What Can Guinea Pigs Eat?
As with any living animal, it is very important for their health that they are given a balanced, healthy diet. Guinea pigs do not require a particularly complicated menu, but they need to be given grass hay, healthy fresh food, a small bit of quality pellets, and a good source of vitamin C. Too much of anything in excess can be unhealthy for them (EXCEPT grass hay!) so make sure you give them a good amount to the right foods to keep your cavies healthy and happy. Now, let's take a look at their diet...
Feeding your guinea pig quality grass hay is the most essential part of their diet, so there should be a constant supply of it. Grass hay has many important health benefits, since it is a good source of fiber, it wears down their teeth, and it is a low-calorie food to fill up your guinea pig, so he doesn't feast on sugary pellets or veggies! The most common source of grass hay is timothy hay, but another popular hay used is called orchard hay. Many people mistakenly buy their cavies alfalfa hay, but it isn't healthy for them to be a constant source of hay as it is too high in calcium. Too much calcium is unhealthy and can lead to bladder stones or worse. Alfalfa hay can only be given to pregnant or nursing sows or very young cavies. Alfalfa is a legume hay, which is different from grass hay and not what you should feed your guinea pigs. The best place to buy your grass hay is from a local farm or feed store, as it's generally a better quality and lower price than buying hay in packages at a pet store. Hay should be replaced often if not kept in a hay rack because many guinea pigs seem to enjoy peeing or pooping where their food source is placed.
Pellets should only be fed in small quantities- no more than 1/4 of a cup a day for each guinea pig. Many brands sell pellets that are based off of alfalfa hay. As discussed before, this is good for cavies under a year, but any older than that should be given pellets that are timothy hay based. In addition, make sure the pellets you feed your guinea pigs do not contain kernels as these can be a choking hazard. It is recommended to feed a pellet that is plain, with no extra seeds or tidbits, so your guinea pig doesn't only eat the parts he likes, and therefore isn't receiving a complete nutrition.
Every day, you should feed your guinea pigs about 1-2 cups of fresh vegetables, and occasionally a fruit. However, fruits are high in sugar and should be given no more than once a week as a full serving. Vegetables provide many of the nutrients a guinea pig needs to be healthy, but make sure you choose your cavies' main source of veggies wisely. It is recommended that the main source of fresh food given be a dark, leafy vegetable such as romaine lettuce or parsley. Kale is very healthy and high in vitamin C (see below), but is not a good choice as an every day food because of it's high amount of calcium. It is a good idea to feed your guinea pig a wide variety of fruits and vegetables (just make sure they are healthy) to ensure they are being given a balanced nutrition.
Unlike other rodents, cavies can not produce their own vitamin C and have to be given it, through their diet or with a supplement. My vet recommends giving guinea pigs a supplement to ensure they are being given enough vitamin C. However, do not feed your guinea pigs vitamin C drops to put in their water bottle. As Guinea Lynx claims:
- Water is vital to good health but because vitamin C changes the flavor, they may drink less.
- Ascorbic acid degrades rapidly once added to water.
- Some cavies drink a lot and some very little, so it is impossible to know how much vitamin C your pet is getting.
The best supplements are either in chewable tablets or in liquid vitamin C that can be fed using a syringe. My own cavies wouldn't chew the tablets, but enjoy the liquid treat they receive every day.
What NOT To Feed Guinea Pigs
Even though there are lots of fresh vegetables and fruits you can feed your guinea pig, there are some things you need to completely avoid feeding them, such as:
- Salt licks, or mineral blocks. These can cause a mineral build-up, which can lead to bladder stones
- Animal byproducts
- Seeds with kernels that cavies can choke on
- Veggies like broccoli, which in excess can be unhealthy and cause gas
- Iceberg lettuce- it has no nutritional value and can be bad for guinea pigs' digestive tracts because of its high water content
- Check out this link for more info