What Factors Affect Guinea Pig Lifespan?

B. Koch

Guinea pigs are small rodents that are often kept as pets. The typical guinea pig lifespan is between five to seven years, although they have been known to live up to nine years. Providing optimal housing, nutrition and housing for these animals will promote a long life.

Proper nutrition may increase the lifespan of a guinea pig.
Proper nutrition may increase the lifespan of a guinea pig.

Encouraging a balanced, healthy diet is a great way to extend guinea pig life span. Guinea pigs should be given food pellets, and it is important that these pellets are fortified with vitamin C, as pigs are unable to generate this vitamin on their own. All guinea pigs should have a constant supply of timothy hay available. Timothy hay acts as roughage and encourages proper digestion, as well as gives the animals something to gnaw on. While timothy hay is encouraged, alfalfa hay is not recommended as its high calcium levels can cause stomach upset and kidney stones. Guinea pig’s diets should be supplemented with vegetables, especially leafy greens, to promote vitamin intake and variety.

Guinea pigs are typically kept in a spacious cage.
Guinea pigs are typically kept in a spacious cage.

To promote the longest guinea pig lifespan, the most optimal housing must be provided. In general, the largest cage possible should be purchased. Traditionally, 4 square feet (1.2 square meters) per guinea pig has been recommended, although more recently a minimum amount of space of 7.5 square feet (2.3 square meters) for one pig or 10.5 square feet (3.2 square feet) for two has been recommended for optimal health. Unlike other rodents that enjoy climbing and may use vertical cage space, guinea pigs are not avid climbers and prefer floor space. More space also encourages exercise to maintain a pig’s healthy body weight, as well as stimulation so the animals do not get bored.

The environment provided in even a spacious cage is essential for expanding guinea pig lifespan. Although widely accessible, cedar and pine chip bedding are not recommended since they often contain chemicals that can be detrimental to a guinea pig’s health. Instead, shredded paper, such as newspapers, should be utilized.

The location of the cage is also essential. Since guinea pigs cannot sweat, if they are located in direct sunlight or near a heating source they may suffer a heat stroke. At the same time, they should be kept away from cold areas or drafts. Ideally, their environment should be between 65° to 75° Fahrenheit (18° to 24° Celsius). An area of low humidity is also essential, as high humidity can promote the growth of molds and fungus in bedding which encourages illness.

Basic hygiene is also important for promoting a long guinea pig lifespan. It is essential to clean out old food daily, as well as clean the cage of feces. Water should be kept fresh and changed at least once daily. The entire cage should be cleaned weekly and new bedding be placed inside. Keeping a pig in a clean home with fresh food will help to prevent illness and extend the guinea pig lifespan.

Basic hygiene is important for promoting guinea pig health.
Basic hygiene is important for promoting guinea pig health.

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