It can be stressful when you run out of food for your guinea pigs. Whether you’re tight on cash or simply miscalculated how much food you had at home, this article will cover several ideas and alternatives.
Guinea pigs can live without pellet food for weeks if they have access to unlimited hay and receive adequate Vitamin C through their daily vegetables.
Hay is more crucial for guinea pigs, but they can go without it for a few days to a week if necessary.
However, guinea pigs can’t go without hay and pellets both. Feeding only vegetables will result in diarrhea and gastrointestinal upset, which can also lead to GI stasis.
It’s essential to balance your piggy’s diet with a healthy mix of forage and Vitamin C. If you do these two things, your guinea pig will have no problem waiting until you’re able to pick up some more food.
What to Feed Your Guinea Pig When You Run Out of Pellet Food
Running out of pellet food is not a big deal, as guinea pigs mainly need forage (hay) as the bulk of their diet.
As long as you provide unlimited grass hay, guinea pigs will be fine until you can pick up more pellets.
However, guinea pigs do need the Vitamin C included in pellets. However, we can provide this from other sources, such as vegetables high in Vitamin C.
It’s also important to ensure that guinea pigs always have fresh, clean water available.
Can Guinea Pigs Survive on Just Hay?
Guinea pigs can survive on hay alone for some time. As herbivores, high-quality grass hay is the most critical part of a guinea pig’s diet and should consist of 80% of their total food intake.
Hay is vital to keep the gut moving and teeth ground down. However, there is not much variety or nutrients found in hay alone.
Guinea pigs need a consistent source of Vitamin C, which is included in pellet food. A few days without Vitamin C is unlikely to cause harm, but a long-term deficiency can cause serious problems to develop.
Pellets also contain other vitamins and minerals that are difficult to get through other sources. Again, this is unlikely to cause harm in the short term, but deficiencies can crop up over time.
Vegetables That Are High in Vitamin C for Guinea Pigs
As mentioned above, Vitamin C is essential for guinea pigs. There are many vegetables you can offer that are high in this nutrient.
Sweet bell peppers are very high in Vitamin C and can be fed daily. All the other high Vitamin C veggies mentioned are high in either calcium or sugar and should be limited to once or twice a week.
P.S. You can find a list of all the foods your guinea pig can have, along with the frequency you can give them, over on our Guinea Pig Food Chart.
Vegetables That You Can Feed Your Guinea Pig Every Day
If you can only afford to buy one or two vegetables, it’s a good idea to pick something that your guinea pig can eat daily or 3-4 times a week.
These veggies include cucumber, tomatoes, zucchini, carrots, endive, radicchio, corn husks and silk, and raspberry plant leaves. You can also frequently feed various types of lettuce, with the exception of iceberg lettuce, which is best avoided.
Different colors of bell peppers are the best thing to feed your guinea pig daily. They are low in calcium and fulfill all your guinea pig’s daily Vitamin C requirements in just a small slice.
Can Guinea Pigs Eat Grass Instead of Hay?
If you happen to run out of hay, grass can sometimes be an acceptable alternative forage.
However, it’s not great to start feeding your guinea pig large amounts of grass all at once if they haven’t been introduced to it gradually.
Feeding vast piles of grass all of a sudden can lead to an upset stomach. It can even cause bloat in some cases, which can be deadly.
In addition, it’s best not to feed too much rich Spring grass early in the season. This new grass is richer in nutrients and more likely to cause problems if provided in excess.
If your guinea pig is used to eating some grass in their diet, you can safely substitute hay for grass during the summer and fall months if you run out of hay for a little while.
Make sure you hand-pick the grass from a safe untreated area that has not been exposed to pesticides, other animals, or car exhaust fumes.
Never feed grass clippings from a lawnmower, as these can ferment in your guinea pig’s gut and cause bloat.
You can also bring your guinea pigs outside to graze for a little while if the weather is good. Be sure to supervise them and use a secure exercise pen or fence to keep them safe.
Guinea pigs can also eat wheatgrass (also known as cat grass), so if you have some of that around, you can let your piggy try it.
Can Guinea Pigs Eat Weeds From Outside?
Guinea pigs can safely eat some common weeds from outside. This includes clover, dandelion, and narrow or broadleaf plantain, all of which are abundant in many urban areas.
Clover is very high in calcium, so feed it sparingly. Dandelion is also a high source of calcium, so it’s best to offer just a couple of leaves at a time.
Be sure to pick weeds from untreated areas that are entirely free of chemicals and pesticides.
Can Guinea Pigs Eat Human Food?
Guinea pigs can eat many of the same raw veggies we can, so you can share some of your fresh produce with them. Avoid anything cooked, frozen, or canned.
If they have never tried a particular fruit or veggie, offer small amounts first to avoid an upset stomach.
Never feed any processed food or grains to your guinea pig. This includes cereal, bread, beans, or anything else that is not a fruit or vegetable.
Guinea pigs can also eat leftovers of some types of foods that would otherwise be thrown away.
For example, carrot top greens are good in small amounts. They are high in calcium, so don’t feed them every day. Guinea pigs can also eat corn husks and silks. Peel off the outside layer in case of pesticides.
If you don’t eat corn yourself, try asking for the husks at farms or grocery stores during corn season. Many are happy to give the husks and silk away for free.
Things You Should Not Feed Your Guinea Pig
It can be tempting to feed other types of food you have around the house, but not everything is healthy or safe for guinea pigs. Some of these things can cause digestive problems or even pose a danger to your piggies. For a complete list of all the potentially dangerous foods for guinea pigs, check out this article on 45 things your guinea pig shouldn’t eat.
- Meat or Dairy – can make them ill as guinea pigs do not have the gut capacity to digest them
- Potatoes – toxic to piggies
- Large amounts of fruit – high in sugar
- Nuts and Seeds – choking hazard & fattening
- Commercial pellet food for other animals – doesn’t provide the right nutrients & can even cause harm in some cases
How Long Can Guinea Pigs Go Without Food?
Guinea pigs should not go long without any food in their system. Their bodies are built to be constantly digesting food.
They do not die of starvation, but their body will begin to shut down and go into GI stasis. This is a severe condition that requires immediate vet attention and can often be fatal.
GI stasis can occur in as little as 6-8 hours without food. Therefore, it’s critical that guinea pigs always have something to munch on.
Providing a constant source of hay is the best way to ensure that your guinea pig never goes into stasis.
Wrapping It Up
To sum it up, guinea pigs are totally fine without pellet food for a while. Hay is critical to gut health, so it’s essential to keep a supply of high-quality grass hay for your piggies at all times.
Vitamin C is crucial for guinea pigs, so feeding veggies that are high in this nutrient, such as bell peppers, is an excellent way to fulfill this need while you’re out of pellet food.
In a pinch, guinea pigs can be sustained on hay and bell peppers for a period of time.
If you’re introducing fresh grass or veggies that your guinea pig has never tried before, be sure to offer them gradually in small amounts to avoid stomach issues and bloat.
For ways to save money on guinea pig care, as well as some tips on how to buy your hay in bulk, check out our article 8 Ways to Save Money With Guinea Pigs.