It takes a guinea pig between five to twenty minutes to give birth once labor has started. Guinea pigs typically have between one to four pups in a litter. Once labor has started, you can expect one pup to be born every five minutes.
Having a pregnant guinea pig is an exciting time. One of the first questions that might come to your mind is how long it takes for them to give birth. While other mammals, like humans, can labor for up to eighteen hours, guinea pig sows typically finish giving birth in thirty minutes.
Guinea Pigs Who Have Given Birth Before Have a Shorter Labor
Guinea pigs who have given birth before typically have shorter labor times, taking anywhere from ten to fifteen minutes to finish labor once it has started. The pups are typically born about five minutes apart. Guinea pigs who have larger litters will have longer labor times.
How Many Pups Does a Sow Typically Have?
There are usually only two to four pups per litter since sows only have two nipples to feed them. However, that does not mean that guinea pigs do not have large litters. The largest recorded litter where all the pups and the sow survived totaled nine pups.
Larger litters have been recorded, but typically, not all the pups survive with large litters. The sow is also in danger if the litter is too large, as she can also die during birth.
How Do I Know When My Guinea Pig is Going into Labor?
Unlike other animals who construct nests or dens for birthing, guinea pigs do no such thing, making it difficult to predict exactly when the sow will go into labor.
The gestation time for guinea pigs depends on the size of the litter, making it difficult to calculate a due date.
Typical guinea pig pregnancies last anywhere from fifty-nine to seventy-two days. However, the gestation time for larger litters is shorter, as there is less room for the pups to grow. On average, most guinea pigs are pregnant for around sixty-five days.
While it’s impossible to know exactly when your guinea pig will give birth, there are a few signs that can help you prepare for labor.
Most guinea pigs give birth during the daytime hours. Begin watching her closely around the sixty-day mark during the daytime to ensure you don’t miss labor. Before going into labor, the sow may squeak and be vocal.
How to Prepare for Guinea Pig Labor
Labor is stressful for all animals, and guinea pigs are no exception. To ensure a smooth delivery, prepare a stress-free environment away from other guinea pigs where she can feel safe.
Anything that you can do to minimize stress to your guinea pig will be beneficial. Labor is a vulnerable act, and your sow may want to hide. However, at this stage, she may not fit into most hide-outs.
Instead, you can drape a towel over one side of the cage so the sow feels like she has a place to hide. Do not bother her once she has started labor, and remain nearby to monitor for any complications. Although most sows do well with labor, sometimes complications do arise.
Baby Proof-ing your Guinea Pig Enclosure
You will want to move your sow to a different cage that is safer for the pups. Pups are tiny and can wiggle their way out of most adult enclosures.
Typically, if they can get their heads through a space, the rest of the body will follow. To keep your pups safe, either choose a cage with solid high sides, or you can weave plexiglass through the bars to keep the pups from escaping.
Baby guinea pigs are also very sensitive to loud noises. Keep them in a room where they are not exposed to too many loud sounds for the first few weeks of their life.
After they are a few weeks old, you can expose them to regular household sounds to get them acclimated.
What Will Happen After The Pups Are Born?
Once your sow has finished giving birth, she will clean her pups and the surrounding area. The sow will chew off the umbilical cord, remove the amniotic sacks from her pups, and eat the placenta.
In rare cases, the sow may eat her litter. Contrary to popular belief, moms do not typically eat their offspring after a human touches them. Instead, sows will eat their offspring when they’ve had back-to-back pregnancies or nutrient deficiencies in their pregnancy.
Regardless, wait at least four hours before touching the babies to not stress them or the new mother.
Guinea pigs are born with all their fur and their eyes open. Within an hour of being born, they are out and about exploring and nosing around.
It’s tempting to want to play with the newborns or touch them, but it’s best to wait until they are at least four hours old. The exception is if the sow is having trouble removing the amniotic sac from her pups.
Sometimes the amniotic sac can get stuck on the pup’s face. To keep the pup from possibly suffocating, break the membrane open with your nail so they can breathe. Mom should clean up the rest.
When To Separate the Pups From Mom
The pups should stay with their mom until they are about three weeks old. At three weeks of age, they are considered sexually mature and can start reproducing. You will need to separate them by sex at this time.
The females can stay with their mothers, but the males will have to be housed separately to avoid breeding.
Sometimes, brothers will fight, so the males may need to be housed separately from each other. At this time, the sow is typically in the process of weaning the pups, so they should be alright on their own.
When To Call The Vet
While 80% of guinea pig pregnancies end happily, complications can arise, resulting in the death of both the mom and the babies.
It will be important to supervise your guinea pig through labor and have the phone number of a veterinarian on hand. If labor extends past thirty minutes, or if the sow is straining for longer than ten minutes and not producing a baby, you will need to call your veterinarian.
If she is bleeding, gives up from exhaustion, or does not produce a placenta, a call to the vet will be in order.
Complications can sometimes occur up to two weeks after giving birth. Be on the lookout for pregnancy toxemia, which occurs when the sow doesn’t get the proper nutrients during pregnancy. A telltale symptom of this disease is if your sow smells sweet or like nail polish remover. This is a serious condition that will need to be treated by your veterinarian.