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Caring for your old guinea pigs - Kavee USA Blog

How Long do Guinea Pigs Live? (and Senior Pig Care)

At Kavee, we’d love it if our furry friends stayed with us forever! Sadly, guinea pigs don’t live as long as their hoomans. A guinea pig’s lifespan is around 5 to 7 years, though this is no hard and fast rule. A pig’s health, their genetics, and the care they get can make a big difference in a guinea pig’s lifespan.

Read on to find out more about how long guinea pigs live for, how to tell how old a guinea pig is, and how to care for a senior pig!

How Long Do Guinea Pigs Live On Average? 

There’s no simple answer to the question, ‘How long do guinea pigs live for?’. A guinea pig can sadly pass away at 2 years of age due to an illness, or they can live happily for 8 years. The average guinea pig lifespan is between 5 and 7 years.

Did you know that our pet pigs have twice the life expectancy as their wild relatives? Wild guinea pigs live between 1 and 4 years on average. This has a lot to do with the cute critters being prey animals, so they rarely reach senior piggizenship in the wild. How lucky are their domestic friends?

Now, if you’re thinking about getting guinea pigs, or you’re a brand-new guinea pig parent, please beware! These precious pets are small, but they can take up a big chunk of your life. Some pigs are around for 10 or more years, so any prospective piggy parent should make sure they can commit to the guinea pigs’ full lifespan. In short: guinea pigs are a long-term commitment!

If you want to adopt some guinea pigs, be their forever home.An old guinea pig sat inside on a kavee c c abstract cuddle cupHow old is the oldest guinea pig?

The oldest guinea pig was Snowball from England. The adorable floof made it almost to 15 years - 14 years and 10 months, to be exact. What an incredible age for a pig!

Snowball is recognized in the Guinness Book of World Records, though there are probably lots of guinea pigs out there trying to break her record.

Average hairless guinea pig lifespan 

Interestingly, your pigs’ breed can also make a difference to their guinea pig lifespan. How long do guinea pigs live if they have no hair? The average hairless guinea pig lifespan is in the higher range, between 7 and 8 years. Long-haired pigs, like Peruvians and Shelties, have a lower life expectancy at 4 years. How strange!

Of course, the right care makes a big difference to a guinea pig’s lifespan, and long-haired guinea pigs are likely to get Urinary Tract Infections (URIs) and other common health problems in guinea pigs if their coats aren’t kept in tip top condition.

Let’s find out more about the factors that make some guinea pigs live longer!

A hairless guinea pig next to a ginger guinea pig

What Makes Some Guinea Pigs Live Longer Than Others?

When it comes to a guinea pig’s lifespan, genetics play a huge role. Breeds aren’t the only factor that make a difference in your sweet floofs’ life expectancy, but also whether their guinea pig parents are healthy. Some health issues can be passed down to baby pigs, so unless you’re adopting your guinea pigs (which is a great idea!), it’s best to make sure the piggy breeder really knows about their guinea pigs.

The other factor that’s key to a happy, long life for your pets is the right care. The right diet, exercise, and grooming are essential for a guinea pig’s wellbeing. A healthy pig can live a much longer life.

If you want to check you’re doing everything to keep your cute companions well, read our guidance for expanding your guinea pig’s lifespan!

Top Tips to Expand a Guinea Pig’s Lifespan

Every piggy parent wants to keep their beloved pets with them for as long as piggily possible. For small furries, the guinea pig lifespan is actually pretty long - especially compared to rats or hamsters.

To give your pigs the best chance at living a long, happy life, you can keep up with the following tips!A double up black kavee c and c cage with guinea pigs insideKeep your piggies on a healthy diet

The right guinea pig diet is such a big factor to your pigs’ wellbeing! It can prevent dental issues, weight-related problems, and digestive issues, like impaction. So what’s crucial for a great piggy diet? Two things: fiber and vitamin C.

A diet with plenty of fiber keeps your piggies’ guts moving, so there’s no blockages. The small floofs eat constantly and poop just as much. So if this cycle of eat, poop, sleep, repeat is broken by a blockage, it causes a big problem. How can you prevent this? Have a big pile of high-quality hay, like Timothy hay, in your piggy palace. Hay is full of fiber, and also great for their teeth. Did you know that guinea pigs eat some of their poop to get even more fiber that second time around?

Now the other key element to a fantastic piggy diet, the vitamin C. Guinea pigs can’t produce their own - like people - so they have to get it from their food. Their daily dose of veg should include some vitamin C (a slice of bell pepper is great), and any good pellets have extra vitamin C, too.

So what’s missing from this list? Fresh water! Some guinea pigs drink a lot of water, and they should have access to fresh, clean water 24/7. Studies have shown that some guinea pigs and rabbits drink more from a bowl of water than a bottle, and it’s a good idea to have both available.

A healthy diet is a great foundation for a long guinea pig life.

Create the piggy palace of their dreams

Your guinea pigs spend a large portion of their day in the cage. Whether they’re having a little popcorn party or a big snooze fest, this is all happening in the cage. To make sure the piggies are living in a true cavy castle that keeps them comfortable and healthy, piggy parents should carefully look into

  • cage size, safety, and quality
  • ventilation
  • bedding
  • accessories

With a spacious cage, your guinea pigs have the room to zoom - and stay fit and healthy.  C&C cages are a great choice as a large guinea pig cage. The big cage should also be of a high quality, so it’s safe for your precious pets. This goes down to the smallest cage parts, like the paint on the bars that can be toxic to piggies.

The piggy palace also has to have great ventilation to lower the risk of Upper Respiratory Infections (URIs). It’s another nod to the C&C cage with its mesh grids, and one of the main reasons glass tanks are an absolute no-no for our fluffy friends.

Finally, the cage interior. The accessories and bedding should be dust-free and absorbent, so there’s no risk of soggy bottoms. Fleece liners and accessories do a great job at keeping your guinea pigs dry, warm, and cozy.

A piggy parent has lots of options when it comes to the cage, so finding the right one for your and your pets’ needs makes all the difference. Fun cage hunting, everyone!

Keep up with your guinea pigs’ mental wellbeing

A pig’s physical wellbeing isn’t the only factor in expanding the guinea pig’s lifespan. Just like us hoomans, the small furries have social needs to keep their mental wellbeing in tip top condition. Guinea pigs live in large herds in the wild, and our pet pals are just as sociable as their wild counterparts. Every guinea pig needs a furry pig friend to keep them company and speak to in their own language. That’s why no guinea pig should ever live alone!

You can also boost your piggies’ mental wellbeing by giving them lots of opportunities to explore, forage, and play. If we keep our sweet floofs occupied with finding food, looking around their cage, and playing with toys, they won’t get bored or destructive. A simple change-around of their cage setup can work wonders.

Make sure to keep on top of enrichment for your floofy friends to give them an even better chance at a long life!

Two guinea pigs eating together

Find a cavy-savvy vet

Guinea pigs are some of the most popular pets across the globe, and yet, there are few cavy-savvy vets around. The small furries fall under the category of exotic pets, so regular vets get almost no training in piggy healthcare. Finding a vet who knows the ins and outs of our floofy friends can make all the difference in an emergency.

And a vet trip isn’t just for emergencies. If your pig seems off, it’s always a good idea to consult your vet. Guinea pigs are prey animals, so they hide illnesses as long as they can. By the time a piggy parent notices anything wrong, there’s a good chance your pet’s been poorly for a while.

Even if your pigs seem fine, an annual check-up at the vet brings underlying health issues to the surface. And a weekly health check at home, for weight, nails, teeth, and overall pig condition, is a great way to learn about your pig and notice anything unusual.

Keeping a close eye on your pigs and having a plan in check for health problems can save your pigs a lot of trouble and the piggy parents a lot of money.

A rigorous cage cleaning routine

If you’ve already got guinea pigs, you’ll know this for a fact… they poop a lot - over 100 times a day! For piggy parents, staying on top of a wheek-y clean cage is one of the biggest challenges. And a clean cage isn’t just for our eyes - it’s also vital for your pigs’ health.

If the piggy mess is left to its own devices, bacteria and fungi can grow and make your pigs ill. Daily spot cleans and a full clean of all bedding and accessories every couple of days keeps the cage smelling fresh and your pigs feeling good.

Pigs-ercising

Many living creatures need to exercise to stay fit and healthy, and our sweet pigs are no exception to this rule. The walking stomachs, as they’re lovingly called, eat all the time, so the little piggies have lots of energy to burn through. And piggy popcorn parties are so much fun to watch!

If you want to encourage your pigs to be active, a large cage is at the top of your list of priorities. After all, how are they meant to zoom if there’s not enough room?  Even better if there’s a large space outside of their cage your guinea pigs can use for daily pigs-ercise classes. During warmer weather, an outdoor run is a fantastic way to get your pigs going.

A few fun accessories can get your pig zooming about in pure joy. Fleece or wooden tunnels are great for a little sprint, and corner curtains also feel soft on your pigs’ skin when they breeze in and out of the fleece bands.

Get your pigs moving!

Common Health Problems in Guinea Pigs

Although a guinea pig’s lifespan is between 5 and 7 years on average, the adorable floofs are prone to catching a fair few diseases and health problems. Not all of them can be prevented by passionate piggy parents, but the sooner you spot the signs, the better the chances of recovery for your lovely friends. And, as we already know, better piggy health means a longer life.

A white and ginger guinea pig being examined by  a vet

Upper Respiratory Infection (URI)

An Upper Respiratory Infection, usually called a URI, is the flu of the guinea pig world. But beware! While we drink soup, lie in bed, and watch soppy rom-coms to get better, our small friends have to be seen by a vet straight away to feel better. A URI is a serious matter for the poor floofs.

A URI comes from a virus or bacteria in the respiratory tract, and can be passed from guinea pig to guinea pig via bedding or the air. So if you have one poorly piggy, it’s a good idea to take the whole herd, if possible, to your vet.

Symptoms of an Upper Respiratory Infection can show up around 24 hours after infection, but remember that our pigs are prey animals. They’ll try to hide their condition for as long as possible. Keep an eye out for

  • sneezing and coughing
  • lethargy
  • no food or water intake
  • unusual poop
  • a look of pain

If you notice any of these signs, it’s time for an urgent vet trip with your pigs.

A cavy-savvy vet can provide you with a diagnosis and treatment, including painkillers and gut stimulants. They may also give your piggy some fluids and syringe-feed them to help them feel better more quickly.

URIs are common health issues in our furry friends, unfortunately, but you can help prevent them with dust-free bedding and hay, and a great cage cleaning routine.

Urinary tract infection (UTI)

A Urinary Tract Infection, or UTI, is another very common health issue in our sweet friends. It’s caused by bacteria in the urinary tract, and because our piggies have such short legs, it’s very easy for the bacteria to enter that area. Soiled bedding is often the culprit behind a UTI, when the pig sits in their own pee. It can also be passed between pigs, but it’s less infectious than a URI.

Symptoms to watch out for are

pained squeaking when going to the bathroom

blood in the urine

a fever

no food or water intake

lethargy

A UTI has to be treated straight away by a vet. The symptoms of a UTI are very similar to that of bladder stones, so your vet may do some extra testing to find out what’s really wrong with your poorly pig. Your vet can then offer treatment, including painkillers, antibiotics, and fluids.
Keep up with a great cage cleaning routine to help prevent UTIs in your herd.

Gut Stasis or Bloat

Guinea pigs are very sensitive when it comes to their digestive tract. If something’s blocking or hindering their digestive system, it becomes life-threatening for the poor floofs quickly. Because guinea pigs can’t vomit, there are many things that cause gut stasis or bloat, including eating something they can’t digest or that’s too big to pass through.

  • Symptoms to watch out for are
  • a bloated stomach
  • lack of food and water intake
  • soft, unusual, or no poop
  • hunched position and a look of pain

In many cases, gut stasis and bloat can be treated with a gut stimulant, syringe-feeding, and painkillers. If there’s a blockage in the digestive tract, the vet may suggest surgery. If a piggy stops eating, time is of the essence, so make sure to call your vet straight away.

The best way to prevent gut stasis or bloat is providing a fantastic diet for your sweet pigs.

Nutrient deficiency

The two things every guinea pig’s diet should have plenty of are fiber and vitamin C. Like their piggy parents, the cute companions can’t make their own vitamin C, so it has to come from their diet. High-quality pellets and bell peppers are a great source of vitamin C for your beloved pets.

If your piggies don’t get the vitamin C they need, they can become deficient and develop scurvy. The vitamin C deficiency affects their overall health, so you may spot a dull coat, swollen joints, and a general lack of energy.
If you think your pig isn’t looking right, talk to your vet. They can recommend vitamin C supplements to get your piggy back on track, and help you figure out the right diet for them. While scurvy isn’t usually an emergency, it should be treated sooner rather than later, so your pigs feel happy and healthy!

If you notice any of the symptoms, or a general lack of energy, in your guinea pigs, make sure to take them to a vet straight away. Many of these health issues are life-threatening and very painful for your pets. Help them be at their best!

A black guinea pig with a healthy coat

When Is a Guinea Pig Considered Old?

A guinea pig gets their senior piggizenship at the age of 4 years. That’s usually the age they start slowing down a little, including their appetite, so they can do with some extra TLC. Don’t worry, guinea pigs can live for many years after they reach their senior piggizenship. As piggy parents, it’s just a matter of knowing their additional needs and knowing what to look out for.

So let’s find out a little more about older guinea pigs!

How to tell how old a guinea pig is

If you’re wondering how to tell how old a guinea pig is if you don’t know their birth date, then you’ve got a few options to find out more about the piggy. Although there’s no way to tell exactly how old a guinea pig is, you can usually tell if they’re a young or old guinea pig by a few factors:

  1. Teeth: A guinea pig’s teeth grow all their life, so they eat hay to grind them down. If you take your newly adopted guinea pigs to the vet and find they have toothfully awful teeth, there’s a good chance you got older guinea pigs. They eat less than the younger pig generation, so there’s a higher risk of teeth issues
  2. Coat: Our piggies are notoriously clean pets. In the later stages of their life, old guinea pigs may find it difficult to keep up with the daily grooming. Please note that a dull or patchy coat can also be a symptom of a few illnesses, so it’s a good idea to make a vet appointment
  3. Nails: Baby guinea pigs have thin, translucent nails that start growing thicker at the age of one year. Older guinea pigs’ nails often have a yellow tint to them.
  4. Eyes: Guinea pigs have lovely, shiny dark eyes. As they get older, their eyes may look a little sunken.
  5. Behavior: Younger guinea pigs, especially if they’re under 2 years of age, are full of beans. You’ll see them zooming and popcorning about the room. Older guinea pigs, by contrast, prefer a comfortable nap.

We can’t pin down a guinea pig’s age simply by looking at them, but their condition and behavior are great indicators to tell how old a guinea pig is.

Does a guinea pig’s behavior change with age?

Old guinea pigs aren’t too different from humans and other animals. They’ll slow down, take a few extra naps during the day, and enjoy the comfortable things in life. Because of this change in behavior, their relationship with their piggy pals can also change.

Piggy parents may notice a pecking order, or rank, in their guinea pig herd. There’s a guinea pig who always leads the way, and others who simply follow. If the leader pig is an older guinea pig, the other pigs may start challenging this rank and take over.

Often, old guinea pigs mellow and become more caring towards their piggy pals. When they’re not leading the herd, they can focus on quality time with their furry friends. Piggy parents may also notice their pigs becoming more affectionate with them.

So yes, old guinea pigs behave differently from their younger counterparts. They only get cuter with age!

5 Tips for Caring for Old Guinea Pigs

Our senior piggizens have some additional needs to stay healthy. There are some common health problems in guinea pigs of a certain age, and close monitoring and a little extra TLC can help them stay healthy and happy for longer.

older guinea pig in a kavee abstract cuddle cup

Monitor old guinea pigs health on a weekly basis

Older guinea pigs slow down a lot. They’re less active and they eat less as well. So to make sure they are well, a weekly health check becomes more important than ever (though we think a weekly check-up is good for all guinea pigs). During these check-ups, piggy parents can take note of their guinea pigs’

  • weight
  • coat
  • nails
  • teeth
  • eyes and nose (in case there’s discharge)
  • and overall condition

If anything seems unusual, especially when there’s a sudden weight gain or loss, it’s time for a vet trip.

Maintain a steady room temperature

Guinea pigs are most comfortable between 65 and 73 degrees Fahrenheit (18 to 23 degrees Celsius), but your older guinea pigs would love a little extra warmth. With their metabolism slowing down, it’s good to keep your home closer to the upper end of that scale to keep them comfortable.

Since it’ll cost them extra energy to keep snug, you can also help your pigs with cozy accessories. Fleece hideys and tunnels, as well as sleep sacks, make great snooze spots that keep your pigs extra warm. Some piggy parents also offer a cavy-savvy heat pad at night.

Old guinea pigs don’t do well with sudden temperature changes, and they can develop common health problems in guinea pigs. So keeping your home at a comfortable temperature helps your older guinea pigs to stay well.

Special Senior pig food

Old guinea pigs have slightly different nutritional needs than the young ones. They still need their fiber and vitamin C, but a low-calcium diet is best for them. Too much calcium can end in bladder stones, especially with older guinea pigs, so it’s best to stick to veggies and treats that are lower on the calcium front.

If your old guinea pigs are losing weight, this can be to do with common health problems in guinea pigs. A check-up at the vet’s is the safest option. However, senior pigs can lose weight simply because their metabolism is slowing down. To bulk up their food intake, you can offer them a portion of oat flakes every other day. If your pig enjoys the oat flakes, it’s important to keep an eye on their water intake at the same time. Generally, guinea pigs drink more from a bowl than a bottle, and you can even offer some water through a syringe.

If your older guinea pigs are eating and drinking well, they’ll get all the nutrients they need - a great way to help them live a long life!

Even more cage cleans

Usually, a daily spot clean plus a thorough clean once or twice a week is all that’s needed for a super clean piggy palace. But when it comes to old guinea pigs, their piggy parents should pay extra attention to their sweet furries’ needs. Because senior pigs are less active, they may end up staying in the same spots for longer. And you know what that means, right? Lots of poop right where they’re snoozing away.

If their bathroom breaks happen where they’re lying down, it can quickly become a health hazard. Soggy bottoms and bumblefoot are only some of the common health problems in guinea pigs your seniors could end up with.

Extra cage cleans make the piggy palace a safe environment for your furry friends. Taking special care with their snooze spots, including fleece hideys and cuddle cups with removal pee pads, makes all the difference for your adorable friends!

Keep the same cage layout

As they move into the senior stage, older guinea pigs become less agile, and their vision may not be as sharp. That’s why the layout of the cage should be easily accessible and not be changed much.

If old guinea pigs have to jump up or climb a steep ramp to get anywhere, they could hurt themselves. Sharp edges could also end in disaster when the sight gets worse. By creating a level, stable layout, you’re making sure the senior pig can get wherever they need. And by keeping the same layout, you’ll help them navigate the world around them.

The More You Love Your Guinea Pigs, The Longer They Live!

We can’t measure the love we have for our pigs in the years they spend with us. Sometimes, the shortest stays are the sweetest. And yet, every piggy parent wants their pigs with them for as long as possible. So there’s only one thing for them to do: love their floofy friends with all their hearts.

With all our love and the best care possible, our precious pets lead a happy life - and that’s what matters most!

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