A guinea pig pregnancy is stressful for both the pet and owner.
It is extra stressful for new guinea pig owners who have not dealt with a guinea pig pregnancy before.
With stories of other rodent species eating their young, guinea pig owners often wonder if it is safe for the father guinea pig to be around the baby guinea pigs.
As a general rule, male guinea pigs are allowed to meet their babies briefly, but since the babies are with the mother most of the time, you must put the father into a different enclosure. However, this separation is not due to the fear of the father eating the babies but rather for the mother’s safety.
Guinea pig families are complicated, but they don’t have to be.
This article will provide you with all of the information about guinea pig birth, including when to separate the family from one another and what to do following the birth of new guinea pups.
Table of Contents
Removing Guinea Pigs After Birth
Separating the Father From the Mother
The pregnancy of a female guinea pig typically lasts anywhere from 59 to 72 days.
When it is almost time for the sow to give birth, the boar needs to be separated from them.
A male guinea pig can impregnate a female in as little as 12 hours after giving birth.
This is very hard on the sow’s body and is quite dangerous for her.
There is no consequence to the boar not being around, as the sow does all of the work in raising the pups.
Separating the Father From the Pups
While it is safe for the father to meet the babies, it should only be done away from the mother for the reasons stated above.
This is tricky because the pups need to be with their mother for the majority of the time.
You should not allow the female pups to be around their father once they reach 3 weeks of age.
Once the females reach this age, they are able to be impregnated, and this is very hazardous to their health.
In the wild, male guinea pigs are known to eat their young if there is a food shortage.
However, this should not be a problem in captivity as long as you make sure everyone is well-fed.
And it’s possible the mother may do the same but for other reasons.
Read our post on guinea pig cannibalism to learn more about this behavior.
Separating the Guinea Pig Family From One Another
When they are four weeks old, it is very important to separate all of the male guinea pigs from the females.
The young males will also attempt to mate with their mother.
It is best to have a separate guinea pig cage for males and females.
Be sure to provide large enough enclosures for the animals to live together comfortably.
Even guinea pigs of the same sex will become aggressive if they are kept in cramped quarters.
The males are usually more aggressive than the females, but they should all be closely monitored to ensure they are getting along.
Caring for the Pups
Newborn guinea pigs are very tiny, weighing around 3.5 ounces.
Despite their small size, the pups are born with hair, and they can see and run.
They will nurse from their mother until they are around 3 weeks old, but they can start eating solid food, such as moistened pellets, just a couple of days after being born.
After gaining enough weight, usually when they reach 6 ounces, the pups will stop nursing from their mother.
At this point, the pups can eat the same food as their parents.
When the pups are around 2 or 3 weeks of age, it is important to start carefully handling them.
At this age, the young guinea pigs will start to form bonds with humans.
Handling them at such an early age will help them learn to enjoy being held, making them much better pets.
Neutering and Spaying Guinea Pigs
Neutering and spaying guinea pigs may seem like the obvious way to prevent pregnancy among them, but unfortunately, many complications are involved.
The surgeries are very expensive for guinea pigs, and there are many drawbacks to consider.
While it may seem like a hassle to have separate cages to keep the guinea pigs separated, it is a much easier and safer way to avoid pregnancy.
Guinea pigs, much like other rodents, are very avid breeders.
Females can deliver more than five litters in a year, with each litter having at least 3 pups.
We cover neutering guinea pigs in more detail in another post if you want to learn more about this.
What Should You Do If You Think Your Guinea Pig is Pregnant?
If your female guinea pig has been around a male and you suspect she may be pregnant, you should take her to the vet for a proper pregnancy diagnosis.
Exotic vets can diagnose pregnancy in guinea pigs in several ways.
The veterinarian will likely perform an ultrasound on your sow to look for signs of babies in the womb.
If the pregnancy is more advanced, it is possible to feel or see the babies moving.
X-rays may also be used to detect a guinea pig pregnancy.
If your female guinea pig is eating much more than usual, this may also be a sign of pregnancy, as she will have to eat more food to support her growing babies.
Related: When do guinea pigs stop growing?
By the end of her pregnancy, a sow will almost double her weight.
Ideally, sows should be older than 4 months but younger than 7 months of age for their first pregnancy.
Younger sows are more prone to vitamin deficiencies when pregnant.
Older sows are at risk of their pelvis not being able to expand enough while giving birth.
There is a high mortality rate among older guinea pigs giving birth for the first time.
If your guinea pig has a high-risk pregnancy, it is ideal for the birth to be carried out under a veterinarian’s supervision.
Toxemia in Pregnant Guinea Pigs
It is important to carefully monitor your guinea pig’s diet during pregnancy to ensure she does not gain too much weight.
Obese guinea pigs are more prone to toxemia during pregnancy, which often leads to death.
While toxemia occurs most often during pregnancy, it happens because the guinea pig is obese.
This means both obese male and female guinea pigs are at risk for this disease.
Toxemia happens anywhere from the last 2-3 weeks of pregnancy to the first week after birth.
Some common symptoms of toxemia include:
- Lack of appetite or thirst
Once the guinea pig is in a coma, death usually happens within 5 days.
Toxemia is caused by too many ketones entering a guinea pig’s bloodstream.
Ketones are a byproduct of metabolism, but if the body is flooded with more ketones than it can process, this causes ketosis, otherwise known as toxemia.
In addition to obesity being a factor in developing toxemia, there are several other reasons it occurs.
Some of these reasons include:
- Low blood sugar levels due to a lack of appetite late in the pregnancy
- A lack of exercise towards the end of the pregnancy
- Being pregnant with a large litter size
Your veterinarian will need to run a complete blood panel, blood count, and urinalysis to properly diagnose toxemia.
This is done because the symptoms of calcium deficiency often overlap with the symptoms of toxemia.
How Do You Keep Your Guinea Pig Healthy During Pregnancy?
You should do a few things for your guinea pig during her pregnancy to ensure the experience goes as smoothly as possible for her.
Reducing your sow’s stress is the most important thing because too much stress during her pregnancy will lead to a higher risk of illness.
To minimize your sow’s stress, do the following:
- Reduce her exposure to any loud sounds or bright lights
- Keep her out of direct sunlight
- Keep handling her to a minimum, especially during her last 2-3 weeks of pregnancy
You should also be monitoring your pregnant guinea pig’s food and water intake to ensure she is getting enough to eat but not too much to become obese.
Regularly check your sow for signs of illness, such as eye or nose discharge or patchy fur.
You should also weigh her to make sure she is gradually gaining weight.
Grooming should be limited to brushing during your sow’s pregnancy, with baths being avoided altogether.
You also want to make sure your guinea pig is getting enough exercise while she is pregnant.
Following these simple steps to care for your guinea pig will keep her happy and healthy throughout her pregnancy.