What Can Guinea Pigs Eat?
What can guinea pigs eat?
Find out what foods guinea pigs can and cannot eat! If you're thinking of adopting a guinea pig and want to know what guinea pigs can eat, or if you already have a guinea pig and are wondering if a certain food is okay to feed them, this page is for you!
Topics included in this page are:
- What can guinea pigs eat?
- Are you feeding your guinea pig something that could make him sick?
- Are there other foods you may have in your house that would be great to give your guinea pig?
- If your guinea pig is picky and won't eat certain fruits or veggies, what other safe foods can your guinea pig eat?
- Are you afraid you may have fed your guinea pig the wrong thing and need to find help?
Find the answers to these questions and more here. I've offered some suggestions for different foods and kibble and hay that will make your guinea pig happy based on my own experiences as well.
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Fruits and Vegetables Guinea Pigs Can Eat - A list of foods guinea pigs can eat
Guinea pigs looooove fruits and vegetables, which is great because fruits and vegetables are an important part of their diet and keep them happy and healthy!
Different guinea pigs have different preferences, but generally, they love to sample a variety of different fruits and veggies. With my guinea pigs, carrots, peppers and dark lettuces are a surefire hit. If you encounter a guinea pig that is picky and won't eat any fresh produce, talk with your veterinarian about your options for vitamin C fortified pellets to make sure you get the right nourishment into your little friend.
Here is a list of just some of the many fruits and vegetables that guinea pigs eat and that give them the best nutritional benefits. Fruits are high in sugar so it's best to view them more as treats, and avoid any sudden major changes in diet until you know how your guinea pig's tummy reacts to things:
- Red Pepper (or green/yellow pepper. Red has the highest vitamin C concentration)
- Carrots - both the root and the green tops are perfectly safe for your guinea pig.
- Apples - just make sure they don't have any seeds.
- Leafy greens like red lettuce, romaine, Boston lettuce, (be sure to feed leafy vegetables in moderation to avoid diarrhea, and feed spinach a bit sparingly to avoid potential kidney problems.)
- Broccoli (in moderation since it can be gassy and cause a gas pain)
- Green beans
- Dandelion Greens
- spinach (in moderation)
- cherry tomatoes (in moderation)
- parsley - either curly or flat. They love it and it smells delicious when you're tearing some sprigs off the bunch to give it to them!
Foods to never feed your guinea pig - what not to feed your guinea pig, no matter how good it may taste to you.
While guinea pigs do enjoy a variety of flavors and types of fruits and vegetables, there are some foods that you shouldn't feed to your guinea pig. Some on this list aren't necessarily poisonous, but just good to avoid because they're either low in nutrients or produce gas and potential tummy troubles, and others are very serious and poisonous to your piggie.
As with the good foods list, this list is also not comprehensive, so if you're unsure, be sure to wait to feed your guinea pig the food in question until you've either talked to a vet or asked someone who might know (like me!).
The following is a list of food items your guinea pig should NOT eat.
- Iceberg lettuce - this won't kill your guinea pig if you give him or her a little piece, but it has virtually no nutritional value, is quite fibrous and watery. It's been known to give guinea pigs diarrhea. With the great selection of other more leafy, dark lettuces available, just avoid this one and go with one of the others.
- Any type of cabbage - like iceberg lettuce, a small piece is not likely to severely harm or kill your guinea pig, but it's very gassy and not good for their little systems. Stay away from it if you can.
- Cauliflower - also very gas-producing. Again, not poisonous.
- Potato peelings - not that this would be something you'd be likely to give your piggie anyway, but toxins can exist in potato skins, particularly if they've begun to turn green, and they can be poisonous. Just toss them in your garbage disposal or trash instead of your piggie.
- Raw beans (this doesn't mean green beans. This means things like raw, hard kidney beans, split peas, pinto beans, etc.)
- Shelled nuts or seeds, particularly things like sunflower seeds or 'bird seed' type mixes, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, etc.
- Rhubarb - the leaves of the rhubarb plant are poisonous, and the stalks are very, very sour.
- Any type of meat.
- Dairy Products - while many stores will offer 'yogurt drops' and other 'treats', dairy is not healthy to feed your guinea pig and can actually cause problems. Feed natural treats like veggies instead of store brand treats. It's less expensive and your piggie will be much happier.
- Chocolate, coffee or other caffeine-containing products.
- Alcohol (this should go without saying!!)
- hamster food, gerbil food, rabbit food, or any other non-guinea pig food.
- corn kernels. Popcorn isn't a very good idea either. Guinea pigs choke easily and think of how easy it is for us humans to get popcorn kernels stuck in our mouths and throats!
- sugary foods like donuts, candy, or soda
- Ice cream.
- Any processed or fried foods that you would eat, including potato chips/nachos or french fries.
- anything spicy. jalapeno peppers, anything with cinnamon, etc.
The Best Hay to Feed Your Guinea PIg
hay: it's what's for dinner!...and lunch, and breakfast, and snack, and.....
Why do guinea pigs need hay in their diet? Guinea pigs have unique digestive systems that require a constant supply of fiber to help them digest their food and prevent impactions.
Their stomachs go through a double digestion process wherein they eat once, digest their food, create soft fecal matter in a pouch in their rump, eat those, and digest it again. I know that sounds gross, but this is an important part of your piggie's health!
Hay is a staple in a guinea pig's diet. You can honestly never have too much hay. When guinea pigs are babies, they can have some alfalfa hay, which has a different balance of nutrients than the timothy hay that adult guinea pigs eat, but by the time they're full-grown guinea pigs, they should have mostly timothy hay- and lots of it!
You can find western timothy hay in most pet stores, but you want to make sure that you find a bag that looks nice and fresh. Sometimes when I go to the pet store, I find bags of timothy hay that look more like straw. It pays to find a nice, fresh, green bag of hay. Your piggie will be so happy!
A great brand to go for is Oxbow. I discovered it online and then found that my vet used it, too, so it's definitely the cream of the guinea pig crop! Some of their products are carried in pet stores, and your vet may also carry these supplies, but it's very simple and affordable to order right through a website like Amazon. I found some of the products and have listed them below for you!
Guinea pigs will eat it nonstop, but you don't have to worry because it will not make them fat. No amount of hay will put weight on a piggie because it's not actually fully digested into their body, it's used by their digestive system to "move things along". In addition to Western Timothy hay, there are other varieties of hay with different nutritional properties, textures and flavors.
Oxbow Hay to keep your guinea pig happy and healthy!
You can seriously smell the difference when you open the bag of Oxbow (hopefully you don't have hay allergies!)
The Importance of Guinea Pig Pellets To A Guinea Pig Diet
what guinea pig pellets are best for your cavy.
It's completely possible to sustain your guinea pig solely on fruits and vegetables and hay, and skip the pellets altogether. But you want to make sure that you're feeding them enough of what they need as far as vitamins and minerals, and it's highly advisable not to do this unless you talk to your veterinarian first.
Assuming that you go the more traditional route of pellets combined with fresh vegetables and hay, here's what you need to know:
Don't feed your guinea pig anything with seeds. Even though there are 'treats' marketed to guinea pigs on the shelves of pet stores, it's best not to buy them. These are unnecessary to a pig's diet and guinea pigs are prone to choking, so if it looks like birdseed or hamster food, move along to the next choice.
Most pet stores will carry a variety of brands. Even if a bag of pellets says that it's fortified with vitamin C, do not take this as a replacement for vitamin-rich vegetables. We will cover vitamin C in the next sections.
Guinea pigs cannot eat hamster food, rabbit food, gerbil food, etc. You wouldn't pour a can of dog food on your plate for dinner, even if it looks similar to your mom's pot roast (eek!), and the same holds true for piggie food and other small animal cuisines. The nutritional balance isn't the same.
The best brand of pellets I've found so far is once again the Oxbow brand. My guinea pigs seem to like the taste the best, and this formula has a special type of vitamin C that is meant to last a long time. My veterinarian has said in this case with the Oxbow brand, you could technically omit the other vitamin supplements in vegetables and the guinea pigs would be fine. But you want to feed them those anyway because they love them so much!
In contrast to hay, too many pellets will make your guinea pig overweight.... Some piggies will pick at their food and others will clean their plate! If you notice your guinea pig gaining weight, there are a number of things you can do to make sure it doesn't get out of hand while still being able to keep your guinea pig from going hungry.
OxbowCavy Cuisine and Cavy Performance Pellets
If you have a baby guinea pig, the Cavy Performance pellets are the ones to go for, but for healthy young to adult guinea pigs, Cavy Cuisine is the one to buy. They're made out of some of the high quality hay that I talked about in the previous section, along with the right balances of vitamins and long-lasting vitamin C, unlike the other brands at the mega pet marts. In this case, convenience isn't a fair trade for quality.
Guinea Pig Care Books!
You know what they say - you can never have enough guinea pig knowledge!...oh, maybe it's just me saying that. Either way, here are some great books to get you started after you've read through these guinea pig lenses.
Also, don't forget to be on the lookout for The Guinea Pig Guide!
Guinea Pigs Need Food High in Vitamin C
Scurvy's not just for pirates anymore.
We've established that guinea pigs love fruits and veggies. This is a wonderful thing because guinea pigs, like humans, are one of the few species of animal whose bodies aren't able to generate vitamin C.
If we or guinea pigs don't get enough vitamin C in our diets, we can contract a condition known as scurvy. This can make a guinea pig very sick or even die, so it's important to get at least 10mg of vitamin C into their systems each day.
You or I might drink a glass of orange juice, eat a packet of fruit snacks, or take a multivitamin.
Guinea pigs can get their vitamin C needs through fresh vegetables. Sometimes you may find that you can crush up a small amount of a vitamin C pill into their water, but this isn't always advisable because vitamin C is incredibly light sensitive, meaning it will lose its potency quickly when exposed to light.
Red pepper is a vegetable with an immense amount of vitamin C. Since some guinea pigs won't really take fondly to an orange, they're almost always ravenous for peppers.
Pellets will often claim that they have "long-lasting vitamin C", but you have to be aware that the bags will have been sitting on a warehouse shelf and may not even get into your hands as a consumer until months have gone by, at which time the vitamin C has been exposed to enough light and has been sitting long enough to have been mostly if not completely depleted.
As a sidenote, isn't the guinea pig in this picture cute?? She's my sweet little guinea pig Millie! Look at that cute little piggie lip. *swoon*
Vitamin C and other guinea pig supplies
You can supplement your guinea pig's water with extra vitamin C. While I looked for that to link to here, I happened upon some other irresistible goodies. I'm not sure if I should be embarrassed to admit this - I have the Playmobil set. And it's adorable.
Other Guinea Pig Care Lenses in this Series
Questions about your guinea pig's health? Living conditions? Diet? Take a peek at the other lenses in this series about guinea pigs and become a cavy expert!
- Are you Ready to Adopt a Guinea Pig?
If you've ever had the privilege of bringing a guinea pig into your home, you'll know the heart-melting feeling you get with each little squeak and twitch of that cute little nose. But guinea pigs, despite their adorable exterior, do have unique need
- Preparing Your Home for a Guinea Pig
In this lens, you will learn the steps you should take in preparing your home for your guinea pig's arrival.
- When to Have More Than One Guinea Pig
In this lens, you will learn about your options when adopting a guinea pig in terms of deciding whether to adopt more than one.
- Where to Find your new Guinea Pig
This lens is all about the adoption process for bringing a new guinea pig into your home, and where you should look to find your furry friend.
- Finding a Good Guinea Pig Vet
This lens is about finding a specialized veterinarian that will best suit your needs as a guinea pig parent.
Did you find this information useful? Please feel free to let me know your thoughts or questions, or if you just want to say hi.
Tip: You can also submit your #1 guinea pig question to TheGuineaPigGuide.com when you sign up for the newsletter. I'll answer you personally and you (and your piggie(s)) will have the opportunity to be featured on the website once it's live!
Last updated on October 6, 2013
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