One of the most common concerns of pet owners is knowing how long their pets are expected to live as well as the proper care needed to extend their lifespan. For each of them they differ and the answer is not as obvious as stating a number, so in this article I’ll explain in detail the lifespan of guinea pigs.
Short answer: In captivity, guinea pigs live an average of five to seven years. This makes them way longer lived than other popular pet rodents like hamsters, gerbils or mice, which rarely grow older than three years. However, there are a number of factors that affect how long a guinea pig is going to live. Depending on breed, diet and medical treatment a guinea pig might be able to live over a decade, with the reported record being 14 years and 10 and a half months. Wild guinea pigs (which are actually not the same species as pet guinea pigs) tend to have way shorter lifespans, living from one to four years.
Breed as a factor of the lifespan
While this is not as important a factor as the growing environment of the guinea pigs, certain breeds tend to have longer lives.
For instance, Skinny pigs tend to live longer, normally having lifespans of six to eight years while long haired guinea pigs, on the other hand live average lifespans of five or six years.
Diet as a factor of the lifespans
The care that a guinea pig receives is the most important factor to their lifespan, and a huge part of that care consists in providing them with a healthy, balanced diet. For instance, according to studies performed in the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Veterinary Medicine, alfalfa-based pellets are not recommendable for grown guinea pigs. While their high calcium content is good for feeding growing or pregnant cavies, too much of it can result in health issues. Healthier, safer alternatives are timothy hay or orchard grass.
Another thing to have in mind about a guinea pig’s diet is Vitamin C. That is, since they can’t produce their own they need lots of Vitamin C in order to have a healthier, longer life. It’s good to look for Vitamin C fortified pellets, as well as providing them with occasional veggies like carrots or lettuce, although not in excess, since they can cause stomach issues. Something optional but recommended is that they have an additional source such as a Vitamin C tablet. Just remember not to mix it in their water.
Having fresh, high quality grass hay at all times will help them in digesting their food better.
Additional health issues
Besides the food, there are other health factors that can influence the lifespan of a guinea pig. Having a cage too small means less space for them to run around. With a lack of exercise they might have underdeveloped muscles and not get the chance to eliminate bodily toxins through sweat. A regular cleaning of the cage also promotes good health.
In case of illnesses guinea pig owners should seek a good vet immediately. They should be weighed in a weekly basis, since weigh loss is one of the most common symptoms that might appear, but there are others to beware of, such as laboured breezing, wheezing, sneezing, lethargy, diarrhea or blood in urine that should be paid mind right away.
Paying attention to such kind of health issues, of course, extends the cavies’ lifespans in a significant manner.