Remember the scurvy crises that marked our history during the period of exploration and colonization of Canada. A disease that in the 1930s was recognized as food-borne due to severe vitamin C deficiency and manifested in fatigue, anorexia, weight loss, bleeding and problems with muscles and joints.
Well, like us humans, guinea pigs are susceptible to this problem because they don’t have the ability to synthesize the vitamin C they need. An essential vitamin that is involved in several biochemical reactions of the body and among others, in the formation of collagen (essential component of tissues) which is often questioned in the symptoms of scurvy. Its antioxidant power also gives it a supporting action for the immune system.
Among the rodent family, the guinea pig is the only one not lucky enough to be provided with the enzyme essential for the transformation of glucose into ascorbic acid (vitamin C). So it is important that he finds in his diet an adequate intake of vitamin C to compensate for this deficiency, otherwise, he will suffer from a severe vitamin C deficiency that will drastically shorten his life. Daily recommendations are 20 mg of vitamin C per kg of live weight but may be higher depending on the physiological stage of the animal (growth, gestation, lactation, etc.).
In addition, guinea pigs are unable to store vitamin C. Any surplus is eliminated by their urinary system. By the same token, any diet too low in vitamin C quickly expresses hypovitaminosis and if the dietary corrections are not made, a month is enough for this hypovitaminosis to be fatal to your little companion.
Warning, it is not recommended to serve guinea pigs, the same food as the one for rabbits because it is not enriched with vitamin C. However, a daily intake of a small portion of fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C, as a complement to the pellet ration formulated specifically for guinea pigs, represents an assurance that your animal’s vitamin C intake is sufficient and beneficial to its health.
Sophie Gauthier, agr
Director General Nature Bélisle Division