Is your guinea pig portly? Guinea pigs can be overweight just as any other pet or any person can be. Obesity puts a strain on the guinea pig’s heart and other organs, and the effect of this obesity on these organs worsens with age. Fat deposits around the heart and lungs cause these organs to have to work harder; fat deposits in the blood vessels further increases the workload of the heart. Overweight guinea pigs have more of a strain on their joints and the excess weight can worsen the painful symptoms of existing arthritis.
As a general rule, an adult guinea pig of normal weight should have a back end that is larger than their shoulders, their belly should clear the ground when they walk, and you should be able to see their feet when they are walking. If you suspect you have a chubby pig, take him to your exotics veterinarian. Proper weight for pets depends on various factors including the age of the pet, their genetic makeup and any medical condition(s). Your veterinarian can assess all the variables involved and recommend the proper weight for your particular guinea pig. He or she can also advise you as to any health problems and/or special dietary needs of your pet.
The biggest dietary culprit in the realm of porky pets are the processed food pellets. Originally developed as cheap, easily dispensed rations for lab animals, pelleted food does not require much chewing at all, as they easily fall apart in your pet’s mouth; this enables your pet to consume a great many pellets in a small amount of time. Some pets can be allowed to free feed on pellets, but even these paragons of self-restraint may require some rationing of the pellets as their metabolism slows with age.
Please remember that guinea pigs must have a daily dose of vitamin C, as they are not able to manufacture this vitamin in their body. High quality pellets are fortified with Vitamin C, so when decreasing the amount of pellets, be sure to supplement their diet with produce high in Vitamin C (this is a good idea even if your guinea pig is not overweight). Citrus fruits are high in vitamin C, but can cause mouth irritation in some pigs. Red bell peppers, parsley and papaya are good sources of vitamin C and yet are not highly acidic.
Guinea pigs have to have a constant source of plant fiber to keep their digestive system in good health. Hay is the perfect plant fiber for good digestive health, and it helps keep their constantly-growing teeth worn down by the grinding action required to chew it. Rooting through a pile of hay also provides entertainment for the pig, and hay should be available to the pig 24/7. Quality timothy hay or meadow grass should be the mainstay of the pig diet; alfalfa hay is too high in calories and calcium to be fed daily to an adult pig.
If you have more than one pig, be aware that the alpha pig is likely to woof down all the food she wants before the other pigs get their turn, including some of their food! If this is the case, you should probably separate them during feeding time.
Keeping your guinea pig’s weight at the appropriate level will go a long way towards ensuring a happy, comfortable life for your pig.
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