Guinea pigs can become pregnant at a very young age, but carrying the pregnancy and giving birth is risky for them, so veterinary check-ups and constant care should be provided to pregnant females. In general, females should be kept separate from males, in specially designed cool cages for guinea pigs, if you want to prevent unwanted pregnancies.
Besides choosing one of the many available cages for guinea pigs, a female guinea pig owner may also have to choose whether to allow the female to breed, or to have her spayed. In the following lines, you will find useful information on the mating ritual of guinea pigs, how we can tell if a sow is pregnant, and what the best choices on the matter are.
Owning healthy and happy guinea pigs is about more than just fun and playing with them. You also need to provide suitable food, constant fresh drinking water, and a balanced, friendly environment for them to live in. If all of these criteria are met by the owners, and they are so thrilled about their pet that is considering breeding it, there are some things they should know beforehand.
Guinea pigs make wonderful pets and their caring requirements are not that high, making them suitable for all owners, aged five and above. However, when it comes to breeding them, one should know that guinea pigs are quite sensitive animals that require a lot of care and attention during pregnancy, which may lead to complications anyway.
These cute, friendly pets become sexually mature at a rather young age, when they are just about five or six weeks old. Therefore, it is best to separate male from female piglets when they are around one month old, to prevent any unwanted pregnancies. Although female guinea pigs can breed at such a young age, this is not at all recommended.
It is not uncommon for new guinea pig owners to have a big surprise when their only pet that they have recently bought gives birth without them having any idea that she was even pregnant. It happens because of the young age they reach sexual maturity at. Thus, it is always a good idea to have a vet check out any pet we may buy or adopt.
The mating ritual
Before anyone could talk about pregnancy in guinea pigs, mating should take place. Ideally, females are usually kept separate from males, and they get to spend some time together when the female is in heat. This way, the female owner has a pretty good idea when the mating took place. This aspect is important when calculating the approximate due date.
When the pair meets, usually the male will put on quite a show for the female, rumbling, standing upright before her, and approaching her with his head lowered. He will do so to prove to her how strong he is, and that he is suited to becoming the father of her babies, meaning to pass his genes on to the offspring.
Males will also perform a mating dance for the females, during which time she may be impressed or not. Males that are kept in larger female groups will make this dance quite often. Sometimes it is meant to impress the ladies, while other times it is meant to discourage any other males around.
Even young males will do this mating dance, but for the purpose of learning it, in the beginning. One can easily spot a young male doing the dance, as the male guinea pig will appear unsure and insecure about the whole thing. Just like many other things in life, this is also a good example of practice making it perfect.
If the female is receptive to his mating ritual, she will let him know that using loud squeal noise. From this point on mating can take place at any given time. The best thing to do is to let the two spend the night in the same cage so that mating can take place several times without any interruptions.
If, however, the female is not in heat at the time she meets her mate, then she will let him know that by snapping at him, or, even worse, biting him. If he persists in his endeavors, pretending he does not get the message, the female will clearly reject him by peeing on him. This doesn’t mean all hope is lost, as mating should be tried again after about a week.
How can we tell if a female guinea pig is pregnant?
Before going to the veterinarian, for a specific yes or no answer, given by an ultrasound test, there are some signs you can look for at home. For instance, when a sow is pregnant she will gradually drink more water by the day. However, this is based on her usual drinking habit, and it could also happen during very hot weather or when the guinea pig is ill.
Another sign to look for is the amount of food the female eats. When pregnant, female guinea pigs will gradually eat more and more food, to the point of tripling her usual daily amount. This indicator is a bit more specific, and it can be taken very seriously. Very good quality food should be provided to the sow during this time.
Weighing the pet guinea pig on a daily basis is always a good idea and a good indicator on whether she is really pregnant or not. Pregnant sows will rapidly increase their body weight, especially during the second half of the pregnancy. If this is the case, you may want to take her for a veterinarian check-up.
The ultrasound taken by the veterinarian is definitely the most precise method of pregnancy diagnosis in female guinea pigs. The data collected together with the owner’s statement regarding possible mating dates of the sow will help predict the approximate pregnancy stage, as well as the approximate due date.
If the veterinarian confirms your suspicions, then some changes are in order in the sow’s diet. The first thing you want to do is to change the Timothy hay to Alfalfa hay because the second one has considerably higher calcium, minerals, and protein levels. This will help the mother as well as her unborn babies to develop well.
Should I breed my female guinea pig?
The answer to that question is mostly no. Unlike wild guinea pigs, pet ones have lost a major part of their natural instincts and capacity of naturally giving birth. Another factor here is the sometimes high level of inbreeding some of these pet guinea pigs result from. This means they might not be able to give birth at all.
Furthermore, there are many complications that appear in pregnant sows, such as toxemia, dystocia, and postpartum difficulties. Toxemia is a metabolic imbalance problem that appears in most pregnant sows. Dystocia means the female guinea pig has difficulties giving birth, or she is unable to give birth at all.
Dystocic births may lead to the death of up to twenty percent of pregnant female guinea pigs. Even if they recover from such a traumatizing experience, the postpartum recovery may be very difficult, costly for the owner, and painful for the female guinea pig. Not to mention that surviving babies need to be taken care of after birth.
Another reason owners should reconsider allowing their female guinea pig to breed is the difficulty they may face in finding new homes for the baby piglets. Most people are used to going to pet shops to buy rodent pets, or to certified breeders. This makes the process of finding permanent homes for the babies quite long.
So, unless you are fine with all the risks involving the pregnant sow and the risk of having a house full of babies, the advisable thing to do would be to have the female guinea pig spayed. This way you would make sure she gets to live a long and happy life in your home, free from pain and stress.