HOW TO RECOGNIZE QUALITY PELLETS
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:
Animal products (including but not limited to animal fat, meat, tallow, animal digest, sterols, bone meal, and eggs)
Beet pulp (controversial even with dogs and cats. Considered low-quality fiber that can clog the villi of the intestine. Common in all animal feed since it is a byproduct of many human products.)
Corn products (including corn bran, corn germ, corn gluten, ground corn, etc. There is no legal definition of "corn" alone in animal feed, so it may be any combination of products. Corn is not a normal feed for guinea pigs, may contribute to allergies, and can be high in fat and certain sugars/starch depending on the product. Additionally, some corn is contaminated with deadly aflatoxin which can cause liver failure and death.)
Seeds, Nuts, or Oils (too high in fat and protein, not a natural food source, often present in animal feeds in seed byproducts that have little to no nutrient value)
Rice Bran or Rice Flour (more byproducts, no nutrient value in forms defined by the AAFCO)
Vegetable Fiber (any and every byproduct, can include sawdust)
Sweeteners, Colorings, and Preservatives to avoid:
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
Propylene glycol (causes premature RBC death)
Food colorings (include FD&C reds, blues, and yellows)
Sodium nitrate, sodium nitrite, or sodium metabisulfate
Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA)/Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT)
Find more information at www.mihog.org/diet/foodingred.phtml
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, read this thread. Some of the pellets whose ingredient lists appear:
Timothy Choice (Timothy based by KMS Hayloft)
Alfalfa Complete (Alfalfa based by KMS Hayloft)
Cavy Cuisine (Timothy based by Oxbow)
Cavy Performance (Alfalfa based by Oxbow)
Mazuri (made by Purina)
Proform (available in Canada, unknown mfg.)
Lab Diet (Alfalfa based by Purina)
5P18 Prolab Guinea Pig (Alfalfa based by Purina)
APD Timmy Pellet Ration (Timothy based by APD)
Gourmet 18 Pellet Ration (Alfalfa based by APD)
Kaytee Perfect Choice Guinea Pig
Kaytee Fiesta Guinea Pig
Kaytee Forti-Diet Guinea Pig Garden Blend
Kaytee Forti-Diet Guinea Pig
Kaytee Supreme Guinea Pig Fortified Daily Blend Mix
Hartz -- 8 in 1 Premium -- or -- Sun Seed Sunscription
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.