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Guinea Pigs/The Anticipation!


QUESTION: Hi there, I bought a beautiful little guinea pig from the pet shop on the 15th of Sept, and was told that she was 4 weeks old on the 11th. A couple of weeks ago, I found out that she is pregnant.

Since then, I've bought her inside to keep an eye on her. Lately she's just been lying around. And in the last few days, I've actually been able to hear the little babies grinding their teeth! Last night, I thought that she may go into labor because, where as she would sit on her fleece that I have in there with her, she went and sat at the other side of the cage where there is just newspaper. And she sat there for pretty much the whole night. Usually she lays down, but she was sitting and holding herself up with her front legs. I checked her pubic bones this morning at about 6am and they were maybe just over 2cm wide. But then when nothing happened, I checked her again just after lunch, and they had closed up to maybe just over 1cm wide! Made me almost pull my hair out!

I've been camping out with her for the last few days, and have even knocked back invitations to go to movies etc just so I could be here with her in case she goes into labor.

Would you have any idea how much longer my wait will be? By my calculations, she would be at almost 70 days now.

Thanks for any help in advance

ANSWER: You're right, the anticipation is awful.  I sometimes think the sows like to watch us squirm just for entertainment.

She sounds like she's very close and will probably deliver in the next day or two. The holding herself up on the front feet is a  sign of labor. Being a young mom she could do this for a couple of days. She's not in active labor, just a kind of 'practice run.'  

Very young moms do extremely well with birthing. I suspect you will wake up to a few extra eyes in the next few days.  They like privacy so she might be waiting for you to either go to sleep or turn your back!  Keep your camera handy.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hello again. Is it normal for her pubic bones to close back up again? She's at about 1.5cm atm. If it's normal, does that mean it won't take so long for them to reopen? She has been holding herself up like that, for around 2 to 3 days now.

I thought again last night that she may go into labor, as the last few days, she's sort of been going around in a circle, and then smelling where she's just been. I also noticed that it looks like she's been pulling her hair out on her belly?

Sorry about all the questions, I haven't owned a guinea pig since I was about 8. So it's been almost 20 years and I'm just worried about her, and the future babies. I think the thing I'm worried most about is her not getting the sack off one of the babies in time.. I'm such an animal lover and it always breaks my heart to see something like that..

One more question, sorry lol :) do you know if 'lethal' guinea pigs are always completely white? Do they have red eyes? And will I be able to tell straight away if she has this? I ask this because by the sounds of the descriptions on roan haired guinea pigs, I think my girl may be one. And if it was one of her own family members that got to her, I'm worried the babies will be 'lethals'

Thank you so much again

American Himalayan
American Himalayan  
It's not at all unusual for it to take awhile for her to finally get to the business of delivery. At this point you're best to just leave her be and let her do what she needs to do.

As for lethal whites that's actually an inaccurate term in guinea pigs. In horses lethal whites are sometimes born of two palomino breedings and a gene that creates foals with multiple problems, incomplete bowel structure, etc. They typically die within a day or so.

A roan to roan breeding can sometimes (but not always) cause what is called a 'lethal' baby. They have dental deformities, often have tiny little eyes and they fail to develop normally. They're generally not able to reproduce. Some survive to adulthood and many do not. True breeders of Roans and Dalmations still occasionally breed Roan to Roan or Dal to Dal, risking the chance that there may be a lethal in the litter. But those that are not are typically the best Roans or Dals on a show table. So breeders will take the chance.

Lethal babies don't have red eyes. If your sow is a red eyed white she is by definition a PEW aka Pink Eyed White.  White pigs are acceptable in either the pink eye or dark for showing purposes.

Some varieties such as Himalayans (a specialty of mine) must have red eyes because of a dilution gene that dilutes the color from the body and the eyes. They have black ears, nose and feet but the eyes are red because the gene prevents pigment in the eye. What you are seeing is the blood behind the retina which is showing through.

There are other colors that may also have red eyes, one of which is a cream. They are accepted with either the pink eye or dark and shown in both varieties. Other colors such as beige and lilac must also have a red eye. Again, it's a dilution gene that causes that.

I'm not sure if I'm understanding what you're saying about your sow. Is she white or is she a roan? In either event you don't need to worry. You don't know who she was bred to and would have no way of even guessing. But if she's a PEW she's absolutely normal and healthy.

As for being bred to a family member, again no problem. That would have no effect on a baby being a lethal. We often cross mother to son or father to daughter to set certain genetic traits.

Even a brother to sister cross will not give you deformed babies. Many breeders cross brother to sister purposely to identify undesirable traits such as coat faults. The concept is that you get either the best of the best or the worst of the worst in doing so. If there are certain faults in a genetic line they will be exposed by concentrating those genes with this kind of inbreeding.

It's not done on a regular basis, but only when trying to achieve a particular genetic trait. This is how breeds of many species are created, and is done by those with a good understanding of genetics to begin with.  

My point is that you need not worry about this litter. She should give you a nice family. You should not be surprised if there are any stillborn babies. This too is a common occurrence with cavies. That's why as breeders we don't try to encourage people to jump into breeding their pets. The mortality rate is higher than in many species, and must be accepted as part of the process.

As far as mom getting the babies cleaned off fast enough, she will know what to do. If you happen to be lucky enough to see the birth you can use a soft rag to wipe off the face and clear the membrane away from the nose and mouth. But leave the rest to her. Part of the bonding process is the cleaning of the babies. It also stimulates them to start breathing right away.

Sometimes you will see the mom leaving the babies and seeming to ignore them. That's because she's not finished emptying her uterus of all that needs to be cleaned out. Resist the urge to jump in and help. They will stay right where they were born until mom gives the okay.

Good luck to all of you.  And please don't feel like you're bothering me to ask anymore questions. That's why we're here.

Attached is a picture of a Himalayan.  

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Pat VanAllen


As is sometimes the case, people in urgent need of information have a higher degree of expectation than those of us as experts are able to give. The experts on this site do their best to give the most accurate and responsible answers possible. We ask that you remember that it is not our intention nor place to criticize the professional advice given by your veterinarian, nor is it appropriate for us to comment on the correctness of a diagnosis made by a licensed physician. Our knowledge is experience based. Although many years of breeding and showing cavies gives me a wealth of experience it cannot change the fact that we as experts are not veterinarians and therefore may occasionally have to reject questions that appear to be asking us to criticize advice given by the licensed professional. Having raised and exhibited cavies for many years I have extensive experience in cavy care and husbandry. I currently have an active breeding program for pedigreed show animals but do not encourage backyard breeding for inexperienced owners. Although I don't encourage breeding for fun I'm always happy to answer any questions from an owner who is in sincere need of help. Pet owners wanting to breed should understand that even experienced breeders have litter losses. The mortality rate is high in cavies. The chance for losing both sow and pups is always present, even with experience. Although this is a site for experts to assist owners, there is no expert in any field who has all the answers. The wisest thing a good expert can know is their limitations. Not having an answer does not diminish one's ability or knowledge. It simply shows that we recognize our limitations and operate within them.


Raised and shown cavies for many years, having aquired my first cavies in the early 1970's as pets. My caviary currently handles 65 + animals in two different breeds and several varieties. Having been in the health care industry as a licensed nurse for 35 years I have hands on experience with care and needs in both humans and cavies. Member of American Rabbit Breeders Association and American Cavy Breeders Association.

Awarded Lifetime Membership in of one of the oldest cavy clubs in the United States, on whose Board I served as Sec/Treas for six years and currently serving as President. Also editor/publisher of the club's quarterly newsletter. We are strong supporters of our youth exhibitors, most of whom are 4H members who are working on cavy projects. Through these projects they become good responsible citizens. We deal with all aspects of showing, breeding, caring for and sharing experiences in the fancy. The cavy fancy is not a new one but in some areas is still relatively unknown. Our goal is to inspire interest in high quality, responsible breeding to improve the species, not just the reproduction of guinea pigs. Our job is to educate owners to help them make the right decisions and choices in the care of their cavies.

Graduate in nursing. Certified in emergency medicine.

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