Water is a critical part of your guinea pigs' diet. Make sure you are providing them with enough, at the right times, and from the right sources.
Although cavies tend to drink less than other rodents and small animals, it is still essential that you fulfil your guinea pigs' water requirements by providing them with a constant supply of clean, fresh drinking water, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Without this they can become dehydrated, which impairs the proper functioning of their internal organs and can lead to a number of serious illnesses.
The most common and best way of providing your guinea pigs with fresh water is by using a water bottle. These simply clip onto the side of their cage, and have a little drinking spout that pokes through. They are an excellent choice because they are much less prone to contamination that bowls, and are easy to refill without having to open the cage.
Water bottles keep your pets' water supply cleaner and fresher, and are quick and easy to refill.
You should change the water in your pets' bottle at least once a day, and more often in warmer weather. You should also check it periodically throughout the day to make sure it hasn't run dry. If you are out of the house during the day, and come home to find your cavies' water bottle empty, try using a bigger bottle, or even use 2 side by side, so that they have a supply that will last all day.
From time to time, check that your pets' bottle is working properly. It is possible for the ball to get stuck, which can make it difficult or impossible for your pets to drink from.
Bacteria can grow on the inside of water bottles, so it important to give them a thorough wash with a bottle brush at least twice a week.
Water bowls provide a good alternative to bottles, and some guinea pigs find them easier to use. This is particularly true if your pigs used one when growing up, as this is what they will be used to. They can also be better for sick pigs, who might have difficulty raising their head to drink from a bottle.
A water bowl is a good alternative to a bottle. Be sure to get a heavy ceramic one which won't be easily tipped over.
The downside to using a bowl or dish is that they are prone to getting filled with bits of stray bedding, meaning that the water has to be changed more often than when using a bottle. They can also be tipped over, resulting in a wet cage which needs to be completely cleaned. To reduce the chances of this happening, be sure to buy a heavy ceramic bowl that your guinea pigs can't tip over to easily.
Bowls don't tend to gather bacteria as much as bottles do, but it still important to give them a thorough clean out several times a week. This can be done quckly and easily at the same time as refilling the water.
Hot and Cold Weather
Like humans, guinea pigs drink more water in warm weather. Therefore it becomes even more important to check their water supply several times a day. Even if they haven't drunk it all, they still find cold water much more refreshing, so change it as often as you can.
In very cold weather water can freeze, which obviously makes it impossible to drink. However, you should never expose your guinea pigs to such extremes of temperature, so if you find this happening, move them somewhere warmer immediately and permanently.
Monitor How Much Your Pets Drink
In general, you will find that your guinea pigs will drink roughly the same amount of water each day. This may change with the seasons, for example as the weather gets warmer, but should remain fairly conssitent from day to day. If you notice a sudden increase or decrease in the amount they are drinking, the first thing to do is check their bottle (if they have one) to make sure it is working properly. If it is, then it may be time for a visit to the vet, as a sudden change in water consumption can be an early indicator of illness.
Adding Medicine and Vitamin Supplements to Water
There are a number of medicines and vitamin supplements available which can be dissolved in water to make them easier to feed to your guinea pigs. These seem like a great idea, but in practice they can cause problems. Firstly, if the medicine is only meant for one pig, it is difficult to stop your other pigs drinking it as well. Secondly, medicines and supplements can make the water taste different. This can put them off drinking it at all, which will lead to more health problems. Thirdly, and particularly in the case of vitamin supplements, each cavy will drink a different amount of water, making it difficult or impossible to ensure that each one gets the same dose.
Other Sources of Water
Guinea pigs also get water naturally from certain foods in their diet. This is one of the reasons it is so important to give your pets plenty of fresh food, rather than just dry pellets or food mix. Watery foods such as cucumber can also be very refreshing in warm weather, and help them to cope with the heat.
However, you should not rely on foods to provide your guinea pigs will all the water they need, and liquid water from a bottle or bowl should always be available to them.