If you need guidance on guinea pig food, you’ve come to the right place!
You probably know that nutrition is vital when it comes to maintaining your own health.
Well, the nutritional needs of your pet are also incredibly important, even for the smallest of animals, like your guinea pig.
Before you start searching for safe foods for guinea pigs, though, you need to understand your pet’s needs. This way, you have a good idea of what constitutes a “good” food versus a “bad” one.
And trust us, there are quite a few options that fit into both categories.
To help you out, we explore the various nutritional needs of your guinea pig and outline some of the best, and some of the not so good, options in this guide.
Guinea Pig Nutritional Needs
Before we jump into the nutritional needs of your pet, lets look at the way wild guinea pigs eat in relation to their domestic counterparts.
Studies have been conducted to show some of the more pronounced differences between wild and domestic cavies. For example, wild guinea pigs are extensive explorers and this allows them to locate a wide variety of food sources.
Wild cavies eat mostly vegetation, and consume grass, hay, flowers, clover, and other greenery.
Domestic guinea pigs have been bred in captivity for over 400 years, and while their genes are a bit different, their overall nutritional needs are similar to those of their wild cousins.
What does this mean for your guinea pig? Well, it should tell you that your animal needs a variety of different foods.
Fresh vegetables and hay are necessary, especially when it comes to dietary fiber. You also need to invest in a high quality pellet food that will provide a lot of the vitamins and nutrients your animal needs.
The Best Guinea Pig Food
According to the ASPCA, your pet will eat about one-eighth a cup of pellet food a day.
However, guinea pigs rarely overeat, so you can simply fill up their food bowl as needed, as long as the food is a healthy one.
Make sure to remove uneaten food after a few days though, since pellet food will lose its nutritional value when exposed to the air for a period of time.
In general, the food you choose should contain a good deal of protein. Protein should be listed first on the ingredient list.
According to research concerning guinea pigs in the laboratory, a food that has 20% protein is a good choice.
Foods should also include essential nutrients like essential fatty acids, fiber, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, potassium, zinc, iron, and folic acid.
The Importance Of Vitamin C
Vitamin C should also be included as one of the vitamins in your guinea pig food. In fact, vitamin C is one of the most important and essential vitamins, since guinea pigs are prone to developing scurvy.
Yes, scurvy, that age old disease that plagued sailors who had no access to fresh fruit.
Scurvy is a disease caused by a vitamin C deficiency. Guinea pigs, like humans, cannot synthesize or create vitamin C within the body.
This means it needs to be supplied through the diet.
If scurvy does develop, then your pet will develop a poor appetite and may lose weight.
Lethargy is likely too, and you may see that your guinea pig is having trouble moving. Joint pain is a symptom of scurvy and this can cause some mobility problems.
The symptoms of scurvy will worsen over time if the deficiency continues.
Also, studies show that other types of antioxidant deficiencies can worsen scurvy symptoms. This is true if your pet is not consuming enough vitamin C or selenium.
Vitamin C Foods for Guinea Pigs
Since vitamin C is so important, you may want to start forming your guinea pig food list with some options that are high in vitamin C.
The good news is that there are so many choices when it comes to foods high in vitamin C for guinea pigs. So, let’s take a look at some of your choices.
Kaytee Timothy Hay Complete Plus Fruits and Vegetables Guinea Pig Food is one option made with timothy hay.
The food is a pellet variety like many other small animal foods, but fruits and vegetables are included in the formula. This not only helps to enhance the nutrient content of the food, but it may taste better to some guinea pigs.
The Kaytee food also contains a long-lasting type of vitamin C, but you do want to store the food in a dark, air-tight container so nutrients are retained for as long as possible.
Hartz Bonanza 4-Pound Gourmet Diet Supply guinea pig food is similar to the Kaytee formula.
However, the food is made with a variety of different pellet shapes and sizes. If your guinea pig likes some variety, then this food may be a good choice.
The Hartz food is fortified with vitamins and nutrients, and whole fruits and vegetables are used to create it. Papaya, which is high in vitamin C, is included on this list.
Additional vitamin C is also included in the food and the packaging is triple-sealed to help retain nutrient content.
If your guinea pig already has a food that he loves, then a daily vitamin C supplement may be an option, like the Oxbow Animal Health Natural Science – Vitamin C Supplement, 60 Count.
This supplement is a high-fiber, hay based product, like many of the pellet foods on the market. Each disc or pellet contains about 25 mg of vitamin C, which is the recommended daily value of the nutrient.
So, feed your guinea pig one disc a day.
The supplement is also good for chinchillas, rabbits, and rats too, if you have other small animals in your home.
Unfortunately, some guinea pigs do not like the supplement discs.
If your pet is a bit on the finicky side, then try Kordon Oasis Vita-Drops Concentrated High Potency Pure C for Guinea Pigs.
The liquid supplement can be added directly to your guinea pig’s water bottle on a daily basis.
What Is The Best Guinea Pig Food?
If you are diligent about supplying your guinea pig with fresh fruits and vegetables every day, then there may be no need for added vitamin C. In fact, extra vitamin C can cause diarrhea and other digestion issues, so it is best to avoid overdoing it.
In this situation, you might want to go for a more all around good food for guinea pigs.
But, what food do guinea pigs eat?
Well, Small Pet Select offers one popular option with their Guinea Pig Food Pellets.
This food is made with timothy hay and is fortified with the nutrients and vitamins that your animal needs. The food is also manufactured in smaller batches, so it is considered a guinea pig fresh food that retains its nutrient content for longer.
The opaque packaging also helps to keep the food protected from the sunlight so nutrients are not oxidized. In other words, the package keeps the food fresh for a longer period of time.
The Small Pet Select food does come in five, ten, and twenty-five pound bags. However, think about buying the smaller five pound bag.
Otherwise, the vitamins and nutrients may degrade before you use all the food.
Another popular food is the Vitakraft Vita Smart Adult Guinea Pig Food.
This food is a nutrient rich food made with grains, fruits, vegetables, and oats. It also contains healthy fatty acids.
The Vitakraft food is quite a bit cheaper than the Small Pet Select option. However, the food is more of a bulk guinea pig food than a fresh one, so it may not be as nutrient-dense.
If you are looking for more of a mid-range food between the Small Pet Select and Vitakraft options, then the Oxbow Essentials Adult Guinea Pig (Timothy Based), 5-Pound Bag is something to look into.
The food is a high fiber one that is made specifically for adult guinea pigs.
The food contains a good mix of vitamins and nutrients, but it is lower in calories and calcium.
This makes it easier to digest and the food also keeps your guinea pig from becoming overweight.
If you have a younger cavy that needs added calories, then Oxbow makes guinea pig food pellets for young animals too.
Oxbow Cavy Performance Young Guinea Pig Food is an alfalfa based food that is high in protein, calcium, and calories.
While the food is made for younger animals, it is a good choice for pregnant and lactating guinea pigs too.
Guinea Pig Foods To Avoid
There are many nutritious and healthy foods on the market for guinea pigs. However, there are some bad ones too, so you need to be aware of the foods that you should avoid.
Many animal organizations make strong recommendations when it comes to animals and their diets.
For example, the Ottawa Humane Society strongly suggests that you invest in guinea pig food without seeds and nuts.
Seeds and nuts are high in fat and calories, and while your cavy might enjoy the treats, foods with these ingredients are high on the list of guinea pig foods to avoid.
Studies suggest that a diet high in fat can cause atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease in guinea pigs, much like it does in humans.
Sugary foods should be avoided in general, unless you are giving your guinea pig whole fruit.
That includes “tropical” food mixes with raisins or other dried fruit that contain a great deal of sugar.
Small round seeds and nuts added to some cereal mixes are also a choking hazard.
You also should not buy any food or treat that is made with dairy. Dairy products are not safe foods for guinea pigs.
Guinea pigs, like many other animals, do not produce the enzyme lactase. Lactase is needed to digest dairy, so without it, cavies are considered lactose intolerant.
If your guinea pig does eat any dairy food, then the result will be a whole lot of gas and diarrhea.
Guinea Pig Food – A Summary
So, you may be wondering now, what is a guinea pig’s favorite food?
Well, your cavy will probably have his own favorite, but it is best to offer the healthiest options possible.
There are so many choices, including good and bad varieties. If you feel like your head is spinning from all the options, then make sure to speak with your veterinarian to get a professional opinion on the foods guinea pigs can eat safely.
Do you have a guinea pig vitamin C food list that you follow, or have you found the perfect pellets that make your cavy squeal in delight?
Let us know in the comments below!
References and Further Reading
- Zipser, B. et al (2014). Effects of domestication on biobehavioural profiles: a comparison of domestic guinea pigs and wild cavies from early to late adolescence. Frontiers in Zoology.
- National Research Council (US) Subcommittee on laboratory animal nutrition (1995). Nutrient Requirements of Laboratory Animals: Fourth Revised Edition. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US).
- Hill, K. E. et al (2009). Combined selenium and vitamin C deficiency causes cell death in guinea pig skeletal muscle. Nutr Res., 29.
- Ye, P. et al (2013). High fat diets and pathology in the guinea pig. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA), 1832.