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Guinea Pigs/How long after pregnancy should the mother become less pear-shaped?

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QUESTION: Hello!

We bought 3 guinea-pigs yesterday, 2 baby girls (3 weeks old) and who we were told is their mum. However, she is still very much pear-shaped and we were wondering if this is normal for her to still be this shape 3 weeks after birth? She is a young mum so she is still small in build but with quite a large back end/lower belly. We have felt her belly and are unsure if there hasn't been a mix-up, because we can possibly feel babies in her belly, however we are in no way sure of this and are overthinking it a lot so we may be imagining things!

Anything you can tell us about how fast guinea-pigs usually lose their baby weight/shape would be great!

Thank you so much! :)

ANSWER: It's not unusual for a mom to be pear shaped for awhile, just as some human mothers don't go back into shape quickly. If this is the mom, those babies should be trying to nurse. The mother will usually wean them on her own by 5 weeks of age. She should also still have protruding nipples, another sign she is nursing.  

If this is not a first litter for the sow, or she's had multiple litters then yes, she will lose her 'girlish figure' and may always look a little of what we call "potty". That's just cavy talk for a pot belly. To feel the pups move you put both hands around her belly with her it a natural sitting position. You would feel definite little quick kicks.

If you are feeling what you think are babies then I would doubt this is the mother. A sow can be bred back within hours of delivery, but you won't feel movement until a couple of weeks prior to delivery. The gestation period is 10 weeks, which means you shouldn't feel movement for at least four to four and a half weeks, assuming these area truly her 3 week old babies.

You very likely may have the mother and her babies, but you won't really know for sure until she either pops out another litter, or you can actually feel quickening, i.e. movement in her tummy.

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

QUESTION: Thank you very much for your response!

If she does not turn out to be the mother of these babies, will they be okay with having been weaned so early? We don't know how long they have been apart from their actual mother if a mistake was made - The only reason we were sold babies so young was because they were supposed to have their mother with them :( They do seem healthy and full of energy and are eating lots of food and drinking water.

The mum is a lot more shy so we would not necessarily have seen them definitively nursing from her - we saw one of them try once for about 2 minutes and assumed at the time it was successful but after looking at her nipples we're not so sure! They are all very close and the babies treat her as their personal climbing frame so we hoped maybe this was a sign she was their mum!

Thank you for all your advice :)

Answer
If you saw the babies push underneath her belly and she didn't kick them away they very possibly may be nursing.  At three weeks they should be able to be on their own. They are remarkably precocious as birth, ie they are born fully furred, eyes open, mouth full of teeth and ready to run.

They start nibbling at the feed bowl and water bottle at about a week to ten days. It sounds like they are very healthy and obviously mom doesn't mind them crawling all over her. But if this isn't the mom, cavies have a very strong maternal instinct and will take over another litter if necessary. Although we don't leave the boars in with the litter, if they are there they will groom and cuddle with the little ones.

I once had a sow that was in a cage with another sow that gave birth. This other 'mom' wanted the babies so badly she would try to steal them. She actually began lactating and nursing the babies when their mom was resting. It was an odd thing to see, but is a good example of their devotion to babies.

The baby sows will come into heat as young as two weeks old. If an adult male is present they will breed them. Although this isn't recommended it does occasionally happen and ironically these very young sows deliver without problems and it doesn't stunt their growth. Baby boars, although they may flirt and rumblestrut around their sisters, are not fertile until about 3 months of age.

I don't think you have anything to worry about. The sow, whether she is the birth mother or not has taken over care and cuddling of the babies. You should separate the boys from the girls in another week or ten days. If you're not sure how to tell the difference I will be happy to send pictures that make it much easier.

Enjoy the little ones as they popcorn and play. They are fun just to watch.

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Pat VanAllen

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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.

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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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