Guinea pigs need a proper diet, including unlimited access to fresh water.

Guinea pigs are herbivores and need to graze throughout the day (and night) to keep the digestive system moving. The best type of fodder for this is fibre, fibre comes in the form of hay. The long indigestible fibre keeps the gut moving. Hay should be available 24 hours a day– and especially during the night so they have something to nibble on.

There are many types of hay available but any hay is good hay providing it is dust free, green or golden in colour and has a good smell about it. Your local farm shop can provide hay in bales and may even split them for you. Some farm shops will deliver too. Often they will stock Readigrass or Just Grass (a form of quick dried, short chop grass) also ideal for guineas and can be fed daily. A good fibre provider. Look up your nearest shop in the Yellow Pages and ask them what they can order in. Most deal with Dodson and Horrel so ordering in Chudleys Rabbit Royale for your guineas will not be a problem.

Although dry food is probably the least important component of a guinea pigs diet it is most important to feed the correct one.

· For maintenance (pet, non breeding/showing) a food of not more than 13% Protein (lower if possible). Failing that only a small amount of a high Protein food needs to be fed. Fibre should be as high as possible but look where its coming from. Fibre from Alfalfa will also mean that the food has the wrong Calcium to Phosphorus rate for guinea pigs (a major cause of bladder stones and problems).

· For showing/breeding a higher Protein feed is needed.

· Do not feed a food that contains any artificial colourings. The whole of the pet food market is flooded with foods containing colourings and guinea pigs are no exception. There has not been any scientific research as far as guinea pigs are concerned but it has been noted by one ‘authority’ that guinea pigs present with a false positive result for diabetes when they have been fed on a food containing artificial colourings. Highly recommended for guinea pigs on a maintenance diet is Cavy Cuisine. Cavy Cuisine is based on Timothy Grass which has an ideal Calcium to Phosphorus ratio.

· There are basically two types of dry food: Pelleted and mix, pelleted is an all in one feed that gives the guinea pig everything they need and selective feeding is not an issue.

· Mix is a mixture of pellets (usually Alfalfa), maize and oats, flaked peas etc, this type of food allows for selective feeding if the bowl is filled regardless of what’s been eaten.

Fresh food: Fresh food must be given daily due to guinea pig’s need for Vitamin C. Like humans they do not manufacture and store it themselves. A good variety and balance should be fed. Include leafy greens, salad vegetables (avoid Iceburg lettuce) and roots and fruits. Feed fruits extremely sparingly and roots (e.g. carrots) too.

Grass is the natural fresh food for guinea pigs, due to its poor quality in the wild guinea pigs would graze on it continuously to obtain the nutrition needed from it, in turn this kept their constantly growing teeth worn.

See A Balancing Act to see how the body uses food and nutrition.

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