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Rabbit & Guinea Pig Nutrition: Diet Recommendations & Food Choices

Guinea Pig

A common question heard in our office is, "What kind of food is best for my rabbit or guinea pig?" and rightly so, as proper nutrition is essential to your rabbit or guinea pig's good health. The following are some general guidelines.

Rabbits

Rabbits are strict herbivores and have teeth designed for tearing and chewing hay and leafy greens. In fact, if they're not given hay and greens, their teeth won't wear properly, which can lead to overgrowth and malocclusions. Additionally, their intestinal tract requires large amounts of fiber to maintain a proper rate of motility. An unlimited amount of grass hay is the staple of a proper rabbit diet. Grass hay, such as timothy or mixed grass, provides high fiber content, proteins, vitamins, and minerals necessary to keep the rabbit's gastrointestinal tract functioning properly. Legume hay, such as alfalfa, should not be given to rabbits as it is high in calories and calcium and can contribute to obesity.

Leafy greens are another important component of a rabbit's diet. Again, their high fiber and vitamin content are essential in maintaining good health. Offering a variety of leafy greens (see examples below) two to three times a day is essential; uneaten fresh greens should be thrown away after 3–4 hours.

Examples of nutritious greens include kale, mustard greens, cabbage, dandelion greens, romaine, Swiss chard, bok choy, and parsley. A good rule of thumb to follow is the darker the green, the more nutritious it will be for your rabbit (and, by the way, for you as well).

Pellets are another source of nutrition for your rabbit, but these should be given sparingly. An adult rabbit needs no more than 1/8 to 1/4 cup per five pounds of body weight per day. Offering pellets and other high-calorie treats provide limited nutrition and can lead to obesity–a problem often difficult to resolve in adult rabbits used to such tasty treats!

Guinea pigs

Guinea Pigs are strict herbivores like rabbits and require a similar diet. Dark, leafy greens like those listed above and ad libitum grass hay are essential. Unlike rabbits, however, guinea pigs are not able to produce their own Vitamin C and require it from their diets. The minimum daily Vitamin C requirement for guinea pigs is 10–30 mgs per day and providing 1/2 to 1 cup of fresh, dark leafy greens meets this requirement.

Guinea pig pellets, though advertised as a good source of Vitamin C, typically have a negligible amount once consumers have bought them. Because the pellets often sit on store shelves for a long time, the Vitamin C breaks down due to contact with air, moisture, and high environmental temperatures. Consequently, it is important not to rely on pellets to provide adequate Vitamin C. Pellets may, however, be given in small quantities to adult guinea pigs–approximately 1/8 cup pellets per two pounds of adult guinea pig.

Good nutrition is critical in keeping a happy, healthy rabbit or guinea pig. If you have any questions or need further advice in what to feed your pet, please don't hesitate to give us a call!

References

  1. Brown, S. About Nutrition in Small Animals. Small Mammal Health Series. VIN. 2005
  2. Quesenberry, KE, Carpenter, JW. Ferrets, Rabbits, and Rodents Clinical Medicine and Surgery, Second Edition. Saunders. 2004