Although we humans love basking in the warmth of the hot summer sun, it’s certainly not the case with guinea pigs. While my dynamic cavy duo, Lilly and Muffy, often enjoyed a few hours of nibbling fresh, sweet summer grass in our yard, I would always keep a close watch on them to make sure they were never in direct sunlight, at risk of overheating.
As natural-born burrowers that live in tunnelled habitats in the wilds of tropical climates, guinea pigs seek out dark, cozy hideouts to avoid both predators and excessive heat. However, domesticated pets need our assistance to ensure their environment is a safe, climate-controlled home.
Prevention, of course, is best. That’s why we’ve compiled some helpful tips on how to keep guinea pigs cool in the summer. So, if the weather ever gets uncomfortably hot, you’ll be able to keep your cavies safe and avoid the risk of overheating.
Table of Contents
- The 4 types of cavies that are most at risk of overheating
- What is the ideal temperature for my guinea pigs?
- How to help your cavies beat the summer heat
- 12 tips to keep your guinea pigs cool in the summer
- 1. Chilled, fresh food
- 2. Avoid direct sunlight
- 3. Use a fan
- 4. Add a cool, damp towel
- 5. Freeze ice packs or water bottles
- 6. Add a few tiles
- 12. Frosty greens
- 7. Get a self-cooling mat
- 8. Add an extra bowl or water dispenser
- 9. Remove excess hair
- 10. Give them a cool wipe-down
- 11. Add a pre-made burrow (but skip the plastic ‘pigloo’)
- What are the symptoms of heatstroke in guinea pigs?
- What should I do if my guinea pig suffers heatstroke?
The 4 types of cavies that are most at risk of overheating
Certain types of guinea pigs are more at risk of heatstroke than others. If your pets fall into any of these categories, you’ll need to be extra vigilant in the warmer months.
1. Very young or senior guineas: Pets within these age ranges have a hard time controlling their body temperature when the weather is not ideal, meaning too cold or too hot. Typically, this is due to their smaller size or the fragile state of their health.
2. Overweight cavies: A cavy’s body will have difficulty staying cool in high temperatures if they’re overweight.
3. Long-haired breeds: As you can imagine, it can be really tough to stay cool when you’re wearing a thick, long fur coat – especially in the middle of summer!
4. Pregnant sows: Pregnant sows do not tolerate higher temperatures well, especially when it’s over 86 °F / 30°C.
What is the ideal temperature for my guinea pigs?
Ideally, guinea pigs should be kept in an environment which is about 64-71 °F / 18-22°C, according to the ANZCCART and The Institute of Medical and Veterinary Science Australia. Additionally, they also recommend a relative humidity of 45-70% and a 12-16h light/day cycle. If the location is below 59 °F / 15°C degrees, then they will be too chilled. On the other hand, anything above 77 °F / 25°C and they’re very susceptible to heat stroke. In hot months, ensure your pets have easy access to shade and cooler spots.
Keep track of your guinea’s environment with a simple thermometer. By having one located close by, you’ll always know if the temperature is adequate for your pets’ health and well-being.
How to help your cavies beat the summer heat
The key to beating the heat and avoiding heat stroke is:
- Staying well-protected from the sun
- Having lots of water on-hand/Drinking plenty of fluids
- Keeping cool
12 tips to keep your guinea pigs cool in the summer
Keep your precious piggies from getting too hot with the following 12 tips:
1. Chilled, fresh food
Help your pets regulate body temperature when it’s hot by feeding them chilled, leafy greens and other fresh veggies. Cold fruit is also another option, but make sure to stick to a proper feeding guide, so there’s not too much sugar in their diet.
2. Avoid direct sunlight
If your pets’ cage or hutch is in an area that gets direct sunlight regularly – whether they’re kept inside or outside – consider moving their location to a cooler spot. If they’re outside, place them under the shade of a tree. A parasol can help provide protection from the sun as well. However, if you can’t move their enclosure to a safer area, then consider moving them inside your home – at least, temporarily.
3. Use a fan
Create cool airflow with a fan. However, it’s essential to ensure the fan doesn’t blow on them directly or continuously. Basically, they should be able to move out of the airflow on their own if they’d like to, so you’ll need to keep this in mind when it comes to space considerations.
4. Add a cool, damp towel
Place a cool, damp towel that has been rung out, so it’s not dripping, over a section of the cage. If you combine this tip with the previous one and add a fan, you can keep your cavies cooler for a longer period of time. Do make sure not to cover the entire habitat as this can limit ventilation. Also, dripping towels can soak your pets, drenching them, possibly making them sick.
5. Freeze ice packs or water bottles
Wrap an old, clean towel around a few ice packs or frozen water bottles, and place this inside their home, ideally in a central location. When your pets feel too hot, they can lie down close to the packs or bottles to keep cool. Alternatively, you can also add ice cubes to a small cooking pot, ensuring its lid is closed securely, taped shut preferably. Guinea pigs are very curious creatures, so they’ll likely investigate the pot – you don’t want them falling into the ice cubes!
6. Add a few tiles
Ceramic and porcelain tiles always feel cool to the touch, no matter what season it is. Use this to your advantage by adding a few tiles to your guineas’ habitat. They can lie on them when they’re overheated and cool down. However, make sure the tiles aren’t in a spot that gets direct sunlight, as this can cause them to get hot to the touch – and have the opposite effect!
12. Frosty greens
Try wetting some greens and placing them in the freezer for a short amount of time, just enough so they’re slightly frosty. This makes for a wonderfully chilly treat! However, if they end up getting frozen through-and-through, they’ll wilt once thawed – which is a very unappealing food option.
7. Get a self-cooling mat
Nowadays, self-cooling mats are available on the market, a useful product that can provide cool comfort during those hot, hot days. Like the tiles, you’ll want to place it in an area without direct sunlight, since this will make it harder for the mat to work properly.
8. Add an extra bowl or water dispenser
One of the best ways to beat the heat is to drink lots of fluids. Therefore, you may want to install an extra water bowl or dispenser for your pets. Aside from adding an extra source of water, you’ll want to check regularly that your guinea pigs have enough fresh, clean water. Also, if you opt for the dispenser, it’s best to check the spout to ensure it’s still functional everyday. Dispensers, like the one I use in our guinea habitat, are available in various sizes, from quite small and easy to attach to larger ones that hold a lot of water.
9. Remove excess hair
Imagine how hot it must feel for long-haired cavies in the summer months. Help them feel more comfortable by brushing them out regularly, removing knots that can create hotspots. Regardless of their length of hair, it’s a good idea to do this with any kind of guinea breed. You can read more about grooming guinea pigs in my previous post.
10. Give them a cool wipe-down
Use a cool, damp cloth to gently wipe them down and freshen them up. A spray bottle, as long as it has a fine mist setting, also works well to cool them off. Not every guinea pig will like this idea, so you’ll want to treat them extra carefully when you try this out.
11. Add a pre-made burrow (but skip the plastic ‘pigloo’)
There are several different kinds of pre-made hideouts, burrows and tunnels available on the market, giving you the ability to add a cool hideout away from the hot summer sun. Products made of plastic can get too hot, so you’ll want to avoid anything made with that material during summer. For instance, ‘Pigloos,’ which are plastic igloos made for guinea pigs, don’t provide adequate air circulation. Poor ventilation makes for a hot environment, so you’ll want to avoid these hot, humid homes on hot summer days, no matter how cute they look.
What are the symptoms of heatstroke in guinea pigs?
In summer months, overheating is a concern, one which can bring on heatstroke, or even death. Pets who are kept outside throughout the summer months, either in wooden hutches or sheds, are at greatest risk of heating up, as they may not be able to simply get up and move to a cooler location. Regardless of where you keep your cavies, it’s essential for owners to be able to spot the signs of heatstroke and know what to do in the event of an urgent situation.
In summer months, make sure to keep an eye out for the following symptoms of heatstroke in guinea pigs:
- Weakness and lethargy
What should I do if my guinea pig suffers heatstroke?
If you believe that one of your beloved pets is suffering from heatstroke, it is crucial to seek out veterinary care immediately. Dampen their fur slightly with some cool water to delay further symptoms before rushing to the vet, but do not submerge them completely – this can cause them to go into shock, which can be fatal.