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Guinea Pigs/What is your recommendation to stop breeding my guinea Pig


QUESTION: I read that if a female guinea pig has her first litter at 3-4 months that she can keep on breeding until she is 2 years old,and i was just wondering if that was true? And i also saw that every time she has a litter it is a increase of 20% chance of dying after every litter?

ANSWER: I'm not sure who put out that information, but it's not exactly accurate. While a sow can get pregnant before she is even weaned from her mother that has no bearing on how long a breeding life she has.

The general rule of thumb is to breed the sow before her first birthday. That doesn't mean wait until she's 10 or 11 mo. old, it simply means that she is at a lesser risk for birthing problems if she is bred young.

If a sow isn't bred until she's two or three years old there is always the increased risk that the pelvic ligaments that separate the bones so the pups can pass through the birth canal may lose their elasticity and she may die trying to give birth. That's just a generalized rule, not a solid steadfast guarantee that she will have problems.

Most breeders will breed their sows somewhere around six months old. Often times they are showing their animals and may postpone the breeding for a couple more months. As far as increasing the chance of dying just because she has had previous litters, no. Having said that you need to realize that the mortality rate for guinea pigs is higher than just about any other animal. That has nothing to do with how many litters she's had, etc. It's just a fact.

We try to avoid encouraging pet owners to breed their animals just for the sake of having babies because anytime your pig is going through pregnancy there is a risk. The rate of stillborn pups is not high, but typically there is often at least one that will die soon after birth. They are usually the smaller of the babies and are weaker. The cannot fight their way to the mother's milk and quickly starve.

Trying to save weak or sickly babies is not in the best interest of the baby. Nature has provided that only the fittest survive. If an animal has a litter and there is a runt the mother will not make any special attempts to save it. In the wild these babies must be able to keep up with mom in order to survive. Otherwise they are at risk of attracting predators. So a mother, whether it be a dog, cat, bear, deer, wolf, elk, moose, etc. will not risk the safety and survival of healthy babies just to save a weak one.  

As for how long a breeding lifetime a guinea pig has, that depends on the pig. Again, in the wild they breed frequently. Most sows can continue delivering healthy babies for about four years. They are pregnant for 70 days. So they can conceivably have four litters a year. A sow comes back into heat within hours of delivery, which is why we don't recommend leaving the boar in the cage with her.

I hope this answers some of your questions. If you are thinking of breeding your pig you need to take serious consideration of the possible problems. You must be aware that at any age, or after any litter complications can occur. For this reason breeders do not encourage a pet owner to breed their pig. But of course this is a personal choice to make and one that should be made wisely.

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QUESTION: Can i breed my guinea pig until she is 2 years old or is that to long and to risky?
And also what should i do when my guinea pigs are to old to breed should i sell them or keep them?
And how do i tell if my guinea pig is ready to breed (or in heat)?

I'm not sure if you're asking if you should stop breeding her after two, or are you asking if you can wait until she is two before she's bred the first time.
You do not need to stop breeding her after the age of two. Don't wait until she's two before she's bred the first time. Breed her before her first birthday. You can breed your pig the first time when she is about 4 mo old.  

Most sows do not breed after the age of 4, although there are exceptions to everything. When they are too old to breed you can if you wish, sell them as pets. There are always people looking for a reasonably priced pet. The other option is to allow the old sows to live with whomever you wish because there is no danger in her having another litter. Mother Nature puts the stop on her hormones when the time is right. That is usually around the age of 4 years.

As for whether you will know when she is in heat? No, you will not. They do not show the typical signs of estrus like other animals do. They are in heat for only a few short days, and their cycle is not always predictable. It may be every two weeks, or sometimes as long as every three weeks.

When you have decided you want to breed your sow, introduce the male into her cage and leave him there for at least 30 days. That way she is hopefully covered for at least two cycles. You can't tell if she's ready by the aggressive behavior of the boar. The boars are ready all the time. When you put your boar in with her he will immediately try to mount her. He will do the little 'dance' and rumblestrut. He will make a purring noise at her and will be persistent.

The mating ritual is actually amusing to watch as the boar sways his rear back and forth and purrs to her, regardless of whether she has given him the okay. But once she lays the rules down, he will abide.

However, the mating is always at the pleasure of the female, period.  If she is not ready she will arch her back, point her behind at him and shoot a stream of urine directly in his face. That will cool his jets instantly. When she is ready she will let him know and the breeding will take place.

I usually leave my boars with their sows until it she is obviously pregnant. Then I remove them. Boars are wonderful fathers and will not hurt the babies. They will help care for them and will cuddle with them.  The reason you need to remove him before delivery is because she will come into heat within hours of delivery and he will breed her back again. If there are baby sows in the litter they can come into heat as young as two weeks old and he will breed them too.

In the animal kingdom this is not incest. It is instinct. Nothing more. So it's best to remove dad before the litter is born. Once the sow is pregnant he will not make any attempt to breed her again.  

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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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