Wild guinea pigs naturally eat a diet of grasses, plants, vegetables and crops. As exotic pets, piggies require a specialist diet to meet all their nutritional requirements. Our in-house vet Dr Suzanne Moyes is on hand with expert advice
Posted: 05 April 2019
Sociable, inquisitive and affectionate, guinea pigs are often considered a good first pet for children. However, it should always be an adult that takes responsibility for these chatty little rodents to ensure they are cared for properly. This is particularly true when it comes to managing their diet.
To keep your guinea pigs happy and healthy it’s essential that they keep their digestive systems busy with a mix of two kinds of fibre – known as digestible and indigestible fibre – moving through the gut at all times. Piggies get this fibre mainly from good quality feeding hay. This is how the process works:
If guinea pigs don’t get the right amounts of both digestible and indigestible fibre, it can rapidly lead to serious health problems. Following the Excel 5-step Feeding Plan, which was developed in conjunction with one of the world’s leading small-animal vets, will provide your guineas with the perfect daily balance of fibre and nutrition.
High quality feeding hay such as Dandelion & Marigold or Chamomile should form most of your guinea pigs’ diet. Hay is also good for dental health as the gnawing action required to eat it helps to wear down their continually-growing teeth. Overgrown teeth can be the cause of potentially fatal problems in guinea pigs.
Excel nuggets with Blackcurrant & Oregano or Mint are tasty nuggets packed with nutrition. High in ‘beneficial fibre’ to promote digestive health, they also contain vitamins, minerals and prebiotics to help with healthy eyes, skin and coat. Importantly, they also prevent selective feeding – unlike muesli-type foods where small animals just pick out the high starch/sugar components, leading to all kinds of health issues.
These delicious, natural and healthy snacks such as Blueberry Bakes and Apple Snacks or Meadow Herbs are ideal for guinea pigs as they prevent boredom and promote emotional health. They can also be used to encourage bonding and interaction between you and your pets – feeding by hand can help your guinea pigs become comfortable with human attention.
Guinea pigs can be fed fresh greens to give additional nutrients and to provide some variety. You need to be careful which greens you feed and how much. Each day, you could alternate a small bunch of parsley, a couple of dandelion leaves (ensure they have not been sprayed with pesticides or are from an area where wild rabbits graze, as they could carry disease), half a curly kale leaf, one small floret of broccoli or 1/8th of a green bell pepper.
Piggies should have access to fresh water every day.
DID YOU KNOW?
Never feed your guinea pigs with human food – chocolate and dairy products are particularly dangerous and citrus fruit can upset their sensitive tummies. Also avoid potato, nuts, onion and related vegetables, rhubarb, tomato leaves, buttercups, daffodils, poppies and tulips.
As well as giving your guinea pigs the right nutrition, it’s essential that you provide them with spacious accommodation so they can get all the exercise they need to maintain a healthy weight. Traditional small hutches do not provide the space guinea pigs need to behave normally – they are active for up to 20 hours a day. A hutch should just be viewed as your guinea pigs’ ‘bedroom’ and be permanently attached to a much larger run. Scattering food around their accommodation will encourage them to be active and express their natural foraging behaviour.
You can check if your pets are healthy size using this handy Guinea Pig Size-O-Meter >>
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