If you are the new and proud owner of an adorable cavy and you’ve already found the right guinea pig cage, you might want to know a little bit more about what types of food are suitable for a healthy development. While it’s true that guinea pigs can many times eat the fruits and vegetables that are part of our meals as well, there are a few watch outs to take into account.
For starters, keep in mind that the best policy when it comes to guinea pigs is to create a varied and balanced diet that includes a little bit of everything, namely vegetables, fruits, pellets, and hay. Since these adorable creatures love to constantly nibble on something, you should make sure that this need is met but with moderation in terms of those foods that might pose risks.
This chewing habit is also what helps guinea pigs maintain healthy oral care since their teeth can otherwise become overgrown. Therefore, it is not only a matter of keeping them happy but also one of comfort.
Since we’re talking about food guinea pigs should get, it’s important to know that you need to avoid any cooked alternatives and always go for fresh, raw ones (unless we’re talking about pellets specially made for them). This is because cavies are herbivores, which means that they naturally only find raw food.
Moreover, cooked food can include other ingredients that might be toxic for guinea pigs to ingest, so it’s best to always avoid any such options and go for the fresh alternatives. This also helps with the dental wear we’ve mentioned earlier, that needs to happen through pretty much every meal, and rougher vegetable stems definitely help.
Now that we’ve gone through some of the basic feeding principles that might certainly come in handy if you’ve recently got a guinea pig and you don’t have too much experience when it comes raising one of these adorable pets, let’s take a look at the main question of this article – why is iceberg lettuce not included on the list of vegetables that your guinea pig can enjoy?
The first thing that you should know is that this vegetable won’t kill your guinea pig if ingested, especially if we’re talking about small quantities. It’s true that too much of anything can harm a living creature, especially guinea pigs since they can be rather sensitive to drastic dietary changes.
On the other hand, iceberg lettuce has close to absolutely no nutritional value for cavies since it’s mostly water in a fibrous structure. This means that there is no actual benefit for them from eating this vegetable, so if you do decide to include it in their diets it won’t do anything good.
However, in some cases, iceberg lettuce has been associated with diarrhea episodes, so you might end up having a problem, rather than a benefit. For this reason and given that there are so many other options you can choose from in terms of vegetables with a real nutritional value, it’s best to steer clear of this veggie.
The iceberg lettuce contains up to 96% water which is why it can cause diarrhea, while the amount of vitamin C, which is essential for the healthy development of guinea pigs, is extremely low.
Since we’ve mentioned vitamin C, let’s take a moment and talk about it in greater detail. Guinea pigs don’t have the ability to produce or store vitamin C, which means that they need to have it constantly supplied through their everyday food.
Of course, pellets specially made for cavies include pretty much everything our furry friends need, but even their nutritional value can vary according to various conditions such as whether the pack has been exposed to air for a longer period.
Fresh vegetables, on the other hand, are an excellent source of nutrients and vitamins that can ensure the occasional boosts for a healthy and active life. Furthermore, if you do choose to include vegetables that contain high levels of vitamin C (such as broccoli), this will also help fight free radicals, so your pet will enjoy a longer and happier life.
On the other hand, no matter what vegetables or fruits you choose, you need to do a little research beforehand and see if they are suitable for guinea pigs and in what quantities. For example, broccoli is an excellent source of nutrients and vitamins, but it also comes with certain components that can lead to kidney stones if a guinea pig eats too much of it.
Introducing new food
This brings us to the next aspect that you need to take into consideration, namely when and how you introduce new types of food into your cavy’s diet. While it’s true that having a varied menu is the best policy, if you are planning on introducing more than one new element, you should do this one change at a time.
While this principle is applicable to all pets, it’s particularly important for guinea pigs that can easily experience gas, bloating, and diarrhea caused by food if you don’t take some precautions beforehand.
The idea behind is simple: if you only introduce one type of food at a certain point, in case something goes wrong and your little friend gets an upset stomach, you will know what the cause is.
Moreover, in case you plan on changing his or her pellets with a completely new brand and product, then you should do this gradually, by mixing some of the previous food with a little bit of the new one, and then add a bit more of the latter every day.
This will give your guinea pig’s body the time to adjust to anything that might be different in the new product, without a drastic change.
How important are pellets?
While you are probably aware that creating a mix of fresh fruits and veggies is highly advisable, you should not overlook pellets and their importance for your pet’s healthy development. These foods should be a consistent part of the diet because they include the vitamins, nutrients, and minerals your furry friend needs.
In case you are thinking about skipping them altogether, you should get an opinion from a vet first, to avoid any future health problems. Moreover, because of their structure, pellets include a little bit of every nutritional benefit in each bite, which means that cavies don’t get to pick only their favorite ingredients, so you can rest assured that they get everything they need.
In terms of other general advice, remember to avoid anything that contains seeds, even if it’s a food you buy from a pet shop that is marketed as safe for guinea pigs. They pose choking hazards and don’t usually bring any real benefit.
Moreover, different types of rodents have different needs, so don’t think that you can feed your guinea pig food that was specially made for rabbits, hamsters, and other similar animals. They don’t have the nutritional balance that this species needs.
Also beware that while hay is something that a guinea pig can munch on without the risk of gaining too much weight, the same cannot be said about pellets. Balance is the key word here, so you need to make sure that you follow this principle in order to enjoy a longer time with the little guy.