Nutritious Guinea Pig Treats

Nutritious Guinea Pig Treats

What's more endearing than a guinea pig's cheerful chirps of excitement at feeding time? Naturally, you'll want to offer treats to your guinea pig now and then, but how can you determine which treats are the best and healthiest choice for your pet?

Thankfully, providing nutritious treats for your guinea pig isn't difficult if you keep in mind a few simple tips:

Moderation is the key

It's recommended that treats not exceed 10 percent of your guinea pig's total food intake, so their meals should primarily consist of specially formulated guinea pig pellets and unlimited timothy hay. Timothy hay is a vital part of your guinea pig's nutrition and provides innumerable benefits due to its fiber content and its usefulness for chewing (it helps wear down your pet's teeth).

Infographic of treats you can and can't feed your guinea pig

Guinea pigs are herbivores and they're very fond of fruits and vegetables as treats. According to the Humane Society of the United States, limited amounts of fruits and vegetables can be introduced into your guinea pig's nutrition, but gradual introduction is important to avoid abrupt or significant dietary changes, as these can cause problems (such as diarrhea).

Generally speaking, aim to feed fewer fruits than vegetables, due to the higher sugar content that is typically found in fruit. Bell peppers, with their high Vitamin C content, make a popular guinea pig treat, and leafy green veggies are another good Vitamin C-packed choice—think kale and mustard greens, but your guinea pig might also enjoy other vegetables, such as carrots or cucumbers. The Humane Society of the United States recommends up to one cup of vegetables each day, introduced gradually.

In terms of fruit, guinea pigs are often delighted with papaya, oranges, strawberries (all excellent sources of Vitamin C), apples, or pears, but it's important to serve these in small portions only. (Be sure to thoroughly wash all fruits and vegetables before serving them to your guinea pig—you'll want to remove any pesticides that lurk on the produce.)

Commercially produced guinea pig treats are also available, but you'll want to exercise moderation with these as well. Some commercially produced treats contain artificial sweeteners, sugar, or salt, so carefully read labels when selecting the best treats for your pet.

Please note: There are a few unsafe treats that you'll want to keep away from your guinea pig. These potentially hazardous foods include chocolate, nuts, onions, and iceberg lettuce.

Don't forget: The importance of Vitamin C

Guinea pigs are at increased risk of developing a Vitamin C deficiency due to their inability to synthesize Vitamin C. To combat the danger of scurvy, you'll want to be sure that your guinea pig receives approximately 30 to 50 mg of Vitamin C each day. Commercially produced guinea pig pellets and treats are usually fortified with Vitamin C, which provides a beneficial boost to your guinea pig's daily intake, but these may not be enough. While you can provide Vitamin C in liquid or tablet form, these options are less-commonly used. Supplementing with treats in the form of fruits and vegetables allows you to provide your pet with additional Vitamin C from natural sources, while still giving them the opportunity to enjoy the diversity and fulfillment that comes from well-balanced nutrition.