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Guinea Pigs & Vitamin C Supplementation: What You Should Know

Guinea Pigs & Vitamin C Supplementation: What You Should Know

Problems associated with inadequate vitamin C

Since guinea pigs are unable to produce their own vitamin C, it’s important that they get it in their diet! Guinea pigs deficient in vitamin C may have:

  • Poor hair coat
  • Swellings or sores around the mouth/lips
  • Delayed wound healing
  • Poor appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty moving or enlarged joints

The average guinea pig needs between 10 and 30 mg/kg daily for good health. A guinea pig who is currently deficient in vitamin C can receive up to 50 mg/kg/day. It is wise to routinely provide extra vitamin C to an ill guinea pig. Excess vitamin C is excreted through the urine and not absorbed by the body. Long-term supplementation of over 100 mg per day should be discussed with your veterinarian.

How should I provide vitamin C?

  • Formulated pellets
  • Fresh veggies and fruit
  • Over-the-counter Vitamin C supplements/chewable tablets

Premium guinea pig pellets, such as those produced by Oxbow, are fortified with good amounts of vitamin C. However, the vitamins degrade with time, which is why you should try to feed an entire bag of guinea pig pellets within 90 days of opening it.

Chewable flavored C tablets are available in 100 mg sizes, which can be quartered into 25 mg pieces and fed directly to your guinea pig. Some people have good luck with liquid vitamin C, which can be found at some health food stores. Avoid multi-vitamin supplements and do not add vitamin C to the water.

Tips for getting your piggy to take a chewable vitamin C tablet:

  • Break the tablet in half to release the aroma. Leave the tablet so your guinea pig gets the idea that it is something he should try or offer to your guinea pig by holding the broken tablet in your hand.
  • Break up the tablet or crush the tablet and roll in a piece of romaine lettuce.
  • Cut a groove in an apple, grape or carrot and slide the tablet through the juice.
  • Add a crushed tablet to 1 tablespoon of water and immediately syringe feed.

Below is a table with vitamin C content of selected fruits and vegetables, which you can use as a guide for selecting appropriate foods for your guinea pig.

Vitamin C content of selected foods and their appropriateness for guinea pig diets

Food Item

Weight or
Volume of Food

Vitamin C in weight or
volume of food

Amount needed to
provide 25mg/day

Guava 1 cup = 165mg 377mg 1.1 tbsp
Red Peppers 1 cup chopped = 149g 190mg 2.1 tbsp chopped
Kale 1 cup chopped = 67g 80.4mg 5 tbsp (1/3 cup)
Tendergreen 1 cup chopped = 150g 195mg 2.1 tbsp chopped
Parsley 1 cup = 60g 79.8mg 5 tbsp (1/3 cup)
Broccoli 1 cup chopped = 91g 81.2mg 5 tbsp (1/3 cup)
Broccoli flowerets 1 cup = 71g 66.2mg 6 tbsp (between 1/3 and ½ cup)
Broccoli leaves 1 oz = 28g 26.1 mg 2 tbsp
Broccoli stalks 1 oz = 28g 26.1 mg 2 tbsp
Lambsquarter 1 oz = 28g 22.4mg 2.2 tbsp
Cauliflower 1 floweret = 13g 6.0mg About 4 flowerets
Strawberry Avg berry = 18g 10.6mg About 2.5 average berries
Kiwi 1 cup = 17 g 164mg 2.4 tbsp
Green pepper 1 cup chopped = 149g 120mg 3.4 tbsp chopped
Mustard greens 1 cup = 56g 39.2mg ½-3/4 cup
Cooked broccoli 1 cup = 156g 101.2mg cup
Cooked Brussels sprouts 1 cup = 156g 96.7mg Just over cup
Kohlrabi 1 cup = 135g 89.1mg Just over ½ cup
Papaya 1 cup = 140g 86.5mg Just under 1/3 cup
Snap peas 1 cup = 98g 58.8mg Just under ½ cup
Turnip greens 1 cup = 55g 39.5mg Just under ½ cup
Red cabbage 1 cup = 70g 39.9mg Just under ½ cup
Orange Avg orange = 131g 69.7mg Between 1/4 and ½ avg orange
Cooked kale 1 cup cooked = 130g 53.3 mg About ½ cup
Peas 1 cup = 58mg 58mg About 1/2 cup
Clementines Avg Clementine = 74g 36.1mg Almost ½ average Clementine
Cantaloupe 1 cup balls = 177g 65mg Betwee1/4 and ½ cup of melon balls
Pineapple 1 cup chunks = 165g 78.9mg 1/3 cup of chunks
Dill weed 5 sprigs = 1g 0.9mg 154 sprigs
Dried tarragon 1 oz = 28g 14mg About 4 tbsp
Dried basil 1 oz = 28g 17.1mg About 3 tbsp
Dried oregano 1 oz = 28g 14mg About 4 tbsp
Lemon Avg lemon = 58g 30.7mg 80% of average lemon
Dried cilantro 1 tbsp = 2g 9.9mg 2.5 tbsp
Chinese cabbage
(pak choi or bak choi)
1 cup shredded = 70.0g 31.5mg Over ½ cup
Beet greens 1 cup = 38g 11.4mg Over 2 cups
Starfruit (carambola) Avg fruit = 91g 31.3mg Over ½ of an average starfruit
Collard greens 1 cup = 36g 12.7mg 2 cups
Watercress 1 cup chopped = 34g 14.6mg About 1 and ½ cups
Grapefruit Avg fruit = 120g 38.5mg Just under grapefruit

 

Blue = excellent choice for supplementing guinea pig diet
Green = good choice for supplementing guinea pig diet
Orange = fair choice for supplementing guinea pig diet
Maroon = poor choice for supplementing guinea pig diet