A Medical and Care Guide for Guinea Pigs


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Many pet owners provide a pelleted feed for their guinea pig. Combined with other quality foods, this can be a convenient way to ensure your guinea pig is getting necessary nutrients. Be sure to choose a top quality pellet to promote the good health of your pet.

NOTE: Pellets are not a substitute for hay!

Be sure to provide high quality grass hay 24/7 for all your guinea pigs.

Nutrient Requirements

Most guinea pig pellets are designed to satisfy the requirements specified by The National Academy of Sciences.    Nutrient Requirements of the Guinea Pig ( Nutrient Requirements of Laboratory Animals, Fourth Revised Edition, 1995) combines research from many studies, some recent, others over 50 years old. Some values have actually never been determined and are extrapolated from rat studies. The authors of this article encourage further research.

Find a complete list of estimated requirements on page 104. These are not daily requirements but amounts of vitamins and minerals for a kilogram of feed (note). Your pig will only eat a fraction of a kilo per day. Researchers recognize the value of a more natural, higher fiber diet but for practical reasons generally rely on a pelleted or similar feed. The pet owner has no such restrictions and can include other foods like hay, grasses, and fresh vegetables which would more closely approximate the diet of a guinea pig in the wild.

Guidelines: Josephine has provided valuable guidelines for selecting a high quality pellet for people who choose to use them. Select a pellet based on freshness, quality control, and especially on ingredient quality. She uses the AAFCA's definition of terms (the AAFCO is legal organization responsible for regulation of animal feeds and ingredient definitions).

Ingredients To Avoid In Guinea Pig Pellets

Sweeteners, Colorings, And Preservatives To Avoid

Find more information at

Alfalfa vs. Timothy

Most guinea pig pellets are alfalfa based. Alfalfa pellets are suitable for young, growing and pregnant guinea pigs. After your guinea pig is about a year old and fully developed (see notes), a timothy based pellet, which provides less calcium, may be a good choice. Be sure to select a pellet specifically formulated with Vitamin C for guinea pigs. Choose a plain pellet: avoid mixes with nuts, seeds, dried fruit and dyed pieces. Seeds in husks can be a choking hazard. Each guinea pig will eat approximately 1/8 cup of pellets a day when also fed adequate hay and fresh vegetables. Purchase pellets in small quantities and store in a dry cool dark place to preserve the potency of the C (look for a pellet with an expiration date to check for freshness).

To find ingredients listings and analyses of a few commonly available diets (unfortunately, most of these summaries are over 10 years old), read this thread. Some of the pellets whose ingredient lists appear:

You will find by applying the guidelines described above that KMS Hayloft and Oxbow Hay Companies' pellets are currently the best pellets available. Many of the other guinea pig pellets listed include corn, preservatives, some types of sweeteners, etc. that are not recommended for your pet.

Note: Actual nutrient requirements vary from one guinea pig to another depending on "developmental stage, reproductive activity, and age; gender; strain". Estimates were provided for growth and have not been increased to allow a margin of safety -- which would allow for variations in ingredients or differences between individual guinea pigs. Go Up

Guinea Pigs are for Life