Guinea pigs do not need as much commercial dry food as many new owners think. The dry feed they do eat should make up around 10% of their whole diet and contain vitamin C - guineas can not synthesize this themselves just like us. Muesli mixes are not really suitable - they are more geared towards the owner, containing bright colourants. Mixes like these can cause selective feeding, where the pig leaves pieces of food they don't like and only eats their favourites, leading to nutritional deficiencies. The one benefit of muesli is the opportunity for natural foraging behaviour, but this can be provided in other ways. EC permitted chemical colourants in food should be avoided - studies have shown that these can irritate the mucous membranes in a piggies mouth, causing soreness and a lack of willing to eat, as well as increasing the chance of urinary tract infections. Nuggets at approximately 30-50g a day per pig still provide a tasty balance with much fewer nasties.
Hay (80% of diet)
Why it's important
Hay should make up the main part of a guinea pig's diet. Not only does it contain components which wear down their ever growing teeth, it is also essential for digestion. There are two cuts of hay - the first and second. The first cut is much more coarse which may be a little too much for tiny guinea mouths. The second cut is a little softer, but still provides the perfect roughage. Meadow or Timothy hay is the best for adult everyday use. It is high in fibre and low in protein and calories as well as calcium. Fibre is essential for a guinea pig's digestive system. Keep an eye out for the new 'Digestion' advice sheet coming soon for more info! Alfalfa hay is better for convalescing, pregnant, nursing or young guinea pigs as the extra protein helps with cell growth and replenishment. The extra calcium aids bone development, and the extra calories provide energy. Feed hay from the floor for extra enrichment, but be prepared to replace it more often as it will become trampled and quite possibly pooped on! Provide hay from a low feeder to keep it cleaner if you prefer. Fresh, unlimited hay should be provided daily!
Veg, fruit and other treats (10% of diet)
Which to feed
What to avoid
Why it's important
Fruit should only be given in moderation, and should be cut into small pieces to prevent the acidity from making their piggy lips sore! Examples of suitable fruits are apples, strawberries and bananas - there are some great and much more comprehensive lists you can find online such as the one linked below by Jackie's Guinea Pigs. Acidic fruits should be avoided. Vegetables are a vital part of a piggy's diet as they help to provide hydration, vitamins (especially vit. C) and stimulation. Piggies should have approximately a cup of veggies a day - some great veggies are:
- Romaince lettuce
- Small amounts of carrot, brocolli and cabbage
- Avoid onions and anything from the onion family, tomato greens, potato and it's greens, seeds...