Many owners have observed the color changes in the fur of their guinea pigs. The color of their coat might change several times a year. It can be alarming for some owners because the first thing that comes to mind is some underlying health condition. But is it so? Why is your guinea pig fur changing color? Let’s find out!
Guinea pigs are prey animals, and they do have a slight variation in the color of their coat to camouflage in the environment. Guinea pigs shed two times a year, which can lead to a change in their fur color. You should worry about your guinea pigs when their coat color turns yellow because of urine stains.
Let’s discuss more changes in the color of fur in guinea pigs and what it means. We will also explain when you should worry about them and when you shouldn’t.
Do guinea pigs change colors?
The color changes in the fur of guinea pigs often occur once or twice in a year. Including this, baby guinea pigs change their color regularly before they reach maturity. That is because of regular shedding of fur and the quick pace of growth.
Unlike other animals, guinea pigs are born with fur. They shed their first fur coat 3-4 months after birth which gets replaced with a new fur coat quickly, but the color or pattern does not appear to be the same.
Most of the time as guinea pigs transition through their childhood to adults, the colors and patterns are going to differ for sure.
Guinea pigs will also see a slight variation every 6 months when they shed and prepare their coat for the climate they are in.
The shedding of the coat depends upon the change in seasons, as guinea pigs require a thinner fur coat in summers as compared to winters.
The change in the color of the guinea pigs also occurs for their protection. Usually, it is regular in wild guinea pigs than in pet guinea pigs, but still, it applies to all guinea pigs except skinny pigs.
A slight variation is also dependent upon the melanin in their skin. If you house your guinea pigs outside or near a window from where they get lots of light, then a little variation is normal.
At the time of summers, guinea pigs will get darker shade in their fur as the melanin production rises significantly. Whereas during winters, days get shorter, and the production of melanin gets low so the coat color gets lighter shade.
Guinea pig shedding fur
As already told, guinea pigs shed their fur every 6 months, during season changes. Shedding off fur gets might take anywhere between 2-6 weeks.
Most guinea pigs first experience the molting from the head and slowly sheds from the lower body.
But every two guinea pigs are different from each other. Some guinea pigs shed a significant part of their fur in a short span, while other guinea pigs shed in small uneven quantities.
That explains the bald hair spots on guinea pigs when they shed. There is no need for any concern if the patch goes away as their fur grows back.
However, if you observe bald hair spots on your guinea pigs, which stays for many days, then it explains that your guinea pigs are pulling out their fur, maybe because of stress.
Guinea can experience stress for several reasons, but you can help them by brushing regularly.
Make use of a comb with broad tooths that have unsharpened ends. Using sharp pointed brushes or combs can be tough on the soft skin of guinea pigs.
Mostly, guinea pigs brush themselves on their own, especially at the time of shedding. That means that your guinea pigs can get hairballs.
It happens mainly during the time of summers when they shed a lot. Be sure that your guinea pigs have lots of hay to eat, as this will make their digestion easy.
If you wish to get over this shedding quickly, then provide more protein in your guinea pigs’ diet. The correct quantity of protein will make your guinea pigs shed quickly.
But, an excess amount of protein makes the digestion to work slow, and this can be very harmful because guinea pigs are unable to vomit, particularly at the time of shedding.
If guinea pigs are facing digestion problems, that means the fur they swallowed has been stuck in their digestive tract. This may even lead to gastrointestinal stasis.
Guinea pig fur getting darker
In winters, the fur of guinea pigs gets lighter in color and darker in summers. The darkening of fur happens due to the presence of melanin in their body, which is the result of sunshine (direct or indirect).
Guinea pigs are more energetic during sunrise and evening because they carry crepuscular nature. Most pet guinea pigs try to turn energetic in the daytime, which happens because they are born and brought up in a bounded environment.
Many guinea pig owners will observe that their baby guinea pigs will start getting dark fur if they spend time outside or in bright light.
Guinea pig fur getting lighter
Guinea pigs get light-colored fur coats during the winter because the daylight is short. You will observe it quickly because the kind of fur coat guinea pigs get in winters is usually thicker.
If your guinea pig lives in a bright environment, then its fur will be of a darker shade, whereas guinea pig living in the dark environment will have a lighter color fur.
Guinea pig fur turning yellow
The color of guinea pig’s fur turning yellow has two causes behind it. One could be direct exposure of sunlight leading to fur staining.
The yellow color of the fur in guinea pigs is the result of stains from their urine.
Guinea pigs spend time enjoying themselves while they discharge their waste.
It is not rare that guinea pigs eat dry grass at the same time when they eliminate.
This action builds a thought that there is a connection between eating and eliminating at the same time in the mind of your guinea pigs.
Several guinea pigs also like to play in their litter box, and some even sleep in it. If your guinea pigs are doing so, sadly, they are coming in contact with their urine.
Bathing is not much suggested as guinea pigs can get sudden shocks, which might lead to heart attacks. You can try some other ways like cleaning them slowly with a wet cloth, or you can add vinegar to water and then dab it on their fur to clean the stains.
If urine stains stay for a much more extended period, it can cause urine burnings on the soft skin of guinea pigs. That causes bald spots, which is painful for guinea pigs.
Including this, longer urine stains can invite flies and other insects, and if these insects lay eggs on the skin, it results in flystrike. Flystrike can be life-threatening for your guinea pigs.
Do guinea pigs get gray hair?
Some guinea pigs have a natural grey colored fur coat. But, guinea pigs fur do not turn grey because of their increasing age.
Guinea pigs are recognized as adults once they turn 5 years old. The natural life expectancy of guinea pigs is believed approximately between 5-8 years. Signals of your guinea pigs getting old are:
- Fewer movements and taking more short sleep.
- Variations in weight, several guinea pigs, experience fatness due to eating more, whereas most older guinea pigs refuse to eat.
- No interest in grooming or failing to do so.
- Removing waste outside the waste box, because those guinea pigs suffering from the problem of arthritis can face challenges climbing on the waste box.
- Swollen spots or pimples on the skin.
- When they are not able to see, or appropriately they respond less.
Guinea pigs changing fur color is natural and common. If you find that your guinea pigs are not changing color at all, then it could be because of their genetics.
Also, the yellowing of fur in your guinea pigs is not dangerous, and they are not suffering from any health problems unless and until it is caused by urine stain. Urine stain is something you need to pay immediate attention to.
When your guinea pigs begin to change their fur color, you should help them by providing grooming.
It may appear that your guinea pigs are shedding all the time, but it is essential for their care, particularly for those breeds with long hair like Peruvian guinea pigs.
Your guinea pig’s fur color changes are due to natural factors. Do not worry about your guinea pigs if they have darker fur shade in summers and a lighter shade in winters.
Sources: THE EFFECTS OF ENVIRONMENTAL TEMPERATURE ON COAT
COLOR IN DIVERSE GENOTYPES OF THE GUINEA PIG, MUTATIONAL MOSAIC COAT PATTERNS OF THE GUINEA PIG.