Vitamin C – Supplement or Not?

Oxbow Vitamin CImage courtesy of Jenny

Oxbow nutritional products, like Daily C, can keep your guinea pig healthy and help them fight off illness when they are sick.

Did you know guinea pigs, like humans and primates, are some of the only animals whose bodies don’t produce any of the vitamin C they need to keep them healthy? Vitamin C deficiency causes a disease called scurvy which can lead to listlessness, joint and mobility problems, rough coat, general weakness and hair loss among other ailments.

Most of the vitamin C guinea pigs need can be found in their day-to-day diet of pellets and veggies. The ideal pellet choice is a high quality timothy based plain pellet (plain means NO seeds, nuts, or anything that looks like it belongs in a breakfast cereal!). Higher quality guinea pig pellets are manufactured with stabilized C to help it stay viable longer. Keep in mind that C will lose its’ effectiveness over time beginning with manufacturing, to when it is shipped, sold and used. Fresh daily veggies are also an essential part of a good piggy diet and are an excellent source of vitamin C and other nutrients.

So – should you supplement your pigs’ diet with vitamin C?  The short answer is, it can’t hurt, but it’s not always necessary. It depends on age, health, and a variety of other factors. Some of my pigs get supplemental C and some do not. I always give it to my senior citizen pigs and any ill pigs. C is a vitamin the body “sheds” if it has too much so there is little risk of a dangerous build up of it in their system. Some things to think about if you are going to provide supplemental C:

Do not use either C or multivitamin drops sold to be put in water bottles. Pigs don’t need multivitamins and some do build up in the body so they can potentially be harmful (and are a waste of money). Plain C drops should never be put in water bottles either. First, C breaks down rapidly when exposed to light and/or water and will quickly become ineffective. Also, anything added to the water can make it taste funny and some pigs will not drink it.

A good source of supplemental C is Oxbow Daily C tablets. One tablet a day provides the required amount and most pigs LOVE them and gobble them right up!  Oxbow C can be found in more and more pet stores as well as smaller boutique style suppliers. Other over the counter C tablets can be used but they are usually sold in human dosages and their amounts are too high for pigs. If you don’t have access to guinea pig specific tablets consult your vet who can help determine the appropriate amount – most tablets can just be broken into smaller pieces.

Some pigs will not eat the tablets and sometimes a sick pig will stop eating them – which is exactly when they need them the most! In these cases I use liquid vitamin C I get from a health or vitamin store. It can be safely given even to a reluctant pig via a small syringe once a day. For guidance on how much to give your pig and how to administer it, you should also consult your vet.

Scurvy resources:
Guinea Lynx

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Jenny, Writer, GPT

Jenny has been a dedicated volunteer with Metropolitan Guinea Pig Rescue for a number of years. She makes public speaking appearances on the topics of guinea pig care and the benefits of adopting rescued guinea pigs. Currently she has four rescued MGPR alumni guinea pigs, two MGPR sanctuary pigs and an ever changing number of foster pigs sharing her home.

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6 Responses to “Vitamin C – Supplement or Not?”
  1. Julie says:

    Got the same Vitamin C!

  2. Rachel says:

    Oxbow Daily C tablets contain added calcuim – something to watch out for with bladder stone pigs.

  3. Guinea pig lover says:

    Great info I am getting a Guinea Pig in May

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