Guinea Pig Vitamin C Requirements

Posted May 31st, 2013 in Can Guinea Pigs Eat...? by WhatCanGuineaPigsEat

Guinea pigs, like humans, cannot produce their own vitamin C. This essential nutrient must be sourced from food sources or vitamin C supplements. So what are the guinea pig vitamin C requirements? A happy and healthy guinea pig, also known as a cavy, must receive around 25mg of vitamin C each day to produce optimal health. Vitamin C is necessary to prevent scurvy, as well as bone and blood vessel issues.  Guinea pigs eat vitamin C as a part of their natural diet; but sometimes they do not get enough, or they get too much, and problems arise.

The recommended daily dose of vitamin C for guinea pigs is 25mg, but some cavies may require substantially more or less. A pregnant cavy should be getting between 30mg and 50mg of vitamin C every day, and a cavy experiencing scurvy must also need around 40mg per day in order to become well again.  If guinea pigs receive excessive amounts of vitamin C they may experience symptoms of diarrhea, loss of energy, swollen joints, and small sores on the skin. If this occurs, the guinea pig’s vitamin C dose must be reduced to 10mg or 15mg. It is important to observe the cavy and determine the necessary amount of vitamin C. Some guinea pigs may have trouble absorbing enough vitamin C. It can appear that they are getting plenty, but they may not be utilizing it all. Watching for symptoms is incredibly important in these cases, as these cavies must be taken to the veterinarian quickly.

Finding a good source of vitamin C is not as difficult as it may seem. Red bell peppers, for instance, contain around 190mg of vitamin C per 100g of peppers. That’s eight times the recommended daily amount! Leafy greens like kale or spinach are another good vegetable source, weighing in at 120mg per 100g. Citrus is a fruit option that can be occasionally utilized. An orange has 52mg of vitamin C per 100 grams of fruit. Vitamin C supplements are another choice. A subset of owners likes the certainty and ease of use that supplements give. Vitamin C is photosensitive, meaning it degrades if exposed to direct light, so fresh supplements are always better than old ones. Some owners like to sprinkle the supplement in their guinea pig’s water dish; but due to the photosensitivity of the supplement, this may not be the best method. The preferred manner of administration is to mix the supplement with water in a syringe and feed it directly to the cavy. With all these different options, it is a surprise that vitamin C deficiency is still a problem.

Vitamin C promotes growth and health at the cellular level, thus a deficiency will cause problems throughout a guinea pig’s body. If a cavy is deficient at a young age, his or her bones and blood vessels may grow improperly, which causes many problems later in life. Scurvy is also caused by vitamin C deficiency. Symptoms of scurvy include small wounds appearing on the skin, loss of energy, swollen joints, diarrhea, and loss of appetite and weight. When these symptoms become noticeable, treatment must begin. If scurvy is left untreated, it can result in sudden death.

If a cavy is experiencing symptoms of vitamin C deficiency, it must be carefully observed. A trip to the vet at this point is recommended. Treatment generally includes daily 40mg to 50mg doses of vitamin C from food, injection, or vitamin C supplements. If treatment is completed properly, the cavy will generally get better within one or two weeks.

There are a few tricks to make sure a cavy is consuming an appropriate amount of vitamin C. If an owner is supplementing, the supplements must be as fresh as possible. If the guinea pig is getting its vitamin C through its diet, there are nutrient charts available online which detail exact levels of vitamin C in food. Be very observant of symptoms because if deficiency is caught early it is easily treated.

Guinea pigs should generally be consuming around 25mg of vitamin C daily, through supplements or whole foods. Deficiency results in bone and artery problems, along with scurvy. Treatment involves a trip to the vet and increased vitamin C doses. It is fairly easy to spot, so an observant eye will keep cavies healthy.

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