If you’ve ever looked at your fruit bowl or salad tray and wondered – can guinea pigs eat tomato? Or can guinea pigs eat pears? Can guinea pigs have grapes? – it’s a good idea to understand a little more about guinea pig diet and nutrition.
Wild guinea pigs forage on grasses, plants, vegetables and crops. To help your pet piggy pals stay healthy and happy, you should choose a guinea pig diet that mimics what they would naturally eat in the wild.
Entirely vegetarian, these small herbivores have very delicate digestive systems and need high levels of fibre in their diet to keep their gut moving. Feeding lots of high quality feeding hay, such as Burgess Excel, is the best way to ensure your pet guinea pigs are getting enough fibre in their diet. Munching on tasty hay also helps to keep their ever-growing teeth in good shape.
When considering how much and how often to feed your guinea pigs, it’s a good idea to follow a feeding plan. Your guinea pigs’ food chart should feature:
85% – 90% unlimited grazed grass (not grass cuttings) or high quality feeding hay (not bedding hay, which may have poor nutritional value). As a guide, provide each piggy with at least their own body size in fresh feeding hay every day.
Pelleted guinea pig food – around one egg cup a day per guinea pig. Guinea pig nuggets help ensure your piggies get all the vital vitamins and minerals they need. You can split their daily ration between morning and evening feeds.
Grapes, for example, have a very high sugar content – and can also be a choking hazard. If you do decide to feed your guinea pigs grapes, choose only seedless varieties and offer them just a couple, sliced in two, once or twice a week.
Safe fruits for guinea pigs include:
Apple (not the pips because they’re poisonous)
What wild forage and herbs are safe for guinea pigs?
Fresh forage – from wildflowers to herbs which you can grow in your garden – will add variety to your guinea pigs’ diet. Safe herbs include basil, coriander, dill, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage and thyme.
The short answer is no. Food designed for rabbits does not contain the required level of vitamin C that guinea pigs need. Guinea pigs that are fed rabbit food can develop scurvy, which is a serious disease caused by vitamin C deficiency.
What foods should guinea pigs avoid?
There are a few foods that guinea pigs shouldn’t be given. These include:
Guinea pig muesli – Muesli-based guinea pig diets encourage selective feeding, where they eat high starch/sugar components of the muesli while rejecting the more fibrous pellets. This means they won’t be getting all the nutrition they need.
Sweet treats – Colourful guinea pig treats are often very high in sugar, and bad for your guinea pigs’ teeth and tummy.
Human food – High carb bread, pasta and crackers can cause digestive problems. Chocolate and dairy products are particularly dangerous and citrus fruit can upset their sensitive tummies.
Grass cuttings– Guinea pigs should be given unlimited access to steadily graze on fresh grass, just as they would in the wild. But a pile of grass cuttings can be very harmful to if included in a guinea pigs’ diet.
Toxic flowers – Avoid buttercups, daffodils, poppies and tulips.
Unsuitable fruit and veg– Vegetables to avoid, as they are poisonous to guinea pigs, include potatoes and potato skin, onion and related vegetables, garlic, mushrooms, chives and avocado. Light-coloured lettuce varieties are high in water, have very little nutritional value and will just give your guinea pigs the runs. Also steer clear of rhubarb – it’s poisonous to animals if eaten raw.
Nuts and seeds– All nuts are high in fat not fibre and will give your guinea pigs extremely uncomfortable indigestion.
If you’re not sure whether something’s safe for your guinea pigs to eat, it’s best avoided.
Guinea pigs require lots of love and attention and love to be around their owners. They are the happiest when they are kept in pairs or small groups.
Guinea pig’s teeth never stop growing! They grow at a rate of 3mm per week which is why eating lots of hay is essential in their diets to help wear them down.
What's the best way of feeding guinea pigs?
Guinea pigs love to search out titbits, so rather than putting their food in a bowl, place it around their enclosure. Hide it in their tunnels, in paper bags, cardboard loo rolls or under some hay, to encourage their natural urge to forage for food.
Why choose Burgess Excel for your guinea pigs' food?
Our high-quality feeding hay, and guinea pig nuggets provide your pals with all the essential nutrients, including beneficial fibre, vitamins and minerals.
Plus, it’s easy to order online, with free delivery over £25.
The Excel Feeding Plan
Following our Excel feeding plan will ensure that your guinea pigs get the correct balance of fibre, vitamins and minerals. 85-90% of a guinea pigs’ diet should be high quality, dust extracted feeding hay, such . Supplement this with a small portion of Excel nuggets, the occasional Excel nature treat, a small handful of fresh greens and plenty of fresh water.
Guinea pigs are herbivores who live on a plant-based diet. However, we like to call them ‘fibrevores’ as fibre is by far the most important part of their diet and is essential for their gut and dental health.
Types of Fibre
Guinea pigs always need to keep their digestive systems busy with a mix of two kinds of fibre moving through the gut. These two types of fibre are called digestible fibre and indigestible fibre. Guinea pigs get this fibre mainly from good quality hay. We’d recommend Burgess Excel Feeding Hay.
Guinea pigs can’t get enough nutrition from fibre when it passes through their gut the first time. To help them get all the nutrients they need, guinea pigs excrete caecotrophs. These are soft, sticky-type droppings that they then re-eat to digest the rest of the vital nutrients.
Guinea pigs can’t make their own vitamin C so they need extra in their diet. Vitamin C is important for healthy skin, joints and blood vessels. Burgess Excel has been specially formulated to have all the vitamins your guinea pigs need, including a protected form of vitamin C. Along with a handful of fresh greens a day, you can make sure they are getting enough vitamin C.
Digestible fibre is moved up an organ called the caecum, which acts like a giant appendix.
Good bacteria in the caecum ferment the fibre to make it easy for your guinea pigs to digest. This is then excreted as sticky droppings, called caecotrophs. Guinea pigs then re-eat the caecotrophs so they can absorb the rest of the essential nutrients when they pass through a second time.
Indigestible fibre is moved through their digestive system and excreted as separate, round, hard droppings. This type of fibre keeps the digestive system moving and your guinea pigs’ appetites stimulated.
If guinea pigs don’t get the right amounts of both digestible and indigestible fibre, it can rapidly lead to serious health problems. At Excel, we call the correct ratio of these two types of fibre ‘Beneficial Fibre’.
Sticking to The Excel Feeding Plan will ensure your guinea pigs get the right amounts of fibre in their diet. The Excel Feeding Plan was developed in conjunction with one of the world’s leading small-animal vets, to provide a perfect daily balance of fibre and nutrition.
Our guinea pig range
Our guinea pig nuggets are a delicious, complementary food designed to be fed alongside good quality hay and fresh greens.
Naturally high in beneficial fibre, with high levels of protected vitamin C, Burgess Excel Tasty Nuggets are here to help keep your guinea pigs happy and healthy. With two flavours, mint and blackcurrant & oregano, your guinea pigs are bound to love them!
Good quality feeding hay or fresh grass should make up 85-90% of your guinea pigs' diet.
Burgess Excel Feeding Hay is an excellent source of good quality, long fibre. With 100% natural ingredients, our Feeding Hay contains dandelion and marigold to support your guinea pigs health.
Burgess Excel Nature Snacks are great for hand feeding your guinea pigs to help with bonding, or to sprinkle through their feeding hay to encourage foraging.
In a range of flavours and types, from gnaw sticks, to blueberry bakes, there's plenty to keep your guinea pigs interested!
Transitioning to Excel nuggets
Transition your guinea pigs’ diet over a period of 14 – 28 days. Gradually reduce their old food and replace it with Excel.
Don’t forget the hay
& ensure there is plenty of fresh water available
Need more advice?
If you’re at all unsure about the best way of feeding your guinea pigs, or have any concerns about specific nutritional requirements, ask your local veterinary practice for advice.
You can also call our expert team, available 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday, on +44 (0)1405 862241 who’ll be happy to help. Alternatively, use our online contact form to get in touch.
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