Vitamin C is an essential nutrient for guinea pigs. They cannot manufacture their own Vitamin C like most animals can, so they need to get it through their daily diet.
The average guinea pig requires 10-30mg of Vitamin C per day. Pregnant or nursing guinea pigs need an average of 30-40mg of Vitamin C. A sick guinea pig may need 50, up to even 100mg of Vitamin C a day!
Guinea pigs will pee out any excess Vitamin C they don’t need, so you don’t have to worry about overdosing on Vitamin C from natural sources.
Why is Vitamin C Important for Guinea Pigs?
If guinea pigs are deficient in Vitamin C over time, they can develop a condition known as scurvy. People can get this too. It’s a disease that causes weakness in the joints and difficulty moving. Symptoms of scurvy can include pain in the joints, unwillingness to move, difficulty walking, bruising under the skin, extreme weakness, dental issues, weight loss, a puffy coat (symptom of pain) and diarrhea. It can even lead to death if left untreated.
As you can see, it’s much better to prevent scurvy in the first place! Scurvy is easily preventable by providing your guinea pig with plenty of Vitamin C in their diet. Below you can find a list of 15 vegetables that have high levels of Vitamin C for your guinea pigs.
Best Vegetables for Guinea Pigs That Are High in Vitamin C
Veggies are one of the best sources of Vitamin C for your guinea pig. They are all natural, healthy, and contain many other great nutrients as well. However, some of them should be fed more sparingly than others due to high levels of sugar, acidity, calcium or phosphorus.
Leafy greens are commonly rich in Vitamin C and other nutrients, but they often have higher than average levels of calcium. Too much calcium can contribute to the formation of bladder stones, which is a painful condition that can prevent guinea pigs from peeing and often requires surgery to remove.
Some fruits provide a great source of Vitamin C, but they are often high in sugar. Too much sugar can cause obesity and related health problems in guinea pigs. As with anything in life, moderation and variety are key to a healthy guinea pig diet.
1. Sweet Bell Peppers
Sweet bell peppers, also known as capsicums, are one of the best sources of Vitamin C for your guinea pig. They come in several colors; red, yellow, orange, and green.
Red bell peppers are the highest in Vitamin C, at about 300mg of Vitamin C per cup. They also have a slightly higher level of sugar, which can cause obesity in guinea pigs if fed too much.
Green bell peppers are still high in Vitamin C, at 160mg per cup. They can also be fed quite regularly with their lower sugar content. Orange and yellow are in the middle for both Vitamin C and sugar content.
It’s a great idea to feed bell peppers to your guinea pig daily and rotate through different colors each day for more variety. Bell peppers have more sugar than leafy greens, but much less sugar than any kind of fruit. They are also low in calcium, making this a great staple vegetable in your guinea pig’s diet.
Parsley has very high levels of Vitamin C, but unfortunately it also has high levels of calcium. This makes it an excellent veggie for young, growing guinea pigs. However, it can cause bladder stones in adult piggies if fed too frequently. Therefore, it’s best to limit this veggie to a couple times a week.
Many guinea pigs love parsley, so it can be a great addition to your piggy’s diet in moderation. It’s a very nutrient rich food that provides countless health benefits for your guinea pig.
Like most leafy greens, kale is very nutrient rich. It is quite high in Vitamin C, and also a rich source of calcium. Another great veggie for baby guinea pigs. For adults, it’s a great addition to your guinea pig’s diet a couple times a week.
Be sure to rotate with lower calcium foods when you feed veggies like kale. This ensures that your guinea pig is getting a balanced mix of vegetables without high amounts of calcium.
Guava is another healthy and unique food to add to your guinea pig’s palette. This fruit is an excellent source of Vitamin C for guinea pigs. Guava actually contains 4 times as much Vitamin C as an orange!
As with all fruits, guava is high in sugar, and also has a higher level of acidity and phosphorus. Because of all this, it shouldn’t be fed in large quantities. You can safely feed a small slice once or twice a week.
Guava can be served peeled or with the skin intact. However, unless you buy the fruit organic, it will likely have been exposed to pesticides. For this reason, it’s probably best to peel the skin off for your guinea pig.
Oranges are a good source of Vitamin C. However, they are high in sugar, acidity and calcium as well. Because of this, it’s best to feed oranges sparingly. A slice once or twice a week is fine for your guinea pig.
Orange peels are also safe for guinea pigs and they contain even more Vitamin C than the oranges themselves! Many guinea pigs won’t eat orange peels, but if you have one that will, it’s a great thing to feed them. However, make sure the oranges you buy are organic, because orange peels are often loaded with pesticides.
Thyme is a herb that guinea pigs can eat. You may be surprised to learn that thyme actually contains a ton of Vitamin C. It is right on par with bell peppers, and it even contains more Vitamin C than parsley. It’s high in fiber and low in sugar, making it a super healthy herb for guinea pigs.
Unfortunately, thyme also contains incredibly high levels of calcium. Because of this, it should be fed in very small quantities, no more than once or twice a week. However, because it’s so nutrient rich, guinea pigs can get a lot of Vitamin C and other benefits from eating thyme even in very small amounts.
Thyme is also a low maintenance and easy to grow plant. If you have space in your garden, consider growing your own so you have a fresh supply of organic thyme for your piggy. Thyme is also a perennial plant, meaning it will keep growing back year after year with little ongoing care.
7. Mustard Greens
Mustard greens are a good source of Vitamin C, but like most leafy greens, they’re high in calcium. They’re also a bit acidic, and contain some phosphorus. Just like other types of leafy greens, feed this one sparingly once or twice a week, and mix it up with some lower calcium veggies.
8. Turnip Greens
Turnip greens are similar to mustard greens in nutritional value, so it all comes down to your guinea pig’s preference between the two. Both are a good source of Vitamin C and a bit higher in calcium. Turnip greens are very nutrient rich and make a great addition to your guinea pig’s diet on a rotational basis with other healthy vegetables.
Kiwi is very high in sugar and should be fed in small amounts, no more than once a week. Kiwis contain some calcium and phosphorus, which can contribute to bladder stone formation. They are also a little acidic, which can cause stomach upset for your guinea pig if fed in large amounts.
With that said, kiwi is a great source of Vitamin C. Even when fed in small amounts, it provides a substantial amount of Vitamin C for your guinea pig. In addition, they provide a great boost of Vitamins A, E, and K.
Mango is a good source of Vitamin C, and it also provides a decent amount of Vitamins A and B6. Like kiwi, mango is quite high in sugar and should be fed once a week max. It should be offered in small amounts, only a small cube or thin slice at a time. Feed only fresh mango, and avoid anything that has been frozen or dried.
Mango should also be fed to your guinea pig with the skin and pit removed. Mango skin has no real health benefits and it’s often sprayed with pesticides. The middle pit of the mango is much too big and hard for your guinea pig to eat.
Strawberries are a yummy treat for guinea pigs. Strawberry tops are a hit with most guinea pigs as well. Strawberries are high in all kinds of nutrients, including Vitamin C.
Like all fruits, they contain some sugar and should be fed sparingly. However, they do have comparatively less sugar than most other fruits. However, it’s still best to stick to just one strawberry once a week or so.
Be sure to buy organic or thoroughly rinse strawberries before feeding them to your guinea pig to wash away any pesticide residue.
Cantaloupe is a rich source of Vitamin C. It is quite high in phosphorus, so it should be fed in small amounts, no more than once a week. In addition, the rind and seeds should be removed before serving to your guinea pig.
Seeds pose a choking risk, while the tough texture of the rind is too rough for guinea pigs to chew and digest. However, the flesh of the cantaloupe contains many vitamins. This makes it a healthy treat for your guinea pig, provided it’s fed occasionally and not in excess.
Tomatoes are a healthy food for your guinea pig and can be fed a few times a week. They are very nutrient rich, and contain a decent amount of Vitamin C. Guinea pigs can eat small and large tomatoes alike. However, they should only eat about one cherry tomato at a time, or an equivalent slice of a larger tomato.
Tomato seeds are small enough to not cause any choking issues, so you don’t need to worry about removing them. Make sure to remove any leaves or stems from the tomato before feeding them to your guinea pig, as these parts are very poisonous to guinea pigs. Only feed tomatoes that are completely ripe, as unripe green tomatoes are also poisonous.
Broccoli is also high in Vitamin C. The flower part of the broccoli is the highest in Vitamin C, but the stalks and stems also have quite a bit of this nutrient. However, broccoli is a gassy vegetable and it can cause bloating and stomach discomfort if fed too much.
Broccoli is also a bit higher in calcium. Because of this, it’s best to limit this veggie to a couple times a week, and feed it in small amounts. It’s also important to introduce broccoli slowly into your guinea pig’s diet. Feed just a few bites at a time, gradually increasing the amount each time you feed it.
Cauliflower is similar to broccoli. It is a gassy vegetable and should only be fed in small amounts. Introduce this veggie slowly into your guinea pig’s diet and feed sparingly. Stick to once or twice a week, and don’t go overboard with this veggie.
Feed a High Quality Guinea Pig Pellet Food
Another way to prevent a Vitamin C deficiency in guinea pigs is to provide them with high quality pellets. Make sure you buy pellets that are specifically made for guinea pigs. Rabbit food and others don’t have added Vitamin C and other nutrients that guinea pigs need. Also avoid food with colored pieces or seeds, as the colored bits have no nutrition and contain extra sugar and additives.
A high quality pellet food such as Oxbow’s adult guinea pig food provides a decent amount of Vitamin C for your guinea pig in only an 1/8 cup of food per day. This is important, as guinea pigs shouldn’t be eating too many pellets in a day. They need high quality grass hay to make up 80% of their diet in order to keep their gut moving properly and their teeth ground down.
To preserve the Vitamin C in your pellets as much as possible, follow the directions on the bag for proper storage. Typically, it helps to keep the bag in a cool, dark place and zip it up completely when you’re done using the bag. It’s also best to use up the bag within 90 days, as the Vitamin C in the pellets usually start to deteriorate after that point.
Vitamin C Supplement Treats
Oxbow sells a supplement for guinea pigs called Natural Science Vitamin C tablets. One tab per day provides 25mg of Vitamin C. This is a great supplement to give your guinea pig daily if you’re not sure whether their diet provides enough Vitamin C. All my piggies get one of these daily. I usually give them half a cookie, because they also get bell peppers and other veggies daily. It’s definitely their favorite treat! All five of them squeal and stand up on their cage waiting for their cookie every night.
Some guinea pigs take a little while to start eating these tablets, but they usually love them once they get the courage to try it. If your guinea pig doesn’t love the hard texture at first, you can soak the cookie in water to make them soft. You could also try breaking them up in small pieces and sprinkling it in with their pellets.
Avoid Vitamin C Drops Added to Water
It’s best to avoid adding any kind of Vitamin C drops to your guinea pig’s drinking water. There are a few reasons for this. First of all, Vitamin C degrades quickly once exposed to light. Therefore, by the time your guinea pig actually drinks their water, there could be very little actual Vitamin C in it. It’s next to impossible to know how much Vitamin C your guinea pig actually received from the water.
Adding drops also changes the flavor of the water. This could turn some guinea pigs off drinking their water entirely, or it could cause them to drink much less than they usually would. This can lead to dehydration and other issues.
Balancing Calcium and Sugar Content
Vitamin C is an essential nutrient to include in your guinea pig’s diet. However, it’s important to keep other nutrients such as calcium in check. Too much calcium can contribute to bladder stones, which can be a very serious condition for guinea pigs. You’ll know if your guinea pig has too much calcium in their diet if you start to see white pee marks around your guinea pig’s cage. If you see this, start cutting back on foods that are high in calcium before bladder stones have a chance to take form.
Too much sugar can also have a negative effect on your guinea pig’s health. If your guinea pig is chunky or gaining weight too quickly, it may be a good idea to cut back on fruits and other sugary foods. Obesity can lead to many health problems in guinea pigs that could have been otherwise avoided.
Besides bell peppers, which can be fed daily, it’s best to mix up different veggies so your guinea pig gets a healthy mix of nutrients from different foods. When introducing new foods into your guinea pig’s diet, do so gradually to avoid stomach upsets. Try new foods in small amounts, one at a time. Sometimes guinea pigs take awhile to try new foods, so don’t give up too easily if your guinea pig doesn’t seem to like something at first.