This article is solely dedicated to a lovely little fella called guinea pig, also known as Cavia porcellus (lat.), or cavy. Here you will find the most useful tips and best products available for your guinea pig’s blissful life.
We feel a personal connection to this adorable creature: although we mostly deal with dogs and cats, several years ago a guinea pig was brought to our clinic for euthanasia, as the former owners couldn’t deal with it anymore (someone in the household supposedly had some sort of allergy). Although we’re taught to restrict our emotions and do our duty, we couldn’t do it this time – there was that cliche moment of looking into the eye of another being and instantly being spiritually connected. So, we took care of this entity, named him Ronnie and brought home with us. We nurtured him, and he lived happily and healthy for several years after passing away of old age.
You might think there’s not much in common between us, humans, and guinea pigs, and that our communication can be extremely restricted. Well, that’s not entirely true. First, we have one common flaw – just like humans, guinea pigs cannot synthesize their own vitamin C, therefore, must gain enough nutrition from food. Second, they can be very stressful which is a major cause of illness. You have to treat your friend carefully, and even then he or she might not respond with instant trust and reliance – it has to be earned.
Recommended guinea pig diet
What’s on guinea pig’s menu? Let’s take a quick look at the most suitable sources of nutrition, some general information to be recognized, followed by a list of guinea pig favorite food/additions to the main dish with some tips and comments.
|Timothy-hay||Main source of nutrition (also used for bedding) - provides the necessary fiber to be able to properly digest and process nutrients. We cannot emphasize enough how essential a high-quality hay is (mold-free and without foreign particles). Re-fill your Guinea pig food bowl (or another place where you choose to hold it) with fresh hay at least 3 times a day.|
|Water||Another must - it has to be clean (to be changed every day) and in room-temperature. Your guinea pig must ALWAYS have access to it.|
|Guinea pig pellets||A great addition to Timothy-hay (grass) to provide additional vitamins (NOTE: it MUSTN'T be a substitute for hay).|
|Vegetables||Only up to 250 ml per day. Note that some herbs and fruits can be added as well but you should be very careful when choosing them.|
|Regular (almost daily)|
|Lettuce (butterhead, romaine, green and red leaf)||Do NOT feed iceberg lettuce (potentially toxic)!|
|Raspberry leaves||Also, raspberries themselves can be fed, too, but not regularly|
|Occasional (1-3 times a week)|
|Cabbage||May cause bloating/gas, therefore, recommended less often and in small doses|
|Apple||Avoid apple seeds, they're poisonous!|
|Kiwis||Without the brown skin|
|Green beans||Once a week and fresh (not cooked or modified otherwise)|
What to do if your guinea pig gets diarrhea? Increase the use of high-quality hay and decrease the consumption of other food such as vegetables and fruits, and also pellets.
Other supplements to hay (grass) – what to choose?
Nowadays, they make different supplements to Timothy hay and the most popular are pellets. With our previous notes in mind, let’s take a look at the best guinea pig food available in the market today if you opt to throw in some useful addition.
If your little fella is over 6 months of age, feed 1/8 cup pellets daily (NOTE: if younger, use Oxbow Animal Health Cavy Performance Essentials Young Guinea Pig Food – as your young guinea is growing, you can feed it a lot more). Although it’s Timothy-based, it will never fully substitute the natural grass (it should cover around 70-80% of the menu), but it really is a useful extra, especially if you live in an urban region and simply cannot get clean hay for your piggie that easily. In our opinion, it’s the best value-for-price within the category available in the market.
Also, similar rules apply to pregnant guineas as young ones – you can feed them more, as they should receive around 2-2.5 times vitamin C as a normal guinea pig over 6 months (to whom 10 mg of vitamin C daily should be enough). You might also consider checking out other products from Oxbow, for example, Oxbow Natural Science Vitamin C Supplement – great reviews and recommended by many vets.
This is a really tasty and healthy supplement for your guinea pig that contains no artificial flavoring. Although mostly highly appreciated by rabbits, the chances are your guinea will squeak happily when hearing you opening the package after he’s already tried a bite or two as well.
There’s something about apples that most piggies love, just bear in mind not overfeeding with these – it provides added nutrition variety but should not be used as the main source of nutrition. So, occasional goody after some good hay grass-based meal.
Definitely one of the best out there of its kind. Just note that it should always be fed in conjunction with fresh grass hay.
If you want little more of a variety than your usual pellets, consider Hartz Bonanza 4-Pound Gourmet Diet Supply a wonderful supplement. It includes dried carrots, apples and many other suitable substances that contain the valuable vitamin C in them.
The pellets are hard, which is actually good for keeping guinea’s teeth fit unless it’s stone-hard we’re talking about. The optimal daily dose would be 1/8 cup, maybe a little bit more if you’re piggie takes it well.
Another option for a more diverse meal. It’s like a mixture of the main dish with some treats and delicacies. It provides an important bacteria for proper digestion. It also includes some of the best dry fruit for guinea pig. Again, just remember it’s supplementary, not the actual main source of nutrition. Try it out by adding a tiny amount first in addition to hay. Basically, the same rules apply as for our pick No. 4.
Our final tailwind notes:
Make sure you keep your guinea’s food and water fresh every day. It might sound obvious, but it’s very often that people forget this simple fact. Also, remember it’s a creature of habit. It gets used to things and expects certain things to be served at a certain time. In order to reduce the stress level of this tiny creature, do not create loud noises and sudden movements next to it (speaking of the latter, your fella might get somewhat accustomed to you, but it will always prefer calmness). And one more thing regarding housing – you should get an enclosed guinea pig house within the cage. Our companion really needs this harbor where it feels safe and protected.
If you have any suggestions what should be added or explained more detailed, or you have a question about, let’s say, some vegetable that we haven’t discussed but you’d like to know whether that’s appropriate (and if yes, then how often and in what doses), please leave a comment and we’ll happily do our best to improve the understanding of our lovely small friends we call guinea pigs.
Your hmtip team