Almost every day we see health problems in guinea pigs that could have largely been prevented with the correct diet. There is a vast amount of misinformation on the internet, and provided by some pet stores, so deciphering the correct diet can be tricky! 

A key point to note before reading on, is that we never recommend sudden changes in diet. Any changes should be made gradually, over 2-4 weeks.
The most important part of a guinea pig diet is HAY! Not chaff, straw or guinea pig mix; but good quality, edible hay. This should make up 80% of the diet, and should be available 24/7. Hay is important for maintaining both healthy teeth and a healthy gut. Did you know that guinea pigs’ molars grow approximately half a centimeter every month?! These molar teeth need to be worn down by lots and lots of chewing, and hay is the best thing for this! Hay also provides lots of fiber, which is important for the gut to stay healthy.
* The best type of hay for guinea pigs is grass hay. Our recommended choice is Oxbow Timothy Hay or Botanical Hay due to its high quality and consistency.
* Other types of hay such as barley and oaten hay are also commonly used, however these are cereal plants rather than grasses, and are typically higher in sugars. A high sugar content in the diet can cause an upset gut in guinea pigs, as the sugars disrupt the correct balance of bacteria that live in the gut.
* Lucerne hay (also known as alfalfa) is very high in calcium, and is NOT recommended for guinea pigs over 6 months of age. High levels of calcium in the diet can predispose guinea pigs to bladder stones, which often require surgery to remove.
The second most important part of a guinea pig diet is FRESH VEGETABLES. Vegetables are an excellent source of many vitamins and minerals, and also provide extra water for the gut. We recommend feeding 1cup of fresh vegetables per guinea pig, per day. Suitable vegetables include leafy greens, celery leaves, herbs, capsicum, broccoli and many others! A varied selection is ideal. Guinea pigs (like humans and monkeys) cannot make their own vitamin C, so choosing vegetables that are high in vitamin C is a great way of ensuring they get enough Vit C in their diet. Check out our vitamin C calculator here.
Fruits are higher in sugars, and can cause an upset gut if too much is fed. We recommend feeding only very small amounts of fruit as a treat.

 

The final component of an ideal diet, is a small amount of pellets containing fortified vitamin C.  We recommend plain pellets, as opposed to guinea pig mix, as the mixes tend to contain lucerne/alfalfa (which is too high in calcium) and grains (which can cause an upset gut and obesity).  It is important to check what your guinea pig’s pellets are made from, as many are made from lucerne/alfalfa.  We recommend Oxbow’s Adult Guinea Pig pellets for all guinea pigs over 6months (not pregnant or lactating).  As some guinea pigs think pellets are tastier than hay, we recommend feeding 1tbsp per piggie, per day.  Oxbow’s Young Guinea Pig pellets contain higher levels of calcium and are suitable for guinea pigs under 6months of age, and pregnant or lactating females.

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