Average Lifespan of Guinea Pigs
Are you the proud owner of one or more guinea pigs? Have you owned any for three years or more? Are you interested in learning about how long your cavies are expected to live?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, you’re in luck. We’re here to reveal more about the average lifespan of guinea pigs.
Let this be your one-stop shop for factual information regarding a guinea pig’s life expectancy.
A Quick Introduction to Your Pet
The guinea pig that we all know, Cavia porcellus, is a domesticated species and cannot be found in the wild.
It’s simply important to note that cavies as we know them have come a long way from their origins, having become dependent on humans for food, shelter, and protection over the course of several thousand years.
An exact comparison can, therefore, not be made between a domestic cavy and a wild one in regards to its biological, physical, and social needs.
Cavia tschudii, or the wild guinea pigs, are found on grassy plains in herds. They are a grazing animal that occupies a similar ecological niche as that of cattle. They travel together in tight-knit groups eating grass and plant-based matter.
Their natural habitat is fraught with danger. Predators in all shapes and sizes abound and attacks can come from land, beneath the earth or the skies above. The wild cavy is certainly no stranger to the sharp claws of the eagle, ferocious bite of the wolf, and the venomous fangs of the snake.
As they have almost no reliable defense mechanisms to ward off enemies, death inevitably comes swiftly for guinea pigs living in the wild. This is the reason why the average lifespan of Cavia porcellus, our pet cavies, is much longer in comparison.
Even compared to fellow species of the Rodentia class, guinea pigs in captivity have considerably longer life expectancies. Pet hamsters and gerbils live for only about 2 – 4 years while black and brown rats have a 1 – 2-year lifespan.
Being blessed to have a longer life is one of the factors that make the guinea pig a superior choice of pet compared to other rodents. It’s also what should hopefully inspire owners to put more effort into caring for their pets in order to increase the likelihood of survival.
Wouldn’t it be a shame if a guinea pig that had the potential to live for a very long time found its life cut short simply because of an owner’s inability to properly care for it?
The Life of a Pet Guinea Pig
A domesticated guinea pig has an average lifespan of 4 – 5 years but some can live up to 8 years. Just like with humans, a cavy’s potential lifespan is stretched or shortened depending on factors such as diet, genetics, and environment. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the oldest guinea pig of all time lived to be 14 years and 10.5 months old before it passed away in the February of 1979.
Female guinea pigs (called sows) that have given birth to one or more litters tend to live for only about three-and-a-half years on the average. Guinea pig litters hold about three pups on the average but can reach up to as many as six. The largest recorded litter held 17 babies.
Giving birth to that many pups can put considerable strain on the sow’s body and the stress can build up if she continues to give birth to additional litters. Sows can breed during any season and may give birth to as many as five times a year so it’s understandable why they have a lower life expectancy period.
Guinea pigs tend to begin slowing down once they reach 3 – 4 years old. Determining their age based on physical appearance isn’t simple, but there are a few traits to look for. The feet can be a good indicator of old age as senior cavies tend to have thicker toes that twist outward. Other typical symptoms include cataracts and arthritis. The fur around its mouth and nose will also begin to turn gray.
Observing their behavior, though, is the easiest way to tell. Aging guinea pigs will begin to display some of the same behaviors that elderly humans do. They’ll begin to eat less, lose weight, be less active, less noisy, and prefer to stay secluded while sleeping more often. Health issues such as stroke, heart attacks, dementia, and tumors could arise.
Some people believe that a guinea pig’s breed can determine its lifespan. As of this time, there have not been any studies to support this theory.
Causes of Death
There are only two primary causes of death in pet guinea pigs: health conditions and old age. Death due to mishandling or mistreatment is also an infrequent occurrence.
Problems with a guinea pig’s environment can eventually lead to death. A dirty cage, feeding bowl, and water bottle that can become infested with bacteria usually spell health issues for the pet. If uneaten food is left in the cage, it will become rotten, ferment, and again, cause the guinea pig’s health to deteriorate as well as attract unwanted pests.
They are sensitive to extreme temperatures and can get hypothermia or heat stroke if kept in areas that are too cold or too hot.
Cavies that live in outdoor hutches can fall victim to a condition called “Fly Strike”. The condition is caused when pieces of feces become stuck to the hair near the guinea pig’s anus which attracts flies to lay eggs there. When the eggs hatch, maggots will eat away at the flesh and can cause death within hours.
Additionally, cavies that live together can spread infectious diseases and viruses to each other, especially if their living conditions aren’t well-kept.
Respiratory diseases are common amongst guinea pigs and are often caused by exposure to a bacterial infection. Symptoms include fever, nasal discharge, loss of appetite, and weight loss. Failure to successfully treat these diseases can result in death.
Tongue entrapment happens when a guinea pig’s teeth grow too large and it’s unable to chew or swallow food.
Its feet can develop ulcers which develop into a condition called Bumblefoot which is caused by a bacterial infection.
How to Help Your Guinea Pig Live Longer
Longevity in cavies can be increased by adhering to strict conditions regarding their environment, nutrition, health, and diet. Fresh and healthy food should always be available and their cage and living quarters should be kept clean and tidy.
Chocolate, caffeine, and a variety of other foods are inappropriate for guinea pig consumption and should be avoided. A cavy needs plenty of fresh air, exercise, and free-range time.
In order to maintain good health and a strong bond with their owners, cavies need to be trained and have plenty of time for socialization. Keeping a guinea pig free of stress is one of the best ways to keep it healthy.