How to Put Together a Species-Appropriate Guinea Pig Diet

There are still many pet owners who rely entirely on the products of the pet food industry to feed their darlings. But a balanced diet for your guinea pigs must contain much more than the typical dry food offers. Indispensable components of the guinea pig diet are, for example, hay and vegetables. Fresh fruit, however tasty and rich in vitamins, is only recommended to a limited extent due to its high sugar content.

Hay: the Most Important Food for Guinea Pigs

The “wild” guinea pigs in the South American Andes feed primarily on grasses and herbs. They roam around for hours, nibbling on everything that comes in front of their long front teeth. In domesticated guinea pigs, fresh hay replaces these grasses and is, therefore, the basis of the entire guinea pig diet.

The hay always has to be fresh. It is best to install a hay rack in the cage or enclosure, which you fill with a handful of fresh hay several times a day. It is not a good idea to just throw the hay into the cage, as litter, urine, and feces will mix with it. Like many other rodents, guinea pigs have a stuffing stomach: this means that only when new food is stuffed in from above does the stomach contents move towards the intestines for digestion and onto the rear exit. If your guinea pigs nibble hay again and again throughout the day, they don’t do this out of gluttony: It is necessary so that stomach and intestinal contents are transported on. In addition, the hay ensures even tooth wear, because guinea pig teeth constantly grow back.

One last note: make sure that the hay is not moldy or damp, otherwise, in the worst case, massive gastrointestinal problems will occur. Remove uneaten hay daily and replace it with fresh.

Fresh Grass as a Supplement to Guinea Pig Food

Your guinea pigs will of course be happy about a change on the menu. In summer you can let them nibble on lush grass and wild herbs such as dandelions and mustard on a piece of lawn. If your guinea pigs live exclusively indoors, you have to help out and pick grass.

Note the following points for a balanced guinea pig diet:

  • Do not pick directly at the edge of fields, as the plants here are contaminated with fertilizers and pesticides.
  • Grasses from the roadside are also unsuitable due to the pollution.
  • In densely built-up areas, most green spaces – no matter how tiny – are used as dog toilets.
  • Better to collect in large meadows in parks.
  • Check carefully that there are no parasites such as ticks on the greens you pick. Shake it out thoroughly before giving it to the guinea pig. If you wash it, make sure the greens are completely dry before you feed them.

If there are no or only a few natural meadows in your area, grow fresh greens on the balcony in a small raised bed or flower box or buy dried herb mixtures.

Please note: You can never be sure whether microscopic parasite eggs are hiding in the greenery. It is therefore advisable to have your vet check your feces regularly – especially if you are feeding a lot of greens from “unknown origins”.

Do Guinea Pigs Eat Celery? Tips on Handling Vegetables

In addition to hay, vegetables are the second mainstay of the guinea pig diet. However, you are by no means allowed to feed all types of vegetables. At first glance, leaf lettuce seems like a good feed. But green lettuce leaves actually contain a lot of nitrates and, unfortunately, now too few vitamins. This can lead to diarrhea. In addition, spinach, broccoli, and chard should only be given to guinea pigs very rarely, as these varieties have a high proportion of oxalic acid.

We recommend vegetables rich in vitamins such as fennel, endive salad, parsnips, turnips, Jerusalem artichokes, and actually celery. Guinea pigs even like to nibble on the long celery stalks. On warm days you give the animals cool water-rich cucumber pieces as refreshment. Carrots are only recommended to a limited extent as food for guinea pigs because of their relatively high-calorie content. If your guinea pigs are getting little exercise (that is, no daily exercise), you should only feed carrots once or twice a week.

Legumes, bulbs (including leeks), and all kinds of cabbage are taboo – they cause your guinea pigs a lot of gas and in some cases even diarrhea. Starchy potatoes and sweet potatoes are also unsuitable.

Dry Food in the Guinea Pig Diet

A species-appropriate and natural mixture are suitable as dry food. Good feed is particularly low in calcium. With a naturally high crude fiber content, it promotes tooth abrasion and digestion and ideally supports intestinal flora. Make sure that the ingredients do not include ingredients that are too high in sugar and that no preservatives are included.

Good Snacks for Guinea Pigs

Of course, guinea pigs love sweet treats as much as their two-legged keepers. And just like us too much chocolate and chips, the treats make rodents fat. If you want to please your guinea pigs, just give them treats in between. As a rule of thumb: a maximum of twice a week.

This can e.g. B. be a suitable snack from the trade or a branch with fresh leaves from a fruit tree. They plaster the green leaves and then have hours of nibbling fun on the branch.

Fruit is also a snack because of its high sugar content. It is enough if you put an apple wedge or a strawberry in your guinea pig’s enclosure once or twice a week. Stone fruit varieties such as cherries and plums are unsuitable because of the hydrogen cyanide contained in the skin, as it causes diarrhea. Avoid exotic fruits that the animals’ stomachs are not used to, and rhubarb, which contains a lot of oxalic acids.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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