What food or vegetables should I choose for my guinea pig?
Choosing the food for your guinea pigs every day can sometimes seem quite complicated. Just because you love your guinea pig doesn’t mean you can give it anything. While some human foods are safe for your guinea pig to eat, feeding guinea pigs isn’t about giving them table scraps. How do guinea pigs meal plan to ensure they are eating healthy without getting bored?
What do guinea pigs eat?
Basically, guinea pigs are herbivores. This means that they only eat fruits and vegetables: never dairy products, eggs, meat or insects for these little animals. Fresh hay and fresh green vegetables should be the bulk of your guinea pig’s diet.
There are two important things that every guinea pig owner should keep in mind when choosing food:
- Vitamin C: Guinea pigs cannot formulate their own vitamin C, which makes them vulnerable to scurvy. Guinea pig pellets must contain vitamin C to keep your pet healthy;
- Constantly Growing Teeth: Guinea pig teeth grow continuously. It is important to give your guinea pig something fibrous to chew on. This is where hay is very important, as hard pellets alone are not enough.
With that said, it’s also important not to vary your guinea pig’s diet too quickly. If necessary, be sure to make a transition when switching your guinea pig from the diet of its previous family or the pet store to a healthier diet.
You might also catch your guinea pig eating their own droppings, but don’t worry. Guinea pigs actually produce two different types of droppings, one of which is sweet and nutritious, and guinea pigs re-ingest it for more nutrients. Rabbits do the same. The other type is harder and is produced after the food has been digested twice. These are the droppings that you will remove when you clean your guinea pig’s cage.
Good hay at will, and supplements in granules and plants
80% of your guinea pig’s diet should come from hay. Grass hay is best for adult guinea pigs, for tooth wear and for helping to create a healthy digestive system. Alfalfa is more energetic and richer in calcium, and is a good supplement for growing guinea pigs as well as pregnant or lactating females, but is not a good staple food for most adult guinea pigs.
10% must come from dry granules for guinea pigs. Not all granules are created equal, try to buy ones that are not too high in calcium, as this can lead to kidney and bladder stones. An easy way to check if your guinea pig has too much calcium in their diet is to watch out for milky white deposits in their urine. Commercial guinea pig pellets should be fed daily. Most guinea pigs do not eat much (usually about 1/8 cup per day), and the number of pellets may need to be limited if a guinea pig becomes obese.
The remaining 10% of their diet comes from vegetables and fruits which we will discuss in more detail below.
It is important to remember that fresh water should be available ad libitum for your guinea pig.
The importance of vitamin C intake
Vitamin C is of the utmost importance for guinea pigs because they are unable to make their own. Without enough vitamin C in their diet, guinea pigs can get very sick from scurvy.
If you feed your guinea pig a good selection of vitamin C rich vegetables along with a good fresh guinea pig pellet, you can probably meet his needs.
Many guinea pig pellets have added vitamin C. You can also get pellets with a stabilized form of vitamin C. But unfortunately vitamin C is quite unstable and will degrade over time. Store the granules in a cool, dark place to preserve vitamin C.
The best way to supplement with extra vitamin C is to use vitamin C tablets. You can buy specific tablets for guinea pigs or 100 mg chewable tablets (avoid multivitamin formulas). A quarter of a 100 mg tablet per day is the correct dose for most adult guinea pigs. Guinea pig tablets are 50 mg, but since vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin, small excess of this daily requirement is easily excreted. Many guinea pigs take the tablets as a treat and eat them, or they can be crushed and sprinkled on vegetables or granules.
Vitamin C can also be added to water, but this method has problems. Vitamin C breaks down quickly in water (fresh intake should be done at least daily, or even twice). In addition, guinea pigs may refuse or reduce their intake of vitamin C supplemented water due to the taste, which can lead to other health issues. It is also very difficult to know if your guinea pigs are getting enough vitamin C using this method of supplementation. Feeding them with a variety of fresh vegetables rich in vitamin C and / or supplementing directly with vitamin C tablets are better options.
Vegetables and fruits are great treats
In addition to hay and pellets, a variety of fresh vegetables (especially leafy greens) and some fruits should be offered daily.
Leafy greens should make up the bulk of herbal supplementation. Fruits and other vegetables can be offered in small quantities (be careful because they are high in sugars and can make him obese).
You can use them to help bonding or as treats. Always be sure to clean up any uneaten fresh food at the end of the day to prevent mold or rot.
The good choices are:
- spinach ;
- turnip greens;
- romaine lettuce;
- dandelion leaves;
- the strawberries ;
- tomatoes ;
- the watermelon.
Carrots, carrot tops, green and red peppers, apples, apricots, bananas, blueberries, grapes and oranges, can also be given.
Avoid or limit cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens, and other cruciferous vegetables as they can lead to gas production in the digestive tract. Also avoid starchy foods like potatoes. Avoid iceberg lettuce as it has very little nutritional value.
If you have a guaranteed pesticide-free source, weed, dandelions, clover, and chickweed can also be offered, especially new growth that is tender and the most nutritious.
Foods toxic to guinea pigs
Not all fruits and vegetables are safe for guinea pigs. Avoid feeding your guinea pig with:
- chive ;
- coconut ;
- onions ;
These foods are actually dangerous for many animals, such as dogs, parrots, and cats.
Always avoid feeding your guinea pig sweet or salty human “junk food”, even if none of the ingredients are poisonous. Since guinea pigs cannot eat garlic or onions, a large part of our ready meals should also be avoided. It’s usually best to stick to feeding your guinea pig good quality hay and pellets, and the occasional supplement of fresh fruits and vegetables.