September 18, 2020

Guinea Pig Nutrition-Keeping Your Cavy Healthy

by Elizabeth Pilla


Nutrition is a fairly simple matter with a few minor things of note. Number
one on the menu is hay, lots and lots and lots of hay. They should have access
to ample amounts of hay 24/7!! Timothy hay is best for adult pigs tho alfalfa can
be added to the diet of young pups until the age of 6 months or pregnant
females. Alfalfa should only be given in these 2 situations as it is high in calcium.
Meadow hay and orchard grass are also acceptable. My two girls prefer the
Timothy/Orchard grass blend, it has a combination of sweetness and crunch that
they really like.


Like most rodents, a Guinea Pigs teeth grow continually, so the
constant gnawing on hay keeps their teeth from over growing and causing
serious health issues. It should go without saying but fresh, clean drinking water
should also be accessible at all times. Do not put vitamin C drops in their water, it
breaks down too quickly, becoming inert and you can not control their actual

Guinea Pigs, like humans, do not make their own vitamin C and so their
diets need to be supplemented with vitamin C through their second major food
source, a quality pellet. There should be NO colored bits, fancy shapes or seeds
in their pellets, guinea pigs don’t need that silly stuff and it’s only put in their food
to make it look more palatable to the consumer, avoid it at all cost. I avoid
Kaytee and Hartz like the plague!! Read the ingredients!!!


I personally use Oxbow Garden Select but there are other brands on the market that are just as
good. An up and comer is Sherwood, there is some debate on this as it is an
alfalfa based pellet but all things considered it’s a better choice than ones I
mentioned avoiding. Treats are just that, treats and they should be given
sparingly. Treats should be plain and simple, no yogurt, no colored bits, no seeds
and no honey. These things are made to make the product more attractive to
you the consumer and serve no purpose other than to get you to buy it!! Sure it
looks yummy but it could actually be harmful to your pets health. The best treat to
give your pig is something natural and not store bought. As long as you do not
use fertilizer or pesticides on your lawn, you can walk outside and grab a handful
of fresh grass, it’s free and they will love love it!


There are 2 other concerns for your pigs diet, one is calcium intake and
the other is oxalic acid. Excess calcium can cause bladder stones which are not
only painful but can actually lead to death in severe cases. Oxalic acid causes
gas. A guinea pigs digestive system is a delicate thing and should be in constant
motion. Unlike dogs or cats who eat only one or two meals a day, piggies eat
constantly, that means they also poop constantly as what goes in must come out.


Excess gas causes bloat, bloat upsets the digestive system and can be deadly,
and I do mean deadly! You can loose a precious life to bloat or stasis in 24 hours
and it can hit without warning. You might feed your pigs a regular diet for several
years and for whatever reason bloat sets in. This is another reason it’s so
important to interact with your pigs daily. Get to know what their body looks and
feels like so you can notice any changes quickly!! While hay will make up 80-90%
of their diet, pellets should be another 7-10% and the remainder will be fresh


The third and final part of a complete diet is fresh foods and should be
considered a treat albeit a very essential “treat”. This addition will supply them
with anything their regular diet of hay and pellets are lacking like vitamin C. There
are online sources such as that can provide those interested with
detailed information on what veggies and fruits are best and those to avoid.
Guinealynx also has a list of all possible health concerns, basic care and
information about housing etc. Guinealynx has charts detailing exactly how
much calcium, vitamin C and oxalic acid is in all imaginable veggies and fruits so
that you can create your own diet depending on what’s readily available.

One of my girls, Maggie May, has had digestive issues for several months
and with a vets guidance I’m slowly getting her back on track. These little guys
are not disposable and a vet can cost as much as if not more than a “regular”
pet. In fact, Guinea Pigs are considered exotic pets and will need special
veterinary care. Your average dog/cat vet simply does not have the knowledge or
training needed to properly diagnose the issues that may arise with these little
guys. While they may have some basic information you will really need to seek
advice from an experienced small animal or exotic veterinarian. I go to the Exotic
Animal Hospital of Orlando where Dr.Diaz takes wonderful care of my girls and I
consider myself lucky that he’s only a 40 minute drive away.

Have a cavy question? Put your question for Elizabeth in the comments and she will answer

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