Just like humans, vitamin C is a fundamental necessity and of utmost importance to guinea pigs, so it is one supplement they can’t live without but at the same time they’re unable to manufacture their own (much like humans).
But why do guinea pigs need vitamin c in the first place? This is precisely what you’re going to learn here today.
We’ll also be discussing the various ways vitamin C can be made available to your guinea pigs since they can’t manufacture it themselves.
Why Do Guinea Pigs Need Vitamin C?
Guinea pigs need vitamin C because lack of vitamin C in guinea pigs can lead to a deficiency commonly known as scurvy and, if left untreated, can cause abnormalities in blood vessels, bones, and connective tissues. This is the primary reason why guinea pigs need vitamin C.
Guinea pigs need vitamin C, in order not to be victims of such abnormalities.
Below are some symptoms of Vitamin C deficiency in guinea pigs:
- lethargy, weakness, difficulty with mobility
- disturbed walking pattern due to enlarged, painful, or stiff joints
- loss of appetite and subsequent weight loss
- discharge from the eyes and nose
- rough cough
- poor skin and fur condition
It is important to note that many of these symptoms may be a result of something other than Vitamin C deficiency. If by chance, your guinea pig shows any of the aforementioned symptoms, you should take them to a vet as quickly as possible for an urgent assessment.
Building a diagnosis from a set of varied symptoms is complex and should be left to the professionals.
Read Also: How Often Should You Feed a Guinea Pig?
Amount of Vitamin C to Feed Your Guinea Pig
Guinea pigs require a minimum of 90 mg of vitamin C per day. An unhealthy guinea pig may have 150 mg or more of vitamin c daily, so increase the dose if you think your guinea pig is becoming sick. Without a reasonable amount of vitamin C in their diets, guinea pigs can become very ill with scurvy
The amount of vitamin C needed to feed your guinea pig varies somewhat counting on the reference source used, but most guinea pigs probably need about 10 to 30 mg per day. But any guinea pig that is pregnant, nursing, young, and ill need more of that amount.
The best way to supplement with additional vitamin C is to use vitamin C tablets. You can buy vitamin C tablets specifically for guinea pigs (e.g., Oxbow’s GTN-50C) or human chewable 100 mg tablets (note: make sure you are getting just vitamin C rather than a multivitamin formula).
A quarter of a 100 mg tablet per day may be an advised dose for most adult guinea pigs. The guinea pig tablets are 50 mg, but as was discovered that vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, small excesses over that daily requirement are readily excreted.
Many guinea pigs will absorb the tablets like a treat and eat them, or they can be crushed and sprinkled on vegetables or pellets.
Vitamin C can be added to the water, but there are problems with this method. The vitamin C immediately loses its originality in water (a fresh supply must be made at least daily, if not twice).
More so, guinea pigs may not adhere to or reduce their consumption of water with added vitamin C due to the taste, and this may lead to other health problems. It is also challenging to know if your guinea pigs are getting enough vitamin C using this method of supplementation.
Feeding a diversified of fresh veggies high in vitamin C and supplementing directly with tablet forms of vitamin C are better options.
What Are The Best Foods For Vitamin C?
They’re not necessarily the foods with the highest Vitamin C content but a considered variety that can be fed to your guinea pig regularly because guinea pigs need vitamin C, hence why do guinea pig need vitamin C. These are a list of guinea pig foods that contain vitamin C
Commercial guinea pig pellets should be fed daily. Most guinea pigs will not overeat (usually eat about 1/8 cup per day), but the number of pellets may need to be restricted if a guinea pig becomes obese.
Choose an excellent quality pellet set aside for guinea pigs. Since the vitamin C in pellets also loses its authenticity over time, search for pellets that use a stabilized form of vitamin C needed by guinea pigs or at least one with a “use before” date to ensure freshness. Buy in small quantities, and store in a cool dark place.
For significantly growing guinea pigs, alfalfa-based pellets are fine, but for adults, it may be better to search out a Timothy hay-based pellet. A couple of best Timothy-based diets include Oxbow Hay’s Cavy Cuisine and KM Hayloft’s Timothy’s Choice.
When choosing a guinea pig diet or pellet that contains vitamin C needed by the guinea pig, avoid those with nuts or seeds, dried fruits, corn products, animal by-products, beet pulp, or other fillers.
Also, watch for high sugar content (sucrose, fructose, corn syrup, etc.) and foods with lots of preservative or added chemicals.
Hay should possibly be a staple in guinea pig’s diet and a fresh supply available at all times because it also contains vitamin C, which is needed by a guinea pig.
Grass hays like Timothy hay or orchard grass are the most recommended for adult guinea pigs. Alfalfa is very rich and high in calcium and is a good supplement for growing guinea pigs and pregnant or nursing guinea pigs, but is not a good staple for most adult guinea pigs.
3. Fresh Vegetables and Fruit
In addition to the hay and pellets, various fresh vegetables (especially leafy greens) and some fruits should be offered daily. Leafy greens should be part of the bulk of the vegetable supplementation.
Fruits and other vegetables can be provided in small quantities. Stay away from an iceberg (head lettuce) as it has very little nutritional value. Excellent choices may include kale, spinach, turnip greens, parsley, romaine lettuce, and dandelion greens.
Stay away from or reduce cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, collards, bok choy, and other cruciferous vegetables as they can lead to gas production in the digestive tract. Also, avoid starchy vegetables such as potatoes.
Some other vegetables like apple, tomatoes, green and red bell peppers, carrots, apricots, grapes, blueberries, cantaloupe, bananas, strawberries, oranges, and carrot tops can also be fed.
If you have a guaranteed pesticide-free source, grass, dandelions, clover, and chickweed can also be offered, especially new growth, which is tender and the most nutritious.
Any greens, vegetables, or fruits should be introduced gradually, or a digestive upset may result.
Problems Associated With Lack Of Vitamin C
Guinea pigs are known for being unable to produce their vitamin C, and because of this, it’s essential that they get it in their diet because they do need it! Guinea pigs deficient in vitamin C may have:
- Poor hair coat
- Swellings or sores around the mouth/lips
- Delayed wound healing
- Poor appetite
- Difficulty moving or enlarged joints
An average guinea pig requires between 10 and 30 mg/kg daily for good health. A guinea pig who currently has a low vitamin C can receive up to 50 mg/kg/day.
It is best to routinely make available extra vitamin C to an ill guinea pig. Too much vitamin C is excreted through the urine and not absorbed by the body. Long-term supplementation of over 100 mg daily should be talked over with your veterinarian.
How To Get Your Piggy Take a Chewable Vitamin C Tablet
Because of how important vitamin C is to the health of guinea pigs and how they really need vitamin c, several means have been devised to help feed them with vitamin C. One of these methods includes the method of chewable vitamin C.
In order to achieve this, you have to:
- Divide the tablet in half to release the aroma. Make the tablet available so your guinea pig gets the idea that he should try or offer it to your guinea pig by holding the broken tablet in your hand.
- Open up the tablet or crush the tablet and roll in a piece of romaine lettuce.
- Make a groove in an apple, grape, or carrot and slide the tablet through the juice.
- Put a crushed tablet in just one tablespoon of water and immediately syringe feed.
How Much Vitamin C Do Guinea Pigs Need?
We have discovered from so many sources as possible that reference this amount, and as an average, a guinea pig requires 10-30mg/kg daily. There are, of course, other factors need to be taken into consideration.
The requirement is dependent per kilogram, which means that the bigger your piggy, the more Vitamin C they will require. Poorly guinea pigs, pregnant sows, or those with a deficiency that is being treated will also require more vitamins.
Can I Give My Guinea Pig Too Much Vitamin C?
Vitamin C is soluble in water, so a small excess will be processed by the kidneys and passed harmlessly from the body in the urine.
It would be harsh to the excess of Vitamin C only through fresh greens and daily pellets, but if a Vitamin C supplement is used (more on this later) and a ton of 100mg/kg is ingested, this can cause problems.
Excessive Vitamin C intake has been linked to kidney and bladder stones, worsening arthritis symptoms, and low growth amongst young guinea pigs.
If a guinea pig is being fed a high level of Vitamin C over a long period, this can also reduce their sensitivity to Vitamin C and cause a condition known as Pseudo-Scurvy.
In Pseudo-Scurvy, reduced sensitivity to Vitamin C means that what would usually be considered a regular 10-30mg/kg intake of Vitamin C wouldn’t be sufficient and could like to symptoms of deficiency.
If you think this may be the case in a member of your herd, veterinary advice should be sought immediately.
Best Practice for a Healthy Vitamin C Intake
- Vitamin C has a half-life of approximately ten days in vegetables. This means that from the point of being harvested, the amount of viable Vitamin C contained within the food decreases by half every ten days. Always feed vegetables, greens, and fruit as fresh as possible for maximum nutrient content.
- Feed a selection of the above foods consistently every day to ensure a stable level of Vitamin C in your guinea pig.
- Seriously consider whether additional supplementation is necessary. Adequate Vitamin C should be achieved through a varied diet. If your guinea pig has different needs, is poorly, or has a condition where additional supplementation is required, this should always be under the advice of a vet.
Guinea pigs can’t do without vitamin c, because it is required for making collagen. Collagen is needed for maintaining blood vessel integrity, the formation of bone, and wound healing.
Like other primates, including humans, guinea pigs cannot synthesize or store vitamin c but there are so many sources where they can get this vitamin c from and this article highlighted them.
Oxbow Natural Science Vitamin C Supplement
Natural Science Vitamin C contains high fiber Timothy hay and the stabilized vitamin C that guinea pigs need and other animals benefit from during times of stress, illness, or recovery. Offer Natural Science supplements to support the wellness of your small pets.
Product SKU: B00E0HQA7G
Product Brand: Oxbow Natural Science Vitamin C
- Great supplement and good value
- Recommended by mostly veterinarians
- Hard pellets / difficult to eat
Kaytee All Natural Timothy Hay
Kaytee feeds more hay to small pets than anyone else. We pride ourselves on providing fresh, tasty, all-natural hay. Grown specifically for small animals, timothy hay is hand selected to ensure long fiber strands and a proper leaf to stem ratio to support your small pet’s digestive health.
Product SKU: B079RR6CC3
Product Brand: Kaytee All Natural Timothy Hay
- Good value for the price
- Fresh and green, smells great
- It contains little dusty and smaller pieces
- Inconsistent that some have poor quality hay
Small Pet Select Orchard Grass Hay
This hay is hand selected using only the very best quality with rabbits, guinea pigs, and chinchillas. Small pet select searches long and hard specifically for the highest quality orchard hay for rabbits, guinea pigs, and chinchillas in the world and deliver it fresh to your door.
Product SKU: B00S6Y8MHU
Product Brand: Small Pet Select Orchard
- Fresh, green and fragrantly rich scent
- Affordable at reasonable price
- Quality of hay vary with dust and small pieces
High Desert Alfalfa Hay
High Desert Alfalfa hay is a perfect food for young rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas, and ferrets. It promotes appetite, aids in digestion, and helps the animals grow healthy muscles and bones. It's high calcium content also makes it a great supplement for pregnant and nursing rabbits. The sweet taste and nice smell are relished by pets of all ages.
Product SKU: B08FMXZWPM
Product Brand: High Desert Alfalfa Hay
- Fresh, green and smells great hay
- Good value and amount
- Quality of hay vary with dust and small pieces