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
- 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 in weight or
Amount needed to
|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|
(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