Guinea Pig Nutritional Requirements

It can seem rather overwhelming when you do a simple online search for what to feed your guinea pig. We remember when we first researched guinea pig nutritional requirements. We were fairly shocked to read you feed them three times a day. It seems like a huge amount but after owning guinea pigs a numerous years now you can see why they need it!

Helping-your-guinea-pigs-settle-in

Guinea pigs do not eat meat, high amounts of carbohydrates or fatty foods. They are very strict herbivores.They should never be fed meat or diary products! When it comes to feeding your guinea pig, its useful to remember that in the wild they live in the hills and mountains of the Andes, Peru. They spend their days grazing on fresh grass and other plant materials. 

We will cover the basics of guinea pigs nutritional requirements in this article.

Vitamin C

Guinea pigs are rather like humans in the sense that we both can not make our own vitamin C. Guinea pigs, like us rely on getting their daily recommended allowance of vitamin C from their food alone. In order for a guinea pig to intake vitamin C you need to provide suitable vegetables and a small amount of pellet food to ensure they do not suffer from disease.  Most experts agree that at least five milligrams per kilogram of body weight is the requirement on Vitamin C for your guinea pig but as a rule of thumb twenty milligrams a day is preferred. 

Whilst this may sound a large quantity in comparison to your fairly small guinea pig, it is actually easily obtained by feeding your piggie a supply of fresh vegetables (along with the occasional sweet fruity treat.) Liquid drops of Vitamin C are also available to be added to water. We recommended speaking to a vet before administrating to your pet. 

Grass and Hay

Guinea pigs LOVE grass and hay! If your guinea pig lives outside or has access to an outside space then you are safe to let them graze on it all day! A word of caution: if your guinea pig does live outside, remember they shouldn’t be kept on wet grass. Guinea pigs little furry bellies lie close next to the ground. If walking on wet grass, it will make their tummy wet and can cause colds and pneumonia. 

happy-guinea-pig

If your guinea pig doesn’t live outside, don’t worry as there are still ways of providing them with grass. We cut our lawn with a pair of scissors and bring it in for them. We place it in hay racks and various containers for them to graze on.

Grass hay can also be purchased. Hay is such an important part of a guinea pigs diet and it is crucial for  their survival. Guinea pigs love hay – sleeping in it, eating it, digging in it and of course leaving their droppings in it too.  It provides a nutritional requirement as well as being good fun for guinea pigs. Grass hay aids proper digestion along with the constant chewing action serving to wear down teeth ensuring they don’t become overgrown. The best type of hay is Timothy hay.

Guinea pigs should have hay on the floor of their cage for sleeping in. Since they do leave droppings in it, it is also essential to get a hay rack to ensure they are eating clean hay. A guinea pig will often refuse to eat hay that has been soiled on. A hay rack is really important to ensure they are eating enough hay. A constant supply of clean hay should be provided daily. 

A cost effective way to manage your money whilst also providing unlimited hay for your guinea pigs is to buy a cheaper hay for ground cover and the more expensive Timothy Hay to put into various racks around the cage. This also saves on wastage.

Pellets

Guinea pigs also need to eat dry pellets as part of their daily nutritional needs. It is important to buy pellets that are made specifically for guinea pigs. Do not to use those intended for rabbits as they do not have the same nutritional needs. Guinea pig pellets have Vitamin C added to them. Avoid feeding your guinea pig brightly colored pellets as these rarely contain any nutritional benefits. Guinea pigs tend to leave the most nutritious pellets to the end. 

Guinea pig pellets often come fortified with vitamins, minerals and calcium.  Calcium is required to keep teeth and bones healthy, however too much can be dangerous to your guinea pig. Its useful to watch out for any white deposits in your piggies urine. This can be a sign that the food has too much calcium in it. A high intake in calcium can lead to formation of bladder stones. 

According to the RSPCA, the recommended amount of guinea pig pellets per day is one handful.

Vegetables 

Guinea pigs love vegetables! Vegetables are a crucial part  to a guinea pigs diet. The best type of vegetables are romaine lettuce and spring greens. Ensure you feed your guinea pig a variety of vegetables daily to ensure they have a good mixture to snack on all day. Guinea pigs can also eat small quantities of fruit and herbs as a treat but due to the high sugar content of fruit, this shouldn’t be happening daily. The RSPCA have a wonderful food chart that helps form the basis of your guinea pigs meal plan:

Water

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Its important to ensure your guinea pig has a constant supply of fresh, clean water. It can be provided in with a water bowl or water bottle. Ensure you clean the water and bottle / bowl daily to prevent the build up of bacteria that could make your piggy ill.

Cecotropes (soft feces)

Yeah unfortunately we are talking droppings! You may have noticed that your guinea pig produces two types of dropping: A hard type and a dark, shiny one. The latter is the one they eat and usually straight from the source (IE their bottom.) Whilst its slightly odd to us humans, guinea pigs practice coprophagy which is the eating of this special type of dropping. 

These special types of droppings are actually full of Vitamin B and Vitamin K which is essential to a guinea pig’s good  health. Studies have shown that guinea pigs prevented from eating these special droppings develop malnutrition and die. 

One comment

  1. Replace pellets on a daily basis. Guinea pigs often kick bedding material or droppings into their food bowls, and stale pellets will have little, if any, Vitamin C.

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