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

Guava1 cup = 165mg377mg1.1 tbsp
Red Peppers1 cup chopped = 149g190mg2.1 tbsp chopped
Kale1 cup chopped = 67g80.4mg5 tbsp (1/3 cup)
Tendergreen1 cup chopped = 150g195mg2.1 tbsp chopped
Parsley1 cup = 60g79.8mg5 tbsp (1/3 cup)
Broccoli1 cup chopped = 91g81.2mg5 tbsp (1/3 cup)
Broccoli flowerets1 cup = 71g66.2mg6 tbsp (between 1/3 and ½ cup)
Broccoli leaves1 oz = 28g26.1 mg2 tbsp
Broccoli stalks1 oz = 28g26.1 mg2 tbsp
Lambsquarter1 oz = 28g22.4mg2.2 tbsp
Cauliflower1 floweret = 13g6.0mgAbout 4 flowerets
StrawberryAvg berry = 18g10.6mgAbout 2.5 average berries
Kiwi1 cup = 17 g164mg2.4 tbsp
Green pepper1 cup chopped = 149g120mg3.4 tbsp chopped
Mustard greens1 cup = 56g39.2mg½-3/4 cup
Cooked broccoli1 cup = 156g101.2mgcup
Cooked Brussels sprouts1 cup = 156g96.7mgJust over cup
Kohlrabi1 cup = 135g89.1mgJust over ½ cup
Papaya1 cup = 140g86.5mgJust under 1/3 cup
Snap peas1 cup = 98g58.8mgJust under ½ cup
Turnip greens1 cup = 55g39.5mgJust under ½ cup
Red cabbage1 cup = 70g39.9mgJust under ½ cup
OrangeAvg orange = 131g69.7mgBetween 1/4 and ½ avg orange
Cooked kale1 cup cooked = 130g53.3 mgAbout ½ cup
Peas1 cup = 58mg58mgAbout 1/2 cup
ClementinesAvg Clementine = 74g36.1mgAlmost ½ average Clementine
Cantaloupe1 cup balls = 177g65mgBetwee1/4 and ½ cup of melon balls
Pineapple1 cup chunks = 165g78.9mg1/3 cup of chunks
Dill weed5 sprigs = 1g0.9mg154 sprigs
Dried tarragon1 oz = 28g14mgAbout 4 tbsp
Dried basil1 oz = 28g17.1mgAbout 3 tbsp
Dried oregano1 oz = 28g14mgAbout 4 tbsp
LemonAvg lemon = 58g30.7mg80% of average lemon
Dried cilantro1 tbsp = 2g9.9mg2.5 tbsp
Chinese cabbage
(pak choi or bak choi)
1 cup shredded = 70.0g31.5mgOver ½ cup
Beet greens1 cup = 38g11.4mgOver 2 cups
Starfruit (carambola)Avg fruit = 91g31.3mgOver ½ of an average starfruit
Collard greens1 cup = 36g12.7mg2 cups
Watercress1 cup chopped = 34g14.6mgAbout 1 and ½ cups
GrapefruitAvg fruit = 120g38.5mgJust 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