Baby guinea pigs should nurse from their mother for the first six weeks of life. However, if the mother is unable (or unwilling) to feed, the baby guinea pigs can be hand-fed. Soak brown bread in milk replacement and offer it to the guinea pig on a teaspoon. The guinea pig should suck the milk replacement from the brown bread.
Guinea pigs continue to grow until they are fourteen months old, but are considered adults after six months. A proper diet during the first six months of your guinea pigs’ life will keep them healthy and happy in the long run.
Dietary needs will change as your guinea pig ages and grows, and it is important to be aware of their needs as they age.
What To Feed Baby Guinea Pigs (Ages 0 – 6 Weeks)
Newborn guinea pigs (called pups) rely on their mother for the first couple of weeks of life. The mother (also known as the sow) should feed the babies and naturally begin weaning them at three to six weeks.
Unlike other animals, guinea pig sows do not feed their young constantly – just a couple of times a day. It may seem that she is ignoring her young, but more than likely, it’s just not feeding time.
Occasionally, a sow may reject her pups and refuse to feed them. In that case, human intervention is necessary to save the pups.
Thankfully, guinea pigs can be successfully hand fed and reared. If the pups are cold, lethargic, or have sunken in bellies, they will likely be rejected and will need to be hand-fed.
Hand Feeding Baby Guinea Pigs
If a pup has been rejected by its mother, it will need to be hand-fed. Baby guinea pigs are fragile, and extra care needs to be taken to feed them. If improperly fed, they can choke or inhale fluid and develop pneumonia.
It will also be important to keep the pup warm (as the mom will not) using a warm water bottle and fleece.
To hand feed your baby guinea pig, you will need a teaspoon, milk replacement, and a bit of brown bread. While you can feed your guinea pig with a syringe, this increases the risk of choking and pneumonia, which can be fatal.
It is recommended to soak the brown bread in the milk replacement and then offer it to the guinea pig on a teaspoon. The pup should suck the milk replacement from the brown bread.
You will need to do this approximately every one and a half hours. Give your pup as much as they want, as they are growing and need all the nutrients they can get.
There are a few different options for milk replacements. Feed stores and specialty pet stores sometimes carry guinea pig milk replacement. However, if that is not available, full-fat goat’s milk or a half and half mixture of evaporated milk/water will work.
Typically, after the sow feeds her pups, she encourages them to go to the bathroom by licking their genitals. If the pup has been rejected, you will need to help them go to the bathroom by wiping their bottom with a wet cotton ball or soft tissue after eating.
Baby Guinea Pigs Should Eat Solid Foods At 5-6 Weeks of Age
It’s normal for sows to start weaning around three to six weeks of age because the pups begin to get interested in solid foods at that time.
If hand-feeding, you will need to dilute their formula and offering them solid foods around this time. At this stage in their life, calcium, protein, and vitamin C are very important to their diet. Like humans, guinea pigs cannot make their own vitamin C and need to get it from their diet, or they can develop scurvy.
Carrots are an excellent way to meet this need. To meet their needs for calcium and protein, alfalfa hay can be introduced into the diet at this time. Unlike timothy hay, alfalfa hay is not grass hay, but a part of the pea family. Because of this, it is higher in both calcium and protein than timothy hay.
However, after four months, it should be discontinued. Commercial pellets can also be added to their diet in addition to alfalfa hay at this time.
What to Feed a Guinea Pig Older Than Four Months
After four months, it is important to transition your guinea pig from alfalfa hay to timothy, as alfalfa hay at this point can lead to excess weight gain.
There are many commercial diets available for guinea pigs at this age, but avoid ones containing alfalfa. 1/8 cup of pellets supplemented with fresh veggies will suffice for guinea pigs of this age.
Make sure they have access to fresh timothy hay and water as well. Guinea pigs at four months still need extra calcium, so adding a little parsley to their diet helps supplement that. Fruits and veggies in moderation can be added to their diet at this time.
Guinea Pig Safe Fruits and Vegetables
Feeding your guinea pig snacks is a fun way to bond with your guinea pig and keep them healthy.
Fresh fruits and veggies are an important part of their diet, and it’s important to know what is safe for them to eat.
Fruits are higher in sugar and higher in calories and should be fed less often than veggies, just once or twice a week.
A few safe vegetables for guinea pigs are asparagus, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower leaves, cucumber, corn, celery, kohlrabi, parsnips, peppers (red and green, without seeds), peas, sweetcorn, and turnips.
Fruits that are guinea pig safe include raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, mangos, oranges, cantaloupe, watermelon.
To keep your guinea pig safe, never feed them: avocado, chocolate, onions, garlic, beans, potatoes, sugary foods, dairy, or meats. Feeding your guinea pig these foods will lead to health issues and possibly death, so they should be avoided at all costs.
Guinea pigs are prone to diarrhea, which can lead to dehydration, so introduce new foods slowly and monitor your guinea pig for any changes. Since guinea pigs are small animals, keep the amounts of the snacks small as well. For example, when feeding peas, only feed them one or two a few times a week.