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RIP Cricket and Squirrel (A cautionary post on pregnancy)


Cavy Slave
Jun 14, 2019
I'm not sure if this post belongs in this topic or under pregnancy, but I suppose in memory of is appropriate because I hope that someone might learn from the loss of my girls' lives. This is going to be a bit of a saga. The gist is that, in the last two weeks, I've lost two girls to pregnancy complications. Pregnancy in guinea pigs is dangerous. There's an overpopulation problem and lots of success stories on the internet, so obviously guinea pigs do give birth often, but it doesn't always work out. This is a case where two mothers and 6 babies were lost.

I adopted two new guinea pigs as friends to my 4 year old female, Cricket, after her cage mate died (of a uterine tumor). The new piggies were a 2-3 month old female, named Squirrel, and a 9-10 month old "neutered" male, Bean. You can probably guess where this is going...

About two months after I adopted them, I noticed that Squirrel had a distended abdomen, so I brought her in to the vet thinking she probably had bloat (or heaven forbid a uterine tumor like the female I had just lost a few months prior). A radiograph showed 5 babies growing inside her. She was young enough that it was reasonable to think she could carry the babies and birth them, so we decided against intervention.

The vet told me how to check to see if Bean had testicles, so when I got home, I checked and immediately separated him when I realized that he had not been neutered. (I made a post a little while back and said that he was living separately from the girls, which was true at this point. I didn't include the details of the pregnancy because it wasn't relevant to the question I had). The rescue I got them from specializes in rodents, so this was not a case of a naive or misinformed adoption volunteer, it was just a simple mix-up. Bean was living with a spayed female which is not something they typically have, so there was some mistake on the day I came in and they thought he was fixed, not the female.

I took Cricket in to the vet the next day to have her checked for pregnancy. The vet said that she thought she felt something during a physical exam, but the radiograph showed no babies. I planned to return in a couple of weeks just in case she was pregnant and it was in the early stages before the fetuses are visible by radiograph. She had been separated from the other two when I first got them, so she could have been impregnated later than Squirrel.

About 2 weeks pass and Squirrel's appetite slows over the weekend. I had been in regular contact with the rescue at this point and they advised me that she would probably be giving birth soon because guinea pigs tend to slow down a day or two before labor. Her pelvic bones were really wide by this point, so I thought that was a reasonable assessment. By Sunday evening she had stopped eating entirely and she was hiding in the corner with a really puffy face and goopy eyes. I knew that this was a bad sign, but I don't know of any good emergency exotic vets in my area that operate outside business hours. I had hoped she would hold on until the morning, but overnight she cozied up in her cuddle cup and passed away. I brought her back to the rescue for a necropsy and was told that she had a bowel obstruction, intestinal bloat, and possibly a GI infection. The babies seemed fully formed and they probably would have been born in just a few days. If this hadn't happened on a Sunday night, I may have been able to get an emergency c-section and saved the babies because I saw them moving still on Sunday afternoon. It's heartbreaking.

I noticed that Cricket had strange poops just after Squirrel passed so I decided to bring her back to the vet before her next pregnancy check. I panicked thinking that she might also have a bowel obstruction or a GI infection like Squirrel--maybe I had given them some veggies that I didn't realize were bad. Turns out she was pregnant and the weird poops were just late pregnancy constipation. She had been pregnant the last time I brought her in, but the baby found a way to hide from the radiograph. The vet estimated that she would probably give birth in the next week. Cricket was 4 (almost 5), so pregnancy was dangerous for her. When I adopted her 4 years ago, I was told that her previous cage mate was her daughter, so the vet told me that it's possible that she may be able to deliver even though she was older, but no guarantee. I then had to decide whether to let her carry the baby to labor knowing that she might need an emergency c-section or whether to perform a spay and c-section that day or the next and hope that the baby was developed enough to survive. Either choice was risky since guinea pigs are not great candidates for anesthesia and the pregnancy was high risk. I opted to take the non-surgical route and I brought her to the rescue where I got Squirrel and Bean because they had successfully seen a 3-ish year-old mother through a birth in the past. A little over a week passed and Cricket's baby wasn't moving during her morning check-in. Between 10 and 11am, Cricket went into distress and passed away while the rescue was contacting an emergency vet. I don't know yet what exactly happened, but I think it's very likely she died of complications in labor or that the baby died and she died of complications related to that.

I guess the big take-aways from this story are
1) Trust but verify -- I should have had Bean checked by a vet to be sure he was neutered before letting him live with the girls.
2) Pregnancy in guinea pigs can be dangerous! Don't do it on purpose!
3) It's hard making medical decisions for our little piggies. I knew that whatever decision I made for Cricket, it could go wrong and I had to accept the outcome. I could have driven myself crazy either way wishing I had gotten the surgery if she died in labor or the reverse had I chosen the other option. Know that whatever choices you make were the ones that made the most sense at the time. If you're on this forum, you must care a lot about your little furry potatoes. It's hard being a pet parent especially to animals of prey who often don't tell you something's wrong until it's almost too late.

RIP Cricket and Squirrel. Bean and I will be missing you <3
I'm so sorry. But thank you for posting that. I hope some of our starry-eyed young members who want to have the experience of seeing a live birth will read this and realize how dangerous labor and delivery can be for guinea pigs.
I am so sorry that you and the girls had to go through this. :sad:

We love our furry little friends so much, and yet their lives are often cut short for any number of reasons. We hooman parents have to make the best decision that we can at any given moment which may not be easy given the limited information that we have. You obviously gave each situation careful thought and did the best you could. No one (including you) should second guess the decisions that you made nor doubt your best intentions.

Fly free over the Rainbow Bridge, Cricket and Squirrel! You certainly were loved. :love:
Thank you for posting this story. I have no doubt how painful it was for you.

Rest in peace, ladies. Cricket and Squirrel, and their little ones, are now at the Rainbow Bridge. They're all together, and they'll enjoy the sun and the fresh greens, until you and Bean come to find them again.

I am so, so sorry for such a huge loss. My heart goes out to you.
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