Little can compare to the joy a new guinea pig litter brings to the home. The feeling of seeing tiny new cavies roll around their confused mother is simply overwhelming.
If you haven’t had any experience with guinea pig pups maybe it’s time to learn a few useful facts first.
If you decide to breed your female guinea you must know that the first mating should be done before she reaches 7 months of age. Sows (female guinea pigs) sexually mature at about 4 months of age and can start mating.
The reason why a female guinea pig shouldn’t breed for the first time after the age of 7 months is that the pelvic canal will get too tight.
The cartilage tissue will ossificate (turn to bone) and during labor, the canal can’t spread and make room for the babies to come out.
In such a situation your pet needs to be taken to the vet for an emergency cesarean section.
Not only is it costly, more importantly the procedure is risky both for the mother and the offspring so better if it’s avoided.
After the first pregnancy, the following ones are easier because the canal is already stretched.
How Many Babies Can a Guinea Pig Have?
An average guinea pig litter has 2-4 pups. The litter can be as big as 7 or 8 pups and even litters with 13 guinea pig pups have been reported although it’s extremely rare. Of course, a pregnant sow can give birth to only 1 guinea pig as well.
If your guinea pig got pregnant young at the recommended age (4-7 months of age), except a smaller guinea pig litter. With each subsequent pregnancy the number of guinea pig pups increases.
The duration of the pregnancy (gestation) in guinea pigs is somewhere between 59 and 72 days. A little known fact is that the bigger litter attributes for a shorter gestation period and vise-versa.
For example, the usual gestation period for a litter of 6 pups is 65-67 days and for 1 pup is 70-72 days.
Since pregnancy is a big deal and the sow needs all the care she can get, it’s important to make regular veterinary checks.
An opinion from an exotics vet is important to see if the pregnancy is going all right and whether she gets all the nutrients she needs.
A general recommendation is to take your guinea pig to the vet for a definitive pregnancy diagnosis if you are not sure yourself.
Note that a distended abdomen does not always mean that the guinea pig is to give birth soon – there are some diseases that appear the same.
Depending on how long your pet has been pregnant there are different methods vets use to diagnose pregnancy.
During the early stages, they perform an ultrasound to visualize the babies. The number of babies cannot be determined with ultrasound alone.
In the later stages, the babies can be palpated through the abdomen and can even be felt moving. Using a stethoscope the vet can try to detect the sound of the babies’ heartbeats.
X-ray imaging is definitely the most useful diagnostic tool for diagnosing pregnancy in guinea pigs. The images will distinctively show the spines and skulls of the babies.
By counting them you can know what litter size to expect. In case the mother gives birth to fewer pups during labor it means that one or more babies probably got stuck.
Do Guinea Pigs Eat Their Babies?
There are a lot of animal species that can be spotted killing and eating their newborn babies. Wild and domestics canids, felines, bears, primates, and rodents perform this act that seems unnatural to humans, but the reasons behind it are quite simple.
A mother in the wild decides to kill her babies when they are sick with little chance of survival. She thinks that feeding the babies and spending her own calories to keep them alive is just a waste of time since they are going to die anyway.
It’s very uncommon for a mother guinea pig to eat her newborn pups. Guinea pigs are taken care of by people that provide them with food and water without them putting too much effort.
As long as the mother guinea pig is well fed and has a positive living environment it’s highly unlikely for her to kill her babies even when they are sick.
When a sow eats her guinea pig pups she probably wasn’t well fed during the pregnancy or was bred back to back (the small period between two consecutive pregnancies).
If there is a male guinea pig in the same cage he might kill all the guinea pigs if he thinks he is not the father.
So in order to prevent litter death, you will need to keep away any male out of the cage. After a few months, you can slowly introduce the babies to the male if he seems friendly enough.
The mother should have enough quality food and supplements during the pregnancy and after the pregnancy. Childbirth is a tiring activity so she will need extra nutrients to get back to her old self.
How Many Times Can a Guinea Pig Get Pregnant?
Guinea Pigs can get pregnant constantly during their fertile period. After their 5th year of age, their ovaries stop functioning and they cannot get pregnant anymore. A sow is able to give birth to 5 litters yearly.
The reason for such a high frequency is the relatively short duration of the pregnancy and the short intervals between heat cycles – 15-17 days. Letting your guinea pig get pregnant often will ruin her physical health and shorten her lifespan significantly.
How Soon Can a Guinea Pig Get Pregnant Again?
Guinea pig females go into heat approximately 15 hours after giving birth to pups. If they successfully mate they will be nursing and pregnant at the same time. This is another reason why sexually intact males should be kept apart after a guinea pig gives birth.
If you plan to have your guinea pig bred once more you should let her have at least a few months pause for her body to return to strength.