The problem with pigloos is that they are made of plastic with only one entrance, they are not breathable and the ventilation is very poor. The heat gets trapped inside along with the heat the guinea pig is emitting herself. While this very system helps keep the piggie warm in cold weather, the effects in summer can take a heavy toll on the piggies health. Heat stroke can strike extremely quickly and is an incredibly fast killer. In light of this most recent story I have removed all pigloos from our cage as a precaution. I have left in wooden and cardboard houses as safer options.
Please remember that the room your guinea pigs are in should have a stable temperature range of 65 to 75 degrees F (18 to 24 degrees C). Higher than this and your pig is in danger of heat stroke. Guinea pigs cannot sweat! They have no way of cooling their bodies down themselves like we do. Have you ever seen your guinea pig sprawled out with both back legs sticking out? This is a sign of them being hot. And guinea pigs really prefer NOT to be hot - imagine being so hot and not being able to sweat.
So how do you keep the room cool? Firstly, if you have AC then definitely use that! Windows being opened is also good. But there comes a time when those may not be enough, so hopefully the following tips will help :)
- Ice packs or frozen water bottles are a life saver - literally. Have several of these in your freezer and put at least two at a time in the piggie cage, wrapped in a light towel or an old sock for their safety. The pigs can then sit as close or as far from these as they like to help keep themselves cool. I have one girl who delights in sitting right on top of them!
- Make sure to change their water bottles daily or more often! This is important all year round but especially in summer as the water will go stale and yucky faster which discourages the piggies from drinking and can encourage dehydration. Why not keep spare bottles in the fridge and switch them throughout the day.
- See if you can find the insulating covers for water bottles, these help keep the water cooler for longer.
- Marble tiles are fantastic for putting down in the cage (often sold as a Chin-Chiller). They stay cool no matter what and the pigs love to lay down on them to cool off. Other flat stones can also have the same effect, so have a good look around for something that stays cool that your pigs will enjoy.
- Keep the cage out of direct sunlight! It sounds obvious but it's one of the easiest ways of keeping the heat down. Draw blinds or curtains, move the cage, put a shade up, anything to keep the sun out of the cage. Even an insect net over the windows makes a huge difference!
- Provide lots of shady spots. Pigloos are out but cardboard boxes with lots of doors, wooden houses turned away from the light, hammocks they can hide under, shades put up outside the cage are all in. A light sheet over the end of a pen can also help.
- Fans - you can use a fan to circulate the air in the room but it is important not to direct the breeze directly on to the cage as guinea pigs are very susceptible to upper respiratory infections, the number one cause of which are drafts. Having a fan at the other end of the room to circulate the air is a safe way of keeping the room cool. You can also put a frozen water bottle in front of the fan to encourage the circulation of cooler air.
I would also encourage everyone to buy a little digital room thermometer for their piggie room. My partner and I got one and were shocked at how often we had previously let the room get too cold or too hot. Humans have a much wider range of comfortable temperatures so it's harder for us to fine tune ourselves to that 65-75 range the piggies need. A thermometer is a great way of keeping on top of things and gives great peace of mind :)
I hope this has been somewhat helpful!