Overweight guinea pigs fall into a vicious cycle: the extra weight makes it harder for them to move around, and the less they move around, the more prone they are to obesity. Preventing the obesity in the first place is the best option, but if your pig has put on some extra weight there are several things that you can do.
Encourage your guinea pig to move around more with new toys and new places to explore. If you use a NIC cube cage, you can expand its shape with extra panels. Be sure to allow your guinea pig time out of his cage every day.
Small cardboard boxes (shoe boxes) in various shapes (with doors and skylights cut out) will pique your pet’s curiosity and get them moving. Placing new toys in corners of the cage will encourage your pet to move around and check them out. Toilet paper rolls, willow balls - almost anything can be a fun toy for a small pet. Many homemade toys for house rabbits are also appropriate for guinea pigs, and an inexpensive Go Cat Go ball is a great way to get your pet to exercise; put their daily ration of food pellets inside the toy and let them chase it around!
One note of caution: do NOT try to put your guinea pig in a hamster exercise ball. These exercise balls are NOT appropriate for guinea pigs and serious - potentially fatal - back injuries can occur.
What kind of treats are you giving your guinea pig? Are you reading the labels on commercial guinea pig treats? Artificial colors, flavors, preservatives and lots and lots of sugar are usually routine ingredients. As long as you are giving treats, why not give treats that have vitamins, minerals and no processed sugars: Bulk Foods and Spices at 2nd Street Market has dried papaya and pineapple bits, and both are high in vitamin C. Dried papaya and pineapple are great to have on hand in the winter when hazardous weather usually arrives just as you use up your last bit of fresh fruit. Fresh fruit in moderation is a healthy treat, and a bit of mandarin orange adds vitamin C and moisture to your piggie’s diet (vitamin C is a daily requirement for guinea pigs, as they cannot manufacture their own vitamin C).
Another note of caution: do NOT give guinea pigs un-shelled sunflower seeds as these present a potentially fatal choking hazard for guinea pigs.
Be patient. Your piggie didn't get chubby overnight. S/he may be a little slow to change her eating habits. Keep offering the healthier choices and encouraging her to exercise and you will be rewarded with a healthier, happier pig in the long run.
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