Thursday, June 13, 2013

Recipe: guinea pig salad (aka how to make your guinea pig extremely happy) and what to feed a guinea pig

cavy diet/guinea pig diet
Dr F's guinea pig salad: possibly the easiest recipe in the entire universe (unless you count frozen oranges).


(Really, you needn't stick to this list. The concept is just to combine a few of your guinea pig's favourite vegies, but you could substitute in any Asian greens, celery (esp celery tops), spinach, brussel sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, capsicum, mint etc.)

I used:
- Corn (on the cob, with the husk still on)
- Carrots (I used around 1/3)
- An apple (I only use around 1/4 at a time and only feed them this as an occasional treat, as apples are acidic and eating too many can cause cheilitis)
- Continental parsley (you can use traditional parsley if you like but my boars like the flatter leaves...)
- Coriander
- Boy Choy
- Basil 

NB Guinea pigs have different dietary preferences, usually established in the first few weeks of their lives. Adult guinea pigs are neophobic, ie they tend to avoid trying new  foods. For example, my boars won't touch tomatoes or brussel sprouts (I can't blame them when it comes to the brussel sprouts).


There is not much to this: 
1) Rinse vegies to remove any pesticide residue.
2) Just take a little of each and put it in or on a vessel of some kind. 
NEVER cut the stalks off as they love eating these - so its a waste of good food. It just ends up looking like leaves in a bowl.
cavy diet/ guinea pig diet
The finished product. 


You can see from the reception that my boars, Randy and Radike Samo, enjoyed the meal. They're a little camera shy so I didn't wait to take too many photos of them eating, but the plate was empty when I returned two hours later.
Randy and Radike Samo enjoy guinea pig salad.

A word on fibre

Guinea pigs are herbivores adapted to survive entirely on plant material, and require a high fibre diet. (They're a bit similar to horses in that they have a huge caecum designed for digesting fibre - this becomes important when anaesthetising guinea pigs, as when you lie them flat on the table the caecum can compress the lungs - so elevate their little thoracic cavities relative to their abdomens).

GP teeth grow continuously but are worn down by hay. Good quality hays include timothy hay, meadow hay, oaten hay, rye grass. Oxbow supply excellent timothy hay as well as a lot of other good quality foods (such as pellets and Critical Care formula for sick cavies).

cavy in hay

Is it true they need vitamin C?

Yes. Apparently humans, apes and guinea pigs are all prone to vitamin C deficiency as we can't produce our own. Its why humans deprived of fruit and vegies develop scurvy. If you provide fresh vegies daily to your guinea pig you should more than cover the vitamin C requirement - provided it is in good health.

BUT...pregnant guinea pigs have a higher requirement (20-30mg/kg vitamin C per day compared to the normal 10mg/kg) and sick guinea pigs require even more. (Its one reason why I use Ribena to administer any medications to guinea pigs - they like the taste but its a good source of Vitamin C).

And why does my guinea pig eat poo?

Glad you asked...but this is one dirty habit you don't want your guinea pig to kick. They practice coprophagy, eating around 40 per cent of their faecal pellets - this aids digestion and helps maintain a healthy population of gut flora. Mostly guinea pigs just turn around and grab the next caecotroph from their bottom - which is why we don't use Elizabethan collars in guinea pigs. It stops them eating caeocotrophs (as does obesity - portly guinea pigs can't reach their rear end).

Normally this is not an issue - guinea pigs will go right ahead and do this so you don't need to include any poo in the guinea pig salad. Phew.

If you want to know more about feeding guinea pigs, there is much to learn...I've written on the topic at length in Critters USA Magazine which you can visit here.

The truth is that most health problems in guinea pigs stem from a poor diet - so if you feed them well and keep them in a suitable environment they tend to keep healthy.