Diet problems

The Importance of Vitamin C in Guinea Pigs

Cristina Pascual
By Cristina Pascual, Veterinaria. Updated: January 29, 2024
The Importance of Vitamin C in Guinea Pigs

Guinea pigs must take vitamin C because they cannot synthesize it in their bodies. Therefore, it is imperative that these animals be fed a vitamin C- rich diet that will allow them to meet their nutritional needs and prevent the onset of hypovitaminosis or other diseases. A daily supply of vitamin C is obtained by adding raw, vitamin C- rich vegetables to the diet, but occasionally it may be necessary to add vitamin supplements or complexes.

In this AnimalWised article, we discuss the importance of vitamin C in guinea pigs, the foods that contain it, and the doses necessary to meet your guinea pig's nutritional needs.

You may also be interested in: Forbidden Foods for Guinea Pigs
  1. What is vitamin C?
  2. Importance of vitamin C for guinea pigs
  3. Vitamin C dosage for guinea pigs
  4. What foods have vitamin C for guinea pigs?
  5. How to give vitamin C to your guinea pig?
  6. Vitamin C deficiency in guinea pigs

What is vitamin C?

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin that is necessary for the synthesis and repair of collagen, which is a primary component of bones, ligaments, and tendons.Humans, primates, bats and guinea pigs lack the necessary mechanisms to synthesize this vitamin. The rest of mammals can synthesize it naturally in the liver.

Importance of vitamin C for guinea pigs

The importance of vitamin C for guinea pigs lies in their inability to synthesize it endogenously. The specific cause that makes the guinea pig's body unable to synthesize vitamin C is the absence of L-gluconolactone oxidase, an enzyme responsible for synthesizing the vitamin from glucose. Vitamin C is crucial for the normal development and maintenance of the skin, joints, and mucosal surfaces, such as the gums. It also plays a crucial role in wound healing. Vitamin C deficiency increases the risk of infection and skin problems in guinea pigs, among many other health problems.

Vitamin C dosage for guinea pigs

On average, Guinea pigs require between 5 and 30 mg of vitamin C per kg of body weight per day. However, pregnant, nursing, young, and ill guinea pigs may need more:

  • In pregnant or lactating females: The requirement is 30-40 mg per kg body weight per day.
  • In sick animals with vitamin C deficiency: The requirement is 60-100 mg per kg body weight per day.

Here's more information about how to properly care for a pregnant guinea pig.

What foods have vitamin C for guinea pigs?

The easiest way to meet the vitamin C needs of guinea pigs is to add raw vegetables rich in vitamin C to their diet. Keep in mind that greens, vegetables and fruits should be introduced gradually to avoid digestive upset.

  • Bell peppers: among vegetables with the highest concentration of vitamin C, green bell peppers have the highest content, although red bell peppers are also a good source. Greens, vegetables and fruits should be introduced gradually to avoid digestive upset.

  • Green carrot leaves.

  • Fruits: such as strawberries or kiwi. Remember that overfeeding these fruits, which are high in sugar, can cause an imbalance of gut bacteria and lead to serious digestive problems.

  • Citrus fruits: such as oranges or tangerines. Although they are a good source of vitamin C, the citric acid found in these fruits can cause inflammation in the corners of the lips. You should only provide small doses of these fruits occasionally as a treat.

If you have ever wondered if it is safe for guinea pigs to eat bread, don't miss our article on can guinea pigs eat bread?

The Importance of Vitamin C in Guinea Pigs - What foods have vitamin C for guinea pigs?

How to give vitamin C to your guinea pig?

Pigs develop food preferences early in life and have difficulty adapting to changes in the type, appearance, or presentation of food. Any sudden change in diet may result in food refusal. There are several ways to provide vitamin C to guinea pigs. Let us take a look at some of them:

  • Fresh vegetables that contain vitamin C: Fruits and vegetables should be washed, dried and served at room temperature.

  • Commercial food: guinea pig pellets and mixes are usually fortified with vitamin C. Since vitamin C is a compound that decomposes easily, it is important that you follow the storage conditions indicated on the packaging and observe the expiration date.

  • Vitamin C preparations or vitamin complexes: Vitamin C preparations for guinea pigs are usually effervescent tablets or drops added to drinking water. You can also find vitamin complexes formulated specifically for guinea pigs that combine a variety of vitamins.

Guinea pigs get the most vitamin C by eating raw vegetables with vitamin C and food containing vitamin C. Preparations or vitamin complexes have the following disadvantages.

  • Need for exact dosage: they require precise and accurate calculation of the product.

  • Source of stress: some preparations require manipulating the guinea pig to administer the vitamin, which can be stressful for the animal.

  • Rejection of water consumption: Diluted products in drinking water may change the taste or smell of the water, causing some guinea pigs to reject the water. In addition, the vitamin in the water is rapidly degraded and loses its effectiveness.

  • Decreased effectiveness: Factors such as light, plastic, glass and metals can oxidize the active ingredient. Be sure to use up or replace your guinea pig pellets within 90 days of the manufacture date or the vitamin C may degrade. Store the pellets in a dark, cool place to preserve the vitamin C.

All of these reasons suggest that vitamin C supplementation with guinea pig food is preferable to vitamin supplements or complexes, unless prescribed by a veterinarian.

If you wish to know more information about what kind of fruits and vegetables you should give to your guinea pig in order to keep their diet balanced, don't miss our article on what fruits and vegetables are good for guinea pigs?

Vitamin C deficiency in guinea pigs

Scurvy in guinea pigs is caused by an insufficient supply of vitamin C. This deficiency can be caused by periods of prolonged fasting or by consuming diets that are deficient in this vitamin. The clinical signs associated with a lack of vitamin C in guinea pigs are:

  • Loss of weigh.

  • Anemia and generalized hemorrhage.

  • Poor wound healing.

  • Rough hair coat.

  • Decreased immune response.

  • Nasal discharge.

  • Hemorrhages and ulcers on its gums.

  • Dentin changes and mobile teeth.

  • Musculoskeletal disorders in neonates.

  • Enlargement of costochondral junctions and epiphyses of long bones at radiological level.

  • Reluctance to walk or move.

If you notice any of these symptoms your guinea pig should be seen by your veterinarian as soon as possible. The most common diagnosis is based on a change in diet and oral vitamin C supplementation. In addition, it may be necessary to establish a symptomatic treatment based on the animal's symptoms.

Keep reading if you want to find more information about what to do in case your guinea pig has diarrhea.

If you want to read similar articles to The Importance of Vitamin C in Guinea Pigs, we recommend you visit our Diet problems category.

  • Association of Spanish Veterinarians Specialists in Small Animals (AVEPA). (2012). The essential small mammal clinic for general veterinarians .
  • National Research Council (US) Subcommittee on Laboratory Animal Nutrition. (nineteen ninety five). Nutrient Requirements of Guinea Pig . National Academies Press.
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The Importance of Vitamin C in Guinea Pigs