March 15, 2024 | Small Pet

How long do guinea pigs live?

Guinea pigs are one of the UK’s most popular pets. Their friendly, loving nature makes them an ideal addition to the family, and they are often a great choice for a first pet alongside rabbits and hamsters. The guinea pig is a member of the rodent family and is thought to have originated in South America according to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Centre, specifically the Andes mountain range which stretches across seven countries, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina. 

If you are looking to adopt a guinea pig as a pet you should consider how long they will live, as well as whether you are ready to make the commitment to your pet. It is always important to note that when bringing a pet into a home you should be able to care for it appropriately and for its entire life span. This article will discuss the average lifespan of a guinea pig, as well as ways that you can help to extend your pet’s life.

What is the average lifespan of a guinea pig?

The average lifespan of a guinea pig can vary based on a number of factors. There are many different breeds of guinea pigs, all of which have different characteristics to the next. Some guinea pigs differ through physical features, such as a Silkie guinea pig, which has a long, silky coat, or the Baldwin guinea pig, a variety of guinea pig that is completely hairless. As well as this, some guinea pigs will have different characteristics that can affect their life span. 

On average, a domestic pet guinea pig will live for between five to nine years, however, this can be shorter or longer depending on breed, circumstance, and how you care for your guinea pig. If you take good care of your guinea pig then you could extend their lifespan to over 10 years. 

A Guinea pigs stood on hay

How can you extend a guinea pig's lifespan?

Caring for your guinea pig is a big commitment, and can even take as much effort, care, and attention as caring for a dog or a cat. Some owners are not expecting this, and think that a guinea pig is an ‘easy’ pet to own. Despite their relatively short lifespan compared to a dog or a cat, you should treat a guinea pig much the same. It can also be relatively expensive to properly care for guinea pigs as they require specialised food and habitat to live in.

To properly care for a guinea pig there are some tips that you should follow. The guinea pig is a social creature, who enjoys spending time and living with other guinea pigs. A guinea pig who has a friend is more likely to be mentally healthy, and thus, physically healthy. Your guinea pig (or pigs) should also have plenty of room to live. An average adult guinea pig will usually grow to between 20-40cm which is large for a member of the rodent family. A guinea pig will therefore need plenty of space to live. Unlike a cat or a dog, a guinea pig will need a cage or enclosure to live in, and as a rule, the bigger the better.

Making sure your guinea pig also has access to plenty of water and regular food is also imperative to a healthy lifestyle. Another thing to consider is that guinea pigs are one of the few animals that do not produce their own vitamin C, much the same as humans. In order to live a healthy, balanced life you should therefore consider providing your guinea pig with food that is high in vitamin C, or, giving your guinea pig a vitamin C tablet with their food.

What are common diseases guinea pigs suffer from?

Similar to other pets such as cats or dogs, guinea pigs are susceptible to different diseases that can affect lifespan. As previously mentioned, vitamin C is an issue for guinea pigs. This means that they are at risk of diseases such as scurvy. Again, providing your guinea pig with plenty of vitamin C can mitigate this risk. Guinea pigs also tend to have sensitive stomachs so you may need to adapt their diet if you begin to notice problems such as vomiting or diarrhoea.

Guinea pigs are also at risk of common respiratory diseases and ailments. A guinea pig can sometimes naturally harbour bacteria that can lead to respiratory infections, some of which can target animals that are more vulnerable, leading to a higher risk of fatality. Younger guinea pigs are also at risk of skin problems. Some of the issues that affect guinea pigs include tics, fleas, skin parasites, and more dangerous problems such as skin cancer. Guinea pigs are also vulnerable to common issues such as urinary diseases, internal tumours, and sight problems, however, these are not species-based problems.

What is the oldest guinea pig on record?

According to Guinness World Records, the oldest ever domestic guinea pig on record was Snowball, who lived to the ripe old age of 14 years and 10 months in Nottinghamshire before passing away on the 14th of February 1979. The record was nearly beaten in 2021 when Bear, a guinea pig living in Grimsby, Lincolnshire passed away at the age of 14. Due to Snowball living until nearly 15, Bear did not beat the record. Guinea pigs may not live for as long as a cat or a dog, but they do provide just as much love due to their nature.

Dr Rachel Louise Keane BVSc BSc MRCVS of PocketVet believes that guinea pigs should definitely be handled with care:

“If handled correctly from an early age, guinea pigs become amenable to being picked up and carried around. They are timid explorers and are often reluctant to leave the comfort and familiarity of their cage, but they soon become familiar with their owner and will learn to whistle to the noise of their food cupboard or bag being opened. Guinea pigs thrive in groups of two or more, as they are very sociable creatures, and in Sweden, owning a single guinea pig without a companion is actually illegal, but due to the risk of disease transmission and aggressive behaviour, it is not recommended that guinea pigs be housed with rabbits, or other rodents such as gerbils and hamsters.”

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