If you’re wondering what can guinea pigs eat then your search ends here. Keep reading and if you have any queries you can ask in the comments.
Guinea pigs are herbivores and rodents so they like gnawing and chewing and their diet consists of only plant material. However, it is not that simple. Below are some guidelines on what to feed your guinea pig.
When you acquire your guinea pig, it might have already developed a pallet for certain foods. Younger guinea pigs are easier to learn to eat a diverse diet as they have not developed certain food preferences yet. Always enquire what diet the guinea pig is used to. Abruptly changing the diet can cause diarrhea or they might refuse to eat the novel food.
Guinea pigs love hay.This should make up most of their diet. Since it is also used as bedding and a ground cover in the cage, it is a given that the little rodents will gnaw on this throughout the day. Provide them with fresh hay daily. The hay should be green and soft; yellow hay means that it is old and dried out and some of the nutrients will have been lost by then. The best hay is Timothy hay. Other hay that can also be used include meadow hay, bluegrass hay, brome grass hay, oat hay, and orchard grass. Avoid or give alfalfa hay in small quantities as an occasional treat. Alfalfa hay is high in calcium content and this can lead to bladder stones and associated cystitis (bladder infection). Pregnant females may however receive more alfalfa to assist with foetal bone formation.
Commercial pellets are available online, from your pet store or local veterinarian. Select one that is formulated specifically for guinea pigs as this will provide the correct amount and balance of nutrients. The pellets are made of seeds, vegetables and hay. The pellets must also be vitamin C supplemented. If you feed your guinea pig enough fresh food, it is only necessary to feed it about a ¼ cup of pellets daily. The guinea pig will also guide you – if there are always pellets left, decrease the amount fed. You can leave the pellets till the next day if it is dry and not contaminated with any other food that might decompose. Don’t feed a muesli type commercial diet – guinea pigs can be picky eaters and might only choose the bits they prefer and leave the rest. We recommend National Geographic™ Daily Diet Guinea Pig Food.
Other recommended products
Guinea pigs are unique in the sense that they cannot manufacture their own vitamin C – just like humans. Therefore all vitamin C should be provided by the diet. Vitamin C is an important part of the “cement” keeping our cell together. It is essential for wound healing, and for repairing and maintaining bones and teeth. Scurvy is the main effect of insufficient vitamin C in the diet. It is important to feed fruit and vegetables high in vitamin C: the guinea pig needs 10-40mg of vitamin C daily. Examples of food high in vitamin C is strawberries, tomatoes, dark, leafy greens, bell peppers, peas, broccoli and cauliflower. All of these should be fed raw as vitamin C is destroyed at high temperature. The food must also be as fresh as possible; wilted, old fruit and vegetables have very low vitamin C content. Vitamin C can be supplemented but keep in mind that it has a sour taste. It is not advisable to add it to the drinking water as you won’t be able to control the amount consumed and the guinea pig might stop drinking its water due to the taste.
You can feed your guinea pig about a cup of fresh vegetables daily. Veggies that are good for guinea pigs include celery, corn, kale, a bit of raw broccoli, small amounts of spinach and pod-peas. Avoid adding too much vegetables with a high water content such as cucumber and salad leaves. The nutritional value is not high and the high water content can lead to diarrhea. Vegetables that should best be avoided are iceberg lettuce, rocket salads, red leaves, cauliflower, beet greens, potatoes, and radishes. Potatoes are poisonous if green or sprouted, so it’s best not to take a chance. Beans should also be avoided as the plant protein is indigestible and causes gas and bloat. Garlic, onion, spring onion and other members of the onion family are poisonous to guinea pigs. Mushrooms and rhubarb are also poisonous to guinea pigs. Starchy vegetables like sweet potato can be given in very small amounts.
Never feed wilted or spoiled vegetables and remove any old, unconsumed vegetables. A general rule is not to feed anything you won’t eat.
Fruit should be an occasional treat and must be given in very small amounts. Think of it as a treat every now and again. The sugar content is too high and this can cause diarrhea in the short run, but in the long run it can cause obesity, caries (tooth decay) and metabolic diseases like diabetes. The calcium to phosphorous ration might also be disturbed leading to bladder stones. Citrus should be avoided all together. Don’t be tempted to feed citrus to supplement vitamin C; the acidity will cause an upset tummy and can also cause small sores in the mouth. Tomatoes (yes, remember they’re a fruit) can be fed in moderation. Avocado is too high in fat and must not be fed to your guinea pig.
Seeds and nuts
Seeds present a choking hazard, especially if it is un-shelled. The fat content is too high anyway and it is best to avoid them. Nuts also have too high fat content and must not be fed, or just a small piece may be given occasionally. Always supervise your guinea pig as they can easily choke on a hard nut as well.
Clean, fresh water must always be available. A dripper bottle with a metal spout works best. Remember to replace the water daily. Not only ensures this that the water remains fresh and uncontaminated, but you can also monitor the water intake. Remember that the water may freeze during winter in an outside cage, leaving the guinea pig without a water source.
Mix it up – vary the diet to keep it interesting but also to ensure that you provide a balanced diet. Rather than supplement, feed a healthy and balanced diet. Wash all food and water dishes regularly and keep the feeding area free from old food and excreta. Using a ceramic dish instead of a plastic dish works better; guinea pigs are rodents and can chew bits off a plastic dish and ingest it. If in doubt, rather not feed it and wait until you can confirm with your veterinarian or another expert.
This post has been written by a certified vet so you can follow what has been written here and it will help you to keep your guinea pig healthy and happy.