Plunging Temperatures

Although it is only Autumn here in the UK, the temperatures have really dropped over the past couple of nights after a pretty warm start to October. Autumnal weather is changeable, with more rain and wind forecast over the next couple of weeks, and soon frosty nights will be coming.

Once the external temperature falls below 10C / 50F, guinea pigs need to be taken indoors – either in a shed / outbuilding or in your house. Why? Because they are very susceptible to the cold, to changes in temperature and humidity, and often end up with respiratory problems / pneumonia or hypotherma, all of which are potential killers. Fungal skin problems are also common at this time of the year due to the damp conditions.

Guineas don’t thrive in cold weather. They originally come from Peru where the climate is warm and dry.  Here in the UK the climate is not ideal for guineas with the high levels of humidity and regular changes in temperature.  Young, old and pregnant guineas are especially susceptible to the cold and infections during the winter months.

heatedshedIn ideal circumstances, guinea pigs would like to be kept in your house or in a heated shed over the winter months.  A small oil-filled electric heater is safe to use.  These are readily available from Argos and other electrical stores. A thermometer showing maximum / minimum temperature is also useful, so that you can see how low the temperature drops overnight.  Conservatories and greenhouses are not the most suitable places to keep guineas unless they are well heated, ventilated and insulated.  Because of all the glass, there can be a lot of condensation present, and guineas can end up with medical problems as a result (fungal issues in particular).

Most hutches designed for outdoor use and sold in pet shops are not waterproof or windproof, so guineas need to be protected from the elements.  Hutch covers are available online from Amazon UK.  These can help to keep your guineas warmer and drier if you cannot put your hutch in a shed, or have your piggies indoors.

If guinea pigs are kept outside or in an unheated shed, damp bedding may freeze and is cold and uncomfortable.  All damp bedding should be removed and replaced twice daily with dry, fresh bedding and hay.  A thick layer of newspaper makes a good bottom layer, followed by Dengie MediBed / Natural Supasoft Bedding – formerly Russell Rabbit (short-chopped straw), and topped with lots of soft, fresh green meadow hay.

Inside the hutch you can provide little houses – preferably big enough for more than one guinea so they can ‘share’ body heat.  Brown cardboard boxes, Pigloos or Fiddlestix serve this purpose very well.  Snugglesafe Heatpads from Vet UK are also well worth investing in, and are also much loved by guineas that are feeling poorly or have had an operation.  Just pop them in the microwave and in a few minutes you will have a nice warm pad to keep your guineas warm and snug.

Also bear in mind that guinea pigs need water to be available at all times.  If the temperature falls to 0°C / 32°F then the water will freeze.  Water Bottle Snugs are also useful and are insulated wraps that fit around your water bottle to prevent it freezing in the winter. A weather app for your smartphone is also useful so you can keep an eye on what the weather will be doing over the next few days.

When housing guineas, always think about insulation and ventilation.  Insulate to keep warm (and in some cases cool during the summer), ventilate to allow circulation of air and prevent damp, and fungal build up.

What are you doing to ensure that your guineas are warm and comfortable over the winter months?


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