Its purpose is to regulate the amount of excess calcium that enters their bodies and exits through their urinary tract.
Calcium deposits begin to accumulate in the bladder over time, eventually leading to stone formation in the guinea pig’s urinary tract.
Is calcium good for guinea pigs?
Yes, calcium is a mineral that our guinea pigs require in order to survive. It is necessary for the development of healthy bones and teeth in your guinea pigs.
If your guinea pig’s diet is lacking in calcium, it may develop Hypocalcemia (low calcium levels). It is a condition that occurs when the calcium level in the blood of your guinea pigs drops below the minimum level.
Hypocalcemia is extremely dangerous because your guinea pigs could die as a result of this condition even if they are not showing any signs of other serious health problems.
Therefore, avoid restricting calcium intake in your guinea pig’s diet to an extreme degree.
Low calcium diet for guinea pigs
If your guinea pig is diagnosed with bladder stone or sludge, your vet will recommend serving a low calcium diet to your guinea pigs.
Now, what the vet means here is not to eliminate everything that has calcium in it from your guinea pig’s diet.
Instead, control the proportion & type of food being served to reduce the overall intake of calcium in your guinea pig.
Calcium is present in all kinds of food. Right from the hay, vegetables, plants, herbs, fruits, pellets, and even water, everything has some amount of calcium in it.
Thus, it is impossible to eliminate calcium altogether. We must aim to create a well-balanced low calcium diet for our guinea pigs.
However, to create a low calcium diet for our guinea pigs, we first need to understand how much calcium is required by our guinea pigs & how do guinea pigs absorb calcium from their food.
So, let’s first learn more about it.
Table of Contents
How much calcium do guinea pigs need?
According to a study conducted by The National Academy of Science, average guinea pigs need 8 grams of calcium/Kg of their body weight.
This means if the weight of your guinea pig is one kg, then the will need 8 grams(8000mg) of calcium every day.
|Weight Of Your Guinea Pigs
|Daily Calcium Requirement
|7200mg (7.2 grams)
|8000mg (8 grams)
|8800mg (8.8 grams)
|9600mg (9.6 grams)
The actual requirement for calcium is determined by a number of factors, including age, activity level, and environmental factors.
If you need help understanding the calcium requirements of your guinea pigs according to their body weight, you can refer to the table above for assistance.
Keep in mind that young guinea pigs (up to 16 weeks of age) require more calcium in their diet because their bodies are growing at a rapid rate.
But as your guinea pigs grow older and more mature, they will require less calcium in their diets.
The chances are that your guinea pigs have been diagnosed with bladder sludge or stones because they are consuming more calcium than is recommended for them are very high.
It is possible that you will need to monitor everything that goes into their diet in order to understand their calcium intake and regulate it appropriately.
Your veterinarian may advise you on the amount of calcium you should provide to your guinea pigs.
Even if they don’t, you can use the information provided above as a starting point and adjust the food served to your guinea pigs accordingly.
How does a guinea pig absorb calcium?
Guinea pigs have an unusual way of absorbing calcium from food.
When a guinea pig eats any food, the food passes through the esophagus and reaches the intestines.
Here the pipes break the food into small particles absorbing the nutrients present in it.
In most mammals, the calcium and other vital nutrients absorption are managed by the parathyroid hormone (PTH).
However, in guinea pigs, it is not well-regulated.
According to a study, Guinea pigs absorb 50% more calcium from a food than what a regular human being does.
Thus, their body ends up absorbing most calcium from the food. As a result, the amount of calcium intake is directly proportional to the calcium present in their diet.
Effects of high calcium diet in guinea pigs?
When guinea pigs consume more calcium than their bodies require, the excess calcium is excreted through the urinary tract in the form of urine.
In the long run, the excess calcium deposits in the bladder, resulting in the formation of calculi.
Solid calcification can form in the bladder, urinary tract, and other areas of the guinea pig’s body. Thick calcium sludge can also build up in the bladder, which can cause other problems with the urinary tract as well as the bladder.
In accordance with a recent study, it is quite reasonable to detect traces of mild calcium in the urine of your guinea pig from time to time.
Occasionally, however, the extra calcium can bind together and form thick sludge or stones, which can be difficult to pass out of the body of some guinea pigs.
Because it is so frightening for your guinea pigs, it may even necessitate surgical removal in some instances.
Reducing calcium intake of your guinea pigs
Reducing calcium intake of your guinea pigs is really simple and straightforward.
You just need to monitor what goes into your guinea pig’s diet and at what quantity to create a healthy balance.
Chances are you are feeding excess calcium to your guinea pigs in some form.
Now what you need to do is reduce the amount of calcium by substituting some high calcium food items with a lower calcium substitute.
Also, there is one major factor to remember while looking at the calcium content of the food. i.e., Dry foods like hay & pellets have high concentrations of calcium as compared to fresh food like vegetables & fruits. Thus 5% calcium in hay is way more than 5% calcium in vegetables & fruits.
Hay and Fresh Grass
Hay is the staple portion of a guinea pig’s diet, and you need to keep it that way. 80% of your guinea pig’s diet should consist of hay as it helps in maintaining their digestive system, helps them in maintaining their teeth, etc.
While hay does contain some calcium content in it, you still want to keep it as a significant portion of your guinea pig’s diet.
|Types Of Hay/Grass
As you can see the best hay for your guinea pigs shall either be timothy hay or orchard hay as it contains the least amount of calcium in it.
Avoid alfalfa hay at all cost as it contains over 1.3% of calcium in it.
One of the significant challenges in hay is most of the guinea pig owners end up buying bulk hay or cheap quality hay.
Now the quality of those hays is not bad, but what the company does is mix some alfalfa hay in those timothy and orchard hays to bring the cost of the product down.
As a result, you end up feeding excess calcium to your guinea pigs.
So, if your guinea pig is suffering from problems of bladder stone or sludge, I would strongly recommend starting feeding good quality timothy hay or orchard hay only.
Alternatively, you can begin replacing a small portion of their hay with grass that you have grown in your garden.
Please do not add a bunch of freshly cut grass from your lawn, as it may contain harmful chemicals that will harm your guinea pigs if they eat it.
However, if you have the time, you can grow some fresh grass in containers and begin replacing a small portion of your guinea pig’s diet with the fresh grass as soon as it is harvested.
Because of its high water content, fresh grass has a lower concentration of calcium than dried grass and is an excellent substitute for hay in such circumstances.
Pellets are another dry food that contains a decent amount of calcium in it. Controlling the amount of calcium in pellets is complicated, and there are only two ways you can achieve it:
- Reduce the consumption of pellets and replace them with some additional vegetables.
- Serve low calcium pellets to your guinea pigs.
Many new guinea pig owners often make a mistake of choosing the wrong type of pellet.
While selecting the pellet, you must look out for the calcium content in it and the base of the pellet as well.
Avoid pellets that have more than 0.6% calcium content in it. Also, make sure the pellet is timothy based and not alfalfa based.
I personally love small pet select pellets as it contains the right balance of calcium in it.
You can also cut the pellets from their diet altogether.
However, make sure your guinea pigs eat a lot of vegetables rich in Vitamin C else your guinea pigs might suffer from another major health issue, also known as Scurvy.
Low calcium vegetables for guinea pigs
Vegetables are also an integral part of your guinea pig’s diet. A guinea pig needs a cup(125 grams) of fresh veggies daily.
You can drastically reduce the calcium intake of your guinea pigs by substituting some vegetables in and out from their regular diet.
For example, the calcium content of carrot(100 grams) is 33 mg, whereas calcium content in kale (100 grams) is 254 mg.
However, the portion size matters too. A slice of carrot has more mass than a small leaf of Kale.
Vegetables contain a decent amount of water in it. Thus, the concentration of calcium in the vegetable is quite less as compared to pellets.
For example, 25grams of pellets contains approximately 200mg of calcium in it. While 25 grams of kale only contains around 65 grams of calcium in it.
Here are some popular low calcium vegetables for your guinea pigs. We have also mentioned an approximate amount of calcium content per serving according to our guinea pig’s dietary needs.
Thus, fresh vegetables can be an excellent replacement for pellets in your guinea pig’s diet.
Adding some extra fresh vegetables won’t add much of excess calcium in your guinea pig’s diet while adding some extra pellets can make a ton of difference in the same.
Water consumption has a direct impact on bladder stone or sludge issues. There are mainly two ways of how water consumption can affect it:
- Different types of water contain different levels of calcium in it.
- Adequate water consumption can dilute the urine thus it also dilutes sludge buildup in the bladder.
Calcium content in water
Drinking water has a varying amount of calcium in it depending upon the type of water and the area you live in.
Hard water has eight times more calcium than soft water.
While soft water usually contains 15mg calcium/liter, hard water contains over 120mg calcium/liter.
Thus, make sure you serve only soft water to your guinea pigs. If soft water is unavailable in your area, you can also get some bottled water for your guinea pigs.
You can also increase the water intake by serving more fresh food and decreasing the quantities of pellets from your guinea pig’s diet.
Fresh pasture grass is also an excellent replacement for hay that can help increase the water intake of your guinea pigs.
How can drinking more water prevent bladder stone in guinea pigs
Increasing the amount of water intake of your guinea pig is an excellent method to dilute the urine and prevent the formation of thick sludge in your guinea pig’s bladder.
A guinea pig can drink anywhere between a 100-300ml of water every day.
The consumption of water is dependent upon the type of food, weather, living environment, kind of water available, etc.
Now there is nothing much you can do to increase the water consumption of your guinea pigs directly. However, there are a few tips you can follow to increase it by a little bit:
- Add more than one source of water in your guinea pigs enclosure.
- Provide more watery vegetables and fruits.
- Replace their dry food(pellets) with some extra green veggies.
- Refill fresh water in the bottles at least 2-3 times a day.
- Make sure the water you are serving is of room temperature.
- Avoid any additives like Vitamin C drops as guinea pigs can smell and taste it, and thus they will drink less water.
How do you prevent bladder stones in guinea pigs?
In guinea pigs, bladder stones can be caused by a variety of factors, all of which contribute to their development. Here are a few ninja tips you should keep in mind to keep bladder stones from forming in your guinea pigs:
- Ascertain that your guinea pigs are receiving the appropriate type of hay for their needs and age. While young guinea pigs (up to 16 weeks of age) require alfalfa-based hay to meet their nutritional needs, mature guinea pigs require Timothy-based hay to meet their nutritional needs.
- Only high-quality timothy-based pellets with less than 0.6 percent calcium content should be fed to your guinea pigs, according to the manufacturer.
- Include a mixture of low-calcium vegetables and high-calcium vegetables in your guinea pigs’ diet to ensure that they have a well-balanced diet. Never serve high-calcium vegetables on consecutive days to avoid calcium deficiency.
- Increasing the amount of Vitamin C in your guinea pigs’ diet can also help to prevent diseases from developing.
- If your guinea pigs have any signs of sludge in their urine, you should replace their pellets with fresh vegetables.
- You can also replace a small portion of the hay (10-15 percent) with fresh green pasture to reduce the amount of hay needed. Green and fresh foods contain a low concentration of calcium compared to other foods. Make sure, however, that the grass is organic and free of chemicals before planting it.
- Encourage your guinea pigs to drink more water by providing them with treats. It is possible to prevent sludge formation in the bladder by consuming sufficient amounts of water daily.
- Always make certain that the water you serve is soft and has a low calcium content. In comparison to soft water, hard water contains eight times the amount of calcium. As a result, avoid it at all costs.
- It has also been observed that potty training your guinea pigs frequently increases the frequency of urine production, reducing the likelihood of sludge formation in the cage.