Why Guinea Pigs Need Vitamin C

Guinea pigs are wonderful pets that are a joy to observe and interact with, and they have something in common with us humans that no other companion pet does! Did you know that guinea pigs can’t make their own vitamin C in their bodies like most other animals do? Just like humans, they have to get it through their food. As a responsible piggie parent, it’s your job to ensure that your guinea pig’s diet meets their unique nutritional requirements, and we’re here to teach you all about it!

Why is Vitamin C so Important?
The body needs vitamin C to make collagen, a building block for all kinds of different issues. This means that vitamin C plays an important role in keeping skin, joints, gums, and the whole immune system healthy and helping wounds heal.

What Happens if Guinea Pigs Don’t Get Enough Vitamin C?
Most guinea pigs need between 10 and 30mg of vitamin C per day to maintain good health. Any excess that is not required will be excreted through the urine and will not be absorbed through the body. Piggies who are still growing, pregnant, nursing, or sick may require extra vitamin C in their diet as recommended by your veterinarian.

Deficiency in vitamin C is generally referred to as ‘scurvy’ and in guinea pigs, will typically present itself as the following symptoms:

  • Poor coat
  • Swelling and ulcers on the skin or gums/mouth area
  • Diarrhea
  • Poor appetite
  • Swollen joints and difficulty moving
  • Lethargy
  • Issues with wound healing

How do you Supplement Vitamin C in the Diet?
While a guinea pig’s diet should include around 80% hay, a portion of formulated guinea pig food, as well as fresh vegetables and fruit, must be fed daily to supplement them with the required vitamin C.

  • Packaged Food: Guinea pig food you buy at the store should be of good quality and contain high amounts of vitamin C in a stabilized form. Vitamin C is considered a relatively “unstable” vitamin, meaning it will break down over time, especially if exposed to light, heat, and moisture. Because of this, your guinea pig may not receive the amount of vitamin C listed on the bag. It is always recommended to follow the manufacturer’s “best before” recommendation and try to feed the entire bag of food within 90 days after opening to ensure that your guinea pig does not become deficient. It is also important to monitor whether or not your piggie is eating all the food given to them. Many mixed guinea pig foods contain “extras” such as dried fruit, seeds and nuts alongside the fortified pellets containing added vitamin C. However, these pellets are typically the least appealing to guinea pigs, and they will often pick out the “extras,” leaving the nutritionally balanced pellets behind. Our experts recommend feeding your guinea pigs a purely pelleted formulation to ensure that they consume the required vitamins and nutrients. Check out our selection of quality guinea pig food options in store!
  • Vegetables & Fruit: Besides pellets, the other primary source of vitamin C for guinea pigs is fresh vegetables and occasionally fruit. Feed a portion of veggies that are high in vitamin C each day, such as leafy greens, but be cautious not to overfeed veggies or fruits that are high in sugar (leads to obesity or intestinal issues) or high in calcium (guinea pigs are predisposed to bladder stones). Check this detailed chart to help you decide which fruits and veggies are safe for your guinea pigs: https://guineadad.com/blogs/news/guineadad-veggie-masterlist-what-kinds-of-vegetables-can-your-guinea-pig-eat

At Feeds ‘n Needs, we think your animals deserve the best, and that’s why we are proud to offer top-quality nutrition solutions for pets of all sizes! Stop by your local Feeds ‘n Needs, and one of our experts can show you our selection of guinea pig foods your piggie will be sure to love! We are always happy to answer any questions you may have!

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Feeds'n Needs Team