Vitamin C: Why Cavies Crave It
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Do your guinea pig-owning customers understand the importance of vitamin C in their pets’ diets? They should. As with humans and primates, guinea pigs are unable to manufacture their own vitamin C. Without supplementation, the animal can become very ill. It may show signs like pained movements, weakness or lethargy. It could have a rough coat, lose weight, or have diarrhea. It could develop a weakened immune system that could lead to infection and possibly death.
A guinea pig needs about 10 mg per day of vitamin C (30 mg for pregnant sows). To help your customers keep their pets healthy, recommend these sources of vitamin C:
- Variety of vegetables: Leafy greens, like spinach, kale, parsley and turnip greens, contain the most vitamin C, and they should make up the bulk of the pet’s vegetable supplementation. Avoid cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, collards, bok choy and other cruciferous vegetables as they can lead to gas production in the digestive tract. Also avoid starchy vegetables like potatoes. Carrots, carrot tops, green and red bell peppers, apple, apricots, bananas, blueberries, cantaloupe, grapes, oranges, strawberries and tomatoes can also be fed.
- High-quality pellets: If your customers feed their pets a good selection of vegetables high in vitamin C along with a quality commercial pellet, they probably meet the vitamin C needs of an average guinea pig. Because vitamin C is unstable and breaks down over time, remind customers to keep the pellets in a cool, dark place.
For growing guinea pigs, alfalfa-based pellets are fine, but for adults it may be better to search out a timothy hay-based pellet, which provides the vitamins and fiber needed to maintain its health. Advise customers to stay away from diets with nuts or seeds, sugary dried fruits, corn products, or other filters. They’re okay for treats, but not for their regular diet.
- Tablets and water additives: In addition to diet, customers may wish to supplement their pet’s diet with vitamin C tablets. Many guinea pigs will take the tablets like a treat and eat them, or they can be crushed and sprinkled on vegetables or pellets. Another option: a drinking water additive. If customers prefer this method, remind them to provide a fresh supply twice a day, as the vitamin will quickly lose its potency in water.
By showing concern for your customers’ pets, you’ll not only be helping to keep the guinea pigs healthy, but you’ll also be gaining a trusting patron for the life of those pets--and even beyond. <HOME>
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