By Deanna deBara
Knowing what goes into the ideal guinea pig diet will ensure that your little rodent friend stays healthy (and happy!) for years to come.
Aside from regular guinea pig food, you’ll definitely want to supplement your pet’s diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables for a little variety. So, what is the best food to feed a guinea pig?
“Variety is important because fruits and veggies all provide different nutrients,” says Dr. Amy Williams, a veterinarian at Alaqua Animal Refuge, a no-kill animal shelter in Northwest Florida that provides care to neglected and abused animals (including guinea pigs). “Daily small amounts of veggies and fruit should be fed, but use a variety of veggies and fruits to ensure proper vitamins and minerals are consumed.”
“Think small! Use veggies and fruits in moderation,” says Dr. Williams. “Rule of thumb: veggies about 3/4 cup per day; fruit about 1/3 cup per day.”
So how do you know which fruits and vegetables are okay to feed to your pet? Here are six fruits and veggies that are safe and beneficial to your pet guinea pig’s health:
Strawberries are high in vitamin C, an essential nutrient to support guinea pig health. “Guinea pigs can’t make their own vitamin C, so it must be in their diet [through fruits like] strawberries,” says Dr. Williams. Just don’t overdo it on fruit.
“[Fruit] is also high in sugar, so use in moderation,” says Dr. Williams. Rotate strawberries (and other fruit) into your guinea pig’s meals once or twice per week.
If you want to give your guinea pig plenty of vitamin C without any of the sugar, try bell peppers—the more variety, the better. “Definitely bell peppers ... red, green, yellow, orange. Those are really high in vitamin C,” says Dr. Laurie Hess, DVM at the Veterinary Center for Birds and Exotics in Bedford Hills, New York.
Another fruit that’s packed with plenty of vitamin C—making it a great option for your guinea pig—is kiwi. Just make sure to safety-proof the fruit before handing it over to your furry friend. “Guinea pigs can choke, so be sure to remove seeds [from the kiwi],” says Dr. Williams.
Carrots are a rich source of vitamin A, and both the carrot and the carrot greens are safe for your guinea pig to munch on. Just make sure to feed them in moderation—too much vitamin A isn’t good for your pet, and carrots can be high in carbohydrates.
“[Carrots] are higher in carbohydrates than some of the other vegetables,” says Dr. Hess. “You shouldn't feed them in excess because they can be sugary in the sense of having a lot of carbohydrates … Sugar promotes abnormal ... gas producing bacteria to grow in their intestinal tract and so that can [throw off] their intestinal system.”
Leafy green lettuce—like butterhead or Bibb lettuce—is the perfect veggie for your guinea pig, as green lettuces are rich in vitamin C, potassium and fiber. And the greener the better, according to Dr. Hess—deep green lettuces, and red and green leaf lettuce.
Leafy greens should make up the majority of your guinea pig’s produce diet. They are safe to feed to guinea pigs daily—just make sure to avoid iceberg lettuce, which is low on nutrients and high in nitrates, which can cause diarrhea.
Parsley is another green that’s rich in vitamin C, making it an ideal snack for your guinea pig. Be sure to use in moderation; parsley is also high in calcium, which could lead to bladder issues.
“People love to feed [their guinea pigs] parsley. [But] when guinea pigs eat too much calcium, it kind of sediments out in their bladder, and it can form stones in their kidneys and stones in their bladder,” says Dr. Hess.
Avoid feeding parsley to your pet every day. Instead, rotate it into your guinea pig’s diet a few times a week. Be sure to consult with a veterinarian who feels comfortable with guinea pig husbandry and diet to make sure your guinea pig doesn’t get too much calcium.