Fat Cavy: Tips For Your Guinea Pig’s Healthy Weight
Look at those chubby cheeks! Sure, we all like a guinea pig with a bit of “padding.” It’s what makes them so adorable. Plus with a drop in weight being the only way many of us can be aware of health problems, shouldn’t “the fatter the better” ring true? Not necessarily.
Obesity can put your guinea pig at risk for complex health problems and also put a strain on their bodies as they age. Guinea pigs can get heart problems as easily as any human. Their stocky build can carry additional weight on their legs and joints leading to painful arthritis. You might notice your senior pig might be less interested in going up a ramp or getting into small spaces. Prevention methods are the best way to fight obesity but if you already have a fat cavy there are actions you can take to turn it around.
You might be wondering what a healthy weight really is for your guinea pig. It can’t be seen in a double chin or round bottom. It varies by age, breed, and genetics. There is no ideal weight across the guinea pig spectrum. Only your veterinarian will know your guinea pig’s ideal weight but here’s a few ideas of what you can discuss with your care provider.
CUT BACK ON PELLETS
The number one reason for guinea pig obesity is overeating pellets. While many informational outlets will tell you to let your guinea pig free feed on pellets, do you know why? It’s often because high quality pellets are often fortified with Vitamin C. That means if you’re not giving your guinea pig a Vitamin C supplement, the quality pellets are an important part of their diet. To scale back pellet feeding, consider giving your pigs supplemental C or learn what veggies and fruit best fit into your pig’s diet that can safely fill their needs. For example, red peppers are a great choice because they are high in Vitamin C and not likely to cause mouth sources like acidic fruits.
PROMOTE MORE EXERCISE
Expand your guinea pig’s cage, give them more floor time, and stimulate them with new and interesting toys. If your guinea pig is bored, it will show on their waistline. A C&C cage can be expanded with additional cage grids to fit just about any new exercise routine. If you feel ambitious, try teaching your guinea pig a few tricks like doing a circle or moving through obstacles. Despite popular opinion, you can teach an old pig new tricks.
READ TREAT LABELS
Have you ever noticed what’s in your guinea pig’s treats? Switching to healthier snacks with less artificial colors, preservatives, and flavorings is probably a good idea. These types of snacks are the equivalent of junk food to your guinea pigs. If you have a guinea pig with a sweet tooth, try keeping fresh fruit on hand instead. An occasional apple slice can be good for cleaning the teeth as well as a reward for good behavior. OxBow has recently added new flavors to their line of “Simple Rewards” products so be sure to check those out. These crunchy nuggets are easy to keep on hand if you’re traveling somewhere where keeping fresh food cold is not an option. We take them with us when we show off our guinea pigs to classes, adoption events, and to reward good behavior from a trip to the veterinarian’s office.
The social hierarchy of guinea pigs is never more apparent than during mealtime. The most difficult scenario to navigate is when you have obese pigs mixed in with skinny pigs in a herd. There are very few options for this scenario except to separate them during feedings. This is best to do when they are younger and are still developing their eating habits. If they are older when you try this, you could have varied results. You may slim down the fatty pigs and beef up the skinnies but their social order may eventually turn things around once they are put together again. If you have discovered a clever solution to this common dilemma, we would love to hear from you. Please leave your comments below.
As with any change in your guinea pig’s diet, please consult your veterinarian to ensure your guinea pig does not have any special dietary needs or is at health risk. Also keep in mind that your guinea pig may be slow or even stubborn to change their eating habits. If at first you don’t succeed, stay strong. You’re doing this for their benefit so keep offering them healthier options even if they don’t accept them at first. For more tips on getting your guinea pig to accept different food options, read our article on Breaking the Junk Food Addiction.
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