We all know that guinea pigs are low-maintenance pets. You don’t have to take the little fellow for a walk two times a day. Moreover, you don’t have to bathe the fluffy ball every week (in fact, you can totally do that only a few times per year). Yep, guinea pigs are amazing pets!
However, there are still some things that you have to pay extra attention to. For example, the little guy’s diet. You might already know that guinea pigs cannot produce vitamin C (just like humans), so their diet has to be rich with this vitamin (click to see our guinea pig vitamin C food list).
But what about elements such as calcium? Should you monitor the intake of this mineral as well? And what is this popular low calcium diet all about?
After reading the article you will, hopefully, become an expert in everything that concerns calcium and guinea pigs. Make sure to scroll to the very end in order to get our low calcium guinea pig food list (we would recommend even printing this list to ensure that you remember which products are great and which ones can be dangerous for your beloved pet).
But first things first, why is calcium important for the well-being of your guinea pig? And why too much of this element can be dangerous for the guinea pig’s health?
Let’s find out!
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Why Is Hypocalcemia Dangerous?
Even though you might have heard that low-calcium diets are beneficial for the guinea pig’s health that does not mean that guinea pigs don’t need this element at all.
The bones and teeth need enough calcium to be healthy. But in case a sow is pregnant or lactating, then the need for this element might increase. Moreover, the guinea pigs that have been through stress, are obese or those that have given birth a few times might need more calcium than the other guinea pigs.
Hypocalcemia develops when there is not enough calcium in the guinea pig’s blood. What are the main symptoms of this condition?
The guinea pig will lose appetite, be depressed, dehydrated and might even have muscle spasms. Hypocalcemia can be an extremely dangerous thing, as there were cases when guinea pigs suddenly died without even showing any symptoms.
That’s why it is crucial to ensure that your beloved pet has enough calcium in its everyday diet.
Why Is Too Much Calcium Dangerous?
At the same time, too much calcium is not good for the health of your guinea pig as well. Just as with everything in life – balance is key. Too little calcium can cause dental and bone problems, while too much calcium will, most likely, cause bladder stones (an extremely painful and dangerous condition).
Did you know that guinea pigs are able to absorb more calcium than humans? On average, around 50% more. This mineral is absorbed into the blood and then used by the bones, teeth and various organs. The calcium that is not absorbed travels through the guinea pig’s body (the kidneys and bladder). The mineral leaves the body with the urine. However, if there is too much calcium, the tiny organism won’t be able to fully get rid of the unneeded mineral. It stays in the bladder and can bond with other elements. As a consequence, stones will develop.
You may notice something white being deposited with your pet’s urine. In such a case, the chances are high that the guinea pig is suffering from excessive calcium intake. Try changing the diet of the little one. Read carefully through the ingredients of the pellets; if you have been feeding the fluffy ball with alfalfa hay, then change it to Timothy hay. Make sure to give the guinea pig the vegetables and fruits that are low in calcium – low calcium food list is at the end of the article.
How to Prevent Bladder Stones in Guinea Pigs?
The stones might stay in the bladder and cause serious pain. In the most severe cases, a bladder stone might block the urethra. If you think that your precious guinea pig has stones, make sure to take the little guy to the vet in order to start proper treatment.
The good news is that there are a few simple rules that you can follow to ensure that your guinea pig gets the right amount of calcium.
Be Serious About the Guinea Pig’s Diet
Not every single stone is calcium-based. However, the majority of them actually are. So, in case your guinea pig has a proper calcium intake, you are reducing the chances of the development of stones practically to zero. Always read through the ingredients of any sorts of dry food that you give to the little guy.
Try to avoid the foods that are high in calcium. Alfalfa hay, parsley, kale, dandelion dill, celery, spinach, strawberries, turnip greens… Though these might be good options for young guinea pigs or those that are at risk of hypocalcemia.
By the way, if your guinea pig adores any of the products listed above, you can treat the little guy with a tiny piece once a week, but that’s pretty much it. However, it is always better to simply exclude these fruits and vegetables from their diet.
Vary the Food That You Give to Your Guinea Pig
Every product has its own set of elements and minerals. As a rule of a thumb, try not to give your cavy the same vegetables and fruits two days in a row. In such a case, all the excess minerals will have enough time to get washed out from the body of the little fellow.
Make Sure That the Little Guy Drinks Enough Water
What helps to wash out the excess elements? Of course, water. Your guinea pig has to have access to fresh and clean water all day long. Check the water as often as you can. If you use bottles, make sure that the devices work at least once a day.
In case you have a few guinea pigs, you might want to buy a couple of bottles or dishes. If there is an aggressive dominant cavy, it might block the access to water for the rest of the guinea pigs.
Keep the Cage of Your Guinea Pig Dry and Clean
If the bedding of the little guy is wet, the guinea pig will hold the urine longer than it’s necessary. Your main aim is to encourage the little guy to go to the toilet as many times as it needs. So, make sure to keep the cage dry.
The place also has to be clean. Bacteria multiply incredibly fast in a dirty environment. As a result, the guinea pig might get infected (bladder and urethra infections included).
The Ultimate List of Low Calcium Foods for Your Guinea Pig
|Bell Peppers||9 mg of calcium per 100 grams||Bell peppers are a great source of vitamin C. However, some types (especially, yellow peppers) are relatively high in sugar. Make sure to give a slice of this vegetable, not more than once or twice a week.|
|Cucumbers||14 mg of calcium per 100 grams (with skin)||Guinea pigs tend to love cucumbers. Thoroughly wash the skin or simply peel it off.|
|Endive||19 mg of calcium per 100 grams||This vegetable is low in phosphorus and sugar. At the same time, it’s rich in healthy elements.|
|Pumpkin||21 mg of calcium per 100 grams||Pumpkin seeds are dangerous for the guinea pigs. But the flesh is high in vitamin A and C.|
|Asparagus||21 mg of calcium per 100 grams||The vegetable is high in vitamin C. However, not all guinea pigs like asparagus and the body can have a strange reaction to a sudden change in the diet. So, make sure to introduce this vegetable in the menu gradually.|
|Sweet potato||22 mg of calcium per 100 grams||The vegetable is low in phosphorus and fat, but high in oxalic acid. However, sweet potato can still be given to the guinea pig as an occasional treat.|
|Tomatoes||5 mg of calcium per 100 grams||Guinea pigs can have skin, seeds, and flesh of a tomato. Do not feed them the stems and leaves. Tomatoes are a great source of vitamin C. However, these fruits are quite acidic, so feed them in moderation.|
|Peaches||5 mg of calcium per 100 grams||Make sure to wash the skin thoroughly. Peaches are low in phosphorus and fat, but high in sugar. So, they can only be an occasional treat.|
|Nectarines||5 mg of calcium per 100 grams||Don’t forget to remove the pit. Once again, the fruit is high in sugar, so it has to be fed in moderation.|
|Blueberries||6 mg of calcium per 100 grams||These fruits are high in vitamin C, but just like all the other berries, high in sugar.|
|Honeydew melon||6 mg of calcium per 100 grams||Get rid of the seeds and give the fluffy lad both, the rind and the flesh. This fruit is high in sugar.|
|Apples (with skin)||7 mg of calcium per 100 grams||The fruits are high in fiber which is great for the guinea pig’s digestion. High in sugar.|
|Watermelon||8 mg of calcium per 100 grams||You can feed both, the rind and the flesh to the guinea pig. The flesh contains a lot more sugar.|
|Pears||11 mg of calcium per 100 grams||Pears are acidic and high in sugar. That’s why they can be only a rare treat.|
Another important thing that you have to bear in mind is the calcium-phosphorus ratio of the food. If the vegetables or fruits have less phosphorus than calcium (cilantro, okra), then you have to make sure to feed the guinea pig with something that has more calcium than phosphorus the next time (cucumber, sweet potato). In the worst case scenario, the calcium might start to leach out of the bones…
Yep, it looks like feeding your guinea pig is not as simple as you might have thought. Just remember that balance is the key. If you want to be the best owner possible, then you should dedicate some time to make a weekly menu that will include all the necessary minerals and vitamins.
We hope you will find our chart to be extremely helpful in the future. Best of luck!