Can guinea pigs overeat?

Do I have a Pudgy Piggie?

Sadly, my guinea pig’s partner (Louise) passed away a little before Thelma. We attempted to provide her with a replacement, and unfortunately, it didn’t work out. So she became a loner who we fretted over, and embarrassingly, attempted to fill the void in her life with food. We spoiled the little chubster for the remainder of her days.

Guinea pigs are natural grazers, eating continuously throughout the day. If they stick to the grasses and plants their systems are designed for, they naturally maintain a healthy weight. But like any other domesticated pet, they have their favorite foods and seem to love the sugary and fatty treats they never would’ve had access to in the wild. You might wonder if guinea pigs can overeat. If we indulge them too often, obesity and health issues like diabetes can occur. 

Cavy carb cravings

Guinea pigs are herbivores. Their teeth and digestive tract are designed for eating plants and grasses, which are high in fiber, and low in calories. A free-range guinea pig left to frolic and graze would maintain a nice trim physique. 

But they live among us now. Many overeat, don’t get nearly enough exercise, and spend far too much time in their cage. This is what I refer to as the “chubby piggy trifecta.” 

Unfortunately, a comfy piggy isn’t always a healthy piggy. The easiest way to allow your pet to pack on extra weight is by not monitoring their pellet consumption. 

The recommended daily pellet intake for your guinea pig is no more than ⅛ of a cup per day. I’ve never had a cavy that didn’t love pellets, and they will gobble these calorie dense goodies down as quickly as you can refill their bowls. 

It’s essential to only give your pet pellets composed primarily of Timothy Hay. However, even these have a high amount of corn and soy meal. Too many pellets add a lot of unnecessary carbohydrates and sugars to your piggie’s diet. 

A little thoughtful calorie counting will keep your cavy trim. Guinea pigs are susceptible to Type I and Type II diabetes, and a weight problem increases their chances of developing the disease. If you have concerns, monitor for changes in water consumption. A guinea pig with either type of diabetes will get very thirsty

If you notice a significant increase in water consumption, check your piggy’s eyes for cataract formation or sudden weight loss. If you have concerns, don’t delay a trip to the local veterinarian to have your pet tested. Unchecked diabetes will quickly cause your piggy to slip into a coma.   

Prevention is key when it comes to diabetes. Keep your cavy trim by cutting the carbs, and don’t forget that your furry friend loves exercise!

Vitamin C

Have you ever given your cavy bell pepper? Mine loves it more than any treat I’ve ever given him. When he hears me slice into a pepper, he begins squealing and popcorning like you couldn’t imagine. 

My kids love it are constantly asking me to cut one up for their selfish entertainment.

In reality, however, it’s a win for all of us. Guinea pigs can’t store or synthesize vitamin C and need to consume approximately 90Mg every day to maintain their health. A red bell pepper has about 152Mg of vitamin C, and piggies hoover it down. 

I’m not recommending a whole pepper, but I give mine about a third every couple of days as a good treat and healthy supplement.

Maintaining a proper vitamin C level is absolutely critical for your pet’s health. A deficiency for as short a time as two weeks could cause your cavy to develop scurvy. Young males are the most susceptible, and ensuring your pet gets 152Mg of vitamin C is absolutely critical. 

Some pellets are fortified with vitamin C, but it degrades quickly and shouldn’t be relied upon. The safest option is purchasing cavy specific vitamin C pellets. 

Romaine lettuce is a popular item with cavy diners and provides about 25mg of vitamin C for every 3.5 ounces. And of course, they love orange, but remember, they should only be given limited sugary fruits to maintain a healthy weight.  

Conclusion

Whew, that was a lot of information spurred from a simple question! Yes, your guinea pig can absolutely overeat, gain too much weight, and develop health problems related to obesity. Raising these little guys can be challenging at times. 

I’ve been caring for cavies a long time now. When I take mine into the back yard to relax while they happily grazes on my herbicide-free lawn, I feel balanced. I appreciate the contentment and joy they bring into my life, and take pride in helping them balance theirs. That being said, their piggy weight loss challenge begins tomorrow.  

References

The Humane Society of the United States – Guinea Pig Feeding

North Carolina State University Veterinary Hospital – Caring for your guinea pig

Blackwell’s Five-Minute Veterinary Consult: Small Mammal, Second Edition. Barbara L. Oglesbee.