Sometimes it happens that the mother dies or cannot look after her offspring for other reasons (e.g. illness). In such a case, it is best if the young are “fostered” on a wet nurse.
Female guinea pigs with up to three of their own pups that are less than a week old usually accept strange babies well. If your own young animals are older, it is possible that the mother will reject the foreign babies (chasing them away and biting them away). If the offspring cannot be raised by a wet nurse, the only option left is hand-rearing.
When rearing by hand, a disposable syringe (without a needle) and substitute milk are used. In the first few days, the babies are fed every two hours. The recommended daily amount of rearing milk is around 20 ml. Cat or special rodent rearing milk (available from pet shops) can be used as replacement milk. But also (dairy-free) special food for infants can be used in an emergency. The mixing ratio depends on the respective substitute milk. The milk powder should be mixed with about twice the amount of water. Please note that the milk is always freshly mixed and has body temperature.
Important ground rules
After meals, the anal region is gently massaged so that the young animals can defecate and urinate. If this does not happen, severe gastrointestinal problems will occur! Apart from that, it is, of course, crucial that the young animals eat enough food. The best way to check babies’ development is to weigh them daily. The daily weight gain should be around 4 to 7 g. Once the guinea pigs have survived the critical first few days, there is no need to feed them at night.
At the same time, the milk is enriched with baby carrot pulp and melted flakes. Guinea pigs are also given solid food such as hay and fresh vegetables right from the start. The rodents are completely independent when they are about three to four weeks old. During the hand-rearing period, it is important that the young lives with one or more adult conspecifics. Only in this way can they learn healthy social behavior. In addition, they can be warmed by the other guinea pigs.