Congrats! You have guinea pigs! But now that they’ve been home for a few weeks, it seems like one keeps getting bigger…and bigger…and maybe a little wider, too. Uh oh. Someone’s pregnant! What should you do next? Here a few quick tips to get through the hardest weeks of small animal ownership.
Separate the Boys and the Girls!
Did you double-check the gender of the guinea pigs you brought home? If you look at the genitalia, females are shaped like a “Y” while males have a straight line, then a small gap, then they will have a penis. Testes are internal and difficult to see, unlike most other small rodents. Lack of testes does not equal female. If you find a boy, he must be immediately separated from the females. Remember, he can hang out in a plastic storage tote until you make alternate arrangements.
The male can impregnate the female again within 24 hours of the birth of her new babies, so get him separated before babies arrive.
Find a competent small animal veterinarian as soon as possible, preferably one that received exotic training. If there are any complications to labor, your veterinarian may be the only thing that keeps your pig alive. Let your veterinarian know that you suspect pregancy. They may want to see her before the birth, and you need to know who to call if you have an emergency after hours. The age of your pig matters very much, so if she’s older than 6 months, your vet may need to help her.
Prepare for the Birth
Assemble the supplies you will need if Mama Pig is unwilling or unable to care for her babies. You will need a scale that can measure by the gram, small syringes (without needles), and a small container with blankets to keep the guinea pig babies in.
If Mama Pig is shy or quiet, try to keep her calm. Stress can stall labor. If she doesn’t trust you, don’t go poking around in the cage while she’s delivering. Stalling labor is dangerous both for mama and babies. Most small animals deliver their babies on their own and do a great job. If you notice that Mama Pig strains for more than an hour to deliver the same baby, contact your veterinarian for advice. If she strains too hard, or the baby is too big, she may require a c-section to deliver her baby.
After the Birth
Because guinea pigs have very long gestations for rodents (usually 2 to 2 ½ months), guinea pig babies are born very well prepared for life. They are large, furred, and ready to eat the same things their mothers eat. They can be handled soon after the birth. Weigh Mama Pig and all babies daily, and note their individual weights. The babies should gain weight steadily each day, and Mama Pig should not be losing weight after the first few days. If you notice loss of weight in either babies or Mama, call your vet.
Because the babies are large, they wean quickly (within a month) and breed quickly as well. Separate the boys from the girls, and their mothers, at 3 weeks of age. If you do not separate them by this age, you may have more pregnant guinea pigs, including his siblings.
You can start selling guinea pig babies or giving them away once they are about 4 weeks old. Any guinea pig going into a home needs to have another guinea pig in the home as they truly need companions. If you do not want your babies fed to large reptiles, charge a fee for adoption. Free rodents usually turn into snake food.
Remember, “oopsies” happen to anyone involved in animals, and new homes come along often. Have you ever had baby piggies?