Heat Stoke in Guinea Pigs - Causes, Signs, Treatment, Prevention

Heat Stoke in Guinea Pigs – Signs, Treatment, Prevention

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Summer’s here, and it’s important to remember that our guinea pigs are quite sensitive to heat. Unfortunately, this makes them prone to heat stroke, which can be serious if not caught early. In this article, we’ll dive into everything you need to know about heatstroke in guinea pigs: what is it, how to spot the signs, what to do if your piggy has heatstroke, some facts about it, and, most importantly, how to prevent it in the first place.

So, let’s get started and make sure our piggies stay cool and comfy all summer long!

Heat Stroke in Guinea Pigs

A heat stroke happens when your guinea pig’s heat production exceeds their heat loss, leading to a high body temperature. In other words, heat stroke is when your guinea pig’s body temperature is too high, often because they’re in a hot environment. 

The medical term for it is hyperthermia. Unlike hypothermia, which is when the body temperature is too low. 

Heat Stress vs Heat Exhaustion vs Heat Stroke: What’s the Difference?

Before we dive into heat stroke in guinea pigs, it’s important to know the difference between heat stress, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. I was confused when I was researching too, and this information can help us humans too.

Heat stress is the body’s response to heat exposure, which can range from mild to severe discomfort like fatigue and heavy sweating.

Heat exhaustion is a more serious condition than heat stress and results from excessive loss of water and salt through sweating. At this point, you would start to feel dizzy and nauseous.

Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition where the body’s temperature regulation fails, leading to a dangerously high core temperature (for humans, it’s above 104°F or 40°C). In this stage, confusion and loss of consciousness set in.

In summary, if we’re ranking them by severity, heat stress is mild to medium, heat exhaustion is serious, and heat stroke is life and death.

You don’t want any of the stages to happen to you or your guinea pig. But in this article, we’ll sometimes be clumping them together for easier understanding at certain parts.

Heat Stoke in Guinea Pigs - Causes, Signs, Treatment, Prevention

How common is heat stroke in guinea pigs?

Unfortunately, as global warming becomes more severe and heat waves are more intense and frequent, there has been a rise in reported cases of heat stroke in all animals. 

Even though heat stroke in guinea pigs is not extremely common, there’s a significant risk that they can have it in hot temperatures

There’s data from a study in the Small Animal Veterinary Surveillance Network’ (SAVNET) that shows the overall reported cases of heat stroke in guinea pigs and other animals are much higher.

That’s because of the lack of knowledge and awareness of the potential risks and triggers of heat-related illnesses.

But that’s why you’re here, right?

What guinea pigs are more prone to heat stroke?

Sick, weak or pregnant guinea pigs are at a higher risk of having a heat stroke. Guinea pigs who have thick fur or are overweight are at a higher risk too.

That’s why it’s encouraged to trim your guinea pig’s fur before or during summer, especially if your guinea pig has long hair.

Heat Stoke in Guinea Pigs - Causes, Signs, Treatment, Prevention

What temperature is too hot for a guinea pig?

When the temperature is too hot, your guinea pig will be at risk of heat stress and heat stroke. Heat stress can occur at temperatures as low as 24°C (75°F). However, it is most commonly seen at temperatures above 28°C (82°F).

That being said, even if the temperature is 23°C, your guinea pig can still have heat stress if there’s a lot of direct sunlight.

How do I know if my guinea pig has a heat stroke?

The symptoms of heat stroke in guinea pigs are similar to humans, but it’s harder to notice because they can’t speak and they are known for hiding any signs of illness.

That’s because they’re prey animals. However, here are some signs you should keep an eye out for.

  • Heavy or rapid breathing
  • Restlessness or lethargy
  • Not eating
  • Open mouth breathing or panting
  • Drooling
  • Lying outstretched on the enclosure floor, using on its side
  • Confusion
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Death

The signs of heat stress, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are subtle at the beginning. So if you see your guinea pig seems slower and drowsy, that could be the first sign of overheating.

Heat Stoke in Guinea Pigs - Causes, Signs, Treatment, Prevention

What are the effects of heat stroke in guinea pigs?

Heat stroke is a very serious condition that needs to be treated immediately. There can be long-term and permanent effects, even death.

A study done by the University in Australia shows that newborn baby guinea pigs have a smaller brain weight if their pregnant mothers are exposed to hot temperatures.

Different mother guinea pigs were exposed to an environmental temperature of 42°C for 1 hr during their 20-24 day of pregnancy.

They found that when the temperature went above 41.5°C, brain growth slowed down significantly. For each 1°C rise above this temperature, brain weight dropped by about 0.42 grams.

For reference, the average brain weight of a guinea pig is about 5.5 grams.

Guinea Pig Heat Stroke Treatment

If you notice signs of heat stress or heat stroke in your guinea pig, you have to act quickly to prevent its condition from getting worse. Here’s what you should do:

  • Take your guinea pig away from the source of the heat. If they are outside, take them inside immediately
  • Wrap the guinea pig in a cool towel (dry towel that was previously in the refrigerator). Wrap only the body and feet, not the head. DO NOT apply ice-cold water because this can cause hypothermia.
  • Offer cold water from a syringe
  • A cool water bath can help lower their body temperature, but ONLY if a bath won’t stress out your piggy
  • Ensure your pet is breathing
  • Turn the air conditioning or house fan on if you haven’t already
  • Seek veterinary attention immediately.
  • Follow the tips on how to keep your guinea pig cool in hot weather

Many Guinea pigs with heat stroke are also dehydrated and have low blood sugar levels. So after your guinea pig has cooled down a bit, try offering a high-calorie, liquid herbivore supplement like Critical Care

Heat Stoke in Guinea Pigs - Causes, Signs, Treatment, Prevention

How long does it take for a guinea pig to recover from heat stroke?

The time it takes for a guinea pig to recover from heat stroke heavily depends on the severity and duration of their condition.

Usually in mild cases, a guinea pig can recover in about 24-48 hours from a heat stroke.

In most severe cases, a guinea pig can die or have long-term impacts like lasting organ damage, particularly the brain, heart, and kidneys. These organs might not function as well as they used to, leading to ongoing health problems.

Besides that, these potato-shaped furballs could become less active and have a reduced lifespan after having a severe case of heat stroke too.

How to prevent heat stroke in guinea pigs

Once a guinea pig has had a heat stroke, their chances of having another one increase. So it’s even more crucial to do everything we can to prevent a heat stroke, and that is to keep the temperature cool. 

I specifically wrote an article on how to keep your guinea pigs cool in hot temperatures, and it has many more tips and tricks. But here are some things you can do:

Remember to take the steps to keep your guinea pigs cool before the heat waves strike and monitor the temperatures in and around your guinea pig’s habitat.

Heat Stoke in Guinea Pigs - Causes, Signs, Treatment, Prevention

Conclusion

Heat stroke is a critical condition that can have devastating and long-lasting effects on guinea pigs, even after treatment.

Make sure to provide a cool environment, lots of fresh, clean water, and monitoring for signs of overheating to protect your guinea pig. 

For more guinea pig tips, resources, facts, memes and more, join our free newsletter, Potato Piggies Post. You’ll get these tips and more in your inbox two times a month.

So let’s do everything to keep our guinea pigs comfortable and cool, and I hope you have a wonderful summer!

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