Four ways to feed your cavy vitamin C

28 May

Cavies are unique among rodents for their inability to produce their own vitamin C. In fact, both humans and cavies are in the Animal Kingdom minority in this respect. For either to fend off scurvy, it’s essential to find external sources of vitamin C.

Fortunately, this is not especially difficult. There are a number of options available, but each has unique benefits and drawbacks. The question is, which method works best for you and your cavies?

Water Drops

This is probably the most common method, but it may not be the most effective in some areas. Most vitamin C drops are added to your cavy’s water bottle, so while the drops themselves are a long-lasting, stable source of vitamin C, their actual effectiveness will depend on the chemistry of the water you use. If you use unfiltered tap water, and live in an area with hard water, these vitamin drops may not mix properly, leaving your cavy at risk of scurvy.

If you choose to add supplements to your cavy’s water, remember that you will need to change the water at least daily, and that you will need to clean the bottle more frequently to avoid a buildup of gunk, algae and bacteria that could either block the bottle, or make your cavy sick.

On the other hand, if you have the proper water chemistry and plan on changing the bottle daily anyway, water drops can be a good choice. It’s possibly the least expensive way to fend off scurvy — one bottle of droplets goes a long way. Liquid vitamin C is also more stable than most solid forms, which means you can store the drops longer and won’t need to replace them as often.

Some liquid vitamins can also be added directly to your cavy’s food, which is also a good option. Be sure to read the instructions on whatever product you choose.

Specialized Feed

Many commercial guinea pig feeds now include vitamin C. While this will up the price of your cavy’s food, this method requires less effort, when compared to other option. If your cavy is fed, it has vitamin C.

Note, however, that the vitamin C added to solid foods is generally not as stable as liquid vitamin C. The vitamins in your feed with break down over time, especially if the feed is exposed to sunlight. Depending on the number of cavies you own, this may prevent you from buying feed in bulk, or stocking up in advance, which can be costly and mean more frequent trips to the store. You should also pay close attention to any expiration dates posted on the feed — if you’re not careful, you could buy outdated feed without adequate vitamin C content.

Always be sure to check that any food you select explicitly includes vitamin C. Do not assume that any feed labeled for guinea pigs or cavies includes this essential nutrient. Such an oversight will kill your pet.

Vitamin Supplements

In addition to regular pellet feeds, many stores also offer treats or other edibles intended to provide vitamin C for your cavy. If the vitamin C content is adequate, this can also provide necessary nutrients for your pet.

If you go this route, it will be important to carefully monitor your guinea pig’s eating habits. If your cavy chooses not to eat supplemental treats for any reason, it may not get adequate vitamin C, and could quickly develop scurvy. Solid supplements may also be subject to the same storage problems as other solid feeds — you will not be able to store them over time, and they may be costly.

However, if you find a product your cavy particularly likes, this can be a fun way to add to your cavy’s diet. There are many different products available, and they come in a wide variety of flavors, which should lend itself to ample experimentation and variety.

Fresh Food

All essential vitamins can be found somewhere in nature. If you can find an appropriate source, fresh fruits and vegetables can provide the vitamin C your cavy needs.

Vitamin C can be found in some surprising — and some not-so-surprising — natural sources. You don’t necessarily need to feed your cavy oranges to get it the nutrition it needs. In fact, that’s not especially recommended. Some cavies are sensitive to developing diabetes, and the sugar content in fruit can cause this disease to develop more rapidly. Dark, leafy vegetables are a far better choice. Parsely, a favorite among many guinea pigs, is exceptionally high in vitamin C, but it can be found in a variety of other herbs and vegetables as well.

Whichever options you prefer, it is often best to double up on sources of vitamin C. If you rely on a single method of providing adequate vitamins, your cavy is at a much higher risk should your feed or supplements fail for any reason. It’s also worth noting that overdosing on vitamin C is essentially impossible, even in guinea pigs. Excess water-soluble vitamins like vitamin C are purged in the animal’s urine.

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2 Responses to “Four ways to feed your cavy vitamin C”

  1. Val May 28, 2013 at 11:25 am #

    And there is nothing so funny in the world to watch than a guinea pig adept at eating a piece od parsley stem first and not dropping a leaf. 😉

  2. EmaPen June 3, 2013 at 10:13 pm #

    And to think they do it without hands, too. They put us two-legged creatures to shame sometimes. 🙂

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