If you have a pet guinea pig or a whole herd you love to bits, you would naturally ensure that they receive the best nutrition money can buy.
Besides the obvious veggies, fruits, and pellets, the conscientious pet owner may also get salt licks and spools for their cavies.
However, while they may seem necessary, your piggies really don’t need them.
If they consume a lot, an excess of salt can cause serious health concerns that can prove fatal.
In some cases, even a small amount of salt can cause bloating.
That’s because the substance can cause water retention that can lead to an overly large belly.
It’s pretty much the same thing that happens to us if we consume a high salt diet.
The condition can make your cavies pee a lot, which can lead to dehydration and UTI.
However, if you think your guinea pigs are severely deficient in minerals, giving them small amounts of salt won’t hurt them.
This is where salt spools can come in handy.
What Are Salt Spools?
The reasons to give salt spools to guinea pigs differ across the cavy-loving community.
Some people think it is necessary, while others believe their piggies benefit from the small amount of sodium they can get from the spools.
That’s because it can prevent muscle cramps, balance bodily fluids, and reduce blood pressure.
Since your guinea pigs are herbivores, their diet is salt deficient. A salt spool can supplement that and keep them hydrated to an extent.
It can also improve their chances of absorbing more minerals from their existing diet.
The result: your cavy will develop stronger muscles and nerves that can prolong its life and ensure its happiness.
If yours is a little ball of energy, it is using up the little amount of sodium it has- and this needs to be replenished.
If you side with owners who think salt is necessary, you should get a salt spool.
However, you need to use it in a way that allows your pet to have complete access to it.
In other words, it should be able to get to the spool whenever it needs it needs salt.
The spool should be fixed to the side of the cage but placed apart from the food and water containers.
Plus, make sure it does not sit flush against the bottom of the cage.
Salt spools are notoriously difficult to clean and if yours get dirty, you may have to replace it with a fresh one.
You can find 3 types of salt spools at the local pet store:
White salt spool
This is a common salt spool that most cavy owners buy for their pets.
However, it should be supplemented with a diet that is rich in veggies, hay, and fruits.
You don’t need it if you give your guinea pigs pellets that already have salt in them.
Mineral salt spool
As is apparent from the name, this salt spool also has minerals and vitamins.
However, as with the white variety, don’t get this for your cavy if it already has a diet rich in these as well as salt.
Flavored salt spool
Your guinea pigs will have trouble controlling themselves with these.
The reason is simple. These salt spools are flavored with the things they love best, i.e. vegetables, fruits, and hay.
That is pretty much the only thing that differentiates these from the simple salt spool.
Don’t be disappointed if your piggy refuses to interact with the spool.
That’s probably a good thing because it means that it is not sodium deficient.
Diet Tips for a Healthy Guinea Pig
If your guinea pig sticks up its nose at the salt spool, just make sure that it has a good enough diet to remain healthy.
Nutritional imbalance can lead to heart disease, diarrhea, obesity, and kidney issues.
Needless to say, the chances of surviving these conditions are low if the afflicted animal is tiny like your cavy.
No matter how much you love your piggy, force-feeding will not make you love you more.
It should be given a consistent and scheduled diet. Preferably, feed it twice a day only- once in the morning and once in the evening.
The worst mistake you can make is to leave more food in their cage than they should eat in one seating.
As prey animals, guinea pigs will overeat if they have access to a limitless supply of food.
They will instinctively try to gorge themselves to remain strong and fast.
Prevent that from happening by giving them a measured diet and discarding any food that is left.
Get rid of leftover pellets in an hour and throw away veggies and fruit they didn’t eat in 24 hours.
Plus, don’t add more food till you clean out the cage and replace the bedding.
Besides fresh food, make sure your cavy remains hydrated with chorine-free water. You may need to change it multiple times a day during the summer.
At most, their water intake should be about five ounces daily and the bottle should be cleaned out weekly to prevent algae.
Best Food Items for an Energetic Guinea Pig
Your guinea pig needs a healthy mix of hay, fruits, and vegetables to ensure that it is getting all of the vitamins and minerals to lead a healthy life.
However, not just any will do. Here are some things you need to keep in mind:
The Hay Should Be Plentiful
Hay should make up about 80% of your cavy’s diet.
Make sure that it has a heaping serving each time you replace the old serving. Besides soothing them, hay is great for their digestion and keeps their teeth from overgrowing as they gnaw on it.
If their teeth get too long, they can suffer from dental health issues such as periodontitis.
Pellets Are Ideal For Pregnant Guinea Pigs
If your guinea pig is pregnant or nursing, give it a regular supply of pellets.
1/8 per cup per day should do but an expecting cavy should be given more because they are eating for more than one.
Add some alfalfa to the pellets to give them some calcium for their development.
However, don’t go overboard. A lot of calcium can cause stones that cannot pass out naturally. These have to be removed with surgery.
Feed your guinea pigs timothy pellets to prevent this from happening, especially if they are less than 6 months old.
Don’t be surprised or disgusted if you see your guinea pig eat its own poop. That’s actually their way of supplementing their nutritional needs.
Called cecotropes, these soft pellets absorb nutrients as they pass through the bowels and are eaten immediately when pooped out.
Provide Vitamins and Minerals with Veggies
Guinea pigs need veggies to grow big and strong just like human children and adults. Feed you’re cavy a cup each day and try to get organic ones.
Some of the options you should get include fresh peas, lettuce, cucumbers, artichokes, kale, broccoli, and other green and leafy vegetables.
These will provide your cavies with healthy doses of minerals and vitamins that can make their fur lustrous and their bones stronger.
Make sure that you wash the produce thoroughly before giving it to your pets.
This will scour away harmful pesticides that can otherwise harm them. The veggies should also be at room temperature.
Give Bite Sized Portions of Fruit
Even though it may seem tempting, your guinea pigs don’t need as many fruits as they do veggies.
In fact, the former may even be harmful to them in excess due to their high sugar content.
Give your pets a steady but smaller supply of bite-sized portions of fruit to replenish their vitamin C levels.
This includes pears, oranges, peaches, and papaya to name a few. Like the veggies, make sure that the pieces are not cold and are washed.
Give Treats in Moderation
Your guinea pigs will love treats but that doesn’t mean you should indulge them. These should make only 10% of their diet.
Some of the ones you can give include tomatoes, red and green bell peppers, and commercially-produced guinea pig treats.
Make sure that you read the labels on the treats you give to ensure they are free of preservatives, salt, and sugar.
What You Should and Shouldn’t Go For
Your pet’s teeth will never stop growing, but that growth can be controlled.
Besides crunchy veggies and salt licks, this includes balls, toys, sticks, and special treats that can wear down their teeth naturally.
Besides being fun to chew on, these can keep your pets stimulated.
Whatever you do, do not go for those vitamin C drops that pet stores sell for your guinea pigs’ water bottles and food.
Those are quite bitter which can lead to a malnourished and dehydrated cavy.
Plus, they don’t do much good because water that is laced with vitamin C loses health benefits.
This includes the gummy variety because they contain way too much sugar.
Your guinea pig will benefit from a diet that provides it with a steady and moderate supply of salt, minerals, and vitamins.
While you can opt for a salt lick, doing so may do more harm than good.
In contrast, vitamin and mineral-rich food options can prove more beneficial in the long run.
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