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Guinea Pigs/Guinea Pigs - bloated


I live in South Africa - Johannesburg.  A month ago I purchased two male guinea pigs.  They are now 3 months old.  I struggled to get proper food and hay, and could only get muesli type food and hay actually meant for rabbits.  I gave them green leave lettuce and carrots, twice a day.  Last weekend a gave them normal head of lettuce you get at your local supermarket.  They go crazy for lettuce.  I think a gave them to much.  Monday night one of them (Charlie) was really bloated.  It went down a bit by Tuesday but did not go away completely.  I took them to my local vet on Thursday who couldn't find anything wrong.  She admitted not being experienced with guinea pigs and advised me to just keep an on them.  Now the other male (Jonty) is also feeling bloated to me.  Both are eating, drinking water, moving around and pooping normally. I tried to cut back on the lettuce, but it doesn't seem to be making a difference.  I was finally able to get proper food through a company in cape town- South Africa.  Its the Burgess line of food.  I purchased Timothy Hay, pellets forage and snacks.  Should I be worried?  Can i change their food over to the Burgess food immediately?   Since they seem to struggle with gas I am unsure what green to give them.  Please any advice would be really helpful.  I am really worried over them

I'm sorry for your troubles. I know how distressing it can be when your pets become ill.  

The food you had been feeding may have been part of the problem.  Rabbit food is not a proper diet for guinea pigs unless you have some means of replacing Vit C.  Rabbits produce their own Vit C, guinea pigs do not. Therefore, feeding only rabbit food can result in scurvy, a bone disease caused by lack of Vit C.

The other issue with rabbit food is that some manufacturers add antibiotics to the feed. Guinea pigs cannot tolerate the antibiotics as they kill the normal healthy flora in the gut, leaving them open to secondary infections from which they will die.

I'm not familiar with the Burgess line of food, but if it says it's for guinea pigs it should be okay.

One of the ways you can supplement Vit C is by feeding vegetables that are highest in Vit C.  It is always assumed that oranges are the best source, but that is in fact not true.  The best source of Vit C is Kale and/or parsley. They carry the highest amount of Vit C per ounce.

It's not necessary to feed large quantities of lettuce as the water in the lettuce can indeed result in a bloated belly. When traveling with your pigs lettuce is an excellent supplement, as the water bottles often leak in the car making a mess of the bedding. For that reason when we travel to and from shows that are long distance we offer lettuce for hydration.

I hope this helps you out. If you have any other questions please feel free to contact me.  

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Pat VanAllen


As is sometimes the case, people in urgent need of information have a higher degree of expectation than those of us as experts are able to give. The experts on this site do their best to give the most accurate and responsible answers possible. We ask that you remember that it is not our intention nor place to criticize the professional advice given by your veterinarian, nor is it appropriate for us to comment on the correctness of a diagnosis made by a licensed physician. Our knowledge is experience based. Although many years of breeding and showing cavies gives me a wealth of experience it cannot change the fact that we as experts are not veterinarians and therefore may occasionally have to reject questions that appear to be asking us to criticize advice given by the licensed professional. Having raised and exhibited cavies for many years I have extensive experience in cavy care and husbandry. I currently have an active breeding program for pedigreed show animals but do not encourage backyard breeding for inexperienced owners. Although I don't encourage breeding for fun I'm always happy to answer any questions from an owner who is in sincere need of help. Pet owners wanting to breed should understand that even experienced breeders have litter losses. The mortality rate is high in cavies. The chance for losing both sow and pups is always present, even with experience. Although this is a site for experts to assist owners, there is no expert in any field who has all the answers. The wisest thing a good expert can know is their limitations. Not having an answer does not diminish one's ability or knowledge. It simply shows that we recognize our limitations and operate within them.


Raised and shown cavies for many years, having aquired my first cavies in the early 1970's as pets. My caviary currently handles 65 + animals in two different breeds and several varieties. Having been in the health care industry as a licensed nurse for 35 years I have hands on experience with care and needs in both humans and cavies. Member of American Rabbit Breeders Association and American Cavy Breeders Association.

Awarded Lifetime Membership in of one of the oldest cavy clubs in the United States, on whose Board I served as Sec/Treas for six years and currently serving as President. Also editor/publisher of the club's quarterly newsletter. We are strong supporters of our youth exhibitors, most of whom are 4H members who are working on cavy projects. Through these projects they become good responsible citizens. We deal with all aspects of showing, breeding, caring for and sharing experiences in the fancy. The cavy fancy is not a new one but in some areas is still relatively unknown. Our goal is to inspire interest in high quality, responsible breeding to improve the species, not just the reproduction of guinea pigs. Our job is to educate owners to help them make the right decisions and choices in the care of their cavies.

Graduate in nursing. Certified in emergency medicine.

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