Vitamin C is an essential nutrient for guinea pigs. They cannot manufacture their own Vitamin C as most animals can, so they need to get this crucial vitamin through their daily diet.
The average guinea pig requires 10-30mg of Vitamin C per day. Pregnant or nursing guinea pigs need an average of 30-40mg of Vitamin C. A sick guinea pig may need 50mg or even up to 100mg of Vitamin C a day!
Guinea pigs will pee out any excess Vitamin C they don’t need, so you don’t have to worry about overdosing on Vitamin C from natural sources.
However, guinea pigs are prone to developing bladder or kidney stones, so it’s a good idea to select foods that are low in calcium to feed on a regular basis.
It’s crucial to feed your guinea pigs a variety of fruits and vegetables every day, so they get different types of nutrients in their diet. You can find a great reference sheet with foods you can feed here: Guinea Pig Food Chart.
Why is Vitamin C Important for Guinea Pigs?
If guinea pigs are deficient in Vitamin C over time, they can develop a condition known as scurvy. People can get this too. It’s a disease that causes weakness in the joints and difficulty moving.
Symptoms of scurvy can include pain in the joints, unwillingness to move, difficulty walking, bruising under the skin, extreme weakness, dental issues, weight loss, a puffy coat (a symptom of pain), and diarrhea. It can even lead to death if left untreated.
As you can see, it’s much better to prevent scurvy in the first place! Scurvy is easily preventable by providing your guinea pig with plenty of Vitamin C in their diet.
Below you can find a list of 17 vegetables that have high levels of Vitamin C for your guinea pigs.
High Vitamin C Foods: Comparison Chart
The following chart gives you a quick glance comparison of several Vitamin C-rich fruits and vegetables you can feed your guinea pig. Keep in mind that the foods with the highest numbers aren’t always the most reliable sources of nutrients.
For example, guava is high with 228mg of Vitamin C, but this fruit is sugary, and piggies can only eat a thin slice once a week. On the other hand, bell peppers are a bit lower, but your guinea pig can safely eat them in higher quantities.
|Food||Vitamin C (per 100g)||Calcium (per 100g)|
|Sweet Bell Pepper (Green)||80.4mg||10mg|
|Sweet Bell Pepper (Yellow)||184mg||11mg|
|Sweet Bell Pepper (Orange)||158mg||5mg|
|Sweet Bell Pepper (Red)||128mg||7mg|
Best Vegetables for Guinea Pigs That Are High in Vitamin C
Veggies are one of the best sources of Vitamin C for your guinea pig. They are completely natural, healthy, and contain many other great nutrients as well. However, some of them should be fed more sparingly than others due to high levels of sugar, acidity, calcium, or phosphorus.
Leafy greens are commonly rich in Vitamin C and other nutrients, but these veggies are often high in calcium.
Parsley, thyme, and other herbs that guinea pigs can eat are often nutrient-rich, but they are generally high in calcium too.
Too much calcium can contribute to the formation of bladder stones, which is a painful condition that can prevent guinea pigs from peeing and often requires surgery to remove.
Some guinea pig safe fruits provide a great source of Vitamin C, but they are often high in sugar. Too much sugar can cause obesity and related health problems in guinea pigs.
As with anything in life, moderation and variety are key to a healthy guinea pig diet.
1. Sweet Bell Peppers
Sweet bell peppers, also known as capsicums, are one of the best sources of Vitamin C for your guinea pig. They come in several colors; red, yellow, orange, and green.
Yellow bell peppers are the highest in Vitamin C, at about 184mg of Vitamin C per 100 grams. They are relatively low in sugar, making them excellent veggies for guinea pigs.
Green bell peppers are still high in Vitamin C, at 80.4mg per 100 grams. They can also be fed quite regularly with their low sugar content.
Orange and red bell peppers sit in the middle of the other two for Vitamin C, but they contain slightly higher levels of sugar.
Bell peppers are great veggies to feed to your guinea pig daily, and you can also rotate through different colors each day for more variety.
Bell peppers have more sugar than leafy greens but much less sugar than any kind of fruit. They are also low in calcium, making this a great staple vegetable in your guinea pig’s diet.
Parsley has very high levels of Vitamin C, but it also has high levels of calcium. This makes it an excellent veggie for young, growing guinea pigs.
However, it can cause bladder stones in adult piggies if fed too frequently. Therefore, it’s best to limit this veggie to once or twice a week.
Many guinea pigs love parsley, so it can be a great addition to your piggy’s diet in moderation. It’s a very nutrient-rich food that provides countless health benefits for your guinea pig.
This healthy veggie is another great choice for baby guinea pigs. For adults, it’s a great addition to your guinea pig’s diet once or twice a week.
Be sure to rotate kale with lower calcium foods when you feed veggies like kale. This ensures that your guinea pig is getting a balanced mix of vegetables without high amounts of calcium.
Guava is another healthy and unique food to add to your guinea pig’s palette. This fruit is an excellent source of Vitamin C for guinea pigs. Guava actually contains 4 times as much Vitamin C as an orange!
As with all fruits, guava is high in sugar and also has a higher level of acidity and phosphorus. Because of all this, it shouldn’t be fed in large quantities. You can safely feed a small slice once or twice a week.
Guava can be served peeled or with the skin intact. However, unless you buy the fruit organic, it will likely have been exposed to pesticides. For this reason, it’s probably best to peel the skin off for your guinea pig.
Oranges are a good source of Vitamin C. However, they are high in sugar, acidity, and calcium as well. Because of this, it’s best to feed oranges sparingly. A slice once or twice a week is fine for your guinea pig.
Orange peels are also safe for guinea pigs, and they contain even more Vitamin C than the oranges themselves!
Many guinea pigs won’t eat orange peels, but if you have one that will, it’s a great thing to feed them.
However, make sure the oranges you buy are organic because orange peels are often loaded with pesticides.
Thyme is a herb that guinea pigs can eat. You may be surprised to learn that thyme actually contains a ton of Vitamin C. It is right on par with bell peppers, and it even contains more Vitamin C than parsley. It’s high in fiber and low in sugar, making it a super healthy herb for guinea pigs.
Unfortunately, thyme also contains incredibly high levels of calcium. Because of this, it should be fed in very small quantities, no more than once or twice a week. However, because it’s so nutrient-rich, guinea pigs can get a lot of Vitamin C and other benefits from eating thyme, even in very small amounts.
Thyme is also a low-maintenance and easy-to-grow plant. If you have space in your garden, consider growing your own so you have a fresh supply of organic thyme for your piggy. Thyme is also a perennial plant, meaning it will keep growing back year after year with little ongoing care.
Dill is another high calcium herb that you can add to your guinea pig’s menu from time to time.
Despite being high in calcium, dill is an excellent source of Vitamin C and other nutrients.
This herb has quite a distinguished taste and smell that guinea pigs will either love or really dislike.
8. Mustard Greens
Mustard greens are a good source of Vitamin C, but like most leafy greens, they’re high in calcium. They’re also a bit acidic and contain some phosphorus. Just like other types of leafy greens, feed this one sparingly once or twice a week, and mix it up with some lower calcium veggies.
9. Turnip Greens
Turnip greens are similar to mustard greens in nutritional value, so it all comes down to your guinea pig’s preference between the two. Both are a good source of Vitamin C and a bit higher in calcium. Turnip greens are very nutrient rich and make a great addition to your guinea pig’s diet on a rotational basis with other healthy vegetables.
10. Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts are a healthy green veggie with countless nutrients. They are quite high in Vitamin C at 85mg per 100 grams and are a moderate source of calcium.
As a cruciferous vegetable, this food can be gassy, and it should be introduced slowly to your guinea pig to avoid bloating or other stomach upsets.
However, cruciferous vegetables are full of health benefits and have a lot to offer your piggy. Just be sure to moderate the amount and feed any cruciferous veggies with lots of hay to keep your guinea pig’s digestive system functioning smoothly.
11. Red Cabbage
Red cabbage provides a relatively high source of Vitamin C, at 57mg per 100 grams.
Red cabbage is higher in Vitamin C than green and savoy cabbage, so it’s a good idea to stick to the red variety to maximize nutrients. Red cabbage also contains a higher concentration of antioxidants.
Cabbage contains some calcium, so it’s best to feed this leafy vegetable no more than 3 times a week.
Cabbage can be a little gassy too, so it’s best to introduce this food slowly in small amounts.
Kiwi is very high in sugar and should be fed in small amounts, no more than once a week. Kiwi contains some calcium and phosphorus, which can contribute to bladder stone formation. They are also a little acidic, which can cause stomach upset for your guinea pig if fed in large amounts.
With that said, kiwi is a great source of Vitamin C. Even when fed in small amounts, it provides a substantial amount of Vitamin C for your guinea pig. In addition, they provide a great boost of Vitamins A, E, and K.
Papaya is a delicious fruit that provides a great source of Vitamin C. It is also fairly low in calcium, making it a safe choice for guinea pigs that are prone to bladder stones. However, this sweet fruit is very high in sugar, so limit it to a small piece once a week for your piggy.
Strawberries are a yummy treat for guinea pigs. Strawberry tops are a hit with most guinea pigs as well. Strawberries are high in all kinds of nutrients, including Vitamin C.
Like all fruits, they contain some sugar and should be fed sparingly. However, they do have comparatively less sugar than most other fruits. However, it’s still best to stick to just one strawberry once or twice a week.
Be sure to buy organic or thoroughly rinse strawberries before feeding them to your guinea pig to wash away any pesticide residue.
Tomatoes are a healthy food for your guinea pig and can be fed a few times a week. They are a bit lower in Vitamin C than other foods on this list, but they are very nutrient-rich and make a great staple in your guinea pig’s diet.
Guinea pigs can eat small and large tomatoes alike. However, they should only eat about one cherry tomato at a time or an equivalent slice of a larger tomato.
Tomato seeds are small enough not to cause any choking issues, so you don’t need to worry about removing them.
Make sure to remove any leaves or stems from the tomato before feeding them to your guinea pig, as these parts are very poisonous to guinea pigs.
Only feed tomatoes that are completely ripe, as unripe green tomatoes are also poisonous.
Broccoli is also high in Vitamin C. The flower part of the broccoli is the highest in Vitamin C, but the stalks and stems also have quite a bit of this nutrient.
However, broccoli is a gassy vegetable, and it can cause bloating and stomach discomfort if fed too much.
Broccoli is also a bit higher in calcium. Because of this, it’s best to limit this veggie to a couple of times a week and feed it in small amounts.
It’s also important to introduce broccoli slowly into your guinea pig’s diet. Feed just a few bites at a time, gradually increasing the amount each time you feed it.
Cauliflower is similar to broccoli. It is a gassy vegetable and should only be fed in small amounts. Introduce this veggie slowly into your guinea pig’s diet and feed sparingly. Stick to once or twice a week, and don’t go overboard with this veggie. Like its flowery green cousin, cauliflower has a lot to offer your piggy from a nutritional standpoint.
Feed a High-Quality Guinea Pig Pellet Food
Another way to prevent a Vitamin C deficiency in guinea pigs is to provide them with high-quality pellets. Make sure you buy pellets that are specifically made for guinea pigs. Rabbit food and others don’t have added Vitamin C and other nutrients that guinea pigs need. Also, avoid food with colored pieces or seeds, as the colored bits have no nutrition and contain extra sugar and additives.
A high-quality pellet food such as Oxbow’s adult guinea pig food provides a decent amount of Vitamin C for your guinea pig in only a 1/8 cup of food per day.
This is important as guinea pigs shouldn’t be eating too many pellets in a day. They need high-quality grass hay to make up 80% of their diet in order to keep their gut moving properly and their teeth ground down.
To preserve the Vitamin C in your pellets as much as possible, follow the directions on the bag for proper storage. Typically, it helps to keep the bag in a cool, dark place and zip it up completely when you’re done using the bag.
It’s also best to use up the bag within 90 days, as the Vitamin C in the pellets usually starts to deteriorate after that point.
Vitamin C Supplement Treats
Oxbow sells a supplement for guinea pigs called Natural Science Vitamin C tablets. One tab per day provides 25mg of Vitamin C. This is a great supplement to give your guinea pig daily if you’re not sure whether their diet provides enough Vitamin C.
All my piggies get one of these daily. I usually give them half a cookie because they also get bell peppers and other veggies daily. It’s definitely their favorite treat! All 10 of them squeal and stand up on their cage, waiting for their cookie every night.
Some guinea pigs take a little while to start eating these tablets, but they usually love them once they get the courage to try them.
If your guinea pig doesn’t love the hard texture at first, you can soak the cookie in water to make them soft. You could also try breaking them up into small pieces and sprinkling them in with their pellets.
Avoid Vitamin C Drops Added to Water
It’s best to avoid adding any kind of Vitamin C drops to your guinea pig’s drinking water. There are a few reasons for this. First of all, Vitamin C degrades quickly once exposed to light.
Therefore, by the time your guinea pig actually drinks their water, there could be very little actual Vitamin C in it. It’s next to impossible to know how much Vitamin C your guinea pig actually received from the water.
Adding drops also changes the flavor of the water. This could turn some guinea pigs off drinking their water entirely, or it could cause them to drink much less than they usually would. This can lead to dehydration and other issues.
If your guinea pig is ill and urgently needs supplemental Vitamin C, it’s best to syringe a liquid supplement directly into their mouth under your vet’s guidance.
Balancing Calcium and Sugar Content
Vitamin C is an essential nutrient to include in your guinea pig’s diet. However, it’s important to keep other nutrients such as calcium in check. Too much calcium can contribute to bladder stones, which can be a very serious condition for guinea pigs.
You’ll know if your guinea pig has too much calcium in their diet if you start to see dried white pee marks around your guinea pig’s cage.
If you see this, start cutting back on foods that are high in calcium before bladder stones have a chance to take form.
Too much sugar can also have a negative effect on your guinea pig’s health. If your guinea pig is chunky or gaining weight too quickly, it may be a good idea to cut back on fruits and other sugary foods.
Obesity can lead to many health problems in guinea pigs that could have been otherwise avoided.
Besides bell peppers, which can be fed daily, it’s best to mix up different veggies so your guinea pig gets a healthy mix of nutrients from different foods.
When introducing new foods into your guinea pig’s diet, do so gradually to avoid stomach upsets.
Try new foods in small amounts, one at a time. Sometimes guinea pigs take a while to try new foods, so don’t give up too easily if your guinea pig doesn’t seem to like something at first.
To introduce more variety into your guinea pig’s diet, check out our list of guinea pig safe foods you can try out.
You can also find a helpful list of foods to avoid here: 45 Things to Never Feed Your Guinea Pig.