Vitamin C is one of the first things new guinea pig owners should know about, as it is incredibly important for their health. Understanding vitamin C for guinea pigs can help ensure a healthy life with fewer complications.
Where Guinea Pig Differ from Other Mammals
Many mammals can synthesize their own vitamin C. Notable exceptions include humans, guinea pigs, capybaras, and many species of primate. While the evolutionary reason is still being studied, the problem appears to be a lack of enzymes to make ascorbic acid.
The bottom line is that your guinea pigs must obtain their vitamin C since they cannot make it.
Why Vitamin C Matters for Guinea Pigs
Proper levels of vitamin C are critical for overall guinea pig health. Vitamin C is critical in growth and repair throughout the body, such as bones, muscles, and blood vessels. Without sufficient levels, these processes are unable to keep up.
Vitamin C also prevents several complications, such as scurvy. Adequate levels are critical for a healthy life in guinea pigs. Fortunately, ensuring your guinea pigs get enough of this vitamin is relatively straightforward.
Foods that Give Vitamin C for Guinea Pigs
There are two options for guinea pigs to obtain this vitamin: food and supplements. Generally, food is preferable since it’s how guinea pigs evolved to take in their vitamin C.
Food has two components. The first is the staple of many guinea pig cages: hay pellets. These pellets are often enriched with Vitamin C. While hay pellets are less optimal than fresh hay (and indeed, cages should always have fresh hay), they do the job.
The other component of food is a produce rotation. Providing your guinea pig with a rotation of safe fruits and vegetables will also supply many of their other nutrient needs. A small portion goes a long way, and you can see our analysis of various produce in the food section.
The other option is supplements, which can be a lifesaver if your guinea pigs are picky eaters. These come in water-soluble or treat form, though water-soluble means you will have to clean water dishes/bottles more often. It’s essential to keep in mind the serving size for guinea pigs since too much can stress their systems.