Guinea pigs are very picky about the quality and quantity of food provided. In addition, many fruits, vegetables and plants are not at all suitable for the full nutrition of this animal. In this article, we will talk about what you can and cannot feed a guinea pig, and also consider the features of feeding these pets at home.
General feeding rules
A well-composed diet of a guinea pig affects not only its vital activity, but also the general condition, mood, and activity of your pet. Nutrition should be not only nutritious, full of trace elements and vitamins, but also balanced.
Below you can find a list of recommendations for formulating a diet for a guinea pig.
- The main rule is systematic and timely. Set aside certain times during the day that you can feed your pet. This is necessary so that he gets used to the time frame and knows exactly when he will be given food again. The body of the animal will eventually adapt to such a schedule, and the pet will learn how to rationally use food.
- Guinea pigs are among those pets that are unable to appreciate the amount of food being processed. In other words, they do not know the sense of proportion. That is why one of the basic rules of feeding is to control the amount of food. It is worth giving a strictly defined dose of food per day and no more, even if the animal makes it clear with all its might that it wants more. Overfed individuals are often obese, which can lead to problems of the cardiovascular system.
- Another important rule in feeding a guinea pig is that food should be varied and change from time to time. This applies to both fruits, vegetables, and varieties of feed. However, this does not mean that you should immediately replace some food with another. New food should be introduced gradually, with consistent addition to the main diet. If the old food has run out completely, simply feed the new food to the animal along with the fruits that the pet has already eaten before.
- When buying new types of fruit for an animal, carefully monitor the condition of the pet after feeding. If the pig has vomiting or diarrhea, constipation – this product is definitely not worth adding.
- No need to overdo it with the number of treats on the menu, otherwise, the animal can get used to them and refuse other food. Moreover, many of the treats are not allowed to be given more than once a week.
- No spoiled, stale or moldy food (even if cut off in the place of decay) – only fresh, healthy and high-quality food from trusted suppliers.
- The pet must always have access to a source of water. It should be clean and free from food, hay or animal excrement. To achieve this, you should buy special drinkers for the cage, which the animal cannot just pollute. Water is changed regularly, every day before meals. In the warm period (spring, summer), the animal will consume much more water than in winter. In winter, the pig receives the necessary part of the moisture from fruits, vegetables and herbs.
- Always keep an eye on that feeders or food containers are clean and washed. Place food only in washed and wiped containers, otherwise the animal may accidentally eat already spoiled food.
- Before introducing a new fruit or vegetable into your diet it is advisable to consult a veterinarian. Even better, if the veterinarian has already examined your guinea pig before and knows what she can and cannot do.
- Variety is good, but you must remember the harmony between vegetables and fruits. Do not add to the diet, for example, bell pepper and banana together, this can cause diarrhea in the animal.
- Completely avoid feeding your guinea pig any pickled, salted, fried, or boiled foods. The same applies to ordinary human food from the table. All these products contain a huge amount of elements harmful to the body of a guinea pig.
- One of the most important rules sounds like this – not a single day without food. The digestive system of this animal is designed to constantly process food. If the load on the gastrointestinal tract is not provided within 18-20 hours, the animal will almost certainly die.
How many times a day to give food?
Most guinea pig diseases are related to the selection of the right diet, and here we are talking not only about the right products, but also about the regularity of the feed. Inexperienced breeders often face the problem of obesity in their pet. Sometimes this happens due to banal overeating and the desire of the owner to pamper the guinea pig with various goodies. As a result, the pet will suffer either from obesity and gastrointestinal diseases, or from a rigid diet necessary to restore balance in the digestive system.
If the owner prefers to feed their pet grains or pellets, then the frequency of such feeding should be reduced to 2 meals a day.
Such regularity is suitable for already adults with a developed digestive system, young individuals should be fed more often.
As for the number of grains in one serving, it should be at least ½ tablespoon. Food is placed in the feeder, where it remains until the moment when the animal eats it all. Do not immediately remove it, these animals are prone to postponing food for a “rainy day”, so they can eat the leftovers a little later. The advantage of such food is that it does not spoil, and therefore is safer for a guinea pig than juicy and fresh foods.
The composition of such food should also include small slices of fruits and vegetables. If we talk about apples or carrots, then it should be ½ tablespoon of grain plus a small circle of carrots (up to 20 grams in weight). You can make an example chart: during the day you give the animal juicy and fresh food in the form of fruits and vegetables, and in the evening you add grains and cereals to the diet.
Dry feeding is more often used in the diet of young, active and not yet strong guinea pigs – it is easier for their body to process cereals and grains, and the digestive system must get used to solid food in advance. If we are talking about sedentary individuals, then it is worth minimizing such feeding and giving priority to food with fiber. The same applies to the diet of already adults or elderly individuals.
For a weakened organism, it can be difficult to process only dry food. In addition, such food and lack of mobility is a sure sign of obesity.
Adults, as well as in cold periods, when there is a lack of vitamins and nutrients, it is recommended to include juicy food in the diet. The frequency of meals in this case should be at least twice a day, at the same time, the menu should not remain static – try, if possible, to supplement it with other fruits and vegetables.
In terms of the volume of such food, it is better to adhere to the following scheme – the norm for an average individual is 20-30% of the mass of the animal. In this case, if your pig weighs, for example, 800 grams, fruits and vegetables in the feed should be at least 160-200 grams.
During pregnancy or lactation, the body of a guinea pig is in an extremely vulnerable position.
The regularity of feeding should not be changed so that the animal does not get off the schedule for lunch and dinner, but the dosage should be doubled.
This is especially true for lactating females with cubs. During this period, give up a large amount of dry food. Fresh, green and juicy food is more suitable for them. Feeding parsley, seeds and sage during such periods is best reduced to zero.
Vitamins and minerals
The fact is that the body of guinea pigs does not contain a special enzyme I-gluconolactone oxidase, which is involved in the synthesis of vitamin C from glucose. It is because of this circumstance that your pet is not able to get this incredibly valuable vitamin from ordinary food. Your task throughout the life of the animal is to regularly provide it with ascorbic acid.
With a lack of vitamin C in the body of an adult, the following pathologies may occur (most often manifest as symptoms of scurvy):
- inhibition of movements, visual lameness (although the animal did not fall), decreased activity;
- lack of appetite, external lethargy and indifference to what is happening;
- diarrhea, swollen joints;
- under the skin and in the secretions there is blood;
- bleeding and falling out teeth;
- the animal looks disheveled, the hair is crumpled, it may even fall out.
Ignoring each of these symptoms can lead to the death of your pet.
In summer, the diet should be replenished with plenty of fresh herbs, plants, leaves and stems, not to mention fresh vegetables and fruits. Most of these fruits contain ascorbic acid. As for the cold winter period, it is necessary to gradually add synthetic ascorbic acid to the diet. Pregnant females, older individuals and young animals need an increased dose of vitamins, as well as an increased amount of feed.
For an adult, you need at least 15 mg of vitamin C per kilogram of body weight daily, for pregnant women and young animals, approximately 40-45 mg per kilogram of body weight should also be given every day.
The largest amount of vitamin C is found in the following vegetables, plants and fruits: tomatoes, broccoli, apples, nettles, burdock, as well as raspberry and currant branches (always with leaves), dandelion, basil, mint, parsley, cabbage, kiwi. Keep in mind that many of these herbs should be given in strictly limited amounts.
Almost all of the listed vegetables and fruits can be found in the public domain in the summer and autumn, which is why these products should be preferred in the summer, rather than synthetic vitamins.
Be careful when choosing a place to collect all the necessary herbs (in case you do not trust herbs from pet stores). Try to choose areas far from factories, roads and industrial enterprises to collect them. The greatest danger is in grass collected in parks and city lawns. Usually such plants are treated with harmful chemicals from parasites, which, among other things, will negatively affect your pet.
It is not uncommon for ascorbic acid to be added to prepared feed, an example of this are special granules or capsules from the feed mixture.
There are only two problems in such capsules:
- you will not recognize their composition in any way due to the fact that the mixture is homogeneous, it is impossible to determine the composition, as well as to reveal the presence of sawdust and dust, which sellers love to add to capsules;
- capsules are designed for long-term use, they can be stored for a long time in one specific place, and after 3 months from the date of production, ascorbic acid begins to gradually break down and lose its beneficial properties.
When buying ready-made feed mixtures, you should always check the date of their production. To keep the food fresh and not spoiled, it should be stored in a dry, dark place with a low level of humidity. It is under such conditions that ascorbic acid will slow down the decomposition processes.
There are a number of products, the use of which affects the health and well-being of the guinea pig most favorably. With a balanced and varied diet, your pet will always remain healthy, active and cheerful.
In their natural habitat, guinea pigs are purely herbivorous, and therefore, as already mentioned, The main part of their diet is made up of food of plant origin.
solid dry food
It is a ready-made or hand-made prepared mixtures of cereals / legumes, seeds, plant capsules, and dried fruits.
Depending on the quality and cost of the feed, it may contain many nutrients, including broccoli, wheat, peas, pellets, millet, oats, and some dried fruits. All these vegetables and plants are incredibly useful, and in dried form, in addition, they help the animal in grinding incisors.
You can buy these foods at pet stores or make your own. In the latter case, you will be sure of the composition of the feed. However, here it is already worth monitoring the balance of such food and the content in it of the amount of proteins, fats, carbohydrates and fiber that is appropriate for your animal.
Most often, millet and oats are added to such feeds as a base, they are rich in carbohydrates and proteins, and the animal itself loves them very much.
It is an essential element of food for any rodent, including guinea pigs. It serves as a rich source of fiber for the animal, which is necessary for the healthy functioning of the digestive system. In addition, hay is often used as flooring for pets.
Make sure that there is always a small amount of hay in the cage. Remove spoiled, rotten or dirty hay immediately, otherwise the animal may simply get poisoned. When buying hay, make sure it is fresh, dry, and free from areas affected by mold and fungus. Moreover, there should be a pleasant grassy smell. Also, make sure that the hay does not come across thorns and parts of the plant, which can harm the animal’s mouth or intestines.
Even if you are sure that the grass you have collected (when haying yourself) is useful and there are no dangerous plants there, you should review it again at home.
Purchased hay is recommended to be heated in a microwave or oven at medium power for no longer than 1-2 minutes, so you exclude the presence of harmful parasites and bacteria in it.
The most useful hay for guinea pigs is made from legumes, as well as from alfalfa and some cereals. This also applies to dried stems of plants such as nettle, plantain, burdock.
This is first line grass, some varieties of garden and meadow plants. In order to have a more favorable effect on the diet, all food of this type should be exceptionally fresh, without musty, rotten or spoiled products.
As a rule, such plants contain a huge amount of fiber. In the spring and summer, it is easy to collect burdock, dandelion, nettle, wormwood, clover, sage outside the home.
In winter, some plants like parsley, dill, or wormwood can be grown indoors and occasionally given to your pet as a treat.
This includes some fruits, vegetables, and berries, which contain a large amount of ascorbic acid and other nutrients.
Treats and goodies
This can be referred to as some types of berries, as well as nuts, dried fruits, raspberry and currant branches. They must be included in the diet. from time to time rather than being there all the time. You should not oversaturate the weak body of guinea pigs with large amounts of the same dog rose or viburnum, it will cause nothing but diarrhea.
It is better to give branches of trees and shrubs in the summer, in a dry form they will be useless for guinea pigs. Refuse to feed the animal branches of coniferous trees, the same applies to oak branches.
Vegetables and greens
Eating vegetables and plant foods is essential for guinea pigs. From them they get the necessary vitamins, fiber, provide the body with vitamin C – a necessary component for the life of a guinea pig.
Of vegetables, in the first place are, of course, fresh cucumbers, carrots and fennel, zucchini and pumpkin, turnips, celery (tubers) and beets, Chinese cabbage leaves. Almost any of these vegetables can be given to the animal every day, but do not forget to supplement the diet with new elements. It is forbidden to feed pigs the same product for a long time.
Guinea pigs are very fond of dill, lettuce, young corn (on the cob). Also refer to greens and tops of carrots, celery and beets.
Here you can also include some meadow plants that are extremely useful for pigs: dandelion, burdock, plantain.
Fruits and berries
These products are good for their juiciness, high content of natural fructose. However, you should not give them too often – no more than 3-4 times a week.
The most harmless fruits for pigs will be apples, grapes (necessarily pitted), pears, plums.
The berries also contain a large amount of fructose and beneficial vitamins. These are currants, raspberries, strawberries and blueberries, cherries and cherries (try to get rid of the seeds in advance so that the animal does not accidentally choke).
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and some seeds contain a huge amount of fat, which is useful for guinea pigs only in strictly limited quantities – no more than 2 nuts 1 time per week. You can add them in crushed form to dry food, then the animal is more likely to eat them.
Useful for guinea pigs will be walnuts, peanuts, hazelnuts, almonds. Be sure to buy nuts specifically for animals. Those sold in kiosks are usually heavily processed with chemicals and are not good food for guinea pigs.
Flaxseeds are best for guinea pigs, but pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, dill and sesame seeds will be useful in limited quantities.
Under no circumstances should hemp seeds be given to an animal. The same applies to fried or slightly warmed seeds – such an idea should be abandoned.
In terms of nutrition, the fragile body of guinea pigs is a real gourmet, in addition, these animals are exclusively herbivores, so their diet should include predominantly plant foods.
In limited quantities with average regularity, it is permissible to give them tomatoes, cauliflower and white cabbage, Jerusalem artichoke, swede, artichoke, bell pepper.
You can not give even in minimal quantities any kind of potato (fresh, sprouted, boiled), onions in any form, radishes and radishes, horseradish, eggplant, garlic. As you can see, all of these vegetables have high acidity, which the animal’s body will not be able to process.
In their natural environment, the progenitors of guinea pigs did not eat fruits, their constitution did not allow this, so the body of the guinea pig is not adapted to them. In limited quantities with average regularity, it is permissible to give pigs bananas, melon, kiwi, pineapple, apricot, peach, including dried fruits.
This list also includes some citrus fruits, for example, orange, tangerine (with the exception of lemon), in extremely small quantities.
You can not give even in minimal quantities lemons, avocados, grapefruits, limes, pomegranates, dates, persimmons. The same avocado contains a huge amount of fat, and the lemon has too much acidity even for a person. It is worth noting that Some types of fruits are better absorbed in the form of dried fruits.
If we talk about berries in the diet, then they are used either as a treat or as a fortified food supplement. In most cases, medicinal berries are added to the diet no more than once a week.
In limited quantities with average regularity, it is permissible to give gooseberries, blackberries, cranberries, mountain ash, sea buckthorn. A limited amount in this case is no more than 1 berry 1-2 times a week.
Greens should be included in the hay for your guinea pig. There are frequent cases when, along with useful and nutritious grass, harmful and even poisonous plants got into the hay. It is worth sorting out the list of plants that are least useful or deadly for a guinea pig.
In limited quantities with average regularity, it is permissible to give her parsley, dandelion, spinach, St. John’s wort, Ivan tea, cilantro, wormwood, coltsfoot. All these plants in the minimum volume contain vitamins and microelements necessary for the life of a guinea pig.
Do not give even minimal amounts of sorrel (due to high acidity), meadow and onions (including its feathers), motherwort, valerian, lavender, sow thistle, fern, belladonna, rosemary and celandine. If you are harvesting hay yourself, then check it not only for the presence of these plants, but also for their possible inflorescences and lost roots. The best option would be to buy ready-made fresh hay from trusted companies or pet stores.
Most of the nuts consumed by humans are suitable for guinea pig food, but the ratio of them to other foods should be minimal. Nuts contain a large amount of fats and proteins, which are necessary for guinea pigs in very small quantities.
Other harmful and unacceptable products:
- some of the legumes (beans, boiled peas), most of the cereals;
- any fermented milk products (milk, cheese, cottage cheese), as well as products containing meat;
- many houseplants are deadly for guinea pigs, and therefore try to prevent accidental exits of the animal from the cage;
- also you can not give eggs in any form;
- foods containing sugar, which is harmful to absolutely all animals, including chocolate, sweets, cookies;
- flour and bakery products (bread, rolls, loaves).
For information on what you can feed a guinea pig, see the following video.