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  • Writer's pictureRena Korb

Saving Guinea Pig Orphans: It Takes a Herd (Of People and Pigs)

Updated: Aug 8, 2022

Just the other day, the guinea pig rescue I work with received an urgent call from a local vet. A family had just brought in three one-day-old babies whose mom had just passed away. Could we help?

The vet had previously treated the mom for a urinary tract infection, but after giving birth, she got very sick. Though her family brought her in, the vet couldn’t save her. And though her family wanted to keep her three babies, neither they nor the vet knew how to care for orphaned newborn guinea pigs.

Few baby guinea pigs can survive without at least some milk from their mom. Although guinea pigs are born being able to walk and eat solid food within a matter of days, they still depend on their mom. Her milk gives them immunities and her poop (which all guinea pigs eat) provides essential gut bacteria. She also keeps them warm and stimulates their digestive systems.

People can, and do, hand feed baby guinea pigs who have been orphaned or rejected by their moms. But receiving so little care from their mom meant that these 2.5-ounce tykes faced an almost certain death sentence … Unless, of course, you happen to know someone with a nursing mother.

The vet made the right call in calling the rescue because we did know someone with a nursing mama guinea pig. Two, in fact, Buttons and Bobbins, a bonded pair.

One of these moms, Buttons, was part of her own recent tragedy. Only two weeks ago, she gave birth to four babies. Within a day or so, the owner realized that one of Button’s babies was much smaller and weaker than his siblings. Despite the owner’s diligent efforts at hand feeding, the littlest piggie was unable to eat. Dazhuang lived for only six days.

The owner specifically chose the name Dazhuang for this littlest baby. Dazhuang means “be strong,” and even as it became clear that he was not strong enough for this world, the owner expressed hope that he would come back some day.

A week to the day after Dazhuang’s death, the owner took in the three orphan babies. Although Buttons seemed too focused on her own babies, Bobbins accepted the orphans into the cage she shared with her own three young babies. So far, they all are getting along like one big, happy herd!

Check back in a few weeks — we will provide an update on how the orphans are doing, as well as all the babies!

If you would like to follow the adventures of these baby guinea pigs and learn about more of our rescues check out The Cavy & Hammy Haven.

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