The guinea pig is a small herbivore that needs a proper diet , otherwise he falls ill quickly .
Unfortunately, many beginners in guinea pigs go on the wrong bases of the erroneous information conveyed by some sellers in the pet shop or think that it is enough to give a bowl of pellets to a guinea pig to keep it in good health.
In this chapter you will find the concepts you need to know in order to offer your little companion a diet that is as close as possible to that available to him in the wild.
Know the diet of your guinea pig
It can not be repeated enough: the guinea pig is a strict herbivore! This is an essential point to know to offer him a proper diet and keep him in good health.
Offer food constantly
In nature, guinea pigs do not have rich and varied food : to meet their nutritional needs, they must nibble constantly. It is a feeding method that must be reproduced for captive subjects, not only so that the guinea pig is never hungry, but also for its digestive system to work properly. For the best guinea pig food this is important.
It should be known that the permanent consumption of foods rich in cellulose ensures the continuity of peristaltic movements (gastrointestinal motility), that is to say intestinal movements.
The gastrointestinal musculature of the guinea pig is poorly developed : if its belly is empty, the peristaltic movements slow down or even stop, causing what is called a digestive stasis. As the digestive system no longer works, the guinea pig stops feeding.
That’s why your guinea pig should always have something to eat and this is where the hay distribution at will comes into play.
Offer varied fruits and vegetables
It has been scientifically proven that the guinea pig develops preferences for certain foods from the age of 2 days.
Also, you must offer your companion a wide range of fruits and vegetables from its first days of life, to prevent it is fixed on a single type of food. For example, if you give him only cucumber when he is young, your guinea pig will have difficulty accepting other vegetables and may suffer from deficiencies in certain vitamins or minerals.
Never change power suddenly
If you have to offer a variety of vegetables to your guinea pig, you should never give it a sudden change of diet. Each new food must be introduced very gradually.
Because, as explained in the previous paragraph, the guinea pig develops preferences quickly . And not only in terms of taste, but also in terms of shapes, and textures! A pellet that has the same taste as another but a different shape can be a real problem for your guinea pig!
If you give him a new brand of pellets and hay for example, he may not touch it and let himself die of hunger . We must always make a gradual transition over several weeks.
Take the example of pellets: your guinea pig was used to a product A and you want to get used to product B. Here’s how:
- The first week, make a mixture consisting of three quarters of product A and a quarter of product B.
- The second week, form the mixture with half of product A and half of product B.
- The third week, use only a quarter of product A for three quarters of product B.
- The fourth week, give the pure product B.
In fact, when it comes to hay and extrusions, it’s a good idea to pick a great product and stick to it for the life of your guinea pig.
Hay is a mixture of mowed and dried grass, composed of about 50% grass and 30 to 40% legumes. The following plants are found : fescue, bluegrass, timothy, bromegrass, red clover, white clover, sage, sorrel, umbelliferous, alfalfa and many others. It is difficult to know its composition with precision, because it varies according to the brands or the source (natural or artificial meadow, in this or that region).
An indispensable food
Hay is the staple of the guinea pig, which must be consumed continuously to properly function the muscles of the digestive system. But not only ! The grass and thus the dried grass, that is to say the hay contains silicon crystals: during mastication, these abrasive crystals are exposed and ground by guinea pig molars.
Since hay is a poorly nutritious food, the guinea pig must eat it all day long. This continual chewing promotes the wear of molars and premolars, which grow by more than a millimeter a week!
The ideal hay
The guinea pig is very fond of prairie hay, which has the advantage of being composed of several herbs and plants rich in mineral salts. Hay should always smell good, not dusty or wet, and never have a musty smell. Store it in a cool, dry place. It is best to take a good brand product to make sure of its quality.
Beware of some untreated organic hay: they are sometimes infested with mites or mite larvae. Also beware of hay that is too rich in alfalfa because it contains too much carbon and calcium hydrates.
Too many fans only give vegetables occasionally for the following reasons: it’s too expensive, sellers say it’s bad for guinea pigs, and it’s too restrictive to go buy them regularly.
- In this case, it is better not to choose an herbivore as a pet.
- Vegetables (with hay ) make up the bulk of the guinea pig’s diet.
- As a strict herbivore, it consumes about a tenth of its weight in fresh vegetables every day!
Fruits or vegetables?
Vegetables are generally more successful with guinea pigs. But some people love fruit, so why deprive them?
Be careful, however, because many fruits are acidic and may cause digestive problems or irritation of the lips (especially the apple). Give them only ripe, in small quantities, and no more than once a week.
Favorite vegetables and fruits
The guinea pig likes cucumber, carrot, parsley, fennel, pepper, celery, lettuce, endive, spinach as well as tomato and pepper (which although fruits are most often classified as vegetables).
Lettuce should only be given from time to time and in small quantities because it would be full of nitrates. Same instructions for parsley, which is toxic in high doses and which stops the rise of milk in pregnant and lactating females, and for the carrot which is very rich in sugars (never give a big carrot every day).
Too much cucumber which contains 95% water can cause diarrhea and too much cabbage causes bloating.
On the other hand, carrot leaves are not at all toxic and are very popular! Fruit side, here are the favorites: banana, cherry, strawberry, raspberry, kiwi, clementine, orange, mandarin, tomato, melon, plum, watermelon, apple, grape, pear, apricot.
The ideal is to give your guinea pig a “mixed salad” of at least two or three different plants, which you will alternate each day. If possible, the salad should include at least one vegetable rich in vitamin C.