Heatstroke in Guinea Pigs? Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

White guinea pig with pink eyes

In hot weather guinea pigs need to be kept cool to prevent heat exhaustion which will likely lead to heatstroke if not spotted early enough. If immediate attention is not given when your guinea pig is overheating, it could be fatal for your pet.

In this article we explain what causes heatstroke, the symptoms, how to avoid it and the best treatment for a guinea pig who is suffering from heatstroke.

What causes heatstroke?

If the temperature rises to above 28 degrees celsius (82.4 degrees fahrenheit) or your guinea pig’s housing is around or above that temperature, heat stroke is likely to occur. Remember that even if the air temperature is lower than this, a hutch or shed can become much hotter on a warm day.

Symptoms of heatstroke

If your guinea pig has any of the following symptoms you need to take action to help them before they become fatally ill:

  • Unable to stand or limp
  • Hyperventilation (fast breathing) – often with mouth open or very shallow and short breaths / panting
  • Body temperature of over 40 degrees celsius
  • Drooling
  • Seizures

How to treat heatstroke in your guinea pig

You may want to take your guinea pig to the vet to get professional advice but when your pet is this ill you need to take action yourself immediately. Having said that, if you are at all unsure of what to do, it is always best to call your vet.

Cooling a guinea pig with a damp towel to prevent heatstroke
Wrap a damp cool towel around your guinea pig to cool her down

Here are the steps you need to take to help your guinea pig recover from heat exhaustion or heatstroke:

  • Take them into a cool place indoors and out of the sun.
  • Soak a towel in cool water (NOT ice cold), wring it out so it’s just damp and wrap it around your guinea pig for a short period of time (5 minutes). Too long can be dangerous. DO NOT put your guinea pig in cold water and DO NOT pour cold water over him as this can lead to shock. 
  • Once your guinea pig begins to move, remove the towel and keep him cool in a well ventilated area to dry off. 
  • Wait until he is a little more alert before giving water. If you give him water too soon, it may end up in his lungs. However, he does need water as soon as possible to rehydrate so he doesn’t become worse. Feed a little water from either a syringe or a handheld drip-feed bottle. Continue giving water on a regular basis over the next 24 hours to rehydrate him. Cucumber, lettuce and watermelon are high in water content so offer him some of these too.
  • Once your guinea pig has recovered, keep a close eye on him and make sure he is housed in a cool place. It is advisable to take him to the vet at this stage in case he needs any additional treatment to help him recover.

How to prevent heatstroke in guinea pigs

If your guinea pig is outdoors, their hutch should always be positioned in the shade. Direct sunlight can make a hutch incredibly hot inside and your guinea pigs have no means of escape from these unbearable temperatures.

A shed that is used to house guinea pigs should have plenty of ventilation. In hot weather, you may also need to install fans but make sure they are not blowing directly into the cage. If it is still too hot, an air conditioning unit may be required.

If you need to take your guinea pig to the vet or are transporting guinea pigs for whatever reason in hot weather, make sure they are in a proper pet carrier and not a cardboard box. They need lots of ventilation and water to keep them hydrated.

As with a dog, never leave them in a hot car and don’t transport them in the boot of a car as it hasn’t enough fresh air and can become extremely hot. 

Check out our 7 tips on how to keep a guinea pig cool in a heatwave…