Nutrition

What To Feed Your Guinea Pig (FREE Printable!)

two guinea pigs eating cabbage

 

Guinea pigs are cute lovable little pets perfect for many families, with or without children. They are laid-back and easy-going but can have bursts of energy, hopping and jumping around when they are excited, affectionately known as “popcorning.” As natural herbivores, the best way to keep them happy and healthy is by feeding them a well-balanced and appropriate diet. This guide will help you understand what dietary needs these little guys have and what you should be feeding them every day.

Guinea Pig Diet – What is required daily?

Hay

Timothy hay is the best hay to feed a guinea pig. It aids in digestion, limits the growth of their teeth, and prevents boredom (because they always have something to chomp on). Hay should comprise approximately 70%-75% of their diet.

Guinea pigs should always have access to high-quality grass hay. Mounds and mounds of it – all the time.

Basically, they should eat their body size in hay every day.

Don’t worry about the hay that gets all over their habitat. Unless it is soiled, leave the hay there so your guinea pig can stomp, chomp and burrow in it.

Guinea pigs can also have orchard grass and oat hay. Feed a variety of hay to mix it up. Avoid alfalfa hay unless directed to offer it by a Veterinarian. Alfalfa has a lot of calcium and is usually only for young piggies less than four months old.

Oxbow Timothy Hay is what we feed our guinea pig, Rosie.

Pellets

Commercial pellets contain vitamins and minerals that guinea pigs require to balance out their diet. A general guideline is to feed ⅛ cups of pellets per day. Be sure to only offer pellets specifically made for guinea pigs. They should comprise approximately 20%-25% of a guinea pig’s diet.

Any type of pellets mixed with nuts, seeds, and fruit is not suitable for guinea pigs. It is too rich for their tummies and can lead your piggie to be a picky eater.

We used Oxbow Guinea Pig pellets for adults. There is a similar product for young guinea pigs 6 months and younger.

Vitamin C

Guinea pigs and humans cannot make vitamin C in our bodies; therefore we must get this essential vitamin from our diets. A vitamin C supplement is a requirement for guinea pigs and can be given in the form of liquid or tablets. Guinea pigs require 10-50mg of Vitamin C per day, depending on their age and condition (young, stressed, old, healthy, pregnant). Our guinea pig loves the Oxbow Natural Science Vitamin C tablets.

When guinea pigs do not get enough vitamin C, they may become lethargic, have decreased appetite, swollen joints, teeth deformity, weight loss, and diarrhea. This condition, known as scurvy, can be serious. If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your Veterinarian as soon as possible.

Water

Clean, fresh water in unlimited amounts should be provided to your guinea pigs. You can use a drip bottle or ceramic dish to hold water – just be sure to refill frequently and wash them with mild soap and water every 2-3 days. It is best to have one bottle or dish of water PER guinea pig.

Guinea Pig Diet – All the Vegetables 

Guinea pigs LOVE fresh vegetables and dark leafy greens. If you can buy organic, even better. It’s best to offer 1 cup of veggies per guinea pig per day. I usually give our piggie ½ cup in the morning and ½ cup in the evening. Rotating the greens and vegetables you give helps add variety to a guinea pig’s diet. Don’t go overboard – greens and veggies have a high water content, which can cause an upset tummy and even diarrhea. Remember to introduce any new vegetables gradually and rinse thoroughly before feeding. 

A few examples of what guinea pigs can eat:

Romaine and green leaf lettuce

Broccoli

Spinach

Carrots

Celery

Radishes

Bell peppers

Parsley

Apple

Grapes

Mango

Vegetables and greens should comprise approximately 5%-10% of a guinea pig’s diet.

Want a convenient list of greens and vegetables to feed? Download my Guinea Pig Grocery List and head to the store!

Guinea Pig Diet – Fruit and Commercial Treats

You can give guinea pigs fruit but only a tiny amount once a week. Fruits are high in sugar which can cause some diarrhea or your guinea pig may become picky with their food. Commercial treats are ok too (in very small amounts) but avoid popcorn, crackers, nuts, seeds, and yogurt drops. They just have too much sugar for a guinea pig. Low sugar, high fiber hay treats can be offered infrequently as a great way to encourage interaction and to bond with your piggie.

What to Watch for – Healthwise

The most common reason guinea pigs are taken to the vet is for nutrition or digestive problems related to their diet. Feeding your guinea pig an appropriate diet of hay, pellets, and vegetables will keep your guinea pig’s gastrointestinal system healthy. Dental issues and obesity can also stem from unhealthy food offerings. If you notice any of the below symptoms, you should contact your Veterinarian as soon as possible:

Lethargy, not moving around as much

Sore or red feet

Urine with blood present

Bald patches of fur

Loose stool or pellets

Decreased appetite and/or water intake

*Not eating or defecating for more than 12 hours is a medical emergency, and your guinea pig should be seen by a Veterinarian immediately.

It is very important that your piggie sees a Veterinarian at least once a year. They should be weighed and examined thoroughly. Make sure to know what your guinea pig is eating, their normal behavior, and pooping frequency, as this information is vital to the veterinary team. They want to work with you to keep your guinea pigs as healthy as possible.

Guinea pigs are great pets and are not too challenging to take care of and maintain. My best advice is to feed them a healthy diet and give them plenty of room to play and forage. Feel free to download and print my Guinea Pig Grocery List for your next shopping trip to help you pick out the best veggies to offer. Leave any feedback that you have in the comments. 

Until next time,

For the love of pets,

Dr. Gina

Dr. Georgina Ushi is a veterinarian and freelance medical writer. She received her Doctorate from the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine in 2009. She currently works in the Tampa Bay area, providing compassionate care to dogs and cats. Alongside her clinical work, Dr. Ushi consults for pet well-being brands and writes health articles for her blog, Pet Health Love. She is passionate about sharing her knowledge to educate and inspire fellow pet owners. Dr. Ushi’s professional interests include emergency and critical care, wildlife medicine, nutrition, and hospice and palliative care.

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