What should guinea pigs eat?
The two main health issues for guinea pigs are digestive diseases and dental problems. Both can be prevented and controlled by offering a diet that meets their physiological needs.
Guinea pigs are cecal fermenting herbivores, so the primary component of their diet should be fiber. This fiber intake should come from hay (70%), fresh vegetables (20%), and quality pellets (10%).
Hay is dried grass that has been cut. There are different types of hay, including various grasses (Timothy, Oat, Festuca, Meadow Fescue, etc.) and legumes (Clover, Sainfoin, Alfalfa, etc.), and some may contain traces of flowers or dandelion to make them more appealing. Fresh, green, and aromatic hay should be provided to guinea pigs without restriction, reserving legume hay for growing or lactating animals.
High-quality guinea pig pellets should contain a minimum of 20% fiber. It’s recommended to provide extruded or pelleted feed, as seed mixes can lead to an unbalanced diet. Guinea pig pellets should have forage plants as the main ingredient, with cereals, flours, or undefined components like “by-products of plant origin” kept to a minimum. It’s also advisable for guinea pig pellets to be supplemented with vitamin C.
This involves offering green leaves of vegetables such as chicory, artichoke, watercress, borage, canons, arugula, radicchio, cabbage, carrot greens, green lettuce, escarole, endive, green cabbage, etc. Vegetables like chard or spinach should be offered less frequently due to their high oxalate content, which can worsen kidney problems. Guinea pigs can also consume aromatic herbs like parsley, mint, oregano, basil, etc. Other vegetables that can be offered include celery, bell peppers, cucumber, zucchini, broccoli, etc.
Fruit should be restricted or only given as a treat due to its high sugar content, which can disrupt a guinea pig’s digestive flora and contribute to obesity.
Foods that are prohibited include avocado, onions, garlic, leeks, raw potatoes, and eggplants.
Just like humans, guinea pigs cannot produce vitamin C in their bodies and must obtain it from their diet. Guinea pigs can suffer from scurvy, a disease caused by a vitamin C deficiency. An adult guinea pig needs to consume 10-30 mg of vitamin C per kg of body weight. To ensure adequate vitamin C intake, a variety of fresh foods should be provided. In case of uncertainty, vitamin C supplements can also be used.
In general, dark leafy greens tend to have high vitamin C content, as do red bell peppers, parsley, kiwi, carrot tops, etc.