Vitamin C is essential for every animal, even humans. However, unlike most other animals the guinea pig can not make its own vitamin C. This is because your guinea pig doesn’t have the GULO gene. There are several other animals that do not have this gene such as humans, apes, insects, bats and some birds and fish.
Essentially this means that your guinea pig will need to get vitamin C from other sources since their body doesn’t produce its own vitamin C. You will typically give your guinea pig vitamin C through their diet, vitamin C tablets or liquid vitamin C.
You should try to give your guinea pig anywhere from 10 to 50mg of vitamin C every day. The actual weight, age, health status and pregnancy status of your guinea pig will adjust how much you need to give them. If your guinea pig is pregnant or nursing you should try to give them more.
Why Do Guinea Pigs Need Vitamin C?
It’s very important that you get your guinea pig vitamin C as without it they will likely have tons of health issues and a very short lifespan. The typical guinea pig can live up to 8 years if properly taken care of.
Guinea pigs have a naturally weak immune system and not making their own vitamin C already puts them in a compromised position. You’ll end up facing many common health issues such as diarrhea, urinary problems, elongated teeth issues, infestations and several others. The most important health risk for guinea pigs is scurvy.
Scurvy is a disease caused by vitamin C deficiency and is one of the most common diseases for guinea pigs. Scurvy can be very painful for your guinea pig and you’ll want to look out for swollen or bleeding gums and any open wounds in their mouth. If you don’t see your guinea pig being active or if they are reluctant to eat you should visit your local veterinarian to get antibiotics and you’ll want to reintroduce vitamin C back into their diet.
Signs Your Guinea Pig is Deficient in Vitamin C
The signs and symptoms of vitamin C deficiency are different for each guinea pig as each has their own personality, eating habits, weight control, etc. Because of this you’ll want to be observing your guinea pig for anything that is considered out of character for them. For example, if they were playful before but have not been playful lately. These are good signs that something is wrong.
The most common signs of vitamin C deficiency in guinea pigs are:
- Weight loss
- Bleeding from the mouth or gums
- Lethargy, lack of energy or sleeping excessively
- Sores on mucus membranes (nose, mouth, stomach, etc.)
- Lack of appetite
- Swollen joints
How to Give Your Guinea Pig Vitamin C
Since guinea pigs cannot produce their own vitamin C they rely on their environment or owners to provide it for them. The most common methods are through their diet or liquid vitamin C supplements you may get from your veterinarian.
The best, and easiest, way to make sure your guinea pig gets all of their vitamin C requirements is to fit it into their diet by adding in leafy green vegetables and fruit rich in this vitamin.
Methods to give your guinea pig vitamin C:
- Diet – You should be giving your guinea pig a balanced diet that’s filled with fruits and vegetables to ensure they are getting adequate vitamin C as well as other nutrients. This is the most common way that guinea pigs will get vitamin C.
- Hay – Hay is full of nutrients and is something you should keep on hand at all times. Not only is hay beneficial to your guinea pig, it should also make up most of it’s diet as it’s used to help grind down their teeth. The ideal choice for hay is to use timothy hay or orchard grass hay as these come with the best nutritional value.
- Pellets – Pellets are a good source of nutrients for your guinea pig and how many get vitamin C. You can find pellets in pretty much any pet store. You will want to be careful as most pellets lose nutritional value over time so keep an eye on the expiration date. Try to avoid pellets that contain animal byproducts or other additives like sugar.
- Supplements (Tables or Liquid) – The best form of supplement you can give your guinea pig is tablets that are broken down into small pieces for them to consume. If your guinea pig suffers from scurvy or is showing signs of vitamin C deficiency it’s common to use tablets to help supplement for short periods of time. It’s best to try and get them vitamin C through their diet first and then try supplements if you’re not getting enough in their system.
Best Vegetables for Vitamin C
The best vegetables you can give your guinea pig for vitamin C are green and leafy. You should try to give your guinea pig dark, leafy greens, bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower and certain squashes.
Best Fruits for Vitamin C
The best fruits you can give your guinea pig for vitamin C have less sugar than others. You should try to give your guinea pig strawberries, kiwi, oranges, papaya, clementines, cantaloupe, pineapple and lemon.
Can Your Guinea Pig Overdose on Vitamin C?
It’s not impossible but highly unlikely that your guinea pig will overdose on vitamin C. Their body, just like humans, will use what it needs and then get rid of the rest through their urine since vitamin C is a water-soluble nutrient. You shouldn’t be too concerned with your guinea pig if you’re giving them a balanced diet.
Can You Give Your Guinea Pig Vitamin C in Water?
Vitamin C is water-soluble. This means that it will dissolve in water and lose nutritional value over time. It’s best to just give it to them through their diet or with supplements. In some cases it may adjust the flavor of the water causing your guinea pig to not drink and that can lead to other issues like dehydration.
Article Sources & Research
A. (2017, November 21). Guinea Pigs & Vitamin C Supplementation: What You Should Know. Mariposa Veterinary Wellness Center. Retrieved July 21, 2022, from https://www.mariposavet.com/guinea-pigs-vitamin-c-supplementation-know/
Advice & welfare: Why is Vitamin C important for my guinea pigs? • SPCA New Zealand. (n.d.). Spca. Retrieved July 21, 2022, from https://www.spca.nz/advice-and-welfare/article/why-is-vitamin-c-important-for-my-guinea-pigs.
G. (2021, October 25). 15 Foods For Guinea Pigs That Are High In Vitamin C. Guinea Pig Tricks. Retrieved July 21, 2022, from https://guineapigtricks.com/foods-high-in-vitamin-c.html.
The Right Way to Feed Your Guinea Pig. (2021, December 24). The Spruce Pets. Retrieved July 21, 2022, from https://www.thesprucepets.com/feeding-guinea-pigs-1236840