High quality food for guinea pigs is not so easy to find. While the selection for dogs and cats has grown significantly in recent years, pet owners must choose from a relatively small supply. Or they take over, similar to the BARFer among the dog and cat owners, the mixing of the feed itself directly. In any case, a species-appropriate and good guinea pig food is mandatory. Even small animals can become ill through improper diet. In the worst case nutritional mistakes even end fatally. Therefore, we clarify: Which feeds are unsuitable for guinea pigs and which foods may even be toxic?
The physiology of the guinea pig
The guinea pig is originally from Peru. Although the now domesticated pig clearly differs from the “wild guinea pig” (for example, in terms of coat length and color), but his digestive tract is still designed for a purely vegetable diet. In contrast to hamsters and color rats, guinea pigs are herbivores, ie pure herbivores, and do not require any animal protein in their feed. Essential amino acids refer the animals from high-quality, vegetable food sources. Attention: While humans can use legumes as vegetable protein source with vegan nutrition, these are not suitable for guinea pigs and must not be fed.
Guinea pigs have a long bowel that has little peristalsis (muscular contractions). This means that in order for the feed to be transported into and through the intestine at all times, new, raw-fiber-rich feed must constantly be “pushed on”. Often, the term “stuffed stomach” is also used. While a dog can get by for a day without food, this can have life-threatening consequences for a guinea pig. If there is too little food in the intestine, it can ferment and put the guinea pig in mortal danger. Therefore, the animals must always have enough guinea pig food at their disposal.
The original diet of the guinea pig
In the Andes, wild guinea pigs eat mainly grasses, but also feed on seeds, seeds and fruits. Also, our house guinea pig is fed at best with grasses and herbs. The commercial guinea pig food, although the nutrient ratio usually adapted to the needs of the animals, but it does not match their original feeding habits. Squash-pressed grass does not have much to do with fresh grass.
Indispensable for the appropriate diet of guinea pigs: hay
Hay should be the main ingredient of the food. Despite drying it contains important vitamins and minerals. Moreover, with its high crude fiber content, it is essential for the digestion of guinea pigs. That is why a wooden hay rack belongs to every guinea pig enclosure. The hay should be changed daily, so that the animals always have fresh food available and can choose from all components of the hay. Old or damp hay causes digestive problems and should therefore be removed.
Also important is the quality: Good hay hardly dust, is not damp and smells pleasantly spicy. Some hay varieties (for example Alpine meadow hay) are very rich in calcium. These varieties should have been given rarely or in alternation with others.
The calcium phosphorus ratio in food for guinea pigs
For healthy guinea pigs, a calcium to phosphorus ratio of 1.5: 1 is ideal. If the piglets ingest too much calcium through the diet, it is absorbed by the small intestine and must be excreted renally, ie via the kidney. This increases the calcium concentration in the urine, which in turn can lead to illness or health problems.
Why you should rather forego conventional dry food
Dry food from the pet shop often has nothing to do with species-appropriate diet. At worst, it contains completely unsuitable ingredients or inferior ingredients. Especially healthy is a feed that corresponds to the natural diet of the animals.
Unfortunately, hay is not always enough to cover the needs of the animals. After mowing and packaging, it usually does not contain enough seeds and seeds, which are essential for the fat metabolism of guinea pigs. An alternative may be pellets. They are fed in addition to the hay and contain all the important nutrients. For pellets, however, you should always pay attention to the composition and make sure that the ingredients contained meet the needs of the animals or are not significantly above. Among other things, pellets offer the advantage that the animals do not select at will and that the most delicious feet are removed pick out ingredients.Checklist: Dry food for guinea pigs,
Checklist: Dry food for guinea pigs
If you absolutely want to feed the commercially available dry food, you should pay attention to the following:
* Do not buy feed without a detailed and instructive declaration of ingredients (an inaccurate declaration is, for example, “vegetable by-products”, while this may not necessarily mean that it is a bad feed, but you will not know exactly what located in the feed of your animals)
* Compare the nutritional values of the feed with the actual needs of guinea pigs
* Do not buy food that has added sugar
* Hay should continue to be permanently available and be the staple food of guinea pigs
* Be aware of whether a feed is declared as a sole or supplemental feed (in the complete feed all important nutrients are included, while the feed contains only a specific part). In principle, any dry food should be understood as an addition to hay, fresh vegetables, herbs and grasses
* The feed contains no artificial colors and many natural ingredients
* The calcium-phosphorus ratio and the vitamin C content are correct
Guinea pigs have to get used to grass and herbs slowly
When purchasing the guinea pigs – whether from the breeder, from private or from the shelter – you should always inquire about the previous feeding. Because an abrupt change of diet can lead to severe digestive problems in the animals. Guinea pigs have to get used to every new feed ingredient slowly. This also applies to fruits and vegetables that were previously unknown to the pig, but especially for fresh grasses and herbs.
If the guinea pig eats a lot of fresh meadow grass for the first time and is not used to it, it can lead to false fermentation in the stomach. A life-threatening consequence is for example the Drummersucht, which is also known rabbit owners. To get used to the animals slowly to the new food, should first be enough small quantities. If these are well tolerated, you can increase the amount gradually.
Why guinea pigs need vitamin C.
Since they can not make it on their own, guinea pigs, like humans, have to take in vitamin C through their diet. Therefore, fresh vegetables, herbs and small amounts of fruit are indispensable for the species-appropriate guinea pig nutrition. While there are also vitamin supplements that are put into the water, such remedies should only be given on the veterinarian’s express recommendation. They can easily be overdosed, which does not help the health of your pigs any more than a vitamin deficiency. Guinea pigs that are appropriate for their species and well-balanced do not need any vitamin supplements.
Depending on the season, vegetables and fruits are imported and sometimes stored for a long time. Always keep in mind that long storage times can negatively impact nutrient content. So feed your guinea pigs varied and look for a suspected deficiency symptoms a veterinarian.
Signs of guinea pig deficiency symptoms
Dull or shaggy fur may be the first harbingers of deficiency symptoms. However, the symptoms can also be attributed to parasites, stress or other diseases. Nevertheless, diet is an important factor. Scrubby hair, dandruff or other changes in the coat should always be watched closely. A daily health check is therefore mandatory for every guinea pig. Other signs of illness (too long teeth, tumors or abscesses, wounds etc.) are immediately noticed and can be treated.
Drinking behavior of guinea pigs: potions or bowl
Guinea pigs cover most of their fluid requirements through food. Varied fresh food is therefore essential for a species-appropriate guinea pig nutrition. Equally important, however, is fresh water, which is available to the animals around the clock. Water can be offered in a water bowl or a so-called nipple potion. The advantage of the potions is clear: It is the more hygienic variant, since soiling can not get into the water. In a water bowl, hay, litter and, in the worst case, feces may land.
However, the animals have to go into a relatively unnatural attitude if they want to drink from a nipple potion. Some owners also fear contamination of the metal tube from which the water comes. However, regular cleaning is a must anyway: otherwise algae may form in the bottle or bowl.
When using water pots, heavy clay or ceramic pots are recommended, standing on a firm surface. Depending on the degree of soiling, the water should be changed several times, but at least once, better twice a day,
Conclusion: That makes a good guinea pig food
If you want to feed your guinea pigs in a way that is appropriate for your species, you should pay particular attention to high quality and natural feed ingredients. Especially with hay, the quality is very important. Do not save in the wrong places and do not endanger the health of your guinea pigs by malnutrition. Food that is available from specialist retailers is often unsuitable, so guinea pig owners must be particularly attentive when buying and read the list of ingredients. Fresh ingredients must not be missed when giving dry food. Keep in mind, however, that dry food is actually only a dietary supplement. A good guinea pig food is a mix of hay, meadow, fresh herbs and fresh food.