Introduction: How to Treat Your Guinea Pig for Heat Stroke/Overheating/Hyperthermia
If your cavy is showing signs of heat stroke or hyperthermia, call a vet, ask for tips, and bring them in as soon as you can. However, heat stroke can be very deadly to guinea pigs; if their temperature stays elevated for too long vital organs will begin to shut down. It is paramount that you lower their core temperature and hydrate and nourish your guinea pig immediately. Following these steps before bringing them to a vet can be the difference between life and death. I'm not a vet and you, the reader, probably aren't either, but your guinea pig will need to be treated faster than you can probably get them seen by a vet that specializes in guinea pigs. If the vet is too expensive, closed, or too far away, these steps are absolutely necessary. If you can have your pig seen by a vet quickly, you still may want to begin treating them before bringing them in.
How to tell if your guinea pigs has heat stroke?
Here is a list of common symptoms of heat stroke or hyperthermia:
High body temperature (easily noticed when feeling their stomach)
Increased heart rate
Motionless but conscious
Water retention (not peeing)
What could cause heat stroke in a guinea pig?
“Heatstroke most commonly occurs when temperatures are 82 or above. High humidity (over 70%) can also increase the likelihood of heatstroke. Other risk factors include inadequate shade and ventilation, overcrowding, and other forms of stress.” (Source 1) “When a guinea pig is exposed to temperatures over 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit), their core body temperature begins to rise. As guinea pigs cannot sweat like humans can it's quick hitting and the detrimental effects are fast moving.” (Source 2)
Bin (4" deep minimum, taller is better), sink will also work
Room temperature tap water
Your guinea pig's water bottle
Your guinea pig's favorite fruits and vegetables that are high in water (celery, skinless apples, carrots, etc)
Small syringe ideally 5-10ml (slip tip, not needle)
Step 1: Getting the Water Ready
Get room temperature water to use. It is so important to have the water be room temperature. If the water is too warm it won't allow your guinea pig to cool down or it could even cause them to overheat even more. If the water is too cold it will put your guinea pig in shock and potentially kill it.
Step 2: Filling the Bin
Fill your bin (or sink that is plugged) with water to a height that your guinea pig can stand in. The water must be covering the bottom of the guinea pigs stomach but not too high that their head is in the water. You want to cover as much of them with water as possible but you don't want them to drown. This will probably be somewhere between 1 and 3 inches of water.
Step 3: Inserting Your Cavy in Water
Put your guinea pig in the water slowly. When you pick up your cavy, be very gentle. They are under a lot of stress and you don't want to make that worse as that will increase their temperature more. They will probably be pretty easy to pick up as they may be exhausted and have no energy. If they are not able to stand well on their own or there is too little water, adjust the amount of water in the bin/sink.
Step 4: Soak Your Guinea Pig
Using the cup, scoop water from the bin/sink. Slowly pour the water over the back of the guinea pig. If you have given your guinea pig a bath before you probably know what to do. Keep repeating this across the guinea pig until they are fully soaked. Be careful to avoid the face, especially the mouth and nose to avoid the animal inhaling water. Water in its face, especially its eyes, may also stress it out more.
Step 5: Keeping the Water Clean
While your guinea pig is in the water, you want to keep the water clean. While not vital, guinea pigs tend to prefer clean environments and you want to keep it as comfortable as possible during this ordeal. To do this, remove any poo that may appear throughout their time in the water. The pig will probably not be peeing as the overheating will lead to dehydration, but if it does, empty the container and refill it with water. in the manner stated in step 1.
Step 6: Continue Cooling Your Pig
Continue feeling the body and stomach of your guinea pig to keep track of its temperature. Keep on periodically dumping water on your pig. The longer your pig is in the water, the better chance you will have of lowering its body temperature. While it is in the water, try offering some it some fruits or veggies that they enjoy. These foods are full of water and nutrients that your piggy desperately needs. You also will want to be offering water from its normal water bottle. There is a good chance that they won't have the energy to eat or drink, we will address this in two steps.
Step 7: Removing Your Guinea Pig From the Water
After you notice that your pig is cooling down, remove them from the water and dry them off thoroughly. Also remove them if they have been in the water for a long time. Give them some food and water and then continue cooling them down in the water again.
Step 8: Nourishing Your Guinea Pig
The increased body temperature will be dehydrating your guinea pig. To combat this, you want to make sure your pet is getting enough fluids. A good way to do this is by making a mixture of half honey and half water. The sugar and electrolytes in the honey will be good for giving them energy while also proving some tasty nourishment. Fill the syringe up with this mixture, insert the tip into their mouth (the corners of their mouth are easiest to get in to if they don't want it), and slowly feed it to them. You will probably want to hold them for this. Make sure to do it very slowly and allow them to swallow before giving them more. If your guinea pig is not drinking water, you will need to do this with plain drinking water as well. Continue giving them water this way every few hours until they are drinking on their own again. If the vet gives you any liquid medication, you will become a pro at this.
Make sure that their food, water, and hay are moved near their sleeping location in their enclosure to reduce the energy they need to use. They may be too exhausted to be walking all around their cage for eating and drinking.
Step 9: Take Them to the Vet
If you have cooled them down, hydrated, and nourished your guinea pig, it is still vital that they see a vet. There may be an underlying issue that needs to be addressed. At the very least, the immense stress that their body took from overheating will have nearly shut down their immune system and most vets will require that they take antibiotics to prevent them from getting sick in the upcoming days. Your skills from using a syringe to feed them water and honey will prepare you well for giving them the antibiotics. The vet will also be able to take their temperature to confirm if they are still overheated or if they have cooled down. It is not recommended to do this on your own as the thermometers are rectal and you do not want to insert it improperly or allow your guinea pig to move with it in as it can damage organs.
Step 10: Repeat If Needed
Constantly check on your guinea pig after this is done because there is a good chance their temperature will spike again after they are removed from the water. If it does, you want to keep repeating this process to keep them cool. The more time they spend with a fever, the more likely it is that organs will be damaged. Do not give them more than one or two syringes of the honey mixture a day as there is a lot of sugar in it that the animal does not need. Keep giving them water and food as their body will need it.
If you are reading this to help your pet, I hope that they recover well and continue to live happy and healthy lives!