Guinea pigs teeth are open rooted, meaning they constantly grow, therefore require hay for the abrasion of teeth. Hay ensures the molars are evenly worn
Hay should be fresh smelling, dry and have long strands. Meadow hay is best and easily available
Hay should always be available in large quantities. It keeps the gut flowing due to the long fibres
Grass (digestible fibres) may be fed instead of, or as well as hay (non-digestible fibres). Grass is preferable because it has a higher nutritional value
Ideal storage for hay is in a dark, dry place - for example an old duvet case or pillow cover. Ensure the hay is mould free
You can buy good quality hay from horse suppliers and farmers. Pet shops also sell wrapped hay, but ensure this is good quality
Guinea pigs have a thin stomach and a long intestine. Hay keeps the intestines in momentum
Aim to feed at least 10% their body weight in vegetables daily. If they weigh 1000g, aim to feed 100g+
At least 5-6 different varieties should be present daily, in order to get enough vitamins & minerals. Green vegetables (especially leafy) are ideal
Guinea pigs do not manufacture Vitamin C, so Vit C rich food such as bell peppers, should be fed frequently
Too much fresh food at once can lead to serious digestive problems, therefore
at least 2 separate feedings should be given throughout the day
Hand feeding veg is a great way to bond with your guinea pigs as they learn to associate you with positive things.
Leave the vegetables out of the fridge prior to feeding until they reach room temperature
Fruit that can be fed 1-2 times a week: Apple, Strawberries (with green tops), Rosehips (de-seeded), Currants, Blackberries, Blueberries & Raspberries
Fruits supply many healthy vitamins
Fruit contains lots of fructose so should be given as a treat - between 1 and 2 times each week is ideal
Exotic & tropical fruits can lead to digestive problems such as indigestion; they also have a very high sugar content
Stone fruits are not very well tolerated by guinea pigs. The stones themselves are toxic so must not be fed
Forage is definitely the most healthiest food for guinea pigs to be consuming. Their digestive systems work the same way as the wild form of our domestic guinea pigs. They consume about 60-80 small meals each day as their digestive systems are designed to suit small, frequent portions. A good variety of grasses and meadow plants contain almost all the vitamins and minerals required. In the warmer months, a variety of grasses, plants etc can be fed instead of veggies (the forage must be varied and offered in large quantities).
Herbs are a very healthy addition to their diet, containing a variety of healthy nutrients. Herbs can be purchased from grocery stores, food markets, or alternatively you can grow your own at home. The vast majority of herbs have some healing effect, which can can be used as remedies for existing health problems.
Herbs have a high calcium content, nevertheless, they also have a high water content. The high water content is able to flush out surplus calcium, so fresh herbs can be given regularly. So what about dried herbs? Dried herbs actually contain a similar amount of calcium to hay therefore are a useful supplement to the diet, especially during the cold season, or if you live in a more urban area where fresh forage is not easily accessible.
Examples of plants you can grow at home:
Lavender, Marjoram, Oregano, Mint, Sage, Coriander, Parsley, Rosemary, Thyme, Nasturtiums, Pansies & Dill
Collecting Wild Grasses & Plants
During the warmer months, a variety of grasses and plants are available to collect. If grasses and plants can be collected in large quantities at least twice daily, then fresh fruit and vegetables can be replaced partly, or entirely with a mixture of different meadow plants and grasses.
Here are a few basic guidelines for foraging:
Do not pick from farmers' fields, or anywhere that plants/grasses will have been sprayed with pesticides/fertiliser
Avoid forage if it is likely to have been contaminated by dog urine/faeces
Do not risk feeding forage if you are not certain what plants you have collected - an identification guide is useful
If your guinea pig(s) have never eaten certain plants before, introduce them to their diet very slowly
Stay away from forage next to busy roads - exhaust fumes contaminate the plants & are unsuitable
Branches are a great supplement for guinea pigs. In general, my guinea pigs receive branches on a weekly basis. Branches also contribute to the abrasion of their teeth - this is important as they are continuously growing! The branches I feed include apple & hazel branches as these are most common where I live, and can be fed in larger quantities unlike some other branches.
Pea flakes are a healthy dietary supplement
Starch in the peas breaks down when crushed
They are easily digested by guinea pigs
Vital minerals & amino acids (lysine)
1 pea flake each day per pig is sufficient
Very fattening - useful for weight gain
There are various bioactive substances within these seeds, as well as including valuable vitamins, important proteins and minerals.
Oily seeds contain slow release energy. They are especially beneficial for long haired breed (e.g. sheltie, lion head) and those suffering from dry skin complaints, especially teddy, rex and skinny pigs are prone to developing dry skin. They also loaded with health promoting antioxidants, essential fatty acids, Omega 3 & Vitamin E and amino acids. These types of seeds are useful during the moulting period as they help contain useful fats and enzymes which help to dislodge blocked fur.
Aromatic seeds are rich in essential oils which are known to have a healing effect on health problems. They contribute to the maintenance of a healthy intestinal flora as well as healthy skin and coat. These seeds are useful for overall healthy digestion and supporting healthy immunity. These seeds contain various antibacterial and detoxifying properties.
1tsp of seeds weekly is sufficient for most guinea pigs, however some may require increased amounts, especially those with a higher energy demand. Up to 1tsp daily may be fed for underweight guinea pigs, those housed outdoors in winter etc.
Is Calcium Dangerous?
Many guinea pig owners worry about feeding too much calcium to their guinea pigs. This is because too much calcium could contribute to the formation of bladder stones. What most people don't realise is that too little calcium can be equally as harmful. Calcium is important for healthy, strong bones and teeth. If you live in an area with hard water, it is advised to filter the water to reduce calcium content. As long as your guinea pigs are receiving a healthy, varied diet then you should not worry too much about feeding too much/too little calcium. Also, we should not worry about the calcium content of veg as most veg contains a sufficient amount of fluid, meaning excess calcium will be excreted during urination.
Kidney & bladder problems related to diet are often caused by too much dried food, especially pellets.