The guinea pig is a rodent with fairly fragile health, which can easily get sick if its diet is not appropriate; in fact, it is a strictly herbivorous animal which also needs a sufficient supply of vitamin C so as not to be deficient. In trade, specialized mixtures are not always suitable and it is essential to check their composition.
The nutritional needs of the guinea pig
The guinea pig is a strict herbivore, that is to say, it feeds exclusively on plants, fruits and vegetables. He is a big eater who must consume the equivalent of a tenth of his weight daily! Contrary to popular belief, the granules or extrudates are not sufficient to cover all of its nutritional needs, so it is important to offer it complementary foods as part of a mixed diet consisting of fodder, granules and fresh vegetables. On the other hand, he has an increased need for vitamins C and E and must have access to food at will.
Staple foods: fodder and pellets
The staple diet of the guinea pig consists mainly of hay, which should be chosen dust-free, of good quality and distributed at will. The second essential food, the granules, must have a composition adapted to the guinea pig and as natural as possible. It must not be a mixture of seeds and granules as one sometimes finds in the trade, otherwise it risks sorting out its favorite seeds and unbalancing its diet by gluttony!
Mixtures of seeds sold in supermarkets are therefore to be avoided, because it will consume first the most appetizing seeds which are also the most caloric, risking to promote obesity. As for the extrudates, they have the advantage of not being able to be sorted and of being generally enriched with vitamin C. They must, however, be correctly rationed to avoid, once again, being overweight: count about 15 grams per day, i.e. no more than a level tablespoon.
An essential vitamin C supply
The diet of the guinea pig must imperatively be supplemented with vitamin C, because its organism is not able to synthesize it and the quantity contained in the granules is not sufficient to cover its daily needs. It is obviously possible to counterbalance this lack thanks to a supply of fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C (citrus fruits, kiwi, pepper), but this one degrades quickly in contact with the air.
It is therefore crucial to supplement it with drops of pure vitamin C (sold at the veterinarian or pet store) to mix in its bottle of water, especially during growth. We recommend 20 mg of vitamin per kilo of weight per day for an adult guinea pig under 3 years old, and 60 mg for a growing guinea pig. Vitamin C is also sold in the form of chewable tablets, which are generally popular with guinea pigs.
Greenery, fresh fruits and vegetables
The guinea pig must consume fresh vegetables every day which will also provide him with vitamin C: we mainly recommend peppers, broccoli, orange and kiwi (count about 25 g of each per day). Certain herbs such as fennel and chicory also offer an interesting contribution, or watercress which should be given in moderation. Zucchini, eggplant, celery, parsnip and black radish are excellent sources of vitamins and endive is recommended as a source of fiber and water, as is cucumber which is beneficial for hydration. guinea pig.
Finally, absolutely avoid lettuce, onion, leek and spinach. As for greens, dandelion and nettle come highly recommended as well as some aromatics like mint and cilantro. On the fruit side, prefer citrus fruits, apples and bananas in small quantities (no more than twice a week) and definitively discard dates, figs, watermelons and prunes. Be careful with the carrot + fruit association which represents a high sugar intake promoting obesity.
It is important to monitor the calcium intake in a guinea pig’s diet, as too high a ratio can lead to urinary disorders (stones). Certain vegetables and plants rich in calcium should therefore be avoided, such as beets and fresh alfalfa. It is also important to properly ration the granules which are also rich in calcium. Be careful with the composition of the water you give your guinea pig: it must be very low in calcium and filtered if necessary. The other minerals (phosphorus, magnesium, potassium) should represent 8 to 9% of the ration.