Guinea pig pregnancy is an exciting time, and you probably can’t wait for your piggy’s new pups to arrive.
However, if you’ve never cared for a pregnant guinea pig and her babies, you might understandably be a little nervous.
Expecting cavies need a few alterations to their care and diet, so you need to make sure you give your pet everything she needs to have healthy babies and a stress-free pregnancy, especially during the days leading up to the expected due date.
As someone who has gone through quite a few guinea pig pregnancies over the years, I’ve got a lot of experience when it comes to looking after guinea pig mothers and babies.
If you’re not too sure how to care for pregnant guinea pigs and newborn pups, read on.
I’ll be diving into all the things you need to know about guinea pig pregnancy.
How Can You Tell if a Guinea Pig Is Pregnant?
Pregnant guinea pigs will have an enlarged or swollen abdomen in late pregnancy, so this is one of the signs to look out for if you think your pet is expecting babies.
It’s also common for pregnant sows (female guinea pigs) to double their body weight during gestation.
If your guinea pig has been pregnant for around 2 to 3 weeks, you should be able to feel her babies in her stomach.
Do this gently by running your hands along her belly without flipping her over or adding any pressure.
Carefully hold your guinea pig by the shoulders while she’s on your lap or eating, and delicately slide your hands along each of her sides.
Lumps or Bumps
If you feel lumps or bumps, then it’s very likely she is pregnant if she has been in contact with an unneutered boar (male guinea pig) recently.
However, lumps don’t always indicate babies – they can sometimes be due to health issues like cysts or tumors.
It’s a good idea to take your guinea pig to the vet for a diagnosis if you feel lumps, even if you’re certain she is expecting babies.
A vet will be able to confirm if your guinea pig is pregnant, usually by touch, ultrasound, or x-ray.
Some vets may even be able to listen to the babies’ heartbeats, which is an incredibly heartwarming experience if you get given the chance.
What to Feed My Guinea Pig During Pregnancy?
Growing babies is pretty hard work, so you need to make sure your pregnant guinea pig is getting everything she needs for a smooth labor and birth.
Provide her with the best guinea pig food to ensure she can grow healthy and strong pups.
Feed her a diet consisting of unlimited grass hay (preferably Timothy grass hay), a small amount of high-quality guinea pig pellets, vegetables (ideally leafy greens), and small portions of foods high in vitamin C.
Pregnant guinea pigs need to double their amount of normal food, but be careful not to overfeed them.
Overfeeding your pregnant guinea pig can lead to large pups, which she could struggle to deliver.
Best Vegetables and Fruits to Feed During Guinea Pig Pregnancy
Did you know that guinea pigs are unable to produce their own vitamin C?
They need it to be supplemented in their diet through fresh fruits/vegetables and commercial pellets.
Guinea pigs normally require around 10mg of vitamin C each day, but pregnant sows will require 20mg daily.
You can offer guinea pigs vitamin C supplements, but it’s best to speak to your vet beforehand to get advice.
Avoid adding a vitamin C supplement directly to your guinea pig’s water as it can dissipate rapidly.
Some good vegetable options for pregnant guinea pigs that you can feed her each day include; bell peppers, broccoli, romaine lettuce, and kale.
Tomato, while technically a fruit, is also a great addition to your guinea pig’s diet that can be fed daily as it’s high in vitamin C.
Fruits like kiwi and orange are rich in vitamin C and can be given to your guinea pig every now again.
Only feed a small amount of these fruits as they can cause an upset stomach, and citrus can lead to mouth sores if fed in large portions.
I also like to offer my pregnant guinea pigs a small amount of lucerne hay every few days as it’s an excellent source of calcium.
Pregnant sows need a bit more calcium than normal, so it’s important to provide them with foods enriched with this mineral every so often, such as carrot tops and cucumber.
Food to Avoid During Guinea Pig Pregnancy
While there are plenty of foods that are beneficial for pregnant guinea pigs, there are also quite a few that should be avoided.
A lot of these foods should be kept well away from all guinea pigs, regardless of whether they’re due to give birth.
- Dairy products (like yogurt, cheese, milk, and eggs) – Guinea pigs lack the enzymes necessary to digest dairy as they are herbivores. Yogurt drops are also big no-nos for guinea pigs.
- Parsley – Although a great staple leafy green for many guinea pigs, parsley is not recommended for sows during pregnancy. That’s because there have been links to it inducing miscarriage in some pregnant guinea pigs.
- Meat and insects – While some rodents like hamsters can eat insects and a few meat-based foods, this is not the case for guinea pigs. Your guinea pig’s GI tract cannot digest anything but plants, so consuming meat can make them seriously ill.
- Onions, leeks, chives, and shallots – Anything from the onion family should never be given to your guinea pig as it can lead to blood disorders. Onions are toxic to a lot of animals, including rabbits, hamsters, cats, and dogs.
- Garlic – Bulb foods are poisonous to guinea pigs, including garlic, white potatoes, and onions.
- Avocado – The flesh of an avocado is high in fat, so it shouldn’t be given to your guinea pig as it can slow down their digestive tract. The pit and skin of avocado are also toxic.
- Rhubarb – All parts of rhubarb, including the leaves, are poisonous to guinea pigs. They’re also high in oxalic acid, which too much of can be fatal in guinea pigs.
- Cabbage and Cauliflower – These two veggies, alongside other vegetables that are known for being gassy, can cause bloat in guinea pigs.
Should I Separate My Pregnant Guinea Pig?
Guinea pigs going through pregnancy should be kept separate from other cagemates, especially if their other friend is male.
During pregnancy, a guinea pig’s hormones are all over the place, which can alter the behavior of other cavies.
As you might already know, guinea pigs in heat or those going through dominance problems can bicker and fight with their other cagemates, even if they have gotten along previously.
In pregnancy, these behaviors can increase, so it’s best to keep your pregnant guinea pig separate from your other pets for her safety.
Male guinea pigs should always be kept separate from pregnant sows as they could cause injury or stress by repeated mating attempts.
Ideally, use another cage to put your pregnant guinea pig in until she gives birth and has cared for her babies.
If you don’t have another cage on hand, you could use dividers to split up your pregnant guinea pig from her other cagemates.
This will allow your guinea pig to communicate with your other cavies without being bothered.
Do Guinea Pigs Kill Their Babies?
Although uncommon, guinea pigs can kill and eat their babies.
This usually happens if the female is extremely malnourished, which is why you must feed your cavy a varied diet throughout her pregnancy.
Some sows will eat their young guinea pigs if they have given birth to too many litters in a short period.
If your guinea pig’s pregnancy was planned, make sure you give her ample time to rest before her next litter to decrease this risk.
Don’t let her go through another pregnancy so soon after finishing her last one.
Pregnancy and growing babies take a lot of strength, so your sow needs a break to regain her energy for another litter.
Unlike a lot of other rodents, male guinea pigs aren’t usually as dangerous or aggressive towards their babies.
It’s highly unlikely that they will eat their young. That said, some male guinea pigs will kill their babies if they suspect they are not the father.
The biggest concern with keeping male guinea pigs with pregnant or nursing females is that they could hurt or stress her out by constant mating attempts.
Can the Father Guinea Pig Be with the Babies?
Males should be kept away from pregnant sows, particularly after they have just given birth. This is because females can get pregnant again as soon as they have delivered their last litter.
The male could stress out or accidentally injure the female or babies by repeatedly trying to mate with her.
If the male does impregnate your sow shortly after she has given birth, then this could put her health at risk.
Having a single pregnancy is very hard on guinea pigs, but having two consecutive litters is exceptionally tough as they will already be in a weakened state.
How Long Is Guinea Pig Pregnancy?
Pregnancy for guinea pigs can last anywhere from 59 days to 72 days, though the average is 65 days.
Things to Watch Out for During Guinea Pig Pregnancy
Pregnancy toxemia (also known as ketosis) happens when your guinea pig’s body makes an excessive amount of ketones, which is an otherwise normal byproduct of your pet’s metabolism.
Ketosis can occur for several reasons, including loss of appetite in late pregnancy, insufficient exercise, obesity, environmental stress, a large litter size, and undeveloped blood vessels in the uterus.
Guinea pigs with ketosis may die suddenly without displaying any signs. It can also result in the death of the babies while they are still in the uterus.
Some cavies with ketosis may have a few symptoms that you’ll need to keep an eye out for. These include; lack of appetite, loss of energy, lack of desire to drink, clumsiness or poor coordination, muscle spasms, and coma.
Take your pet to a vet as soon as possible if you notice any of these signs.
Unfortunately, ketosis is usually fatal in guinea pigs.
Treatment is rarely effective, but sometimes steroids or medication can be successful.
Guinea Pig Labor and Birth
Do Guinea Pigs Nest Before Giving Birth?
Nesting is common for many pregnant animals, but guinea pigs don’t display this type of behavior.
Pregnant sows may be more lethargic and less active a few days or a week before they are due to give birth.
What Time Do Guinea Pigs Usually Give Birth?
The majority of guinea pigs give birth during the day, but it can happen at any time.
If you suspect your guinea pig is due to give birth in the next few days, keep a close eye on her.
How Do You Know When Your Guinea Pig Is About to Give Birth?
Lethargy and listlessness are common a few days before delivery in guinea pigs.
If you’ve noticed your female slow down or be a bit more distant than usual, then she may be due to give birth in the next couple of days.
When your guinea pig is in labor, she may appear motionless or stay seated in the corner of her cage. She may also start to yelp or cry once contractions start.
Guinea pigs who are giving birth usually make hiccup sounds and begin to crouch down and lick around their bottom.
At some point, a baby’s head will appear from underneath your sow’s body and she will push it out.
The whole birthing process normally takes around 30 minutes.
Don’t intervene during delivery as the female will not usually need (or even want) any help.
However, if your guinea pig has been in labor for over 30 minutes and hasn’t delivered all her pups, then she may require emergency veterinary attention.
Do Guinea Pigs Eat Placenta?
After giving birth, female guinea pigs normally eat the placentas of their young, as well as any other bloody or wet bedding leftover after birth.
How Many Babies Do Guinea Pigs Have in Their First Litter?
The average litter size for a cavy is 3.
Guinea pigs can have 1 to 8 pups in their litter, but sows going through their first pregnancy tend to have smaller litters of between 2 to 4 babies.
The average litter size for a cavy is 3.
After Pregnancy – Labor Aftercare
A female guinea pig will usually deal with labor and delivery without assistance.
She will give birth to her pups, wash them down, chew off their umbilical cords, and immediately start to care for them.
However, if your guinea pig has a big litter, she might be a bit too tired to care for her pups straight away.
Assisting Your Pet
In this scenario, you can help her out by removing the birth sac from the baby’s head and body.
Use a soft, clean towel to do this and be very gentle.
If your sow hasn’t already done so, cut the pup’s umbilical cord with a sterilized pair of scissors.
Delicately rub the pup’s back to check whether they’re breathing, and then position them close to their mother.
If your guinea pig hasn’t eaten the placentas of her pups, you can remove these, as well as other soiled bedding so she can care for her babies.
Pregnancy and delivery are taxing on your guinea pig’s body, so help her regain her strength and care for her pups by offering vegetables and some treats.
Alfalfa hay is also great for the mother and pups as it contains a lot of calcium.
Baby Guinea Pig Care
When Can You Touch a Guinea Pigs Baby?
It’s recommended to wait at least a week before touching newborn guinea pig pups.
After this, you can begin to handle them – but do so extremely gently as they are very fragile.
Don’t hold the pups for too long, especially if the mother starts to get agitated.
What Do You Feed a Guinea Pig Pup?
Immediately after giving birth, your guinea pig will nurse and care for her babies for a few days – you don’t need to offer them any solid food at this stage.
After a few days, the babies will begin to eat solid food.
You can begin to offer your young guinea pigs alfalfa hay, guinea pig pellets, and small portions of green vegetables once they can eat solid food at a few days old.
Make sure you offer them water in a shallow dish too.
You don’t have to teach a baby guinea pig to eat solid food as the sow will do this.
Simply leave the mother to care for and educate her babies on how things work.
A guinea pig with babies will continue to nurse for a few weeks until the babies are around 3 weeks old.
Some pups stop feeding at 1 to 2 weeks of age, while others continue to feed for a little longer.
Feedings will decrease and be less regular once the pups are at least 2 weeks of age.
Once they are a couple of weeks old, the mother will begin to lessen her care and wean them until they solely eat solid foods.
How Long Do Guinea Pigs Babies Require Milk?
A guinea pig pup requires milk and care from their mother until they are roughly 2 weeks of age to 3 weeks of age.
Male guinea pig babies will have to be separated from their mother and female siblings at 3 weeks old.
A female guinea pig baby can receive their mother’s care until 4 weeks of age.
What If The Babies Are Not Getting Fed?
If your sow is not feeding her pups, then you might need to hand-raise them using a guinea pig milk formula and small plastic syringes.
Here’s a video of baby guinea pigs being fed through syringe
Bear in mind that sows don’t constantly care for their pups – they normally only feed them a few times a day.
You might be able to help the pups feed naturally by gently placing them onto their mother’s nipples.
It can also be helpful to express a little milk from the sow’s nipple to encourage the babies to feed.
Make sure you’re certain the mother is ignoring her babies before you intervene.
Caring for an expecting guinea pig can be a little overwhelming at first, especially if you hadn’t planned for it.
But, having tiny and adorable pups around the house is always a wonderful experience – especially once you start seeing them grow up and become independent.
I hope I helped you learn more about pregnancy in guinea pigs so you can provide your guinea pig and her babies with the best care.
Is there anything I missed regarding cavy pregnancy that you’re still uncertain of?
Let me know, and be sure to check out our other guides on all things guinea pig!