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Guinea Pigs/Breeding back after litter loss


QUESTION: My question is how soon can I breed my sow after she farrowed (birthed) a litter of 9, one still-born..... At 5 days old she sat on 3 and killed them.... The others I am bottle raising! So how soon can I breed her back? Her milk is almost dried up!

Litter of ten
Litter of ten  
ANSWER: Nine is a huge litter for any guinea pig. It's very common for at least one to be stillborn and in a litter that size I would have expected more.  Let me assure you that she did not cause the death of the other three by sitting on them. A normally healthy baby is strong enough to wiggle out from under even the fattest sow.

Anatomically there is just limited space in the uterine horn thus causing less growing space for all the babies. My guess is that these three were in trouble long before she sat on them and there's nothing that would have made any difference. Mom has only a certain amount of nutrients in utero to make those babies grow.

A typical litter is three to four, and even then there is often at least one stillborn pup. The babies that are the farthest up the uterine horn get the least nutrition, so are typically the smallest and most likely to not survive.

You don't say how old the litter is now but I would suggest, if you're not already doing so, that you keep the babies with mom after you've supplemented them. That will help prevent mastitis.

Nature provides for gradual decline in milk production but if there is a dead litter born the mom stops secreting the hormone that makes her milk flow and she dries up without harm. The babies need her nurturing and will benefit by her touch and cuddling.

As far as breeding back a sow comes into estrus within four hours of delivery and if the boar is with her he breeds her back then. If not bred at that time she will begin to cycle normally which is about every two to three weeks.

If she has the babies with her and there are any sows the boar will breed the babies as young as two weeks of age. Cavies are very precocious at birth, unlike rabbits that are hairless, blind and deaf. That's because the gestation period for cavies is much longer than in rabbits, so the babies are born looking like little miniatures of their mom. They're up and running right away.

If mom is not losing weight and appears to be healthy she can be bred at any time. The important thing is that she needs to be in good health and ready for the physical burden of pregnancy again.

I hope this helps you answer your questions and not feel that you could have prevented the death of any of the babies. I hope you got pictures of the litter as nine is a rare occurrence for guinea pigs. The most I've ever had personally was seven, all of whom were actually raised by mom.  The largest I've ever seen was a litter of ten. They were born about 15 years ago.

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

QUESTION: I'm so sorry, I put this under the wrong category .... It's a mini pot belly pig sow not a guinea pig! If you can help on a pig sow I would appreciate it! So sorry for the confusion.

Thank you, you just gave me my chuckle for the day!  That also explains why I had not heard the term farrowing when describing delivery.

So, starting over: a litter of nine is not unusual for a pot belly pig. I must say though that I envy you being able to bottle raise those babies. They are the cutest and most precious things. It would be very hard to say no to a baby 'potty'.

I honestly have no experience with swine so I Googled and this is what I found:

•Most female potbellied pigs reach sexual maturity between the ages of 3 to 4 months of age. Female potbellies come into heat every 21 days. Heat can last 6 days, during which time your pig will have a swollen, reddened vulva. The males usually are sexually mature by 90 days. Some pigs can breed even earlier than 3 months, depending on their own genetics, housing, weight, and growth rate.

Based on that information I am going to take a stab at guessing since there is such a similarity in the cycle between pot belly pigs and guinea pigs, with the exception of the duration of their cycles, you should be able to breed her back right away.  

I might suggest that you call your local feed store for help. They might be able to put you in touch with another customer that has the experience you're looking for.

Best of luck. And I would LOVE to see a picture of your babies.

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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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