The average guinea pig pregnancy lasts from sixty to seventy days. Many experts suggest that the length of pregnancy is actually tied to litter size. Longer pregnancies frequently indicate smaller litters whereas shorter pregnancies commonly yield large litters. The average litter size is four puppies but the number can range from one to eight babies.
What a Pregnant Guinea Pig Needs
More Vitamin C! The average guinea pig needs about five milligrams of vitamin C per pound body weight. A pregnant piggy will need twice this amount. Great fresh food sources of vitamin C include red bell peppers, parsley, spinach, mustard greens, kale, and broccoli.
More Food and Veggies! This is a time when a mother needs more food and fresh vegetables in order to develop healthy babies. The extra calories, especially from just a little bit more sugar than usual (think fruits) will work wonders for preventing serious complications such as pregnancy toxemia. Consider adding alfalfa (both in pellet form and fresh) as this is higher in calories and calcium than timothy hay.
Extra Room! Mothers will grow tremendously in size as their litters develop. Many pregnant guinea pigs have been known to strongly resemble eggplants in fact! Overcrowding and jostling in a cage with other guinea pigs can frequently increase the stress of the expectant mother, which can lead to health complications. The mother does not need to be moved right away but once she begins to show signs of discomfort this is a good idea.
No stress! Pregnant mothers are very sensitive to stress during pregnancy. Unnecessary transport, illnesses, crowding, and unexpected change can all lead to miscarriages, premature births, and stillborn babies. Keep an eye on the pregnant mother and if illness of any kind is suspect seek veterinary assistance right away.
Don't Forget Playtime! Just because your piggy is pregnant doesn't mean she should get out and about, so don't forget daily playtime. Also, find sneaky ways to trick your guinea pig into moving more within her own cage. Keep the hut at one end, food at another, and water somewhere else. This will naturally maintain activity.
What She Doesn't Need
Excessive weight gain. Bigger is not better and obesity increases the chance of pregnancy complications like toxemia.
Problems to Watch Out For
Young Mothers - This is frequently a problem when purchasing guinea pigs from pet stores. All it takes is sexing one baby guinea pig incorrectly and placing him or her in the wrong cage. One of the biggest problems for young mothers is being simply too small to deliver safely. How small is too small? Anything under 500g. If this describes your situation be sure to contact an experienced guinea pig veterinarian to get advice. He or she can assist you in developing a nutritional plan that will keep the size of the mother and litter down without causing malnutrition. Make extra effort to add foods containing sugar.
Pregnancy Toxemia -Toxemia is caused by insufficient consumption of calories, which leads to the mother's body attempting to survive off its own stored energy and tissue. Toxemia is usually fatal. Toxemia is known to have multiple causes. The first is the inability to get enough nutrients to the mother and/or the developing babies. Sometimes this is caused by the mother's inability to eat due to the weight of the developing litter upon her stomach. Other times the weight of the litter will stop blood from flowing normally around the uterus due to compressed blood vessels - preventing nutrients and oxygen from reaching the fetuses, resulting in their death. Toxemia can also be brought on by stress or malnutrition. Signs of toxemia include listlessness, not eating, signs of fat loss, and sometimes cold extremities.
A Week Before Birth
Make sure the pregnant female is kept completely separate from all males starting a week before the expected birth. Mothers will be extremely fertile right after birth and pregnancy is almost guaranteed. This would be especially hard on the poor piggy's body so make sure this is avoided!
Make sure you have the emergency contact information for your veterinarian in the event you experience birth complications.
Have a separate shoebox put aside with warm cloths and a hot water bottle in case you have any abandoned babies or problems with terrified mothers. The extra warmth will be vital to keeping the babies alive.
Usually there are not any indications birth is eminent, it just happens. Luckily, there isn't anything that you need to do to prepare for the birth of the babies other than just being available in case of problems. A normal birth will result in each baby emerging covered in a fluid filled sack. The mother will reach down and break open the sack, and clean the baby. If the sack is not opened by the mother the baby will suffocate. If you see this happen, be prepared to break open the sack yourself and get the baby breathing. After the birth is over the mother will then eat the placenta - don't worry, this is normal.
Sometimes mothers will reject a baby and chase him or her away from the litter. In this case your only option is to raise the baby yourself or find a foster mother. In other cases you will see the mother develop an irrational fear of her own babies. Sometimes the problem can be resolved by separating the babies from the mother and reintroducing them gently one at a time. Otherwise the babies will have to be handfed or fostered.
Signs Something is Going Wrong - Call Your Vet
Birth typically takes less than thirty minutes. Anything longer is a sign that there is a problem and the life of the mother and babies could be at risk.
If birth appears to end but you can see there is still a baby or babies waiting to be born.
Weight the mother and the babies. Continue to weight everyone daily. This will be your best early indicator if something is wrong. Sometimes certain babies don't get enough milk and they need more time alone with the mother. Other times the mother is unable to produce enough milk. If this is the case you will want to supplement the babies with additional food.