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Question
hi,i have had my guinea pig for a while and he was drinking loads until i put him on guinea pig vitamin water as we didn't give him fruit or veg, he refused to drink the vitamin water so i put him back on normal water but he is now refusing to drink that.
any ideas why? or what i should do about it?

Answer
Putting vitamins in the water makes the water taste foul, so it's not unexpected that he would refuse to drink it.  Guinea pigs do not require vitamins other than Vit C. That's because they do not make their own Vit C like rabbits do, and thus need supplementation.

I realize that pet stores sell vitamins for guinea pigs, and their job is to convince you that they need it. They do not. Vitamins have an odor that even humans don't like, and the guinea pigs surely hate it.

You don't say what kind of water bottle you use, but if it is the type with the ball at the end of the tube be sure to check that ball and verify that it's not stuck. They can become stuck and by not seeing the water level go down we assume the pig isn't drinking. You should be able to tap the ball with your finger. If it's working properly the water will drip. If it is working properly then take these steps:

Your pig may still smell the odor of the vitamins on the tube that he drinks from. Try soaking the bottle and the tube in a weak solution of soapy water with a little white vinegar in it. Then rinse it thoroughly to be sure there is no residue. If you have a dishwasher that's even better. Just pop the bottle and the cap into the dishwater and the problem should be solved.

In the meantime he can do fine without drinking from a bottle if you simply offer lettuce and veggies. Although iceberg lettuce has little or no nutritional benefit, it is mostly water and is the perfect substitute. When we travel to out of town or out of state shows we do not put water bottles in the travel cages, but use lettuce instead.

I had a friend who was a longtime cavy breeder and had a rather large caviary. She never hung water bottles, ever. She had a local grocery store that would save the trimmings from their lettuce and she would get a huge box of it. Those of us who thought we were more traditional in our animal husbandry soon realized that she had national award winning guinea pigs who never saw a water bottle. They were healthy and strong and their only source of hydration was veggies.

The substitution of fruits and vegetables according to their Vit C content is actually quite easy. Kale is the highest in Vit C per oz of any vegetable. We often think that oranges are the best, the fact is they are not. And many pigs will not eat them because of the acidity. Parsley is the second highest content.  It doesn't have to be a large amount of either kale or parsley. Romaine lettuce is also a good source of both Vit C and water.

Guinea pig food is supplemented with Vit C. That's the difference between guinea pig food and rabbit food. Plus some rabbit foods have antibiotics in them that guinea pigs cannot tolerate.  

To sum it all up, don't worry about the little guy not taking water from the bottle. As long as he gets lettuce, carrots, etc he will get the hydration from that. In time he will again start drinking from his bottle.

I hope this helps you. In the meantime he will be fine as long as he gets water from somewhere other than the faucet. And by the way, mine absolutely LOVE cantaloupe and watermelon. However, they prefer the rinds. So you can eat the sweet fruit and give chunks of what you would throw away to your pig.

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Pat VanAllen

Expertise

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.

Experience

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.

Organizations
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.

Education/Credentials
Graduate in nursing. Certified in emergency medicine.

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