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Can You Change Your Guinea Pig’s Food? (Swapping Diets)

Although guinea pigs eat a variety of things, their diet needs to remain relatively consistent for their delicate digestive system.

Making dietary changes is sometimes stressful for your pet and needs to be done gradually to allow the bacteria in his or her digestive system to adjust to the new food.

Researching the new foods and getting advice from your veterinarian before starting is your best bet.

It’s possible to change your guinea pig’s food, but you need to be careful. It is important to monitor your guinea pig’s reaction to any change in their daily diet. Be sure to provide fresh, clean food and water and watch for diarrhea or changes in behavior which may indicate problems.

Adult guinea pigs need about 1/8 cup of vitamin C fortified pellets daily.

Only feed your pet a consistent diet of adult guinea pig pellets, good quality hay, and fresh fruit and vegetables – not rabbit, goat, or hamster food.

Ensure water bottles, food bowls, and hay dispensers stay clean and keep the guinea pig food off the cage floor.

Read more to learn how to transition from an established food to a new food! 

can i change my guinea pig food

Transitioning to a New Pellet Food

Choose quality pellets directly designed for guinea pigs.

Switch from young guinea pig pellets (often alfalfa pellets) to adult feed at about 6 months.

Alfalfa pellets are not appropriate for adult guinea pigs due to their high calcium content, which can cause kidney stones.

Timothy hay- or grass-based guinea-pig pellets are preferable to alfalfa.

Vitamin C-fortified pellets are good, as guinea pigs cannot make vitamin C themselves.

Avoid lesser quality brands and get a decent pellet; you will spend more money on health costs in the long run if you skimp on quality.

Diet adjustments to a new food should take a week to ten days and involve gradually increasing the amount of new food mixed in with a smaller and smaller amount of their old food until you have switched completely. 

Pellets should only make up about 5 percent of their complete diet, so don’t worry if they refuse to eat the new pellets at first.

If their food refusal goes on for a long time and they show other signs of food switch problems, consult your veterinarian. 

Learn more about why guinea pigs need pellet food and other concerns about what kind to get in our article.

Transitioning to a New Hay Food

Your pet’s basic diet should consist of mostly hay, a modest amount of choice pellets (about 1/8 cup), and fresh vegetables and fruits.

Commercial treats are unnecessary and full of artificial ingredients and empty calories.

If you want the fun of giving your guinea pig a special treat, hide the food in a cardboard tube or give a rare tidbit of fresh fruit.

The five types of hay fed to guinea pigs are:

  • Timothy – This is the most popular hay, although it is tougher than the grass hays and has the best fiber, protein, and calcium balance.
  • Meadow – It’s made from the grasses, leaves, flowers, and seed heads from the meadow.
  • Oaten –  It has long stems with oats at the end and is fattening, so do not serve it constantly.
  • Orchard – This is softer and has a broader leaf than timothy hay, is sweeter, has high fiber and slightly lower protein content than timothy hay
  • Alfalfa – Alfalfa hay is only appropriate for pregnant or nursing sows and young pups up to 6 months because of its high calcium content.
  • Bermuda hay – It has good fiber, a moderate amount of protein, and a little more calcium than timothy hay. It is usually used for larger animals rather than guinea pigs.

Your guinea pig may refuse the new hay. 

Keep transitioning even if they refuse to eat it.

They will get hungry and eventually change their minds, especially if you do not relent and give them more fruits and veggies and pellets to make up the difference.

If you need to, reduce the amount of pellets they get until they eat the hay.

If your guinea pig gets diarrhea, contact your veterinarian and ensure your pet has plenty of clean drinking water to avoid dehydration.

Make sure your guinea pig hay is fresh by checking out our recommendations on how often to change it.

Fresh Vegetables To Give Your Guinea Pig

Fresh vegetables are always a wonderful treat – the greener, the better.

Your pet will show you his or her food preferences in fresh produce.

Some veggies to give to your guinea pig are:

  • Leafy greens such as spinach, romaine lettuce, dandelion greens, kale
  • Red or green pepper
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots and carrot tops
  • Peas
  • Artichokes
  • Tomatoes – just the fruit as the stem and leaves are toxic

Guinea pigs can develop bladder stones which are sometimes composed of calcium oxalate.

Reduce the chances of this by avoiding foods high in oxalates, such as spinach, parsley, and strawberries.

Fresh Fruits To Give Your Guinea Pig

Fresh fruit should only be a sometimes treat as fruit is higher in sugar.

Some fresh fruit options for your piggy are:

  • Oranges – high in vitamin C
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Strawberries – high in vitamin C
  • Blueberries
  • Kiwi – high in vitamin C
  • Papayas
  • Peaches
  • Cucumbers

Problems To Look Out For In Your Guinea Pig’s Digestion

If your pet develops soft or runny stools or watery diarrhea, seek veterinary care.

Feed your ill pet a mash of the previous brand of pellets and hay, and do not give any fresh fruit or vegetables.

Guinea pigs cannot vomit, so checking their stools is the best way to monitor their digestive system.

Digestive problems sometimes manifest in a refusal to eat or drink.

Lethargy, a hunched posture, and drooling are all signs something is wrong.

A rough or puffed-up coat is a sign your pet is not healthy.

If your pet experiences difficulties transitioning to the new food, lower the ratio of new food to old and take things more slowly. 

If symptoms become severe, contact your veterinarian.

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