Heat exhaustion

Guinea pigs are in serious danger of dying when temperatures reach above 20 degrees centigrade or 70 degrees farenheit. Trapped in a wooden hutch outside which will be up to 10 degrees centigrade higher than outside, he cannot dissipate heat through sweating, so he will die if he is left in these conditions without treatment. Plastic hutches act like ovens in the hot summer months and are to be avoided. 

What to do about heat exhaustion

Treatment takes time. Bring him into a cool area and wrap him in cool, damp towels (not freezing). Keep changing the cool, damp towel until his ears are less hot, his breathing improves and he starts to recover. Offer him water from a 1ml syringe but do not force him to drink as he has probably lost his swallowing mechanism at this stage. Let him lap drips from the end of the syringe. A vet can give sub-cutaneous rehydration fluids and perhaps a diuretic if there is any congestion. Follow up with lots of rehydration.

Prognosis for heat exhaustion

Good and quick. We know of many guinea pigs that have been left to die in overheated hutches, often in pairs, found in the back corner of the hutch where they have been trying to find an exit

Prevention of heat exhaustion

It is your responsibility to to ensure that your guinea pig is not confined in temperatures which he cannot cope with. This also applies in winter when the temperature plummets. Do not put him outside on very hot days, instead keep him in a cool room. Consider an air conditioning unit for your shed if he doesn’t live in your house. Remove cosy beds and plastic houses to ensure there are no ‘hotspots’. Use fans. Ensure an airflow. His life is in your hands. Don’t kill him by trapping him in a hutch like an oven.

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