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What Do Guinea Pigs Eat? Dangerous Guinea Pig Feeding Mistakes to Avoid

GUINEA PIG FEEDING AND NUTRITION MISTAKES

What do I feed my Guinea Pig? I hear this question a lot from new owners. When it comes to feeding your Guinea Pig there are all kinds of conflicting advice found online and in pet stores. So, I completely understand why it can feel overwhelming.

But don’t worry, I’m going to cover some of the most common feeding mistakes new owners make and how you can avoid making them yourself. 

A healthy diet makes a healthy piggy and a healthy piggy is a happy one! 

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Mistake #1. Putting liquid vitamins in their Guinea Pigs' water bottle

I made this mistake when I first got my Guinea Pigs. I thought I needed to add liquid multi-vitamins to their water so they’d get the necessary vitamins.

But, after noticing that my boys stopped drinking their water whenever I added in the multi-vitamins, I decided to do some research.

Do Guinea Pigs Need Liquid Vitamins Added to Their Water?

I quickly found out that they do not need liquid multi-vitamins added to their food or water. As soon as I stopped adding it, they went back to drinking plenty of water every day.

The smell of the liquid multivitamins alone should have tipped me off. It smells disgusting. I wouldn’t want to drink my water either if it smelled and tasted like stinky socks!

Their main source of vitamins and minerals should come from fresh vegetables, vitamin C enriched Guinea Pig pellets, and fresh hay.

The problem with liquid vitamins for Guinea Pigs

The vitamins in liquid form, especially Vitamin C, quickly degrade after they’re mixed with water or they’re exposed to light or heat. So, they lose their potency and efficacy rapidly. Rendering them kinda useless and a waste of money!

A much better and safer alternative to liquid multi-vitamins is feeding your Guinea Pig a variety of fresh produce every day.

When should you supplement your Guinea Pig with extra Vitamin C?

If you have a sick Guinea Pig, then your vet might recommend giving them some extra Vitamin C to help boost their immunity. Or, to help them heal after surgery or injury.

I keep this Oral Liquid Vit C in our medicine cabinet. I administer 1mL directly into their mouth via oral syringe if one of my piggies isn’t feeling well.

They don't seem to mind the taste of it so it's not a hassle to get it into their mouth once they know how good it tastes.

Really, it tastes great! I’ve tried it myself and even my son loves it. It’s made for humans but is also safe for Guinea Pigs.

It’s only really necessary to supplement Vit C if they aren’t getting daily bell peppers and other vitamin C rich veggies, or if the vet recommends it.

QUICK TIP: Try giving your Guinea Pigs these Vitamin C biscuits. They also double as a treat! My piggies go wild for their Vit C cookies every time they hear the bag crinkle. I keep these on autoship so I never run out.

Mistake #2. Not feeding their Guinea Pigs the right type of vegetables and greens

I see this mistake often and luckily it's an easy fix.

The best way to ensure your Guinea Pigs are getting the right vitamins and minerals is to give them a variety of greens, herbs, and veggies.

You wouldn't want to eat the same veggies every single day and your Guinea Pigs feel the same way.

How often do Guinea Pigs need to be fed vegetables?

Ideally, you should be feeding your Guinea Pigs fresh vegetables every day. The key to nutritional success is to rotate the type of vegetables you feed your Guinea Pig on a weekly basis.

An example feeding routine would be Bell Peppers daily (red, yellow, and/or green) PLUS 2 to 3 other veggies such as endive, collards, and squash that you swap with 2-3 different veggies weekly.

What Vegetables Can Guinea Pigs Eat?

You can refer to the Guinea Pig Safe Veggie table below to get a better idea of what types of vegetables you can rotate through. This is not an all-encompassing list, just some common veggies that are safe to feed your Guinea Pig.

By switching up their veggies, you'll keep them more interested in eating different veggies. Plus, you'll learn which ones they prefer over time.

Are there certain veggies you shouldn't give every day?

Yes, there are some veggies you want to avoid feeding every day. The first two that I'd recommend limiting would be carrots and fresh uncooked corn on the cob.

Mine LOVE carrots, but they don't get them daily because they're high in sugar. Instead, I rotate carrots into their routine a few days a week as a special treat.

Or, I hand feed them carrots while I'm holding them to make playtime even more enticing and enjoyable.

If you get carrots with the green leafy tops still attached then feed them that part too. They love carrot tops!

The same goes for fresh corn on the cob with the husks and silk still on it. Because it's also high in sugar it should be given sparingly. But they LOVE the corn silks and husks too so leave it on for added fiber.

What other veggies should be rotated weekly or bi-weekly?

Be sure to rotate veggies that are high in calcium and oxalates which can be a contributing factor to kidney and urinary stones. Such as:

  • dandelion greens
  • curly kale
  • parsley
  • spinach
  • and Swiss chard.

These veggies are marked with an asterisk (*) in the table below.

I made this feeding mistake before by giving my piggies way too much parsley too often. Mine all LOVE parsley so I thought I was doing something good for them.

Unfortunately, I noticed their pee was becoming cloudy and some white spots were left behind on their fleece after the urine dried. This is a sign of too much calcium in their system.

If you see thick, sludgy, white cloudy pee, then cut back on the high calcium and high oxalates veggies until their pee isn’t cloudy anymore to reduce the risk of kidney stones or bladder problems.

You can still feed them these veggies, but just be sure to feed them smaller portions and rotate them weekly or bi-weekly and you should be fine. But, if your Guinea Pig has a propensity for bladder stones then consult your veterinarian and follow their feeding advice. 

What if my Guinea Pig won't eat vegetables?

When they snub a certain type of vegetable, don’t just assume they don’t like it and never offer it again. If you have a picky Guinea Pig, it can take offering new veggies multiple times before they begin to like them.

Older Guinea Pigs show younger ones how to eat veggies. If you adopt a Guinea Pig who’s never been fed veggies before, it can be helpful for them to see other Guinea Pigs eating veggies. This shows them that veggies are safe to eat.

Young Guinea Pigs learn from their mother and others in their herd that it’s safe to eat new veggies. We call this social learning.

Just like with human children, it can take many tries (sometimes 20!) before they get comfortable with eating a new vegetable.

QUICK TIP: Try offering new vegetables in thin slices or small pieces initially so it’s not as intimidating. Or, try mixing it in with their favorite veggies. Sometimes, if I hand feed them they think they’re getting a “treat” so they’re more excited to try it.

The Best Foods to Feed Your Guinea Pig to Keep Them Healthy!

Pick 2-3 different types of greens and rotate weekly to ensure a balanced variety of vitamins and minerals.

Safe Guinea Pig vegetables, greens, and herbs include:

* Feed these vegetables sparingly because they contain higher levels of Calcium and/or Oxalates which may contribute to kidney stones or urinary problems. You can still feed them these veggies, but less often and in smaller quantities.

** Feed these cruciferous vegetables sparingly due to the potential for gas buildup or bloat. You can still feed them these veggies, but less often and in smaller quantities.

Guinea Pig Safe Produce List

arugulabasil
beet greensbell peppers – red, yellow, green
(okay to feed daily – high in Vit C!)
** broccoli** brussels sprouts
** bok choy** cabbage
carrot and leafy tops** cauliflower
cilantrocollards
cucumbercurly endive
* dandelion greensdill
escaroleendive
fennelgreen beans
* curly kaledino kale (lacinato kale)
mintmustard greens
* parsleyradicchio
romainefresh uncooked corn on the cob with husks and silk
* spinachsquash
* Swiss chardturnip greens
watercresswheatgrass
zucchinifresh untreated grass
Nutritional Information Sourced from NC State Veterinary Hospital Exotic Animal Medicine Dept The Kidney Dietitian My Food Data Healthline

Can I feed my Guinea Pig lettuce?

In the Guinea Pig Community, there is “The Great Lettuce Debate” about the dangers of feeding Guinea Pigs Lettuce.

Some say you should never feed them lettuce while others say it’s okay. But, there is a middle ground I’d like to discuss when it comes to lettuce.

One thing most of us can all agree on is that Iceberg Lettuce is a big no-no.

You want to avoid giving Guinea Pigs Iceberg lettuce because it has very little nutritional value, not much fiber, and is mostly water, which can lead to diarrhea.

Nobody wants their Guinea Pig to get “the squirts” or an upset stomach! They can get dehydrated very quickly and go downhill fast. So, just avoid Iceberg Lettuce completely.

Although Romaine lettuce is on the safe foods list, it should not be given as a daily staple.

Romaine Lettuce is very low in vitamin C and fiber, both of which Guinea Pigs need daily. Consider Romaine lettuce as more of a treat to be given occasionally and in small quantities.

Green Leaf Lettuce and Red Leaf Lettuce are also on the safe food list. But, they're also very low in fiber and vitamin C.

So, it may be given in small amounts but definitely not as a primary food source.

If Red or Green Leaf Lettuce is all you have in the fridge, then go ahead and give it to them, but be sure to add in more nutrient-dense veggies as soon as possible.

QUICK TIP: Bell Peppers are high in Vit C and can be fed to your piggies daily. You can feed them 1/3 or 1/2 of a bell pepper per day per Guinea Pig. Plus, 1/2 cup of various veggies on rotation.

Mistake #3. Feeding their Guinea Pigs the wrong type of pellets

Because Guinea Pigs don't manufacture their own Vitamin C, they rely on getting it from their food. So it's important to buy Guinea Pig specific pellets. This means they can’t have rabbit pellets or other small rodent pellets because they don’t have the same nutritional requirements.

Guinea Pig pellets must have added vitamin C which is crucial to their daily diet.

What kind of Guinea Pig pellets are best?

Look for plain Timothy hay-based pellets fortified with Vitamin C. Check the nutrition label. Timothy hay should be the very first ingredient listed.

If you can, get a “Grain Free” pellet like this one that has no added corn, wheat, or sugar. Another great choice is Oxbow Animal Health Organic Bounty Adult Guinea Pig Food

What kind of Guinea Pig pellets are the worst?

Just because a bag of food has a picture of a Guinea Pig on it doesn’t mean it’s good for them.

Be sure to avoid pellets with added seeds, dried corn, nuts, dried fruit, or artificially colored pieces. Any added stuff is basically “junk food for Guinea Pigs”.

DO NOT buy this pellet blend. It can be dangerous and unhealthy for daily feeding. It also leads to “selective feeding” which means they will just pick out the pieces they like and don’t eat as much of the plain pellets.

Kinda like when my son eats all the M&M's and pretzels from the trail mix and leaves behind all the raisins and nuts. Bruh, really?

What type of pellet should I feed an adult Guinea Pig?

Timothy hay-based pellets are recommended for Adult Guinea Pigs over 6 months old. You'll often see this sold as “Adult Guinea Pig” food. But look for brands with hay-based pellets only with nothing else added.

A word of caution! Do not give this brand or any other Alfalfa Hay-based pellets to adults as a primary food source because alfalfa is very high in calcium which can lead to kidney and urinary stones. And very large vet bills!

What type of pellet should I feed a baby Guinea Pig?

Alfalfa hay-based pellets are a good option for nursing pups (baby Guinea Pigs) and lactating sows (mama Guinea Pigs). Alfalfa is higher in calcium which is great for growing babies!

You'll see this sold as “Baby or Young Guinea Pig” food. Alfalfa pellets can be fed up until they’re 6 months old, but after that, you’ll want to switch them over to adult pellet food.

QUICK TIP: Avoid pellets with added grains, seeds, nuts, or dried fruits. Look for high fiber Timothy hay as the first ingredient for adults and Alfalfa hay as the first ingredient for babies under 6 months.

Mistake #4. Not Providing their Guinea Pigs Unlimited Access to Fresh Hay

Skimping on hay is something I often see new Guinea Pig parents do. They might sprinkle in a handful of hay and instead give a big bowl of pellets as their main source of food.

This is wrong. I’m sorry if that sounds harsh, but it’s true!

An exotic vet once told me, “Guinea Pigs are like mini horses, they need to have lots of hay to keep their GI system humming along!”

An image of horse-sized Guinea Pigs grazing in a field of hay popped into my mind and it really stuck with me!

Guinea Pigs in a field of hay

Hay makes up 80% of their daily food!

Be sure to keep plenty of hay available to your piggy at all times. Hay is not only the main component of their daily diet, it's also part of their enrichment!

Why is it so important to give your Guinea Pigs lots of hay?

Hay provides many functions:

  • Food
  • Forage
  • Dental Maintenance
  • Gut Health
  • Enrichment
  • Entertainment
  • Warmth
  • Napping Spot
  • Bathroom

Beyond just being food, Guinea Pigs love to burrow down into their hay and take naps. They also poop and pee in their hay.

Gross?

Yes! But, they do their business where they eat and sleep. It’s just one of their many charms.

So, don't be stingy with the hay folks!

QUICK TIP: Buy hay in bulk! I repeat, buy it in bulk! It’s less expensive this way and you won’t have to run to the store every week to buy more. Better yet, get it on auto shipment, so you never run out! Plus you get an even better discount if you subscribe and save! Chewy and Amazon both offer this option.

Freshen up their hay and top it off twice a day. Scoop out soiled hay as needed to ensure they have fresh hay to eat at all times. Nobody wants to eat hay that’s covered in poo and pee.

QUICK TIP: For a cheap and easy Guinea Pig kitchen area, use empty cardboard boxes lined with shredded paper and topped with piles of hay to encourage foraging.

Bonus: The hay box acts as a litter box as well since Guinea Pigs poop and pee where they eat. This will keep the mess contained better!

Feeding your Guinea Pigs shouldn’t feel difficult or scary, but I can understand why it could feel that way! There’s a lot of stuff sold in stores advertised as “safe for Guinea Pigs”, that truly isn’t!

 After reading this, I hope you feel more comfortable with what and how to feed your furry potatoes. 

Let’s break it down very simply one more time.

What Do Guinea Pigs Eat? The Basics

  • Fresh Water (no added vitamins)
  • Fresh Veggies
  • Guinea Pig Pellets
  • LOTS of Hay!

Have you made any of these feeding mistakes with your Guinea Pigs? I sure have! But, now you know what to do and that’s all that matters.

Like Maya Angelou famously said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” I couldn’t agree more. 

Feel free to leave a comment below with your own Guinea Pig blunders! I'm sure you're not alone, they can happen to the best of us.

Need help with creating a weekly Guinea Pig Routine?

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