The answer to the question “can I give my guinea pig human vitamin C tablets?” is yes you can but you need to be careful. You can purchase 100 mg chewable tablets for humans and then break these up into quarters which will be enough for your guinea pig. It is essential that the tablets are purely vitamin C and not multivitamins designed for humans.
Guinea Pig Vitamin C Requirements
Vitamin C is essential for guinea pigs to enable their bodies to function properly. Like humans, guinea pigs cannot create their own vitamin C due to a gene mutation so they need to get their daily dose externally. By providing your guinea pig with the right diet they will get all of the vitamin C that they need.
A guinea pig only requires around 20 to 25 mg of vitamin C a day. As well as providing vitamin C through their diet you can also use supplements. It is very important that you do not give your guinea pig too much vitamin C.
Signs of Guinea Pigs Deficient in Vitamin C
If your guinea pig doesn’t receive the proper dose of vitamin C every day then they can suffer from a number of different issues including:
- Sores or swelling around the lips and mouth
- They can experience a nasal discharge
- They can lose weight
- They can experience teeth pain and bleeding gums
- Their coats will be in a poor state
- Wounds will take much longer to heal
- They will become lethargic
- Their appetite will decrease
- They can suffer from enlarged joints and have difficulty moving around
- They can suffer from diarrhea
Some pretty nasty things in this list. If you spot any of these signs and believe that your guinea pig is not consuming the right amount of vitamin C then contact your vet and let them examine your cavy.
The best way to help a vitamin C deficient guinea pig is to provide them with vitamin C. If they have lost their appetite then this will be difficult through food or a chewable supplement. So you will need to use a syringe or dropper to provide the vitamin C that your pet needs. You will use this to administer vitamin C through their mouth.
You will need to start the treatment by providing more than the normal daily dose of vitamin C to help them recover from the deficiency. This will take around one to two weeks. Discuss the dosage with your vet as you do not want to administer too much.
The Types of Vitamin C for a Guinea Pig
There are three main ways that you can provide your guinea pig with the vitamin C that they need every day:
- Vitamin C in pellets
- Vitamin C in food
- Vitamin C supplements
Vitamin C in Pellets
Pellets designed for guinea pig consumption will usually contain vitamin C. Before you purchase any pellets make sure that this is the case. You should give your guinea pig fresh pellets every day. They will usually eat around an eighth of a cup each day.
It is best to purchase pellets that have a stabilized form of vitamin C. With all pellets the potency of vitamin C within them diminishes over time so always check the “best before” or “use before” dates to be sure that you are getting the freshest pellets.
Don’t be tempted to purchase guinea pig pellets in large quantities as the vitamin C potency will probably diminish altogether before your cavy has consumed them all. It is better to purchase pellets in small quantities and then keep them in a dark place that is cool.
As for the type of pellets we recommend that for adult guinea pigs you get the Timothy hay variety. If you have growing guinea pigs then you can give them alfalfa pellets.
Vitamin C in Food
There are a number of vegetables and fruits that have good vitamin C content that you can include in your guinea pigs diet. You want to go for large amounts of leafy green vegetables and small amounts of fruit. Here are the best vegetables to give your guinea pig that have a high vitamin C content:
- Red peppers
- Broccoli flowerets
- Broccoli stalks
- Broccoli leaves
For the fruits it is best to give your guinea pig small amounts of the following:
Don’t give your guinea pig potatoes as these are too starchy for them and also avoid iceberg lettuce as the nutritional value is low. Although broccoli is a good source of vitamin C it can cause your cavy to suffer with gas so don’t give too much. The same applies to cauliflower and bok choy.
Other vegetables and fruits that are worth introducing into your guinea pigs diet include:
- Carrot tops and carrots
If you can find the following guaranteed pesticide free then you can feed these to your guinea pig:
- Chickweed (new growth is best)
If your guinea pig is not used to eating leafy green vegetables, other vegetables and fruits then you need to introduce these to their diet on a gradual basis. Too much too soon can cause your guinea pig to suffer from digestive problems.
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Vitamin C Supplements
There are special vitamin C supplements just for guinea pigs which provide the right dosage and do not contain any additives. If you can afford these then get them but they do tend to be pretty expensive.
You may have heard of a vitamin C supplement available in droplet form which you can add to your guinea pigs water. We do not recommend using these droplets as they tend to change the taste of the water a lot and often a guinea pig will not drink as much water because of this. If your guinea pig doesn’t get enough water they will become dehydrated.
As we mentioned before you should not give your guinea pig too much vitamin C in the form of supplements. It doesn’t remain in the body but when you give your cavy too much vitamin C they will have to ingest any other additives in the supplement.
This is especially true if you give your guinea pig vitamin C supplements designed for human children as they are likely to contain sugar which is not good for your pet. You can give your guinea pig chewable vitamin C designed for human adults that does not contain sugar and other additives. Just make sure you get the dosage right.
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How to Provide Vitamin C to your Guinea Pig
Although hay is not the best source of vitamin C you should be providing it to your guinea pig fresh every day. Timothy hay is best for adult guinea pigs. Hay and grass alone will not provide your guinea pig with the right amount of vitamin C that they need so you will need to supplement this.
We have discussed the benefits of vitamin C enriched pellets so make sure that you give your cavy new pellets each day. Remember that the vitamin C levels in pellets will diminish over time so make sure you buy them in small quantities and store them correctly. Most pellets will provide feeding instructions which you should follow.
It is best to give your guinea pig around one cup of leafy greens each day. You can mix it up to add variety to their diet but make sure that leafy greens are the main vegetable that your guinea pig receives.
You can give your guinea pig other vegetables and fruit in lower amounts as a treat. Be careful with fruits as these have a high sugar content so only give them a few times each week. Vegetables such as red peppers, cauliflower and broccoli are all good sources of vitamin C and you should provide these in small amounts to your cavy.
Be aware that some vegetables and fruits that are fine for us to consume are not good for your guinea pig and can actually poison them. So avoid feeding your guinea pig any of the following:
You can find vitamin C supplements disguised as a treat for your guinea pig and this is a good way of providing them with vitamin C. You can also provide supplements to your guinea pig in other ways such as adding them to their food or using a dropper or syringe to administer a supplement in liquid form.
It is best to try these different methods to see which work the best. Some guinea pigs will not be happy with a syringe or dropper even after persevering with this for a while. You can try different ways of adding the supplement to their food. Then check to see if they have ingested the supplement or not.
Do whatever you have to do to ensure that your guinea pig receives the right amount of vitamin C every day as it is crucial to their health and wellbeing. Remember not to overdo things and provide too much.