As people, we know that getting the Vitamin C we need in our diets often entails supplementation or eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Because our bodies can't manufacture our own Vitamin C, we need to bring it in from the outside. Did you know that this is also true for guinea pigs? If guinea pigs don't get enough Vitamin C in their diets through sources like leafy vegetables and colorful fruits, their Vitamin C reserves disappear entirely and they become vulnerable to scurvy – a condition that causes blood clotting and difficulties in the joints and skin. Here's what you can do to discourage Vitamin C deficiency in your guinea pig.
How Does Vitamin C Deficiency Happen?
While it's obvious that the easiest way for a guinea pig to become Vitamin C deficient is by not consuming enough Vitamin C, it's important to remember that it is possible for guinea pigs to become deficient even when they are getting enough of it in their diets. This is common in pets whose immune systems are depleted by an illness or who are suffering from a lack of appetite or an inability to absorb the vitamin into their bodies.
Symptoms of Vitamin C Deficiency
There are many symptoms of Vitamin C deficiency, ranging from mild to severe. Some of the most common are as follows:
- Lethargy, loss of energy
- Difficulty walking, swollen joints
- Small spots of bleeding just below the skin's surface
- Excessive bleeding in small wounds, improper healing
- Poor hair condition
- Decreased appetite, weight loss
If left untreated, these symptoms will eventually lead to the death of the guinea pig.
Diagnosing Vitamin C Deficiencies
If you notice any of the above symptoms in your guinea pig, take her to the vet immediately. The vet will collect a complete health history for your pet and likely ask you questions about her diet, health, and history of symptoms. Often, this information is adequate to allow the vet to make a preliminary diagnosis of Vitamin C deficiency. If the vet is not satisfied, the doctor will conduct a thorough physical examination, looking closely at the skin for signs of subcutaneous bleeding or swollen joints. The vet may also draw a blood sample.
Treatment of Vitamin C Deficiency
If your guinea pig is suffering from Vitamin C deficiency, the treatment option is simple. She will need to be given a Vitamin C supplement daily for a period of seven to fourteen days. Afterward, your guinea pig will need to continue eating a diet with supplemented Vitamin C, or one that is rich in fruits and vegetables such as carrots, baby tomatoes, bell peppers, and broccoli.
While Vitamin C deficiency is common in guinea pigs, it's also easy to prevent by ensuring that your guinea pig is eating a healthy, well-rounded diet that is rich in natural sources of Vitamin C. Many pet parents also choose to supplement their guinea pig's Vitamin C intake with Vitamin C tablets. With these careful precautions, it's easy to avoid Vitamin C deficiency and keep your guinea pig healthy and happy.
Content reviewed by a veterinarian.