Ageing is a natural process that affects humans and animals of all shapes and sizes. Unfortunately, guinea pigs are no exception to this. A guinea pig is often considered a senior when they are approximately 4 years old, but as each piggie is unique, it is difficult to anticipate how little or how long their lifespan will be.
How old do guinea pigs live?
The average lifespan of a pet guinea pig is between 4-8 years. Some guinea pigs have also been known to live up to an impressive 11 years! (what could their secrets be to live so long?). As your guinea pig ages, their needs evolve, and it is more important than ever to provide them with the appropriate care to extend the last chapter of their life.
With this in mind, we have collected some tips and ideas in the article below to best care for your oldies.
Top 5 tips for caring for old guinea pigs
- Monitor their health on a weekly basis
- Maintain your guinea pigs at the same temperature
- Supplement with nutritious food like oat flakes
- Increase frequency of cage cleans to keep a clean environment at all times
- Do not change the cage layout if your old piggies have eyesight issues
A Changing dynamic
As your guinea pig grows older, you may notice that the relationship that they share with their companion(s) change. As your guinea pig ages, their cage mates will recognize your piggies “rank” amongst the heard and respect their years of experience. If your ageing piggie is the leader in its pair or herd, they will often attempt to maintain their status until they are no longer willing or able to do so. If they are no longer fit to lead, it can lead to a change within the herd’s hierarchy and you will begin to see a new leader emerge. The original leader will tend to fall to the bottom of the ranks. As they begin to scale back their authority, they will often prioritize companionship, though it will vary from piggie to piggie (assertive or aggressive boars will often mellow out with age).
Caution with temperatures
Your ageing guinea pig will be more susceptible to temperature changes, so take special care especially during seasonal changes. In the same way than younger guinea pigs, make sure your older piggies are comfortable and avoid exposing them to colder or hotter temperatures. It is even more imperative to keep your older piggies out of direct sunlight and cold drafts. As guinea pigs age, they will tend to have more difficulty maintaining a stable body temperature due to weight loss. Ensure that they have access to warm sources or places they can take cover to cool down when needed.
Regular weight checks
Just as it is important to track your younger piggies’ it is also important to regularly keep track of your older guinea pig’s weight. We recommend doing so on a weekly basis. As guinea pigs tend to lose body fat as they age, their hips will often become more prominent. If you notice your guinea pig is rapidly losing weight, in the range of 50-100g; in a short period of time, it is advised to contact your vet. Fast weight loss is often an indicator of a developing health issue.
Diet and food accessibility
As a part of the ageing process, your guinea pig’s metabolism will begin to slow down. It is important to keep a watchful eye on their weight. If you notice any changes in appetite, further investigation may be required. Try sprinkling guinea pig safe, fragrant herbs onto their hay to entice them into eating. Ensure you provide fresh pellets, fruit and veggies, and drinking water daily. In case of weight loss, nutritious foods like oat flakes can be offered as supplements. Keep food and water in an area that is easily accessible to your senior guinea pigs, especially if they have mobility issues. (To help keep track of your piggies' weight, check out Kavee's free downloadable care sheets!)
Keeping a Comfortable Environment
Keeping your ageing guinea pig’s environment comfortable is key to providing them a good quality of life. Your older piggies may tend to sleep more or stay in one place for a longer timeframe, thus, keeping a clean cage is paramount. Try using pee pads in high traffic areas and increase spot cleaning for a dry, comfortable bedding. Keeping your ageing piggies clean and dry is important as urine and feces can cause skin issues or irritation more easily. Older guinea pigs tend to be more susceptible to bumblefoot if they are exposed to moist bedding and dirty cages.
Older guinea pigs can also sometimes experience issues with their eyesight. Ensure that you have your piggie checked by a vet if you notice a significant change in their sight, or appearance of their eyes. For piggies with poor sight, ensure you maintain a similar cage layout to help build familiar surroundings. Make your presence known to your piggies before reaching into their cage or touching to avoid startling them.
Ultimately, as our guinea pigs grow older, we need to continue to provide them with a safe, warm, and loving environment that is focused on good quality of life. It is even more crucial to ensure we are in tune with them in order to notice any changes to their health and to anticipate their care needs. All we can do is love them and enjoy each and every moment we have with them.
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