Everything you need to know about guinea pig pellets.
Guinea pig pellets have been a hot topic in the pet community recently. As we learn more about guinea pigs and their dietary needs, more options have become available. Providing the proper type and amount of pellets is an important part of your guinea pig’s care and can be a little confusing.
So what makes for a “healthy” pellet for guinea pigs? Let’s go over the main ingredients of pellets, what to avoid, and how you can choose the best guinea pig pellets for your pets!
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The most important part of a guinea pig’s diet is hay – 80% of their diet should be high-quality hay. Even high-quality pellets can never be a substitute for hay, but they can be a great way to ensure your pets get the additional vitamins and nutrients they need. Hay is absolutely essential to avoid serious medical problems and to keep a guinea pig’s teeth worn down. In addition to hay and pellets, most guinea pigs also need to have about a cup of fresh vegetables (per pig) a day. Fresh food provides variety and is an important part of your guinea pig’s diet.
Read More >> How to Feed the Proper Diet for Guinea Pigs
Many guinea pig owners feed pellets, along with veggies and unlimited hay, in order to ensure their pets are getting all the vitamins and nutrients they need in their diet. Choosing a healthy pellet will also help ensure your piggies are getting their daily vitamin C and keep a healthy digestive system.
Look for a pellet that is just plain pellets – no seeds or other mixed-in ingredients. Most of these added items are more to make the food “look nice” by adding color, rather than providing anything the guinea pig needs. This also avoids having nutritional issues with picky eaters. Seeds can also pose a choking hazard.
You do want to be limiting the amount of pellets your pets are eating. The general rule is to feed about 1/8 of a cup of pellets per pig each day. Too many pellets can cause health problems
Keep your pellets in an airtight container that will keep them fresh. If they come in a resealable bag, make sure you’re utilizing that! Make sure to check the “use by” date for your pellets as well, as they will lose their nutritional value after that time.
How To Check Pellet Ingredients
To even be able to decide if pellets are healthy for your guinea pigs, you need to know how to read the ingredients and other nutrition information!
I’ve included the nutritional facts from a common brand of guinea pig pellets:
One of the main things I look at when checking pellet ingredients is the actual ingredients list. The higher up an ingredient is on the list, the more of that ingredient the pellet contains. You want the first ingredient in your pet’s pellets to be hay.
The main reason to feed pellets to your guinea pigs is to make sure they are getting all the essential vitamins they need for a balanced diet. When looking at the guaranteed analysis, I like to look for low levels of calcium and to make sure the pellets contain vitamin C. Since guinea pigs can’t make their own vitamin C, you want to make sure they are getting it supplemented through their pellets.
Timothy Vs. Alfalfa
When you look at the ingredients of a bag of guinea pig pellets, you want hay to be the first ingredient on the list. But do you want timothy hay or alfalfa hay in your pellets?
Alfalfa hay should only be fed to guinea pigs under 6 months of age. This means for adult guinea pigs, you want to look for pellets that use timothy hay instead of alfalfa or alfalfa meal.
The main reason to avoid alfalfa for adult guinea pigs is that it contains too much calcium for adult guinea pigs to process. We’ll talk about why avoiding excess calcium is important in a little bit, but you don’t want to be adding any more calcium than you need to be. However, alfalfa does provide needed nutrients for growing baby guinea pigs.
Pellet Ingredients To Avoid
There are some ingredients that are included in a lot of guinea pig pellets for sale at the pet store that just don’t need to be there. Things like artificial colors and sunflower seeds just don’t need to be there. Many of them also have high sugar content and are made with low-quality ingredients. Let’s talk about some of these ingredients and why they aren’t necessary for your piggies.
Molasses – this is common to make pellets taste better for your pet. Molasses is basically sugar and is not necessary for your pet’s diet.
Seeds – seeds are not a necessary part of a guinea pigs diet, and can also pose a choking hazard for some piggies.
Dried fruit – fruit can be too high in sugar to be feeding your guinea pigs every single day.
Dyed food pieces – there’s really no reason for these to be included in your pet’s food. They are usually included just to make food look more appealing to people and there’s no need to add extra chemicals into your pet’s diet.
Calcium is an extremely misunderstood topic when it comes to guinea pigs. You may have seen people talking about “low-calcium” or “no-calcium” diets that are meant to reduce the likelihood of a guinea pig getting bladder stones.
While it is important to keep calcium levels relatively low, there is such a thing as a calcium deficiency in guinea pigs. Check out this great blog post from Small Pet Select all about No Calcium Diets for Guinea Pigs – it provides some great information and insight!
There is a risk of bladder stones in guinea pigs if you are feeding them way too much calcium in their daily diet. When checking calcium levels you mainly want to be looking at the calcium carbonate as this is what is most likely to result in bladder stones. I prefer to provide calcium to my guinea pigs through their veggies, so I don’t want their pellets adding any more than necessary. You also don’t want to be feeding a pellet that is overloading your piggy’s system with calcium and other unhealthy ingredients.
The best way to go is to choose a high-quality brand that limits calcium levels. Supplement this by providing your guinea pigs with a variety of healthy veggies with varying calcium contents.
Our Favorite Pellets
We have tried several different types of guinea pig pellets over the years as more options became available. These are the two most nutritious guinea pig foods on the market. Here are our current favorite pellets recommendations:
Oxbow Garden Select Adult Guinea Pig Food – these are a pretty healthy option and are actually the pellets I feed my guinea pigs. They have all the essential nutrients guinea pigs need and they are currently the best pellets you can get in my opinion. Oxbow is the best brand that can be easily found in pet stores in most areas in the US. They use pretty high-quality ingredients and are a great value for the price. They have pretty low calcium levels, enough vitamin c, and have much healthier ingredients than other pet store brands. Oxbow also has food for young guinea pigs under 6 months old. These are NOT the same as the Oxbow essentials pellets.
Sherwood Pet Health Timothy Adult Guinea Pig Pellets – I fed these pellets for several years and they are another great choice. These use fresh hay as the main ingredient and are also high quality.
There was initially some controversy around Sherwood pellets because they contained Alfalfa, but they now have an all-timothy option that we used. They also have a baby guinea pig pellet option.
Providing a healthy pellet as part of your guinea pigs’ diet will help them have a good foundation for living a healthy life. Which pellets are your favorite?
Learn More About Proper Guinea Pig Diet:
- The Importance of Hay for Guinea Pigs
- How to Feed Guinea Pig Veggies
- FREE Printable Guinea Pig Veggie List
- Why Does My Guinea Pig Poop SO MUCH?