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Heat stroke symptoms and what to do

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Staff member
Mar 10, 2009
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Coventry UK
This information is part of our comprehensive Hot Weather Management, Heat Strokes and Fly Strike guide, which contains information on how guinea pigs regulate their body temperature and the dos and don'ts for keeping them as cool as possible during a heatwave or a heat spike with a lot more tips than you can find anywhere else. Reading the guide can make the difference between life and death!
I have included all the various hard lessons we have sadly learned from too many deaths during the record summer of 2018 when sadly the normal tips often didn't prove sufficient.

Heat stroke can kill or permanently damage overheated guinea pigs!
See a vet ASAP as a life or death emergency!

Symptoms of heat stroke
- lying flat on the belly (collapsed)
- unable to move or very wobbly on their feet
- shallow or laboured breathing
- rapid and very weak pulse
- not able to swallow
- twitching or fitting

Symptoms of overheating
- lying on flat on the belly
- lethargic and reluctant to move
- off their food and water, struggling to swallow and to process food
- major weight loss in a very short time

Your guinea pigs will require subcutaneous fluids and gut simulants; ideally they are kept under close observation and given a check-over before discharge to make sure that they are OK and able to eat normally.
Please make sure that your guinea pigs are not getting any steroids injected by a vet not familiar with guinea pigs; in rodents this slows down the organs further. Always ask your vet before they inject anything.

On the spot treatment for heat stroke
- Bring your guinea pigs indoors ASAP!

- Soak a towel in tepid/warm room temperature tap water (NOT iced or fridge cold water!) and wrap the piggy in it, loosely at first in order to not shock the system.
- Or gently sponge the piggy down with fresh water from your tap. Lower the body temperature gradually in order to not cause the heart to stop.
- If your guinea pigs are still able to stand on their own, place them a bowl with 1 cm (leg height) tepid water until they perk up.
- NEVER plunge an overheated guinea pig into cold water. It will cause fatal cardiac arrest!
- Do NOT try to syringe any cold water or stuff cool veg or fruit in the mouth in order to revive it. Your guinea pig can asphyxiate (die from choking) because it struggles to swallow with heat stroke.

Recovery, if there is any, should be quick and pretty dramatic. Support the piggy as soon as it is trying to get back on its feet and stop the cooling down instantly to avoid the piggy from getting a chill instead.
If your guinea pig is not perking up quickly, then it needs to be raced to the vets in the small hope that it can still be saved.

Then call your closest vet clinic to ask to be seen as an emergency. Even if your guinea pig is only overheated, it will still require sub-q fluids with electrolytes and gut stimulants!
Remember to cool down your car as much as possible before you set off and to add a bottle of frozen water in a sock to the carrier; place your piggies right next to it.
Travelling with guinea pigs

If you cannot be seen by a vet straight away, offer your guinea pigs as much water as they will actively take from a syringe; do not force any water or fibrous syringe feed into a guinea pig that struggles to swallow! Add electrolyte powder from your first aid kit or your pharmacy as specified on the package (UK: dioralyte / US: pedialyte) to the water. It is not as effective as having the fluid injected under the skin where it can be absorbed by the directly, so if you CAN see a vet please do so as soon as possible!
Ask your vet to also check the heart and the guts for full or partial GI stasis.

Persistent loss of appetite and lethargy (full or partial GI stasis)
If your guinea pigs remain weak, off their food and show symptoms of partial gut stasis (very little or no gurgling in the belly), then you will need to step in with syringing fibre and water in very small portions they can swallow (0.1-0.3 ml per mouthful, wait before it has gone down before you offer more, as much as your piggy will take) every two hours round the clock until they are back to eating fully again by themselves and maintaining their weight.
Your guinea pigs will continue to need gut stimulants and even subcutaneous fluid injections and will need to remain under vet care until they are fully recovered.
Don't be deceived: your guinea pigs are not out of the woods until they are fully back to eating on their own! The after-effects of a heat stroke can still kill your piggies days later.
Bloat, Gi Stasis ( No Gut Movement) And Not Eating
Complete Syringe Feeding Guide

Emergency, Crisis and Bridging Care until a Vet Appointment
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