This unfortunate situation occurred with my guinea pig named Popcorn. When a guinea pig fails to consume food, their body lacks the necessary calories and energy to maintain warmth. Consequently, their body temperature decreases, leading to hypothermia.

This can be a hazardous situation because the owners may not be aware of their body temperature dropping. Adding to that, the solution to hypothermia is to slowly warm up your guinea pig. But the average body temperature of a guinea pig is 99 to 103 Fahrenheit or 37 to 39.5 Celcius. To keep a guinea pig who has hypothermia warm, the temperature of their environment should be its body temperature. And no one sets their home temperature that high.

3. Anesthesia

there's a risk of hypothermia in guinea pigs in Anesthesia

It’s important to know that anesthesia can cause hypothermia in guinea pigs. Although anesthesia is generally safe, if your guinea pig is already very sick, there might be a risk of hypothermia. This is because the drugs can affect your piggy’s temperature control. If your vet thinks that this may be a problem, they will let you know.

Surgeries where cavities are opened, like abdominal surgery, are more prone to cause hypothermia. Some signs include a low body temperature, lethargy, decreased cardiac function, and prolonged anesthetic recovery.

Fortunately, if a guinea pig has hypothermia because of anesthesia and surgery, your vet will most likely be resent and start the treatment immediately. That’s why after surgeries, the guinea pigs are closely monitored for some time before sending them back to your home.

If you have any concerns or questions, it’s best to discuss this with your vet, because they will address any complications there might be in surgeries.

4. Illness

Many conditions and illnesses in guinea pigs, such as Addison’s disease, can result in their body temperature dropping, and because your piggy can’t shiver or move to increase their body temperature when they’re sleeping, they would be at risk of hypothermia if they aren’t kept warm.

Guinea Pig Hypothermia Symptoms

When guinea pigs get chilly, they might shiver, feel a bit sluggish, and their ears can get pretty cold. When their body temperature is below 37.9°C or 100°F, the guinea pig has hypothermia. As things get cooler, you might notice their heart rate slowing down a bit, and they could have trouble catching their breath. They might start hunching up, trying to stay warm and comfy.

If it gets really cold, they could go unconscious, get stiff muscles, and even have trouble breathing. In those cases, it’s serious – they need warm-up time and a vet ASAP.

Here’s a more thorough breakdown of the stages of hypothermia in guinea pigs:

guinea pig body temperature chart

Mild Hypothermia

  • Shivering – like humans, shivering is a natural response for guinea pigs to warm up their bodies.
  • Lethargy – lack of energy, and enthusiasm, and looks sleepy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Cold ears, nose and feet – these areas of your guinea pig’s body are not covered with fur and are not kept warm as securely

Moderate Hypothermia

  • Decreased heart rate – their heart rate may become weaker and slower
  • Low body temperature – this is the key sign of hypothermia and it happens in all stages.
  • Difficulty breathing – a guinea pig’s breath will start to become shallow
  • Hunched posture – when you’re freezing, you naturally curl yourself up like a ball. This is what a guinea pig is doing
  • Fur standing on end – this is an attempt to insulate their body

Severe Hypothermia:

  • Stiff muscles
  • Extremely slow or absent breathing
  • Loss of consciousness – at this stage, your guinea pig may slip into a coma and even die

Sad Fact

According to the National Library of Medicine, If a guinea pig is experiencing hypothermia, its chances of passing away within a week are three times greater than that of a guinea pig not facing hypothermia. Additionally, for every 0.55°C decrease in rectal temperature, the odds of death increase by 1.6 times.

Guinea Pig Hypothermia Treatment

Hypothermia is a very serious condition that can cause death in your pet, and if you suspect your guinea pig is experiencing hypothermia, it’s important to take action immediately and carefully.

First, bring them to a warmer environment and remove them from the cold but DO NOT WARM YOUR GUINEA PIG UP QUICKLY.

Slowly warm them up by wrapping your piggy in warm blankets or towels (make sure they are comfortable and can still breathe easily). This is also why having a first aid kit for your guinea pig is so important. Slowly increase the temperature around your guinea pig by slowly turning on the heat.

If your piggy can drink, try giving them some lukewarm (not hot) water. But don’t force them if they refuse.

If your guinea pig is wet, gently towel-dry them. Wet fur worsens the effects of hypothermia, so ensuring they are dry is crucial. However, be gentle to avoid causing stress.

Take your guinea pig to the vet immediately – this is an emergency. Even if your guinea pig is all warmed up and seems to be fine, hypothermia is a serious condition and a vet checkup can make the difference between life and death.

Guinea Pig Hypothermia Prevention

There are many ways to keep your guinea pig warm in cold temperatures to prevent hypothermia. Moving your guinea pigs indoors, turning on the heat, insulating places where wind can seep in, and adding more hay to your Guinea pigs’ habitat helps. 

I went over 27 tips to keep your guinea pig warm and cozy in the winter months, but here is a vague summary: 

  • Move them indoors and to a warm place 
  • Give your guinea pigs more hay and pellets
  • Insulate places where wind can peek through
  • Use water bottle covers to prevent the water from freezing 
  • Have a heater nearby
  • Add more bedding or use winter fleece liners
  • Place a thermometer in your guinea pigs’ area

Frequently Asked Questions about Hypothermia in guinea pigs

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