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Guinea Pigs - Nutritional Requirements

Guinea pigs naturally eat a diet of grasses, plants, vegetables and crops, which can be difficult to replicate at home.  Although individual needs will depend on your pet’s age, lifestyle and state of health, here are the most important factors you should consider:

  • Guinea pigs require moderately high levels of fibre in their food, so feeding good quality fresh hay alongside your usual brand of feed is vital.
  • Guinea pigs, like humans but unlike rabbits, are unable to make their own Vitamin C and it must therefore be provided as part of their diet. Guinea pigs also have a high Vitamin A requirement, much higher than that of rabbits or other rodents.
  • Dry foods for guinea pigs should not contain high levels of calcium as this can lead to urinary tract problems.
  • Guinea pigs, rabbits and chinchillas have teeth which grow continually. If fed unsuitable foods, these fail to wear the teeth sufficiently and this can lead to painful dental conditions. Plenty of hay and grass in their diet is important to help ensure that their teeth are sufficiently worn down. Failure to feed them with the right diet can result in serious dental disease.
  • It is not advisable to make any sudden changes to your guinea pig’s diet as this may make them very ill. Always introduce new diets gradually.
  • Fresh, clean water must be always available. There are drinking bottles designed for guinea pigs on the market, just make sure you check the bottle frequently to see it always has water in it, and change the water daily to ensure that it is always fresh and that the bottle is clean.You should also check that your guinea pig can reach and drink from the bottle with ease
  • A good sign of a healthy guinea pig is when he/she is eating every day and passing plenty of dry droppings. Always keep an eye on how much your guinea pig eats and drinks. If you notice that your pet's eating/drinking habits change or the droppings get smaller or are no longer being produced, contact your vet straight away as your pet may be seriously ill.
  • Leafy green vegetables such as brocolli and kale are excellent sources of Vitamin C and can be offered.
  • You can treat your guinea pig with small amounts of apple and strawberry.  However, Guinea pigs can be greedy!  They suffer from obesity if food is not monitored correctly and obesity can result in many other health problems. The usual culprits are too many treats or too much dry food containing excess sugar.
  • There are a number of foods that are poisonous to guinea pigs so always double check before you feed them.  DO NOT FEED potato, rhubarb, tomato leaves, buttercups, daffodils, poppies or tulips. The list is not exhaustive, and if in doubt as to whether something is safe to feed it is best to avoid.
  • There are a number of nutritionally balanced diets for guinea pigs on the market. Manufacturers have experts available to provide you with advice on what you should buy for your guinea pig and how much and how many times per day to feed them, so contact them direct for further advice on specific products. A list of PFMA members who produce pet food for small furries can be found here.