Guinea pigs are one of humanity’s favorite pets. As small animals go, guinea pigs have quite specific dietary requirements. One question that is often asked is whether or not it is safe to feed your guinea pig dog food.
It is not safe to feed guinea pigs dog food. They are obligate herbivores, meaning that they need to eat plants to stay healthy and can’t process meat. They also need a lot of vitamin C, which is not in dog food. They should eat a mixture of hay, guinea pig pellets, and fresh fruits or vegetables.
Now you know that dog food is not a safe part of a guinea pig’s diet. Read on to find out why that is and what you should feed your piggie to keep them safe and healthy.
Here are some reasons why guinea pigs cannot eat dog food:
Similar to humans, guinea pigs are not capable of vitamin C production. That means that they need to eat foods that contain the vitamin in order to keep healthy. Dogs produce their own vitamin C, so food designed for dogs is unlikely to contain any of the vitamins.
For the same reason, rabbit food cannot make up a large part of a guinea pig’s diet. Without vitamin C, guinea pigs quickly develop scurvy, which could be fatal!
It is worth noting that vitamin C depletes over time. If you are feeding your pet guinea pig pellets as a small part of their diet (as you should), make sure to throw out any remaining pellets after a few months. If the vitamin C in the pellets has deplete#d, but you don’t know it, you could be giving your pig a deficiency!
It is also worth noting that a pregnant or sick guinea pig can require up to 5 times as much vitamin C as your average pig! Here are some foods you can give your pig to make sure they are getting enough of this vital vitamin:
- Red peppers are a great way for your guinea pig to get vitamin C. Your pig can safely eat red bell peppers as frequently as every day. Green and yellow peppers are also safe but do not contain as much vitamin C.
- Leafy greens should be a pretty big part of your guinea pig’s feed. Romaine lettuce, parsley, cabbage, spinach, kale, cilantro and others are all good sources of vitamin C. Your guinea pig should get 2 or 3 leaves of plants like this every day. Try to mix it up for better nutrition!
- Fruits and vegetables like cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower, strawberries, carrots and tomatoes should be sparingly given since they contain quite a lot of sugar as well as vitamin C that can cause diabetes or cataracts.
Guinea pigs are adapted to eating plants, and so are unable to digest meat in any form. Dogs are carnivores, so their food is packed with processed meat. For that reason, if a guinea pig eats dog food, it can make them very ill. Hay is a vital part of a guinea pig’s diet since the fiber it contains is what allows the guinea pig’s digestive system to function properly.
Here are some reasons why guinea pigs can’t eat meat:
- Feeding dog food, or any other kind of meat, to your guinea pig will damage their digestive system and may even cause a total GI block!
- Meat has no nutritional benefit to a guinea pig; they do not need protein, fat, or calories. Plus, there is no fiber, which is necessary for proper guinea pig digestion.
- Guinea pigs do not have the enzymes or acids required to break down the meat. Even if they needed the nutrients in meat, they wouldn’t be able to get them by eating meat!
When you give any animal food that they are not adapted to eat, it will negatively affect their health. While eucalyptus is fine for koalas, for example, it would make you very sick!
Here are some of the effects meat could have on your guinea pig’s health:
- High cholesterol: Guinea pigs are prone to heart disease. Similar to humans, there is a link between the cholesterol in their diets and their heart health. Eating any sort of meat raises a guinea pig’s cholesterol.
- Obesity: Also similar to humans, a guinea pig with a high-calorie diet will put on weight. This can put serious pressure on the pig’s organs, also leading to heart disease.
- Heart disease: Saturated fats are bad for the same reasons outlined above—guinea pigs do not have a digestive system that is set up for them. Feeding them a diet that is high in these fats could make heart disease more likely.
Now that we’ve discussed the various ways dog food and other meat products can affect guinea pig’s health. Let’s move on to the right way to feed a guinea pig. I have already hinted above at what kind of foods your pig needs, but let’s get more specific.
Here are some tips on guinea pigs’ diet, which will keep your furry buddy fit and healthy:
This is the most important part of any pig’s diet. Your guinea pig should have constant access to hay. Timothy hay, grass hay, and orchard grass are all great choices. Legume hays like alfalfa and clover are high in calcium, protein, and calories, so should not be the main part of your guinea pig’s diet unless they are pregnant or growing.
Guinea pigs need a constant supply of hay to chew on because their teeth never stop growing. Without the wear and tear that comes with constantly munching on fibrous hay, the guinea pig’s teeth can grow crooked and make it difficult for them to eat.
As mentioned above, leafy greens are a great way to keep your guinea pig’s vitamin C at a safe level. It is worth noting that iceberg lettuce does not have any nutritional value for guinea pigs, although other leafy lettuces do. Kale, rocket, marigold, rosemary, dill, and parsley are all healthy additions to your pig’s diet. 2 to 3 leaves per day should be enough!
Fruit is a tricky one. There is some disagreement about whether it is good to give a guinea pig the odd bit of fruit as a treat. On the one hand, it is a great vitamin C source, and the pigs love eating it.
On the other hand, fruits are high in sugar, so feeding it to your guinea pig could cause them to develop diabetes or cataracts. If you are going to give your pig fruit a few times a week, apples (with the seeds taken out) and mango are good choices.
Vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, and brussels sprouts are also recommended as part of a guinea pig’s diet. Again, you should only give them these a few times a week. They are a great source of vitamin C but are no replacement for the hay that should make up about 80% of your guinea pig’s diet.
The short and sweet answer to the question posed in the title of this piece is no; guinea pigs can not eat dog food. Not only can they not digest it properly, but it could also cause serious health problems like heart disease or a GI block.
Give your pigs an unlimited supply of hay, a few leafy greens a day, and some fruit and veg, and they will be happy and healthy. I hope that helps!
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- Dog Food Advisor: Do Dogs Need Vitamin C In Their Diet?
- Exotic Direct: What Can Guinea Pigs Eat?
- Ferm Up: What Does Gram-Positive Mean?
- Hutch and Cage: Can Guinea Pigs Eat Meat? Facts and Risks
- Illinois University College of Veterinary Medicine: Housing and Feeding Your Guinea Pig
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- Small Pet Select: 15 Things Guinea Pigs Shouldn’t Eat
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- Britannica: Orchard grass
- Small Pet Select: Hay, Fresh and Fragrant
- Mayo Clinic: Intestinal obstruction
- Lumen Learning: Herbivores, Carnivores, and Omnivores
- American Academy of Ophthalmology: What Are Cataracts?
- NIDDK: What Is Diabetes?
- Better Health: Scurvy
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