We can all agree that heatwaves suck, right? Now imagine being covered in a thick coat of fur. Yet that’s the reality for many of our adorable little fur babies. We’ve been guinea pig parents now for a little over four years, have four gorgeous girls and have dealt with our fair share of heatwaves in that time. So today I wanted to share how we keep our guinea pigs as cool as possible during a heatwave.
This content is intended to share my personal experience for entertainment purposes only. It does not constitute advice. I am not a guinea pig care expert/professional nor do I claim to be. Therefore I accept no liability if you choose to take action based on information found here as this is done entirely at your own risk. Always consult your vet for medical advice.
Bring Outdoor Piggies Indoors
It goes without saying that it gets ridiculously hot outside in a heatwave. So if you have outdoor guinea pigs, it’s worth bringing them inside for a few days. If this isn’t possible, move hutches into the shade and keep a close eye on your piggies.
Cold Bottles of Water
Our girls love nothing more than to snuggle up next to a cool bottle of water. This can be a water bottle cooled in a freezer or a fridge, if like us your freezer is full. If you go down the frozen route, make sure you cover it with a (clean) old t-shirt or towel.
This is something we tried during our first summer as guinea pig parents and we only had the two piggies. (This isn’t a practical option now we have four!)
Basically we filled a litter corner with a teeny amount of water (no more than 2cm deep) and let them play. It wasn’t the best idea in the world. They mostly used it as a toilet so lots of cleaning/refilling during the day. But I do think they appreciated it.
One of the best investments we made for our guinea pigs was to buy large flat ice packs. These are a bit more sturdy than pet-friendly cooling pads. You just stick them in your freezer, take them out, cover them with a towel or blanket and you’re done! Tara loves lounging on ice packs when she’s feeling a bit hot and bothered.
We don’t currently have any which isn’t ideal but hey, this is our reminder to get some in ASAP.
Consider Alternative Bedding
During the last heatwave, we noticed that our girls had started bedding their hay. Now we don’t normally use hay for bedding so we thought maybe the bedding we do use (Megazorb) just isn’t cool enough for their little paws in the heat. So we’ll continue to do this ourselves while it’s still hot.
Fans can be very helpful to regulate our piggies’ body temperatures but there are a few things to know before you do.
★ Never direct a fan at your guinea pig enclosure.
★ Make sure your guineas have somewhere they can go to escape the airflow if they don’t like it.
Keep water bottles filled and switch the water for fresh cool water as often as you can. We usually do one change in the morning, one in the afternoon and another one before we go to bed.
One of the easiest ways to keep your piggies cool is to serve them their veggies straight out of the fridge. (But never frozen!) Make sure they have lovely leafy greens like kale to munch on. And of course cucumbers are great for hydration – just remember to feed these in moderation as they can cause digestive problems if they eat too much.
Even indoors, it gets pretty hot in direct sunlight so it’s super important to provide shade. It takes a little bit of work to get the perfect balance between coverage and airflow but it’s a worthwhile endeavour. Lighter fabrics tend to be better for airflow so we might cut up an old t-shirt or two to create little areas for them to lounge in.
I don’t know about you but I get very irritable in the heat. And so I can only imagine how frustrating it must be for our furry friends to be forced into physical contact when they’re already hot and bothered. It’s probably worth just letting them get on with it for a few days – obviously while still keeping an eye on them for signs of heatstroke and providing specific care (e.g. grooming and medicine).
Okay this one is less heatwave and more summer specific. But basically flies pose huge risks to guinea pig health. Their bites can be fatal. They can lay eggs into guinea pig bedding that then ends up in their hair and skin which again, can result in death.
So fly screens are a great option. They’re generally inexpensive but are invaluable. We have screens on all of our windows and yes we see the odd fly but it could be so much worse!
In addition to these tips, please do familiarise yourself with the symptoms of heatstroke in guinea pigs and seek immediate veterinary care if you suspect your piggy is suffering from heatstroke.
Additionally if you’re heading off on holiday soon, please find a suitable carer for your guineas. They might be small animals but they are still dependent on you for care and provisions. So it’s important that you don’t just leave them unattended for a few days.
Do you have any pets? What do you do to keep them cool in a heatwave? Let me know in the comments below.