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What Factors Affect Guinea Pig Gestation?

By Marlene Garcia
Updated May 17, 2024
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Guinea pig gestation depends on the size of the litter, with larger litters increasing guinea pig gestation time. The average guinea pig gestation period varies between 59 and 72 days, and litters number between one and six offspring, but as many as eight are possible. Some breeders predict guinea pig gestation by feeling for the number of young in the sow’s stomach. Movement might also help determine gestation because they begin kicking and moving about three weeks before delivery.

Most reputable guinea pig breeders recommend against breeding females until they weigh about one pound (453 g) and are between five and nine months old. If bred too young, the sow might be physically unfit to carry and deliver offspring. She also might lack the maturity to care for her offspring once they are born. Older sows, beyond nine months old, also should not be bred for the first time. After nine months of age, a female guinea pig’s hip bones might fuse, creating the need for a caesarean birth.

The actual birthing process takes between a half hour and an hour, depending upon the size of the litter. During the guinea pig gestation period, the sow does not make a nest or prepare for birth. The young are commonly born at dawn or dusk when guinea pigs are most active, but the sow usually does not give any sign that birth is imminent. She commonly delivers a baby guinea pig every five minutes or so.

Females break the sacs enclosing newborns with their teeth immediately after birth so they can breathe on their own. After the entire litter is delivered, the placenta is expelled and eaten by the sow before she cleans up any blood and waste and licks each new guinea pig. After most guinea pig deliveries, the sow gathers all the babies into a corner of the cage, where she puts them under her to keep them warm.

Males should be removed from the cage before the sow gives birth, because she typically comes into season again within an hour. Other pregnant sows should also be isolated when guinea pig gestation nears completion. When a sow begins the delivery process, it might cause other pregnant guinea pigs to deliver prematurely. Any unusual stress during guinea pig gestation might also cause abortion or premature birth of stillborn babies.

Cavies, or guinea pigs, are born with teeth, hair, and claws, and are able to eat solid food on their day of birth. They nurse about every two hours, taking turns at the sow’s two teats. After weaning, which generally occurs at three to four weeks, males should be sequestered from females because they become fertile and will mate with the sow or female cavies in the litter.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long is the gestation period for a guinea pig?

The gestation period for a guinea pig typically ranges from 59 to 72 days, with an average of about 63 to 68 days. This duration can be influenced by factors such as the number of pups being carried and the breed of the guinea pig. Larger litters may result in slightly shorter gestation periods.

Does the age of the guinea pig affect its gestation period?

Yes, the age of a guinea pig can affect its gestation period. Younger guinea pigs, experiencing their first pregnancy, may have a slightly longer gestation period. Conversely, older guinea pigs that have had multiple pregnancies might have shorter gestation periods due to their bodies being more accustomed to the process.

Can the diet of a guinea pig impact its pregnancy?

A balanced diet is crucial for a healthy guinea pig pregnancy. Adequate intake of Vitamin C, calcium, and high-quality fiber is essential for the development of the pups and the health of the mother. Poor nutrition can lead to complications such as stillbirths or weak offspring, according to veterinary studies on guinea pig care.

How does litter size affect guinea pig gestation?

Litter size can significantly affect guinea pig gestation. Larger litters often result in a shorter gestation period, while smaller litters may lead to a longer gestation. This is because a larger number of pups can trigger earlier labor. On average, guinea pigs give birth to 1 to 6 pups per litter.

What are the signs that a guinea pig is about to give birth?

Signs that a guinea pig is close to giving birth include nesting behavior, restlessness, and a loss of appetite. The guinea pig's abdomen may also drop noticeably as the pups move into position for birth. Additionally, the pelvic bones of the mother will widen, which can be felt by gently palpating the area.

Can external factors like temperature and stress affect guinea pig gestation?

External factors such as temperature and stress can indeed affect guinea pig gestation. Guinea pigs are sensitive to extreme temperatures and high-stress environments, which can lead to complications or premature labor. Maintaining a stable, comfortable environment and minimizing stressors is important for the health of the pregnant guinea pig and the successful development of the pups.

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Discussion Comments

By Animandel — On May 24, 2014

@Laotionne - You are correct that some guinea pigs live longer than eight years, but the average lifespan of these animals is closer to five years. And they do not handle stress particularly well, so they need to be kept comfortable. Young children are often not up to the job of caring for them, so parents usually become the primary caretakers.

By Laotionne — On May 24, 2014

I prefer hamsters as pets rather then guinea pigs. They are more active and fun to watch. I have been considering buying one for my niece, but I worry that she is too young to handle the death of a pet and hamsters have very short lives.

For this reason, I am now thinking that I should buy her a guinea pig. They can live beyond 8 years if they are well taken care of, and by then my niece will have a better understanding of birth and death as parts of the cycle of life.

By Feryll — On May 23, 2014

Two of my coworkers have guinea pigs as pets. One of them has a male and the other has a female. Okay, you probably see where this is headed. They got the idea they could get their animals together, with the goal being a guinea pig pregnancy. They both are very found of their pets, and they thought this would be a way to actually earn money doing something they would enjoy.

Well, the female got pregnant and the wait began. My coworkers started to worry because the gestation period was taking so long, much longer than they had read that a normal guinea pig gestation period is supposed to last. The guinea pig gave birth to a dozen babies.

My coworkers were not prepared for all that came with caring for the new arrivals, and preparing them for sale. Turns out breeding guinea pigs was more complicated than they anticipated. There enterprise began and ended with the first litter.

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