Guinea Pigs/dead babies

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Question
my female guinea pig's first pregnancy didn't go well, she seemed to be gaining weight but never felt babies kick. One day she was no longer pregnant with no delivery....today she had her 2nd litter but I was not at home last night, this morning checked on them and she delivered 4 babies but they were dead and cold. So sad, couldn't quit crying, they were beautiful and looked healthy. I made sure she had plenty of food/water throughout pregnancy and the babies were kicking good everyday so not sure why they didn't survive. After first pregnancy I didn't want the mom to get sad so we got her a female friend. At first I thought she didn't remove the sac from the face, but she did, some of them still have part of the sac around the bottom of the bodies. I don't know what happened when she seemed to have a healthy pregnancy and the babies were kicking in her stomach as of yesterday and they look healthy. I took her female friend out so she can rest and we are going to try to breed our 2nd female but I don't think I should try breeding the mom again since this is her 2nd pregnancy with no successful babies. she was breed before 7 mo's old but she's about 9 mo'a ols now. Is there anything special she should have to make sure she gets healthy again after delivery. Is there anything special I should do with the 2nd female to ensure a sucessful pregnancy. I really don't want my family or our guinea pigs to go thru this again :(

Answer
First of all I'd like to apologize for this question not posting until this morning. I check my site 3 times a day and it was not there until this am.

Now for the question: If the mother did not clean the sacs off completely the babies were dead prior to delivery. Having been bred at 7 mo is not a factor, as that's a good age for first breeding. It's heartbreaking when this happens, especially when you know you've done everything right.  This was not your fault, there is nothing you could have done.

It's possible she was in labor an excessive amount of time, leading to the reduced oxygen in the babies and causing this dead litter. But you would have no way of knowing that, and that's just a guess.  

Breeding cavies is a most difficult thing. The death rate is must higher than in other animals. This is one reason we generally don't encourage people with cavy pets to breed, although this is of course the choice of the owners. The potential for the loss of both moms and babies is high and is not uncommon.  But it's a heartbreak even as a breeder/exhibitor.

I think you are correct, it would not be wise to try to breed her again. Two stillborn litters is an indication that she is just not built for babies. You don't say what breed she is and the reason I ask is that some breeds tend to be more difficult than others. American Satins, which I raised for about five years, is one of the hardest. I had more stillborn babies and lost more mothers than with any of the other breeds I raised.  

It makes no difference whether you've done this for 30 years or 2 years. Nature is the ultimate lord of how successful it goes. I want to again assure you that you had nothing to do with this poor sow losing her litters. There are so many factors involved with successful delivery, and we are helpless to change that. Her pelvic structure may not be wide enough for you to pass babies. Again, that's something that you cannot change.

Guessing and searching for the answer is futile. So at this point I would recommend you simply retire her breeding rights and not put her through that again. As for the second sow, you've no reason to believe she cannot be bred, but the only way to tell is to try.

When you have two sows together they will often suckle each other's babies and they will share with the care. I've had sows that actually started producing milk for a cagemate's litter even though she'd never had a litter of her own.  Leave the two together, and if you do get a litter out of the other female it may spark that maternal instinct in the mom who lost her babies and she will have the joy of caring for babies after all.

Best of luck to you. My sincere condolences on the loss of both litters. As for the family also grieving for the babies who died, this could be an opportunity for them to learn that sometimes no matter how we try, we have to accept that nature has its own way.

If you have any other questions or need help please don't hesitate to ask.

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Pat VanAllen

Expertise

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.

Experience

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.

Organizations
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.

Education/Credentials
Graduate in nursing. Certified in emergency medicine.

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