Things happen quickly in the life of a guinea pig. Not only are your sweet furballs born with fur, fully-formed teeth, and eyes wide open, they also reach maturity in just 3 weeks. This means that even though your guinea pigs are still pups, it’s never too early to start worrying about pregnancies and separating the female piggies (also known as ‘sows’) from the male piggies (also known as ‘boars’).
However, if you’re wondering whether or not to go ahead with the baby shower for your expectant mom-to-be, then rest assured that in this article we’ll cover the tell-tale signs to look out for in pregnant piggies. We’ll also take a more detailed look at the different stages of pregnancy and discuss the exact TLC your blooming piggy will require from you during this time.
How to Tell if a Guinea Pig Is Pregnant?
This is where it helps to know your cavy’s particular routines, habits, and individual quirks. If truth be told, there are only a few signs to tell if your guinea pig is pregnant. However, if you notice changes in their usual behavior then you may be able to spot some early clues.
Okay, so it might be a bit of an awkward one watching your loved-up cavies swooning like teenagers. But piggy mating rituals are pretty distinctive when you know what to look out for.
First things first - if your sow has been in close contact with an unneutered boar, then there is already a high probability that she’s pregnant. Guinea pigs mature very quickly, so males are sexually active from just 3 weeks old. If you don’t want any happy accidents, then remember that prevention really is the best cure.
You can tell a rumble-strutting boar from a mile off as when courting, he’ll physically display himself by standing upright before the sow with a lowered head, all the while approaching her with a swagger and a low-pitching rumbling noise.
If your lady piggy is impressed, she will respond with some enthusiastic loud squeaking. Once the deed has been done, you’ll likely notice a marked and suspiciously quiet period in the aftermath.
Changes in the eating and drinking habits of a pregnant guinea pig
Any noticeable change in food and water consumption could be your first sign of an expectant mother-to-be. If your sow is nibbling more hay or sipping more water than normal, then pregnancy is a distinct possibility.
Pay attention to whether your piggy is regularly polishing off her food bowl. And, in particular, keep a watchful eye if she is chomping her way through nourishing calcium-rich veggies like there’s no tomorrow. As a sow progresses in her pregnancy, she can easily munch up to 3 times the amount of food she typically got through before pregnancy.
Physical signs of pregnancy in guinea pigs
Just like us hoomans, one giveaway clue is that, during pregnancy, your cavy will embrace her curves. Yep, consistent weight gain is one of the first physical signs of guinea pig pregnancy that you can spot after just a fortnight or so.
If you’re not sure whether your piggy is gaining weight or simply looking fluffier than usual, you can monitor the situation by weighing her daily. If pregnant, she’s likely to gain a few grams every day.
It’s a gradual process that may have your eyes playing tricks on you. But by the time your cavy is ready to pop, she’ll have doubled in weight!
Guinea pigs are well-known for their resemblance to potatoes, but a pregnant piggy can start to develop a suspiciously pear-shaped body. You’ll struggle to miss your sow’s ballooning belly, which gets noticeably bigger by day 50 to 60 of the gestation period. If you look closely, you’ll also notice that her nipples are now enlarged and swollen.
You can feel the babies
As the baby cavies grow inside their mommy, they wriggle and kick just like human babies. So sometimes, in the few weeks leading up to birth, you can actually feel the baby piggies inside her.
Pregnancy is probably already taking its toll on your tired mother-to-be, so she won’t appreciate any poking and prodding. You should always be careful when you place your hands on her belly to feel for any small movements or lumps.
If you do feel lumps that aren’t moving, then this is also something to be wary of. Unfortunately, non-pregnancy-related lumps can be a symptom of a more serious health problem, so take your sow to your local cavy-savvy vet for a professional check-up as a matter of urgency.
Guinea pig’s behavior changed
If your generally even-tempered and eager-to-please piggy seems to be in a constant PMS funk as of late, then that might be a sign of pregnancy. Your female piggy may display any uncharacteristic behaviors like the following:
- They seem grumpier than usual.
- They refuse to be manipulated.
- They’re less active and are sleeping more than normal.
Get the pregnancy of your guinea pig diagnosed by a vet
Finally, the most reliable and surefire way to diagnose your piggy’s pregnancy is to take them directly to a cavy-savvy vet for a check-up. Thanks to handy ultrasound technology, a professional will be able to spot exactly how many baby cavies are on the way, as well as give you tried and tested advice for how best to handle your sow’s pregnancy.
In fact, there is no better way to determine whether your piggy is pregnant or not than a visit to the vet. Plus, if there are any complications that arise during your piggy’s gestation period or at the time of the birth itself, you’ll have an expert just a phone call away.
What Are the Guinea Pig Pregnancy Stages?
Piggy pregnancy can quite literally fly by. The average pregnancy for guinea pigs lasts 65 days (or around 2 months), although this duration does vary dependent on the number of pups in the litter. Surprisingly, the larger the litter, the shorter the pregnancy term.
Below, we’ve broken down the different stages of your guinea pig’s pregnancy by week, to help you know what to expect during this time and how to provide her with as relaxing and stress-free an environment as possible.
Early Stages of Gestation (Week 1-4)
It’s likely that you won’t even notice when your piggy is at this stage of pregnancy since they barely show any physical signs.
If you have your suspicions or have had the pregnancy confirmed, then make sure to give your hungry sow access to plenty of fresh hay supplemented with alfalfa, as well as generous portions of calcium-rich fresh vegetables. She’ll likely be eating for more than two during this time, so you don’t want her to get weaker as she tries to take care of her growing babies.
Middle Stages of Gestation (Week 5-7)
Thankfully, pregnancy will be easier to spot during this stage. It’s around this time that you’ll notice your porky piggy becoming a little bit larger around the abdomen.
If you’re lucky, you might even feel some little cavy kicks at this point, as any movement in the mom’s abdomen is visible from around the 7-week mark. Keep a close eye on your blossoming piggy at this point - it’s a good idea to monitor her weekly weight gain to check that everything is progressing as it should.
The Final Stages of Gestation (Week 7+)
At this late stage, you’ll want to ensure your mom-to-be is as comfortable and undisturbed as possible. If she’s currently residing with some piggy pals that won’t let her rest, now is a good opportunity to temporarily move them to a different cage. Especially if they’re male!
By now, the mommy’s belly will have expanded in the midsection and any movements from the baby cavies will be easy to spot.
The Week Before Birth
Although guinea pigs don’t normally create nests to give birth, your piggy’s maternal instincts will begin to kick in with full force as the birth draws closer. You can offer your sow a cozy corner where she feels safe and secure by following the below tips:
- Pop a soft, fleece blanket in her sleeping area.
- Drape a towel over this sleepy corner to keep her stress-free and at ease.
- Have a daily mini spot-clean of her cage without moving or disturbing her.
One of the visual clues to look out for when waiting for your sow to go into labor is her pelvic bones, which will be about 2 fingers apart. Once this is the case, you should be ready for an imminent birth.
Whilst it may be tempting to comfort your furball with reassuring cuddles, try not to handle your pregnant piggy unless strictly necessary. Her pelvic bone is under a lot of stress, and handling will only exacerbate this. It’s best at this point to let nature take its course.
What Should Be the Diet of a Pregnant Guinea Pig?
Give the right amount of food to your sow
The needs of a pregnant piggy will be slightly different compared to normal. As such, it’s best to be prepared so that she has everything needed to flourish during pregnancy and give birth to happy and healthy pups.
Firstly, take care not to overfeed your sow with pellets, because it can actually cause the pups to grow too big! You should provide your sow with unlimited hay and supplement it with alfalfa. This provides extra protein and calcium, which are essential nutrients she’ll need more of during pregnancy. You should also take care to provide her with a constant supply of clean drinking water and fresh vegetables.
Food you should give to your pregnant guinea pig
As a responsible piggy parent, your top priority should be to keep your piggy at peak health during pregnancy, and you can do so with the following daily diet:
- Grass hay or grass supplemented with alfalfa.
- Fresh, green leafy vegetables.
- Bitesize chunks of fruit rich in Vitamin C.
- High-quality commercial pellets.
It’s no secret that piggies are foodies at heart - they can’t pass up a tasty snack! However, it’s important that you focus on increasing your sow’s consumption of essential vitamins and nutrients during this time. Be sure to give her extra servings of Vitamin C-rich foods like green bell peppers, kale, spinach, and broccoli. It’s also a good idea to give her some lucerne hay (aka alfalfa supplemented) as it will give her all the extra protein and calcium she needs.
How to Care for a Pregnant Guinea Pig?
Monitor eating and drinking habits
To ensure a healthy pregnancy, you’ll want to keep an eye on your expecting piggy. No need to watch her 24/7 but checking in on her once every 3-4 hours would be a great way to ensure that everything goes well.
Each time you check on your sow, pay attention to how much food she’s eaten and how much water she’s drunk. Having a rough idea of her normal patterns means that you’ll be able to notice much quicker if she becomes unwell.
Of course, if you notice that your piggy has stopped eating and has no appetite, make sure to book a trip to your cavy-savvy vet!
Minimize stress to reduce illness
Pregnancy marks a stressful time for your sow. If her cage is in a high-traffic or noisy area of your home, then now would be good to move it into a quieter environment. Also, while it may be tempting to give your piggy plenty of lap time, it’s kinder to leave her be. However, you can still pet her and reassure her in a soothing voice.
Exercise is an important part of any guinea pig’s daily routine, and this is something that doesn’t change with pregnancy. It’s important that your sow stays active during this time to remain healthy and avoid putting on too many extra pounds. So continue to allow her some time out of her cage each day to forage and explore to her heart’s content.
You may be looking forward to your next grooming session as a relaxing bonding activity, but you’ll want to keep her beauty regime to a minimum during pregnancy. Brushing requires a lot of handling which could be uncomfortable for your expectant piggy, and bathing should also be avoided as it can cause too much unnecessary stress.
Understandably, you may be concerned if you have a long-haired guinea pig that needs more regular grooming. In these cases, it’s best to cut your piggy’s fur short towards the end of her pregnancy, so that her long hair won’t cause her problems when she’ll give birth and be too busy caring for her pups to clean herself.
Guinea pigs can thrive both indoors and outdoors, but if there are changes in temperature in your cavy’s outdoor hutch, then you should bring your pregnant piggy inside where her environment is more stable.
It’s also wise to consider the practicality of your piggy’s housing during this time. If her set-up isn’t adequate, then you should move her before pregnancy really kicks in to avoid undue stress. Another thing to consider is that multi-level exploring may be great fun on a normal day, but with pregnancy, her balance will be impaired and she may struggle to get up to the higher levels, so it’s advisable to keep things simple.
Potential pregnancy complications
It’s not nice to think about, but the mortality rate is clear: around 20% of sows die giving birth.
The best window in time for a healthy guinea pig pregnancy is under 7 months of age. This is because after this time, the female pig’s pelvic bones solidify, meaning that she’ll struggle to have a natural vaginal birth. If your piggy is older than 7 months and hasn’t given birth before, you’ll want a trained professional on hand to intervene and perform a caesarean section, otherwise she might struggle to make it through the birth.
What You Should Know About Labor and Birth for Your Sow
Preparing for the birth
Hopefully, by this point, you’ll know what to expect as you’ll have had your piggy’s litter size confirmed by a trusted vet. However, on average, be prepared for anywhere between 1-6 pups, with 3-4 pups being the norm. Oh, and don’t worry too much about sleeping through the birth and waking up to a whole lot of pups - fortunately, guinea pigs tend to give birth during the day.
Once your piggy is in labor, it takes about 5 minutes for each fluffball to enter the world. As soon as they’re born, these tiny pigs have a full head of hair when they’re born, open their eyes quickly, and will eagerly nibble on solid food within just a few hours. Guinea pigs are precocial animals, which basically means they are born well-developed, so this is completely normal!
To ensure a smooth labor, you should have your vet’s emergency number on hand. Better to be safe than sorry in case of any problems that may arise.
Pregnant guinea pig: recognize the signs of labor
Like for hooman mothers, labor is a tough time for piggy moms too. You should be alerted once your piggy goes into labor as you’ll hear her cry out. You can also spot some clear signs in her body language. She’ll sit up with her head between her legs and make small hiccupping sounds, which means she’s having contractions.
Helping with the birth
The birth itself should be over pretty quickly, typically within 30 minutes. During this time, you should be on hand and present in case of any issues. As hard as it may be, try not to hold the mother or touch her pups. You should only intervene if it’s vital to do so.
If your soon-to-be-mom looks particularly distressed or is in labor for longer than the expected 20-30 minutes, then seek emergency care from your vet immediately.
Postnatal care advice
Once you’re out of the woods and the babies have been successfully delivered, you should leave your proud but exhausted mommy alone with her pups for a couple of hours. Just make sure to double-check beforehand that your sow has cleared any signs of birth, is interested in her pups, and that the pups themselves look alert and well. If you want to know more about how to care for baby guinea pigs, check out this blog.
Some postpartum complications to be on your guard for in the first weeks after giving birth include:
- Retained placenta
- Uterine tears
Prevent future pregnancy
We know it won’t be the first thing on your mind when your poor piggy has just given birth, but you should take the necessary precautions to prevent future pregnancy by separating male and female guinea pigs. Incredibly, female pigs go into heat again straight after giving birth, so pregnancy is a distinct possibility if you’re not careful! It’s therefore super important to keep male and female guinea pigs apart during this time.
Guinea Pigs Pregnancy FAKs - Frequently Asked Kavees
How long are guinea pigs pregnant?
The pregnancy period for a guinea pig lasts anywhere between 56 to 74 days, with an average gestation time of 65 days. The larger the litter, the shorter the pregnancy for your sow.
Do I need to isolate a pregnant guinea pig?
Guinea pigs are social animals, so there’s no immediate need to separate your expectant piggy from her roommates. However, if they become overly annoying and she isn’t able to rest easily, then you should consider rehousing them. Make sure to relocate the other pigs and leave your sow be. This way, she’ll stay as comfortable and undisturbed as possible.
Are guinea pigs easy to breed?
It’s very easy for guinea pigs to breed when males and females that haven’t been neutered are left together, so be careful to avoid unwanted pregnancies. You should only let your piggies breed when your sow is at the right age to ensure it’s responsible and safe.
How do I know if my guinea pig is pregnant?
It’s not always obvious when a sow begins her pregnancy term, but the first sign of a piggy mom-to-be is that she’ll be eating more and piling on the pounds each week.
Can the father guinea pig be with the babies?
Sadly not. While bringing the piggy family together is a lovely thought, it’s important to separate the male from the mother guinea pig after the birth. This means less disturbance for the mommy and newly born pups, but crucially, it will also avoid any new pregnancies.
How to prevent a guinea pig from becoming pregnant?
Prevention is the best cure when it comes to guinea pig breeding, so you should separate any male and female guinea pigs to prevent any unwanted pregnancies. Alternatively, you could consider neutering your male pigs, which is a procedure that can be carried out once they reach 4 months of age. Have a chat with your trusted vet to talk through your options.
At what age can a guinea pig become pregnant?
Guinea pigs reach sexual maturity at just 3-5 weeks of age. Females can also become pregnant straight after birth, so it’s best to keep males and females separated if you don’t want to risk any surprise teen pregnancies.