When it comes to your furry friends, it can be hard to know what to feed them. There is so much conflicting information available on Google, forums and Facebook groups that detail exactly how much they should be fed. That is why, with trial and error, we’ve come to a conclusion of a guinea pig diet (that can be used for skinny pigs too) that we think works well.
Why So Much Effort In Creating A Guinea Pig Diet?
Firstly, you might ask why we should put so much effort in formulating a perfect guinea pig diet? Well, there are two reasons for this. Firstly, it is important to note that while there are often amounts on the back of guinea pig food bags, these are often overestimated.
How do we know this? Well lets talk about Martha, our guinea pig matriarch. She came to us several years ago. We fed what the guinea pig food suggested and like the rest of the herd. Then when I went to weigh her, she was a staggering 1250 grams. That was way too much for a female guinea pig. Note also that Martha is an active guinea pig. This is also why we now weigh our guinea pigs regularly.
Female guinea pigs should weight between 600 and 900g (unless pregnant). She was over a third heavier than she should have been. Being overweight can lead to significant health problems. These can include heart disease, complications of diabetes, blindness and even death.
So, I decided to look into the guinea pig diet and found some interesting facts. Firstly, guinea pigs need very little dry food. We recommend pellets – see here. In fact, a normal guinea pig only requires 16 grams of dried food per day. The rest of their food should be made up of fresh food and hay. However, when you read the back of guinea pig food, they can suggest up to 50 grams per guinea pig.
When I dropped Martha down to 14 grams per day, she started to lose weight. Within a few months she’d lost 200 grams. She’s is also even more active than before.
What Does The Perfect Guinea Pig Diet Look Like?
Guinea pigs love to eat and that might be the biggest problem. Whenever I walk near the guinea pigs I can hear them cry out for food. And that is often the problem. As soon as they cry out, we give them food because we don’t want them to go hungry. But at the same time, would we feed our children a full dinner every time they said they were hungry? No, of course not.
So, we need to give guinea pig food in measures. Therefore, I devised a solution that combined regular feeds, with controlled amounts. The first section of this is to give hay two-three times a day. There should be about three handfuls of hay, per guinea pig, per day. Spreading out the hay throughout the day seems to make it last longer for the guinea pigs.
Next, we add 16 grams of dried food per guinea pig per day. There are a few exceptions to this. Firstly, if a guinea pig is pregnant I tend to add four grams per day. Also, if the guinea pig is underweight, I add more dry food.
Finally, we give our guinea pigs fresh food at midday. This can include cabbage, lettuce, carrot, cress, apple, cucumber and other fresh food that is safe for guinea pigs. They have about 30 grams of this, though pregnant guinea pigs can be given slightly more.
Does This Guinea Pig Diet Work?
We’ve had numerous guinea pigs that we’ve brought up since Martha that have been solely on this diet. Martha is still working towards her 900 gram target, but her rate of weight loss has slowed down.
Toffee is the oldest breeding boy we have. We bought him when he was a year old, but he was underweight. When we gave him the diet he quickly put on the weight and now weighs about 1,100 grams, the perfect weight for a boar.
Fudge is one of our breeding females. When she is not pregnant or taking care of young, she weighs about 850 grams. I would like her closer to the 800, but as she is steady at that weight, I am happy.
Then we have Toffee and Fudge’s two boys. They were born slightly underweight, which isn’t a surprise considering they were the first litter. However, they grew at the expected daily rate and continued to grow and are now, after seven months, at about 700 grams. Just a few more months and they should be fully grown and weight about 1000 grams.
Bringing An Underweight Skinny Pig Up To Weight
When we recently got in some new breeding skinny and guinea pigs, we were shocked that both boys were underweight. The male, was the same age as our two boys that we had bred earlier in the year, but he was half the weight. However, just by increasing his food from the standard 20 grams (we add four grams for skinny pigs) to 30 grams (in two sittings) we were able to increase his weight by 150 grams promptly.
From past photos from the breeder, discovered on further investigation, we determined that he had at one point appeared to be the right weight. However, we didn’t know that he was so underweight when we arranged his adoption until he arrived, and his current picture gave no indication of his current weight. Apparently, he had a previous owner who couldn’t afford him any more. So, we suspect he wasn’t given enough food. Lesson learned though – we always ask for the weight of the guinea pig on adoption or purchase. But we are glad we were able to help him and he has now bounced back.
Ways To Help A Guinea Pig Lose Weight
Should you even be in the position that you have an overweight guinea pig, there are many techniques that can help them lose weight. The first is by lowering their dry food by about two grams per day. This will yield steady results.
Another is to offer fresh goods that offer a poor calorie return but a high number of nutrients. One key food for this is celery. This has about 19 fewer calories in it than you get out of it. Therefore, it is a great food source to keep guinea pigs happy, because they’re eating, and keeping nutrients high but also it’s helping them to lose weight.
A final way to help a guinea pig lose weight is to add exercise into their daily routine. This is more challenging, and even we struggle to sometimes to get our guinea pigs to exercise. One way we’ve discovered is to remove food bowls and scatter food throughout the enclosure. This forces the guinea pig to forage, exercise and burn calories. It also encourages natural behaviours and is enrichment.
Another way to exercise is to let them walk around on the floor. Guinea pigs are great at sitting still in their runs, enclosures and hutches, but when on a living room floor, I’ve often found them more than eager to run around. We haven’t, in the past, always found runs to be automatically good for exercise. Shy guinea pigs can often spend more time hiding in the hide box or a shady corner than running around. Whereas some guinea pigs love munching around their run.
What Is Your Guinea Pig Diet?
Are you looking for a great guinea pig diet for your furry friends? Try our guinea diet and see how it can help your loveable friend keep to the best weights for their age and gender. Do you have a question about your guinea pig diet? Then why not ask in the comments section or contact us.