Guinea pigs are relatively easy to care for, but one issue you do need to watch out for is heat stroke. Because they are not particularly adept at regulating their own body temperatures, guinea pigs don't do well when kept in temperatures above 75 degrees F. Since heat stroke can be deadly, it's essential that you know how to prevent, detect, and treat heat stroke in your guinea pig as summer rolls in.
Symptoms of Heat Stroke in Guinea Pigs
A guinea pig who is suffering from heat stroke will become very lethargic. It may lie on its side and begin to pant with its mouth open. The guinea pig may refuse to move or groan if you touch it. Other signs of heat stroke include rapid breathing, seizures, and muscle spasms. If part or all of your guinea pig's body begins to shake, this is a sign of serious heat stroke.
Treating Heat Stroke in Guinea Pigs
If you think your guinea pig is suffering from heat stroke, you must immediately get to work lowering its body temperature. Put your guinea pig in a cool room, and turn a fan on to circulate the air. Drape a cool, damp cloth over your pet to aid cooling. If your guinea pig is used to baths, you can place him or her in a tub of cool water. Don't add ice to the water – this will be too cold and may cause your guinea pig to go into shock. Don't place a guinea pig who is not used to baths in a tub of water, as this may cause additional stress.
Mild heat stroke, in which your guinea pig is laying on its side and panting, but not suffering from seizures and is still conscious, does not usually require veterinary treatment as long as you're able to bring your guinea pig's temperature back down. If your guinea pig is having seizures or muscles spasms, or if it has lost consciousness, contact an emergency vet while you're also following the steps above.
Preventing Heat Stroke in Guinea Pigs
It's far easier to prevent heat stroke than it is to treat it. Make sure you leave the air conditioning on even when you're not home, so your house does not get hotter than 75 degrees F. Don't place your guinea pig's cage in front of a window where the sunshine may heat it up. Only take your guinea pig outside when the temperature is cool, and provide a shady area where it can get out of the sun. For more information, talk to a professional like Animal House Veterinary Hospital.