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VITAMIN C DEFICIENCY (SCURVY) IN GUINEA PIGS

1. Why is vitamin C important?

Vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid or L-ascorbate) is a water soluble vitamin. It is an important antioxidant and has multiple functions within the body. Humans, some other primates, bats, capybaras and guinea pigs cannot make their own vitamin C and need to absorb it from their diet on a routine basis.

2. What happens when a guinea pig has vitamin C deficiency?

·         They commonly develop tooth and gum problems.

·         The skin becomes flaky and more prone to developing infections.

·         Cartilage does not form properly in the joints, leading to severe joint pain and arthritis.

·         Immunosuppression, leading to the development of infections.

·         Cardiovascular problems including atherosclerosis and poor blood clotting.

·         When these problems persist, vitamin C deficiency can be fatal.

 

3. What foods contain high vitamin C levels?

Food (per 100g fresh)

Vitamin C Content (mg)

Broccoli

93.2

Cauliflower

46.4

Chives

58.1

Kale

120

Parsley*

133

Peas

60

Capsicum*

89-190

Turnip greens*

60

Kiwifruit

98

Oranges

53.2

Papaya

61.8

Strawberries

56.7

*These foods are high in oxalates/calcium and should be used only as occasional treats.

4. What can I do to increase my guinea pig’s vitamin C levels?

Most guinea pigs do not eat enough foods rich in vitamin C. Also, if guinea pigs do not consume enough vitamin C when young, they may not be able to properly utilise vitamin C in food when they are adults. Therefore most guinea pigs require supplementation with vitamin C tablets at a maintenance level of 25 mg/kg. It is recommended to have your guinea pig examined by an exotics vet before starting any supplements.

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