Food & Water
Guinea pigs must have access to adequate and appropriate water for their age, stage of production and weather conditions.
Guinea pigs require a minimum of 80–100mls water per day, per animal. Lactating and pregnant sows will have an increased water intake.
When providing water for guinea pigs, inverted glass water bottles with a metal or Pyrex glass cannula are recommended as guinea pigs will chew on, and block sipper- tube waterers. Feeders and waterers should be suspended away from bedding as they defecate and urinate into their feed and water if these are placed on the floor of their housing area. Spillages must be drained away to ensure dry bedding and reduce the risk of Salmonellosis.
In outdoor pens, care needs to be taken in hot weather, to refresh their water so that it does not get too hot.
Guinea pigs must have access to adequate and appropriate feed for their age, stage of production and weather conditions.
Regular assessment should be made of the needs of the guinea pigs in relation to the quantity and quality of feed. This can be done by weighing guinea pigs and performing visual assessment of their condition.
Guinea pigs are vegetarian animals and must have vitamin C to maintain good health. Cereal straw is required for young sows during pregnancy. They require an ab-lib supply of freshly milled pellets, which are softer and smaller than rat pellets. The pellets must be discarded after 90 days to ensure continuous supply of vitamin C. In addition, to ensure vitamin C needs are met, guinea pigs must be fed fresh vegetables. Guinea pigs must also have green feed for a number of reasons. If ascorbic acid needs of 10 mg per kg body mass are not supplied in the feed, it can be added to the water supply. Early on in their life, guinea pigs imprint for diet and may refuse to eat a change of diet. This can result in them starving to death. Guinea pigs are very fussy eaters and may refuse to eat or drink if feed or feeders are changed.
The daily feed requirement is 6 grams per 100 grams of body mass and 80–l00 ml of water. Feed and water must be changed and replenished at least every 48 hours although daily servicing is preferable. Like primates, guinea pigs lack an enzyme in the glucose to vitamin C pathway and require ascorbic acid. Natural supplies of this are found in cabbage, kale, green feed, carrots and pumpkin. It can also be provided using an oral supplement.
Guinea pigs’ teeth grow continuously, so hard- shelled nuts or other gnawing material, such as raw fruit and vegetables must be included to prevent overgrowth.
Guinea pigs are naturally grazing animals and so for optimum digestion, in addition to their daily ration of commercial pellets, it is recommended to allow access to grass for grazing and leafy greens such as kale, cabbage and lucerne. While green plant material is beneficial for guinea pig health, it must not be fed instead of commercial pellets as purpose-made pellets ensure that all nutritional needs are met.
Providing guinea pigs with access to a grazing area and plenty of fresh vegetables and greenery is not only beneficial to their health, digestion and nutrient requirements, but also provides environmental enrichment for them, mimicking the environment that they would have experienced in the wild.
Changing guinea pigs’ diets is not recommended as this can cause them to stop eating, potentially leading to death. However, if changing or introducing new feeds is necessary, do this gradually and slowly over a period of time.