by Marion Reich
Guinea pigs need a diet that is very high in fiber and low in nutrients to stay healthy. In stark contrast to this, there are many different feeds in pet shops that are referred to as complete feed for guinea pigs, but do not meet the needs of the animals at all because they are too rich in nutrients.
Guinea pigs are not grain eaters. The fact that guinea pigs are still largely fed with grain (or pellet) feed is probably derived from rabbit fattening. But it is not in the interests of animal welfare to fatten guinea pigs as quickly as possible. It is therefore high time that a rethink took place and that concentrated feed was either completely dispensed with when feeding guinea pigs (which is not a problem with healthy, adult animals indoors) or given the status it deserves. Concentrate is a nice treat from time to time, which many guinea pigs will do anything for. But it should never be more than a little snack.
In the trade you can find mixed grain feed on the one hand, and grain-based pellets on the other. Pellets are sometimes less popular with guinea pigs, but compound feed has the disadvantage that the animals prefer to eat individual components, often the particularly fatty ones. In addition to concentrated feed containing grain, there is also grain-free concentrated feed based on alfalfa flour and hay or meadow grass pellets. You can read more about this here.
Why is concentrated feed so unhealthy for guinea pigs?
First, guinea pigs have a digestive tract with low peristalsis, which is dependent on the constant supply of food to transport the pulp. Concentrated feed contains too much fat and starch, so that if the feed volume is too low, the guinea pig is full and does not consume enough crude fiber-rich feed. This can slow down the digestive process. Digestive disorders are the result.
Secondly, particularly high-fat feed naturally leads to obesity in the guinea pig, which is not conducive to its physical well-being.
And thirdly, starch digestion leads to a change in the pH value in the gastrointestinal tract, which damages the physiological intestinal flora. If too much starchy feed is fed, the intestinal flora can tip over. Digestive disorders are the result. In addition to conventional concentrated feed, hard bread or hard rolls, for example, also have a high proportion of starch, which are often still - wrongly - regarded as important for tooth abrasion.
What is absolutely taboo in guinea pig nutrition?
Unfortunately, many goodies that are offered in specialist shops are not at all suitable for guinea pigs. This includes all products that contain animal protein (e.g. yogurt drops) or a lot of sugar. You should also avoid particularly brightly colored pellets and extrudates. Peanuts and other nuts, as well as too many sunflower seeds, are too high in fat. Nibbling sticks are also unsuitable for guinea pigs.
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