As we all know, vitamins are essential for our health and for the health of our animals. Vitamin deficiency can lead to light but also to serious problems with severe symptoms, especially when we talk about some of the most important vitamins out there. For guinea pigs, it’s the same, although they need fewer vitamins than we do. The most important vitamin for a guinea pig is vitamin C. The deficiency of this vitamin is one of the most common health problems in guinea pigs and that is why we decided to delve deeper into this topic.
In this article, you’ll learn why vitamin C is so important, why do guinea pigs need it, and how you can treat vitamin C deficiency/scurvy in a short time.
Why Is Vitamin C So Important?
For those less informed about vitamin C, let’s kick things off with some important information. Experts say that vitamin C is one of the most effective and safest nutrients out there. Although it is not able to cure a common cold on its own, it’s very effective at preventing serious complications that may occur especially in guinea pigs. Generally, a healthy dose of vitamin C is able to protect the immune system, prevent cardiovascular diseases, eye diseases, and skin wrinkling (slows down the aging process).
New studies about vitamin C say that it’s good even for cancer prevention and strengthening immunity so that guinea pigs and people can live longer. The only twist is that both humans and guinea pigs CANNOT manufacture vitamin C themselves. This is why both of us need an outside source of this vitamin, meaning that guinea pigs just like us need to eat a lot of vegetables and fruits that are rich in vitamin C.
Guinea Pigs Scurvy – Vitamin C Deficiency in Guinea Pigs
Having in mind that we’re a bit similar to guinea pigs in terms of fruit and vegetable needs, this means that your guinea pig should have a respectable intake of these foods. We all need vitamin C but vitamin C deficiency in guinea pigs is a problem of its own. It can be severe and it can cause some serious problems.
One of the most common problems that is caused by vitamin C deficiency in guinea pigs is called scurvy. If you’re an experienced guinea pig owner, you’ve probably heard about this condition. Basically, it’s a condition that interferes with the pig’s ability to produce collagen.
Collagen is a very important component of bones, as well as tissue formation. If there’s an issue with producing collagen, a guinea pig can have problems with blood clotting, problems with skin, and joints. The situation can be further exacerbated, as your guinea pig will have problems with physical activities, due to the damaged and under-developed joints.
A guinea pig with no physical activity can easily become obese and that excessive weight can lead to increased blood sugar, cholesterol, and much more. As we can see, vitamin C deficiency represents a serious problem, meaning that you shouldn’t let this happen. On the other hand, it’s very common, so it’s easy to cure if detected on time.
Bad news is that guinea pigs can still develop vitamin C deficiency, even though you feed it with the food that’s high in vitamin C. This is possible if there’s another problem that prevents guinea pig from eating enough or absorbing the much-needed vitamin C. If there aren’t such problems, vitamin C deficiency can easily be remedied or prevented by introducing vitamin C-rich food or dietary supplements.
Scurvy Symptoms Caused by Vitamin C Deficiency
What can happen if your guinea pig gets scurvy? Here are some symptoms that are a sign for an alarm:
- Lack of energy
- Difficult walking and running, due to damaged and swollen joints
- Small bleeding under the surface of the skin
- Excessive bleeding in small injuries
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Dry and rough hair coat
- Sudden death
While these symptoms can be seen and are tangible, there are some symptoms that can’t be seen, such as internal bleeding. In that case, if your guinea pig has one or more of the aforementioned symptoms, it’s necessary that you visit the vet. Diagnosis of scurvy consists of checking through your guinea pig’s health and diet history, as well as blood analysis.
In this section, we’ll take a look at some ways to treat and prevent scurvy. Even though your guinea pig might not have this condition, you should still read this section as it will explain how to prevent scurvy in guinea pigs.
1. Include A Daily Dose of Vitamin C Supplements
If a guinea pig is diagnosed with scurvy by your vet, you’ll be given some vitamin C supplements which you need to administer as fast as possible. A usual treatment lasts about one or two weeks. Consult your veterinarian and let him show you how to give your guinea pig a vitamin C tablet orally. Vitamin C usually comes in the form of a tablet that you can place into your guinea pig’s mouth. Not every guinea pig needs the same dosage, so it’s important to keep that in mind.
Aside from vitamin C tablets, your veterinarian might offer injection of vitamin C. In this case, your vet will determine the required dosage and you’ll need to bring the guinea pig to his office daily, so the vitamin C can be administered. Usually, we’re talking about the dosage of 20 to 30 mg of vitamin C per kg of body weight each day for guinea pigs that lack vitamin C.
2. Include Vitamin C-rich Foods in Guinea Pig’s Diet
Aside from supplements, some quality vitamin C food will need to be introduced. Food is essential in this case, as they can get all the required vitamins and minerals from there. Beware that even if your guinea pig recovers from scurvy, you’ll STILL need these foods, so be sure to remember them or write them down. Here’s a list of vitamin C rich snacks:
- Asparagus, peas, and broccoli
- Oranges and kiwi
- Green vegetables with leaves, such as spinach and kale
- Bell peppers and tomatoes (exclude the green parts)
3. Treat the External Symptoms
As mentioned before, scurvy can lead to some external symptoms on your guinea pigs. Luckily, they are noticeable and can be treated directly. Let’s remind ourselves that the external symptoms include bleeding and scabbed skin. Before treating the wounds, simply wash the wounds lightly and stop the blood flow. Consult your veterinarian on how to treat the wounds, which can sometimes be difficult to treat. When a guinea pig starts receiving a daily dose of vitamin C, the scabs should heal on its own.
But, in some cases, they may persist, especially if it’s left untreated. The symptoms may then extend to internal bleeding and as a result of this, a guinea pig might need to be euthanized.
4. Monitor the Pig During the Treatment
It’s crucial that you monitor your guinea pig when it’s receiving the treatment. Some pigs react better to treatment and some might react poorly. Within a few days, a guinea pig should start feeling better. It should start eating again, requesting physical activity, etc. Needless to say, you’ll also need to monitor the scabs on the skin. If they start to close up and heal, it’s all good. If not, visit your vet and consult about the skin treatment or increase in the vitamin C dose.
Scurvy Prevention in Guinea Pigs
Finally, let’s see how you can prevent scurvy from developing. Well, it’s very simple – include a daily dose of vitamin C foods in your guinea pig’s diet! For a healthy guinea pig, a dose of 10 mg of the vitamin C is enough but only if it’s a daily dose. If a guinea pig is pregnant, then you should increase the dose up to 30 mg a day. Never skip a day! It’s very important that you include vitamin C EVERY day.
On the other hand, you shouldn’t overdo it. Too much vitamin C brings a new palette of problems which means that you should keep the dosage under control. Use different vegetables and foods to avoid a monotone diet.
Source: Requirements for Vitamin C
Now that you know how to keep your guinea pig safe and secure, be sure to work on prevention, rather than intervention. Include the food we’ve mentioned above, and be sure to often consult your vet if there are complications in diet and vitamin C intake.