What Nutrients Do Guinea Pigs Need?

Guinea pigs are a bit of a mystery when it comes to understanding how their little bodies work, but one thing we do know is that your guinea pig needs vitamins and minerals to live a long and happy life.

Vitamin or mineral deficiency can cause illness and in some cases death, so understanding what your guinea pig needs in its diet will go a long way when it comes to health and happiness for your little piggy.

The Importance of Vitamins & Minerals for Guinea Pigs

There are certain things every animal needs to consume or produce within their body in order to thrive. Usually, these things consist of vitamins, minerals, proteins, and other goodies (we often refer to them as nutrients).

Nutrients are found in food, which, once eaten, provide your guinea pig with the essentials that it cannot create on its own but needs in order to live a healthy (long) life.

We'll get a little more in-depth, but generally, your guinea pig will need the following nutrients in their diet:

  • Fiber 
  • Protein 
  • Fat 
  • Carbohydrates (some but not a lot) 
  • Vitamins 
  • Minerals 

And the good news is, top quality hay can provide most of these (if not all) nutrients to your guinea pig.

Minerals Your Guinea Pig Needs

Just like humans, guinea pigs need a host of minerals in their diet to help their cute little bodies function. In general, most animals need:

  • Calcium
  • Sodium
  • Potassium sulfur
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphorus.  

But, as you might have guessed, the amount of minerals needed differs from animal to animal.  
 
For example, your guinea pig will need calcium in their diet to promote healthy bones and teeth. Luckily, timothy hay is an excellent source of calcium as well as alfalfa hay.  
 
With that being said, alfalfa hay should only be provided in moderation to adult guinea pigs since too much calcium can also cause health issues.  
 
If you have a momma and baby guinea pigs on your hands, they will benefit from alfalfa hay because they need more calcium to promote growth and help the lactating momma along.

Vitamin C and Your Guinea Pig

Vitamin deficiency can be a confusing problem, but if you know what your guinea pig needs (and where to get it) you shouldn't have much to worry about.

But, just in case, these are the symptoms of Vitamin C deficiency in guinea pigs:

  • Poor fur condition (looks sparse or dry)
  • Swollen joints
  • Trouble walking
  • Bruises easily
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Abnormal nasal or eye discharge

If you're feeding your adult guinea pig high-quality Timothy hay, you're already ahead of the game. In fact, if you want to get it right when it comes to vitamins and minerals, fresh hay is the way to go because 80% of your guinea pigs' diet should consist of quality hay.

And of course, there's always room for pellets, fresh fruit and vegetables, and treats in moderation. 

While guinea pigs require a variety of vitamins in their diets, the most important and often problematic vitamin is Vitamin C.

This is because guinea pigs are not able to manufacture their own Vitamin C and need an outside source to get it...aka alfalfa hay for young guinea pigs and mommas and timothy hay for everyone else in the family! 

(The best part is, that fresh hay provides your guinea pig with all the fiber they could ask for!)

The easiest way to ensure your piggy has enough Vitamin C is to buy fortified feed pellets made exclusively for guinea pigs. Check the label to make sure it includes Vitamin C for your furry friend.

Does your guinea pig need a mineral wheel?

While mineral wheels, licks, and blocks can be fun for your guinea pig, they probably won't need them if they're given an unlimited quantity of fresh hay every day.

With that being said, you can always give your cavi some treats for fun. They love to eat fruits and veggies!

If you do want to give your guinea pig something special, think outside the salt lick.

guinea pigs with apples as treats
Fresh food to feed your guinea pig:
  • Apples 
  • Bramble leaves 
  • Clover 
  • Dandelions 
  • Lavender 
  • Strawberries 
  • Bell peppers
  • Fresh grass (not cut by the lawnmower) 
  • Twigs to chew on (because their toofers are always growing just like a rabbit's teeth) 

While it would be convenient to be able to just give your little squeaker a tiny vitamin, or even just pelleted feed, every day, it's not the best way to provide the nutrition your little squeaker needs.  
 
Getting their vitamins and minerals from the most natural source possible is not only a great way to ensure your fluffer is getting what it needs, but it's also so much more fun for them. 
 
Guinea pigs love to (need to) chew and fresh-cut hay is the way to go.  
 
When it comes down to it, guinea pigs need high-quality hay to get the nutrients required to help them feel their best for movie night on the couch or a walk to the bodega for some fresh fruit. 

guinea pig eating hay

 

Amanda is an accomplished freelance agricultural writer who owns and operates a small farm in Wisconsin with her husband and spunky border collie. Amanda is laser-focused on raising healthy rabbits, goats, and pasture-raised poultry.