Like humans, guinea pigs will suffer from 'scurvy' if not given vitamin C in their diet. In other animals, Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is manufactured from glucose in their food. However guinea pigs don't have the enzyme needed to do this. Just so that you can impress your friends, the enzyme they lack is called L-gluonolactone oxidase!A vitamin C deficiency from an inadequate diet will cause the guinea pig to be lethargic and weak. It will eat less and lose weight and may have enlarged limb joints. It develops a rough hair coat, diarrhoea and produces a discharge from its eye and nose. Death usually occurs in about three to four weeks. Signs will occur about two weeks after the deficiency starts.
So, cavies require 10mg of vitamin C per kilogram of body weight. As most cavies are about one kilogram in weight, or a bit less, you will need to give each about 10mg of vitamin C a day.
Supplementing your guinea pigs with specific foods rich in vitamin C is important. Suitable foods, in the order of highest concentration of vitamin C, are dandelion greens (wash them first), kale, brussel sprouts, parsley, broccoli leaves, cauliflower, strawberries, broccoli florets, oranges or cabbage. Note that oranges and cabbage have only a quarter of the vitamin C content of dandelion greens and brussel sprouts. A cup of dandelion greens or brussel sprouts will provide about 200 mg of vitamin C.
You can add vitamin C to the water at the rate of 200mg per litre. However, if the water container is an open dish, the vitamin C will decrease by half over a twenty-four hour period. If the water dish is made of metal or if organic material such as old food or excreta is present in the water, then the vitamin C will decrease more quickly.
There is now a palatable vitamin C supplement made by Oxbow that is well accepted by guinea pigs and we recommend this if your pig requires additional Vitamin C.
High quality guinea pig pellets (min 16% fibre) can be offered but only in small amounts as a treat. Many commercial pellets are too high in fats and carbohydrates, and low in fibre, and should not be fed ad lib or as the sole diet. Vitamin C content also declines once the bag is opened.
Pregnant cavies have a higher requirement for Vit C and oral supplementation may be required - contact us for advice.
What foods shouldn't I feed?Foods to avoid include cereals, grains, nuts, seeds, corn, peas, beans, breads, biscuits, sweets, sugar, breakfast cereals, chocolate.
Don't feed your cavy on rabbit or rodent pellets.
Any dietary changes should be made slowly.
Anaesthesia & Surgery
Especially For Cats