Vitamin C Deficiency In Guinea Pigs
Katy Parr, DVM
Similar to humans,
guinea pigs cannot make their own vitamin C so they must obtain it
from their diet. Also
known as scurvy, this disease is characterized by a
breakdown of connective tissues in the body which can cause
abnormalities such as arthritis, skin sores, and dental disease.
Since vitamin C is present in small amounts in many foods,
this is a disease that tends to occur slowly over time, as the
lack of vitamin C builds up over the long term. You
may not notice a problem right away, depending on your guinea
pig’s diet, health status, and age.
pelleted diets have added vitamin C, but not enough. Several
factors can be involved in this.
Storage in warm conditions or in direct sunlight can cause
breakdown of the vitamin. Also,
the vitamins in the pellets naturally break down over time, so
older bags contain less vitamin C than newer bags.
Offering vitamin C in the water is not recommended because
vitamins break down quickly when exposed to light.
Vitamins in water also encourages bacterial growth, which
can be detrimental to your guinea pig.
develops, it can be treated with vitamin C supplementation, but
some of the side effects may persist for the rest of the guinea
pig’s life. Dental
disease is a lifelong and potentially fatal problem, which
requires tooth trimming periodically (monthly).
Arthritis is painful, but can be controlled long term with
pain medication and supplements from your veterinarian.
Gastro-intestinal stasis (bloat and constipation) is a
condition that can come on suddenly, and is often
life-threatening, requiring immediate veterinary care.
The best way to
ensure that your guinea pig is receiving enough vitamin C is to
give it a 50mg tablet twice daily.
Oxbow vitamin C tablets are formulated especially for
guinea pigs, or you can obtain sugar-free children’s chewable
tablets from your local drug store. If your guinea pig will not eat the
tablet, there are several ways to entice him. Breaking it in half
releases the aroma; making it more appealing. Try crushing it on
top of wet greens, or a favorite food item.
You may also crush it with water and give it by mouth with
a syringe. Powdered
vitamin C crystals can also be sprinkled on moistened greens if
your guinea pig will not eat tablets. Certain greens such as
cilantro and parsley are especially high in vitamin C (higher than
oranges believe it or not!), so they make great healthy treats.
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