Did you know that just like humans, your guinea pig can’t make its own vitamin C? This means that in the same way, we need to get this essential vitamin from fruits, vegetables or a daily supplement, so can cavies. In this article, we’re talking about vitamin C and your guinea pig, from what problems a lack of vitamin C can cause, to ways you can include it in your piggy’s diet and everything in between.
We also answer the most frequently asked questions, including how much vitamin C is enough for the average guinea pig, can you share your vitamin C pills with your piggy, and is there such a thing as too much?
Let’s start with why your guinea pig needs vitamin C and what happens when there is a deficiency.
- Poor hair coat
- Swellings or sores around the mouth/lips
- Delayed wound healing
- Poor appetite
- Difficulty moving or enlarged joints
How Much Vitamin C Does A Guinea Pig Need
Experts recommend between 10 and 30mg of Vitamin C a day for most guinea pigs, although this will vary depending on their age, weight and overall health.
For example, a healthy adult cavy should have between 10 and 15mg daily, while growing guinea pigs will need more for healthy bone and tissue development.
Pregnant or nursing guinea pigs and those with an underlying health condition will benefit from getting up to 30mg daily.
However, it’s important to remember that even if your guinea pig is getting its daily intake of ascorbic acid, it can still have a deficiency. This is because:
- Vitamin C has a sell-by date: over time, viable vitamin C is lost in fresh vegetables and fruit, which means its nutritional content decreases. The same applies to the vitamin C content in commercially produced pellets.
- Certain illnesses or health conditions can affect the absorption of vitamin C.
- Excess vitamin C in your guinea pig’s diet can reduce its sensitivity to the vitamin and lead to a condition known as pseudo-scurvy.
HOW SHOULD I PROVIDE VITAMIN C?
- Formulated pellets
- Fresh veggies and fruit
- Over-the-counter Vitamin C supplements/chewable tablets
Premium guinea pig pellets, such as those produced by Oxbow, are fortified with good amounts of vitamin C. However, the vitamins degrade with time, which is why you should try to feed an entire bag of guinea pig pellets within 90 days of opening it.
Chewable flavored C tablets are available in 100 mg sizes, which can be quartered into 25 mg pieces and fed directly to your guinea pig. Some people have good luck with liquid vitamin C, which can be found at some health food stores. Avoid multi-vitamin supplements and do not add vitamin C to the water.
Tips for getting your piggy to take a chewable vitamin C tablet:
- Break the tablet in half to release the aroma. Leave the tablet so your guinea pig gets the idea that it is something he should try or offer to your guinea pig by holding the broken tablet in your hand.
- Break up the tablet or crush the tablet and roll in a piece of romaine lettuce.
- Cut a groove in an apple, grape or carrot and slide the tablet through the juice.
- Add a crushed tablet to 1 tablespoon of water and immediately syringe feed.
How To Make Sure Your Guinea Pig Is Getting Enough Vitamin C
One of the simplest and most effective ways to make sure your guinea pig is getting enough vitamin C is to provide it with a varied diet of fresh vegetables and fortified guinea pig nuggets. Fruit is also a good source of this essential vitamin; however, we recommend limiting these sweet treats once or twice a week because of their high sugar content.
Let’s take a look at what a vitamin C-rich diet should include for your piggy.
- A good quality feeding hay
- Guinea pig pellets or nuggets that are specially formulated and fortified with essential minerals and vitamins
- A small portion of fresh leafy greens that are high in vitamin C. Our favourites include:
- one floret of broccoli
- half of a curly kale leaf
- small serving of a green bell pepper
- small serving of parsley
- handful of dandelion leaves (make sure it’s free from any pesticides and that it’s not picked in an area where wild rabbits live as your guinea pig could become ill)