SPCA New Zealand
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Why is Vitamin C important for my guinea pigs?

We recently had two Guinea Pigs, Peanut and Flossie, join our family. Somebody told me that for Guinea Pigs to be healthy, it is really important that they have enough vitamin C. Can you tell me why and what I can do to make sure my GPs get enough vitamin C?

Every animal has a requirement for certain essential nutrients that they are unable to produce on their own and what these are will differ between species. In guinea pigs, one key essential nutrient they need is vitamin C. This vitamin is vital for the healing of wounds, and the normal development and maintenance of skin, joints, and mucousal surfaces (such as the gums). A deficiency of vitamin C can also affect the function of the immune system and make the body more vulnerable to other diseases, infections, and conditions. If a guinea pig has vitamin C deficiency he/she may have a rough hair coat; be lethargic, weak, and/or reluctant to walk; and have a poor appetite, diarrhoea, swollen feet or joints, or haemorrhages and ulcers on his/her gums or skin. The bleeding into muscle, the intestines, and other tissues that is associated with vitamin C deficiency makes this a painful condition.

To avoid vitamin C deficiency in your guinea pigs they should be fed plenty of fresh fruit and leafy green or coloured vegetables every day.

Vitamin C is often included in special guinea pig pellet food but these, and vitamin C liquid supplements (which are added to guinea pigs drinking water), are not reliable sources of this vitamin because this essential nutrient is a relatively unstable compound and breaks down or oxidises quickly. Therefore, to make sure they get enough vitamin C, guinea pigs should always have plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables as part of their daily diet, especially fresh leafy green vegetables (such as kale, parsley, and spinach).

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