What do Guinea Pigs Eat: Complete Guide + Vet Q&A

In nature guinea pigs would munch on grass, herbs, and some crops.

But what do guinea pigs eat as pets?

Our adorable family members have the luxury of being picky eaters, so I will include extensive lists of foods, daily nutritional needs, and feeding schedules to clarify and guide you through the nutritional needs of guinea pigs. 

Let’s jump right in, feel free to screenshot the lists to have them at all times as a guide. 

What do Guinea Pigs Eat: The Herbivorous Nature

Essential foodsTypes of food
Vitamin Cbell peppers 
kale
tomatoes
strawberries
oranges
FiberTimothy Hay (80-90%)grasscarrotscucumberscelery
Proteinpellets (5-10%/about 1/8 cup)
essential nutrients for guinea pigs
VegetablesHerbsVegetable  in moderationFruits as Treats
Artichoke leaves (green and white leaves)BasilAsparagusBanana
Baby corn on cobCorianderBroccoliBlueberry
Bell PeppersDillBrussel Sprouts Carrot
BeetrootMintCabbage Cherry
Carrot topsOreganoCucumber Kiwi
Cauliflower leaves and stalksRosemaryKaleMelon
Celery leavesSageParsleyPear
ChicoryThymeRed cabbagePlum
Collard greensAniseRomaine lettuceSquash
Courgette (and flowers)Dandelion GreensSpinachStrawberry
Green beansChamomilePineapple
Lettuce – Butterhead, Red leaf, Cos, Little Gem (not iceburg)ChickweedApple (no seeds)
ParsnipsCilantro (Coriander)Apricot
Pak Choi/Bok ChoiCleaversBlackberries
Peas – leaves and podsCloverCurrants
RocketFigs
Savoy cabbageCantaloupe
Spring greens Cherries (no pits)
Swiss chardCranberries
Tomato (not leaves/vine, as poisonous) Papaya
WatercressPears
types of food guinea pigs can eat

Guinea pigs eat plant-based and rich in fiber and vitamin C foods including fruits, vegetables, grass, herbs, and crops. 

In the wild, guinea pigs are herbivores, which means they primarily eat plant-based foods

They have evolved to consume a diet consisting of grasses, plants, herbs, vegetables, and crops

Guinea pigs have a unique digestive system that requires a high-fiber diet to maintain a healthy balance of gut bacteria and prevent digestive disorders (ex: diarrhea and obesity).

Guinea pigs also have continuously growing teeth, and a plant-based diet helps wear down their teeth naturally. The constant chewing on fibrous hay and grass helps prevent overgrowth of their teeth and keeps them at the correct length and shape. 

Lack of proper dental wear can lead to dental problems, pain, and difficulty eating.

To meet the nutritional needs of guinea pigs, their diet should consist of the following components:

  • Hay and Grass: Good-quality hay should make up the majority of a guinea pig’s diet. Hay provides essential fiber and promotes dental health. Fresh grass is also beneficial and should be offered daily if possible. Hay and grass should always be available to guinea pigs.
  • Fresh Greens and Vegetables: Guinea pigs should be fed a variety of fresh greens and vegetables suitable for their dietary needs. This includes leafy greens like lettuce, spinach, and kale, as well as vegetables such as bell peppers, carrots, and cucumbers. These provide essential vitamins, minerals, and additional hydration.
  • Pellets: A small portion (about 5-10%) of a guinea pig’s diet can consist of high-quality guinea pig pellets. These pellets are specially formulated to meet their nutritional needs and should be fed in moderation.
  • Water: Fresh and clean water should be available at all times. Guinea pigs need an adequate supply of water to stay hydrated and maintain overall health.

It’s important to avoid feeding guinea pigs processed foods, dairy products, nuts and seeds, onions, garlic, and other foods that may be harmful to them.

Remember, every guinea pig is unique, and their dietary needs may vary slightly. It’s always a good idea to consult with a veterinarian who can provide personalized advice based on your guinea pig’s specific requirements.

what do guinea pigs eat everyday

Hay and Grass as Staple Foods

guinea pig eating grass

Hay and grass are staple foods for guinea pigs. They help maintain a healthy digestive system, and dental health, provide essential nutrients, and satisfy their natural grazing behavior.

Hay is rich in essential nutrients such as fiber, protein, and vitamins and minerals they need to thrive. 

Fresh grass also contributes to their nutritional intake and provides additional variety to their diet.

Guinea pigs are natural grazers, and in the wild, they would spend a significant amount of time foraging and grazing on grass. 

Fresh grass offers additional hydration, environmental enrichment, and mental stimulation for guinea pigs. It also allows them to exhibit natural behaviors like nibbling, exploring, and exercising.

Vegetables and Fruits

VegetablesBenefit 
Leafy greensVitamin C
Bell peppersVitamin C + Antioxidants
CucumberHydration and fiber
CarrotsVitamin A
BroccoliVitamin C + Fiber + Antioxidants +  Calcium + Potassium
CeleryFiber + Hydration
ZucchiniFiber + Potassium + Magnesium + Vitamin C + Hydration
Green beansFiber + Vitamin C
PeasFiber + Vitamin C
fruits and veg for guinea pigs

Vegetables for Nutritional Balance

Leafy greens: Romaine lettuce, spinach, kale, and parsley are excellent choices for guinea pigs because they are rich in vitamins and minerals. They provide essential nutrients such as Vitamin C, which is important for guinea pigs as they cannot produce it on their own. Leafy greens also contain fiber, which helps maintain a healthy weight for your guinea pig. 

Bell peppers: Red, green, and yellow bell peppers are a great source of Vitamin C for guinea pigs. They are also rich in antioxidants and provide a crunchy texture that helps keep their teeth healthy by promoting natural wear. Bell peppers are low in calories, making them a healthy and tasty addition to a guinea pig’s diet.

Cucumber: Cucumbers are hydrating and have a high water content, which helps maintain proper hydration for guinea pigs. They are low in calories and provide a refreshing treat. However, cucumbers should be given in moderation due to their high water content and low nutrient density. 

Carrots: Carrots are a good source of Vitamin A, which is essential for guinea pigs’ vision and overall immune health. They also contain fiber and provide a satisfying crunch that helps wear down their continuously growing teeth. Carrots should be fed in moderation due to their natural sugar content.

Broccoli: Broccoli is a nutritious vegetable for guinea pigs as it is high in Vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants. It also provides essential minerals like calcium and potassium. However, broccoli should be given in small amounts as it can cause gas or digestive upset if consumed in excess. 

Celery: Celery is a good source of fiber and water, which helps maintain healthy digestion and hydration for guinea pigs. It has a crunchy texture that can help wear down their teeth naturally. However, celery should be given in moderation due to its high water content.

Zucchini: Zucchini is a low-calorie vegetable that provides hydration and fiber for guinea pigs. It is also a good source of Vitamin C and contains minerals like potassium and magnesium. Guinea pigs can enjoy zucchini in moderation as part of a varied diet.

Green beans: Green beans are a nutritious choice for guinea pigs as they are rich in Vitamin C, fiber, and other essential nutrients. They provide a crunchy texture that promotes dental health and are low in calories. Green beans can be fed to guinea pigs as a regular part of their diet. 

Peas: Peas are a good source of fiber, Vitamin C, and other essential nutrients for guinea pigs. 

Fruits For Nutritional Balance

Fruits should be considered as occasional treats. 

FruitsBenefits
OrangesVitamin C
ApplesVitamins A, C, and K + Calcium + Potassium  + Iron
StrawberriesVitamin C + Antioxidants
OrangesVitamin C
KiwiVitamin C
PapayaVitamin C + digestive enzymes 
BlueberriesAntioxidants
Mellons Vitamins + Minerals
PearsVitamins + Minerals

Oranges: Oranges are a good source of vitamin C and can be given to guinea pigs as an occasional treat. They should be served in small amounts due to their high sugar content and high acidity. It’s important to remove any seeds and peel the orange before offering it to your guinea pig.

Apples: Apples are healthy fruit for guinea pigs as they provide essential vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A, C, and K, as well as calcium, potassium, and iron. They are low in sugar, which is important for guinea pigs with sensitive digestive systems. However, apples should be served in moderation to prevent diarrhea.

Strawberries: Strawberries are a delicious treat for guinea pigs. They are rich in vitamin C, which is crucial for their overall health. However, strawberries should only be offered in moderation due to their sugar content. 

Kiwi: Another fruit with high vitamin C content, kiwi can be offered occasionally.

Papaya: Contains enzymes that aid digestion and provide vitamin C.

Blueberries: Blueberries are rich in antioxidants and can be a nutritious addition to a guinea pig’s diet. They are low in sugar and provide essential vitamins and minerals. Blueberries can be given as an occasional treat, but should not be the primary source of fruit in their diet.

Melons: Melons, such as watermelon and cantaloupe, can be offered to guinea pigs in small amounts. They are hydrating and contain vitamins and minerals. However, melons should be served without seeds and in moderation due to their sugar content.

Pears: Pears are a safe fruit for guinea pigs and can provide them with vitamins and minerals. They should be served ripe and in small amounts as an occasional treat. Like other fruits, pears should not be the main component of their diet.

The Role of Timothy Hay

Timothy hay is an essential part of a guinea pig’s diet. It provides vital fiber for digestion, helps maintain healthy teeth, and supplies necessary nutrients like vitamin C. 

Unlimited access to fresh, high-quality Timothy hay ensures the overall well-being of guinea pigs and promotes their natural feeding behaviors

Timothy Hay benefits

  1. It helps prevent gastrointestinal issues such as bloating, diarrhea, and constipation. The high fiber content aids in maintaining healthy digestion and regulates the passage of food through their small and large intestines.
  2. Fiber helps them wear down their continuously growing teeth, preventing dental problems.
  3. Timothy hay contains essential nutrients, including vitamin C, which is vital for guinea pigs since they cannot produce it on their own. Guinea pigs require a daily intake of vitamin C to prevent scurvy and maintain optimal health.

Quantity and Quality Considerations:

Guinea pigs should have unlimited access to Timothy hay throughout the day. 

It should constitute approximately 80-90% of their daily food intake. 

When selecting Timothy hay, it is important to choose high-quality hay that is fresh, green, and free of mold or dust. 

Fresh hay retains its nutritional value and is more appealing to guinea pigs. Avoid hay that appears brown or excessively dry, as it may lack the necessary nutrients.

Guinea Pig-Specific Pellets

Guinea pig pellets play an important role in providing essential nutrients to complement their diet. 

While hay and fresh vegetables should make up the majority of their diet, pellets serve as a supplemental food source

Pellets are formulated to contain a balanced mix of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients necessary for guinea pigs’ overall well-being. They help ensure that guinea pigs receive a consistent intake of essential nutrients, especially when hay and fresh vegetables may vary in nutritional content.

Selection Criteria for High-Quality Pellets

  1. Nutritional Content: High-quality pellets should provide a balanced mix of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Look for pellets that meet the specific dietary requirements of guinea pigs, including an appropriate level of vitamin C
  1. Ingredients: Check the ingredient list to ensure that the pellets primarily consist of natural, high-quality ingredients. Avoid pellets that contain excessive fillers, artificial preservatives, or added sugars, as these can negatively impact the health of guinea pigs.
  1. Pellet Size and Shape: Opt for pellets that are of an appropriate size and shape for guinea pigs to easily chew and digest. Pellets that are too large or hard can lead to dental problems or digestive issues.
  1. Freshness: Choose pellets that are fresh and have not expired. Expired pellets may have reduced nutritional value and could potentially be harmful to guinea pigs.
  1. Brand Reputation: Select pellets from reputable brands or manufacturers that specialize in small animal nutrition. Research and read reviews to ensure the brand has a good track record of producing high-quality guinea pig pellets .

Note: while pellets are a crucial component of a guinea pig’s diet, they should not be the sole source of nutrition. Fresh hay, especially Timothy hay, should be available at all times as the primary food source, and a variety of fresh vegetables should be provided daily to ensure a balanced and varied diet.

Vitamin C Requirements

Vitamin C is vital, as guinea pigs cannot produce this vitamin themselves due to a gene mutation that prevents the production of vitamin C in their bodies. 

Vitamin C plays a crucial role in the formation of collagen, which is essential for the health of connective tissues, including skin, blood vessels, cartilage, and tendons 

Without adequate vitamin C, guinea pigs may experience various health problems. 

Vitamin C deficiency in hamsters 

Symptoms of vitamin C deficiency: 

  • poor hair coat
  • poor wound healing
  • lethargy
  • lack of appetite
  • dental pain
  • Lameness
  • increased susceptibility to infections
  • bleeding gums
  • joint pain 
  • paralysis 
  • anemia
  • fever
  • decreased vitamin B12 absorption

A deficiency in vitamin C can lead to a condition similar to scurvy, known as hypovitaminosis C, in guinea pigs. 

Foods rich in Vitamin C

Guinea pigs must obtain vitamin C from their diet to meet their nutritional needs.

Recommended vitamin C-rich foods for guinea pigs include:

Fresh fruits: Citrus fruits like oranges and kiwis, as well as strawberries, papaya, and cantaloupe, are excellent sources of vitamin C.

Leafy greens: Include vegetables such as kale, spinach, parsley, and cilantro

Bell peppers: Red, green, and yellow bell peppers are rich in vitamin C

Broccoli: This cruciferous vegetable contains vitamin C and can be included in their diet [10].

Daily Vitamin C Requirements

Guinea pigs require a daily intake of approximately 10-30 mg of vitamin C per day. 

Guinea pig pellets often contain added vitamin C, but the vitamin C content can degrade over time, so it’s beneficial to supplement their diet with fresh foods high in vitamin C.

Other Vitamins and Minerals Requirements

The National Library of Medicine published a study referring to guinea pigs’ nutritional needs.

While their natural and well-balanced diet should cover most of these needs, it is still recommended to include a small portion of pallets to avoid nutrient deficiencies.

These vitamins and minerals should also be a good guide to what to look for in pallets. 

Calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium requirements of the guinea pig

adequate dietary concentrations of: 

  • calcium (8 to 10 g Ca/kg), 
  • phosphorus (4 to 7 g P/kg), 
  • magnesium (1 to 3 g Mg/kg), 
  • potassium (5 to 14g K/kg) 

Signs of Calcium and Phosphorus Deficiency

  • Weight loss
  • rachitic lesions in ribs and long bones
  • extreme enamel hypoplasia in teeth
  • soft tissue calcification 

Signs of Magnesium Deficiency 

  • poor growth 
  • hair loss
  • decreased activity
  • poor muscular coordination
  • stiffness of hind limbs
  • anemia 

Signs of Potassium Deficiency 

Invisible to the eye but include muscle and heart muscle strain.

Zink 

Purified gel diets containing 19 mg Zn/kg diet support normal growth and development. The requirement for zinc is 20 mg/kg diet for all stages of life.

Signs of Zinc Deficiency Guinea pigs

  • abnormal posture
  • skin lesions
  • anorexia
  • excessive vocalization 

Vitamin A

Diets that contain 6.6 mg/kg vit A appear to maintain optimal health and a slightly positive vitamin A balance in guinea pigs.

 If β-carotene is used as the source of vitamin A activity, 28 mg/kg would be needed to maintain a slightly positive vitamin A balance.

Signs of Vitamin A Deficiency 

  • poor growth
  • weight loss
  • incrustations of eyelids
  • severe dermatitis resulting from bacterial infection 
  • pneumonia 

Vitamin D

A quantitative requirement for vitamin D has not been established for guinea pigs, but currently used natural-ingredient and purified diets contain between 20 and 180 nmol/kg diet 

Signs of Vitamin D Deficiency 

Guinea pigs fed diets with a normal calcium-to-phosphorus ratio do not develop gross signs of vitamin D deficiency

Note: these are nutritive values based on specific living conditions of tested animals. Each pallet of food will have specific values formulated for the different needs of guinea pigs.

If there is a specific vitamin or mineral deficiency, your vet will guide you and recommend targeted values for specific cases. 

If you recognize any signs of nutritive deficiencies please schedule a vet visit for diagnosis and treatment options. 

Feeding Guidelines and Schedule

guinea pig eating carrot

Establishing a feeding schedule for guinea pigs is important to ensure they receive a balanced diet and maintain a healthy weight. Here’s a sample feeding schedule:

Hay: Guinea pigs require unlimited access to fresh hay, such as Timothy hay, as it is a crucial part of their diet. 

Pellets: Guinea pig pellets should be fed in moderation to complement their hay intake. Provide about 1/8 cup of vitamin C-fortified pellets once a day. Ensure the pellets are free of seeds or dried fruits. Pellets should be supplemented with hay and fresh vegetables.

Vegetables: Provide approximately 1 cup of fresh vegetables per guinea pig per day, spread across multiple servings.

Fruits: Fruits should be considered treats due to their high sugar content. Offer small portions of fruits like apples, strawberries, blueberries, or melons a few times per week. Limit the serving size to a small slice or a few small pieces per serving.

Water Requirements

Guinea pigs can consume varying amounts of water depending on their individual needs, but they typically require between 50ml to over 300ml of water per day.

Water quality is also crucial for guinea pigs’ health. The water should be clean and free from contaminants. Regularly check the water bottle or bowl for any signs of algae, dirt, or debris, and clean it thoroughly to maintain hygiene.

I recommend you use water bottles as they are less prone to contamination compared to water bowls.

Feeding Considerations for Special Cases

Diet Modifications for Pregnant Guinea Pigs

Increase nutrient intake: Pregnant guinea pigs require a higher intake of nutrients, including protein, vitamins, and minerals. Ensure their diet is rich in high-quality hay, fresh vegetables, and a balanced guinea pig pellet formulated for pregnant or nursing sows.

Calcium supplementation: Increase the calcium intake for pregnant guinea pigs by providing calcium-enriched hay or a small amount of calcium-rich vegetables like kale or broccoli. Consult with a veterinarian for guidance on appropriate calcium supplementation.

Avoid harmful foods: Certain foods can be harmful to pregnant guinea pigs. Avoid feeding them parsley, as it can induce uterine contractions. Also, steer clear of foods high in sugar or fat, as they can lead to complications.

Adjustments for Baby Guinea Pigs (Pups)

Once the baby guinea pigs are born, their nutritional needs and care requirements differ slightly from adult guinea pigs. Here’s what you need to know:

Nursing: Baby guinea pigs will primarily rely on their mother’s milk for the first few weeks. Ensure the mother has a nutritious diet to produce sufficient milk for the pups.

Introducing solid food: As the baby guinea pigs grow, they will start nibbling on solid food alongside nursing. Gradually introduce fresh vegetables and guinea pig pellets formulated for young guinea pigs.

Vitamin C supplementation: Baby guinea pigs, like adults, require vitamin C. Ensure their diet includes foods high in vitamin C or provide a vitamin C supplement specifically designed for guinea pigs.

Handling Picky Eaters and Dietary Preferences

Offer a variety of foods: Provide a diverse range of fresh vegetables and hay to entice picky eaters. Guinea pigs have individual preferences, so observe what they enjoy and adjust their diet accordingly.

Gradual introductions: If introducing new foods, do it gradually to avoid digestive upset. Mix small amounts of new foods with familiar ones and increase the proportion over time.

Patience and consistency: Picky eating behavior may take time to change. Be patient and consistent with offering a variety of foods while ensuring their nutritional needs are met.

Remember, every guinea pig is unique, and it’s essential to monitor their health, weight, and behavior regularly. 

If you have specific concerns or questions about your pregnant guinea pig’s diet or the care of baby guinea pigs, it’s advisable to consult with a veterinarian who specializes in small animals.

  • Chocolate: Chocolate contains theobromine, which is toxic to guinea pigs and can cause various health issues.
  • Onions and garlic: These vegetables contain compounds that can damage a guinea pig’s red blood cells and lead to anemia.
  • Dairy products: Guinea pigs are lactose intolerant and cannot digest dairy products properly.
  • Avocado: Avocado contains a substance called persin, which is toxic to guinea pigs and can cause digestive problems.
  • Caffeine: Foods and beverages that contain caffeine, such as coffee and tea, should be avoided as they can be harmful to guinea pigs.
  • Nuts and seeds: Guinea pigs have difficulty digesting the high-fat content in nuts and seeds, which can lead to health issues.
  • Rhubarb: Rhubarb leaves contain oxalic acid, which is toxic to guinea pigs and can cause kidney problems.
  • Houseplants: Some houseplants can be toxic to guinea pigs if ingested. Examples include lilies, azaleas, and philodendrons
  • Meat: Guinea pigs are herbivores and should not be fed any kind of meat.
  • Bread: Bread is not a suitable food for guinea pigs. It can cause choking or weight gain and lacks nutritional value.
  • Rhubarb: Rhubarb is toxic to guinea pigs and should not be fed to them.
  • Chives
  • Coconuts
  • Raisins
  • Daisies
unsafe foods for guinea pigs

Common Dietary Issues and Solutions

Guinea pigs can be susceptible to digestive problems, including gastrointestinal stasis, diarrhea, dental disease, and nutritional deficiencies. 

Here’s a brief overview of these common digestive problems:

Gastrointestinal Stasis: Gastrointestinal stasis, also known as GI stasis occurs when the normal movement of food through the digestive tract slows down or stops. 

This can be caused by poor diet, dehydration, stress, or an underlying illness. 

Signs of GI stasis include: 

  • decreased appetite
  • bloated abdomen
  • reduced fecal output
  •  lethargy.

If you notice these symptoms, seek veterinary care promptly to prevent further complications.

Diarrhea: Diarrhea can occur in guinea pigs due dietary changes, infections, or disruptions in the intestinal microflora balance. 

Loose or watery stools can be an indication of diarrhea. If diarrhea persists or is accompanied by other signs of illness, consult a veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment.

Dental Disease: Overgrown or misaligned teeth can lead to issues such as malocclusion, which affects their ability to chew and eat properly. 

Signs of dental problems may include:

  • drooling / excessive salivation
  • weight loss
  • reluctance to eat

Nutritional Deficiencies: Insufficient vitamin C intake can lead to scurvy, a condition characterized by weakness, joint pain, poor appetite, and swollen joints.

Vet Q&A

Q: Can guinea pigs eat meat or dairy products?

A: No, their digestive system is designed to process plant-based foods rather than animal protein.

can guinea pigs eat broccoli: yes

can guinea pigs eat apples: they might not like it

can guinea pigs eat cabbage: yes

can guinea pigs eat carrots: yes

can guinea pigs eat spinach: yes

Q: How much hay should I provide daily?

A: Guinea pigs don’t usually overeat, so having hay at all times is fine. 

Q: What food can guinea pigs eat daily?

A: Green bell peppers and romaine butterhead, or bib lettuce 

fresh grass (specific to guinea pigs not from your lawn mower), and hey