Nothing causes more pain than the death of loved ones, even in cases of guinea pig babies born dead.
The birth and maternal mortality rates in guinea pigs are quite high, especially when compared to other rodents or animals.
This event can cause devastating grief and even depression to those who love them.
Yet, when baby guinea pigs arrive, you are happy and do all you can to help them grow into healthy adult guinea pigs.
According to Four Paws International, guinea pigs have been a friend and help to mankind for not less than five thousand years.
How Many Breeds of Guinea Pigs Are There?
According to ADW, there are thirteen commonly recognized breeds of guinea pigs.
They come in different sizes, colors, and appearances.
Why Do People Keep Guinea Pigs?
The male and female guinea pigs go by different names.
The male guinea pig is called a boar while the female is called a sow.
Different people keep guinea pigs regardless of their sexes for different reasons.
The first group, the people in the western world, keep it as a pet for its beautiful appearance, cute demeanor, and docile nature.
The animal rarely bites when touched.
The second group of people keeps it as a source of meat.
Some cultures considered its meat to have medicinal values.
The third group uses it as a subject of medical experiments and in the laboratory.
For example, Vitamin C was discovered while studying the guinea pig.
Still, the fourth group of people keeps the guinea pig to supply to all the above three.
The guinea pig generates a huge income for this group of people.
Can Guinea Pigs Live Alone?
No, guinea pigs do not live alone, they are social animals.
They need to live in at least a group of two and if they live alone, they just die.
What Do Guinea Pigs Eat?
They are herbivores that need continuous feeding.
Their diet is primarily green leaves.
Due to the continuous feeding habit, the development of their body is very fast and reaches sexual maturity even faster.
The boar ( male guinea pig) can become sexually mature as early as three to five weeks and the female(sow) reaches sexual maturity even earlier at four weeks.
A family of guinea pigs is patriarchal; however in a mating chase, the alpha male is not always dominant, the juveniles also get to copulate.
The Process Of Pregnancy and Birth
Though the babies become sexually mature as early as three weeks, they should not be used for breeding until they are six months old (according to Mercer and Hughes Independent Veterinary Surgeons ).
The female pelvic bones become more tightly fused after twelve months of age, thus baby delivery becomes a problem if she does not get her first fertility before this period.
In the mating ritual, the boar exhibits a demeanor different than other times when it approaches a female for mating.
He tries to display a manly character by standing upright on the two hind legs and rumbling then he approaches the female with lowered head.
If the sow is in heat (receptive time), she shows her acceptance by quacking loudly, otherwise, she bites or snaps at him or even urinates at him to dampen his spirit.
After the ritual, it’s important to keep a close watch on the sow.
The gestation period is usually about sixty-three to sixty-five days, but it can be as short and fifty-nine days and as long as seventy-two days.
If she’s mated successfully she should be cared for gently or she risks a miscarriage.
Whenever necessary, she must be lifted by supporting her hindquarter with one hand and her upper portion of the body with the other hand.
What Should A Pregnant Guinea Pig Eat?
A pregnant female guinea pig needs to change from normal timothy hay to alfalfa hay to meet her high requirement of calcium.
She also needs extra vitamin C.
The extra vitamin must be spoon feed if necessary.
You should weigh her weekly to see if she is gaining weight regularly.
By all means, avoid overfeeding because overfeeding may lead to storing of unnecessary extra fat which makes the later part of pregnancy and delivery difficult.
You must allow her the necessary regular exercise to keep her weight down and her strength up for the upcoming delivery.
When she’s about seven weeks into the pregnancy, the babies will make up about half of the body weight.
By this time, you’ll be able to see the movements of the babies in her belly.
She must be provided with a stress-free environment and if need be, other companions should be removed from her space.
She still needs a companion though, leaving her with only one female companion because guinea pigs are happier with their sex rather than the company of the opposite sex.
Reducing stress will make her pregnancy and delivery easier.
Don’t move her to a new cage because she needs a familiar environment to feel at home and stress-free, hence moving her to a new cage is not a good idea.
Look out for the common illness called Toxemia which is caused by high blood pressure.
This illness is common both in guinea pigs and humans during pregnancy.
The illness is often caused by overfeeding which results in excess protein and fat in the blood.
The symptoms of toxemia are usually lack of energy, inactivity, and loss of appetite.
If she shows any of the above signs, you must take her to the veterinary doctor at once as this can be fatal for both the mother and fetus.
Guinea pigs are diurnal animals (awake during the day and sleep at night), so they normally deliver their babies during the day.
The guinea pig usually starts her delivery labor by quacking loudly.
It takes about five minutes to give birth to each pup and each pup will have its separate amniotic sac.
Normally, the mother removes the sac and eats it.
When all the pups are born, the mother eats the placenta too.
But what if after all these, the guinea pig babies are born dead?
After the labor of constructing the cage or buying it, and the continuous cleaning and caring, it’ll be a rude shock if your guinea pig delivered a dead litter.
But this is entirely possible as studies have shown that guinea pigs have birth mortality as high as twenty-four percent.
Different kinds of people show different reactions to this kind of situation.
Some people get depressed, others get angry and still, others simply don’t care.
They might say, “It’s just an animal after all.”
The newly bereaved guinea pig mother needs your help and sympathy during this tragic loss.
Among many other factors that could lead to the deliverance of dead pups by a guinea pig, one of the reasons is that the pups are born alive.
However, they simply are not able to open the amniotic sac and their mother doesn’t know how to do it either.
This smothers the pups and suffocates them to death.
Therefore it’s very important to keep watch on the mother during delivery which hardly lasts thirty minutes.
If there is any sign of suffocation due to the amniotic sac, you can pick the pups up and help them get free from the sac.
Even if the pup is not showing any sign of life, or is very weak and hardly breathes, you can resuscitate it by breathing into its mouth directly.
This quick action on your part can save the pup from certain death.
What Are the Consequences of Giving Birth on the Mother Guinea Pig?
The mother will naturally show her distress by being listless, unenergetic, and withdrawn.
Eating part of her dead baby (head or ears) is a sign of extreme distress.
She needed to be calmed by either you or other companions and reassured that everything will be alright, after all, she’s not the first to face this and will not be the last one either.
According to Guinea Pig Forum, UK, when a loved one died, the guinea pig doesn’t weep any less than humans.
It’s of utmost importance that you respect her grief and that she’s not left alone.
Putting another companion with her or taking her inside will be a good idea to soothe her grieving heart.
Whatever you do, make sure that it’s wanted and not against her will.
According to Pocket Pet Central Website, guinea pigs love getting petted and cuddled.
Allow her some scenes of what just happened.
Maybe she can be allowed to have some clothes with which she delivered her babies.
The bereaved mother needs to be provided with a stress-free environment, maybe moving some companion to avoid crowding in the cage will be a good idea.
Remove the guinea pig babies born dead out of her sight after she made sure that they are dead.
Never let the dead pups stay with the mother overnight.
The mother also must be observed closely for some time after the delivery to make sure that she doesn’t develop any other health complications which may follow the unfortunate event.
The bereaved mother is likely to be withdrawn and not show much appetite.
She is also likely to lose weight and if this is because of a scanty intake of food, she must be syringe-fed.
This syringe feed is likely to stimulate her appetite to eat for herself again.
You need to be gentle and must not force-feed her.
She could show her grief through acute pinning, which is rare but possible.
When she shows acute pinning, she stops eating, drinking, or taking notice of the world around her.
In this situation, you need to syringe feed her and you’d have to take her to the vet as an emergency.
Some guinea pigs can die of grief-induced loneliness.
If the mother suddenly shows signs of acute pinning after some days of lethargy and withdrawing, she could be heading for the ultimate end, dying of grief induce loneliness.
After The Grief
Even though guinea pigs grief as much as humans, they come out of grief quite early and more easily than humans do.
After a few weeks of companionship with her fellow sisters, she should start showing normal activities of life such as running around, quacking happily, and eating as much as before.
When this is observed, she should be introduced to a male to start her family again, after all, she has the right to a free and happy family life again.
She had fought a brave battle of grief and came out victorious.
We may have much to learn from the way this little creature’s resilience is back to life.
If their life span is as short as five to seven years, they take full advantage of it and make the best use of it.
Guinea pigs are not hard on themselves; they try to live an easy and as carefree life as possible.
In like manner, we must learn to forgive ourselves and move on with life even after a tragic event.
The Consequences on the Family
Only a few things excite children above bringing a pet home.
The family plans and talks about getting a pet before actually doing it.
This can get hold of children and they are naturally excited.
Once it’s brought home, they even talk about their pet to their neighbors and friends as one of the most important things.
The period of gestation could even be equally exciting for them.
You’ve probably been telling them how the pups would look like.
You’ve also been strict on them on rough handling of the pet, to which they’ve been obeying religiously.
All this care and obedience, just for the big anticipated day of getting a beautiful litter of pups from their beloved bunny is just lost because she gave birth to dead pups.
Children can take the loss of a pet more seriously than adults.
For most children, fortunately, the death of a pet is also usually their first encounter with death.
This brings them home to the reality that one day all the family members will eventually die.
It’s important to comfort them at this and reassure them that come next time, it won’t be the same.
They could feel a little embarrassment among the neighboring friends if they have been telling them about the anticipated delivery of their pet.
It’s important to remind them that it’s not their fault that the delivery of the pet was a failure.
If you are living alone, this could be especially hard on you.
Just spend as much time as possible with the mother guinea pig, so that you share your grief.
Grief is much easier to bear when shared and expressed out.
Shedding a few tears is no shame, being emotional is never a weakness.
Burying the guinea pig babies born dead in the back yard with a solemn service of the funeral will give much emotional satisfaction to your children.
If you live alone, cremating them and keeping the ashes near the mother’s cage may be a good idea.
Either way, the mother is not going to care, it’s only for your mental satisfaction.
Much as we would like to know why guinea pigs give birth to dead babies, there is no rock-hard reason why they do.
According to Mercer and Hughes Independent Veterinary Surgeons, a case of guinea pig babies born dead may be as a result of producing a large number of babies for a varying food supply.
The large size of the babies could cause them to die in the struggle of giving birth, however, it may be the negligence of the owner of the pet.