Small Mammals

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Guinea Pig Diet

Guinea pigs are herbivores and therefore are fed a diet based solely on plant material. Fresh grass hay (such as Timothy Hay) is the main part of their diet. Grasses allow the abrasion of their teeth by the teeth having to grind up the tough fibrous hay. Grass hay also provides many nutrients and indigestible fibre, maintaining healthy gut motility and intestinal bacteria (that are essential for production of amino acids and vitamins).

Legume hay, such as alfafa hay, can occasionally be used for guinea pigs needing to gain weight such as ill or pregnant ones. General use of this type of hay should be avoided in healthy guinea pigs since it is high in calories and too rich in certain nutrients. Hay can be provided loose in the enclosure or alternatively within a basket, feeder or stuffed into cartons/boxes.

Guinea pigs do not produce their own vitamin C (like us humans!) and as a result are prone to a deficiency leading to Scurvy. Feeding fresh vegetables daily will help to prevent any problems developing. Chopped green leafy vegetables (one quarter of a packed cup) such as kale, mustard greens and bok choy, can provide the daily requirements of vitamin C for your guinea pig. Other fruit and vegetables can also be fed such as berries, broccoli and apples. Every day, your guinea pig should not be fed more than ¼ to ½ cup of packed fruit/vegetables.

Commercial pellets with added vitamin C can be fed in limited quantities. It is important to feed guinea pig food and not to feed rabbit pellets!! Ideally, these commercial pellets should be based on grass hay and less than 3 months since the production date (lower levels of vitamin C in older pellets). Adult guinea pigs should be fed no more than ¼ cup of pellets a day, together with grass hay and small amounts of fresh fruit and vegetables. Commercial foods can easily lead to obese guinea pigs!!

It is important to avoid certain foods, which include snack food (cereals, bread, grains, nuts) and peans/beans as these are high in starch and fat and can lead to serious imbalances in the gut bacterial flora which can be fatal. Also these foods are quite addictive leading to your guinea pig refusing to eat any other food!

Fresh and clean water should be provided every day. It should be available in either a sipper bottle or a non-spill dish. It is important for your guinea pig to have an adequate water intake (from drinking and fresh fruit/vegetables) to prevent dehydration and potential kidney and bladder problems.

Food can be given loose or hidden within toys, old toilet paper rolls and baskets. This will encourage some mental stimulation for your guinea pigs, as well as exercise as they forage for their food!