How To Easily Reduce Calcium In A Guinea Pig’s Diet

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You could have seen white spots in your guinea pig’s urine and wondered why? No worries, white spots on urine are a guinea pig’s method of passing out excess calcium. But, maybe you’re thinking that you need to reduce the amount of calcium in your guinea pigs’ diet.

It’s possible to reduce your guinea pig’s calcium intake by using good quality hay, low calcium vegetables, and using filtered water instead of tap water. You can also reduce the amount of calcium in their diet by controlling the portion size of what you feed them.

Although too much calcium can be dangerous for guinea pigs, they still need some in their diet. You shouldn’t completely eliminate calcium from their food. That would be bad…

a cluster of guinea pigs wondering if it's possible to reduce calcium in their diet

Why?

More on that in a minute. This article explains everything about calcium in pigs’ diet and how to reduce calcium intake in the right proportion without harming your little friend. But, before we go into that, let’s first take a second to look at…

An easy-to-read food chart for safe piggie foods – Buy, download, and print.

Risks Of Guinea Pigs Having Too Much Calcium

a guinea pig quote about how too much calcium is dangerous for guinea pigs
Too much calcium can cause your piggie serious (and possibly fatal) health problems.

Many risks come with guinea pigs having too much calcium. And a lot of them have science-laden names that I even I have a hard time pronouncing (and I’m not ashamed; it is what it is).

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That said, you need to know about the risks of having too much calcium in your guinea pig’s diet.

  • Bladder Stones: The thick sludges in the guinea pigs’ urinary tract could form solid bladder stones. As a result, the kidneys wouldn’t filter those stones, making them stuck up in the urinary tract, bladders, and kidneys. 
  • Hematuria and Stranguria: The bladder stones form as a result of the sludge and this irritates the urinary tract of the guinea pig. The pig may start to pee small amounts of blood with their urine (hematuria) or make slow and frequent urinations (Stranguria).
  • Dysuria: This ultimately leads to pain for the guinea pig when urinating. (And no one wants their fur baby to be in pain)
  • Metastatic Calcification: This is a condition where calcium deposits start to form in your little friends’ urinary tract and reproductive organs. This makes it more difficult for the kidneys and bladder of the animal to work. The symptoms of Metastatic Calcification include weight loss, muscle stiffness and joint stiffness. It can also cause increased urination.
  • Death: on the flip side, some guinea pigs affected with Metastatic Calcification may not show its symptoms. They’re prey animals and have a habit of not showing pain or sickness. After not being treated, they suddenly die from the high calcium issues without their pet parent knowing the cause (which is truly heartbreaking)

Sometimes, the only solution to remove bladder stones from guinea pigs would be surgery. As a result, your piggie might actually die from the surgery. 

As you can see, too much calcium in a guinea pig’s diet is no joke.

If you’re going to invite piggies into your life, you really have to be on top of what they eat. Their diets are closely tied to how healthy (and happy) their lives are.

Tips For How To Reduce Calcium In Guinea Pigs 

No one would want his guinea pig to die from excessive calcium. To reduce calcium in guinea pigs, you’ve gotta take a hard look at their diet and what they’re eating.

So let’s do that…

There’s usually three main culprits that cause excess calcium intake:

Excess hay, high calcium veggies and untreated tap water. So, if you can get those three areas under control, you’re well on your way to reducing calcium intake.

Watch Out For Calcium In Hay

Reducing the amount of calcium in your guinea pig’s diet is very important because excess calcium intake will lead to stone formation and sludge issues. This is especially true if you give your guinea pigs ‘the wrong hay’ !

What’s ‘the wrong hay’?

Basically any type of hay that has a high calcium content. You might not know it, but different types of hays have different amounts of calcium in them.

(I know, this was news to me too.)

The two hays with the highest amount of calcium (and protein) are:

  • Alfalfa hay: plenty of calcium and protein
  • Clover hay

So if you’re wondering why your guinea pigs have bladder stones, look at the hay they’re eating.

So what should you do?

Time To Make A Change

If you’ve suddenly realized that you’re feeding a hay to your piggies that has enough calcium in it to jump start a dozen ice cream shops, here’s what you should do:

Switch to a different kind of hay.

Not an easy switch I know (piggies can be so picky sometimes, little stinkers), but there’s plenty of good hays out there for your guinea pigs. You can find them at many pet stores or online.

So, which hay should you feed to the guinea pig? 

Alfalfa hay or clover is a good food to feed pup guinea pigs (6 months or less). It’s good for pregnant pigs too. They need a lot of calcium, and alfalfa and clover have lots of it. This will help baby guineas grow quickly, and also helps pregnant pigs and their babies.

But, if your piggies aren’t babies and they aren’t pregnant, the best hays to give your little friends are Timothy hay, barley, Bermuda, orchard, and oaten hays. They’re all lower in calcium than alfalfa,, but are still very healthy for your fur babies.

(But, go easy on the oaten hay, it has more calories that the other types. Can you say ‘diabetes’? ).

The go-to hay for most piggie parents are Timothy hays. It has enough nutrients to satisfy the health needs of most adult piggies.

Watch Out For Calcium In Vegetables

Most vegetables are good for guinea pigs. But some have more calcium than others. So, some can be fed to guinea pigs more frequently and others not so often.

The best way to reduce calcium intake in guinea pigs is to make sure they eat low calcium veggies most of the time and high calcium veggies only occasionally.

And, when you do feed your guinea pigs veggies with a lot of calcium, make sure they have access to plenty of water to help flush out their systems.

Here’s a few high calcium vegetables that you need to be aware of. But, keep in mind that high calcium veggies shouldn’t necessarily be avoided.

I mean, they’re not poisonous or anything like that – and they’re actually very healthy for your little friend (in the right amounts).

You just need to make sure you don’t overfeed them, and make sure that piggies have access to water so their systems can flush out those extra minerals.

High Calcium Vegetables

  • Spinach: Spinach has a lot of calcium and oxalate. Guinea pigs should eat it sometimes, or not at all. The combination of lots of calcium and oxalates is bad for cavies (and bound to cause bladder stones or sludge). There is 210 mg of calcium in 100 grams of spinach.
  • Turnip Greens: Turnip greens are a good source of calcium. Guinea pigs should not eat turnip greens every day, but it is okay to give them this food once or twice a week.
  • Beetroot: Beetroot is a good food for guinea pigs. It has no oxalate and a lot of phosphorus and calcium. This means that it can be eaten occasionally. The calcium in beetroot is more powerful, even though it is small. This means that one or two meals of beetroot per week is okay for your guinea
  • Parsley: As an herb with a high calcium concentration, it should be fed once or twice a week to your guinea pigs. Parsleys contains 138 mg of calcium per 100 grams
  • Dandelion Greens: The calcium content is 187mg of calcium per 100 g of greens. That’s an awful lot of calcium. This means that dandelion greens should not be fed on a daily basis, but you can give them as an occasional meal if you want.
  • Alfalfa Hay: It’s high in phosphorous and calcium so it is not recommended for guinea pigs to eat alfalfa every day, but instead feed them on an occasional basis. A good rule of thumb is to give the alfalfa at most once or twice a week, and make sure they eat enough Timothy hay in between.
  • Kale: Limit the amount of kale that you serve your little friends. It’s chocked full of Vitamin C and other essential nutrients, but the calcium in it is insane. We’re talking about 135mg of it per 100 grams.
  • Dill weed: Dill is an herb that a lot of piggies enjoy. But, it really needs to be fed sparingly. I’m talking maybe once or twice a month at the most. Some piggies parents can feed it once a week without issues. But, monitor your little friends carefully if you choose to do that. It has 208 mg of calcium in it per 100 grams.
  • Mustard greens: Tasty and delicious and…filled with calcium. This means that it needs to be eaten in moderation. Guinea pigs should only have these greens a few times per month at most.
  • Watercress: At 120mg of calcium per 100 grams, you should not feed watercress that often. Your little buddies are just too small to have these greens every day. But, feeding them this nutritious veggies once or twice a month is fine.
  • Collard Greens: There’s 145 mg of calcium in 100 grams of collard greens, which puts it on the “seriously high” side of the calcium scale. So, just like mustard greens, it should be fed in moderation – with care.

Now, that we taken a look at a bunch of high calcium veggies, let’s take a peek at the low calcium veggies that you can feed to your fur babies a little more frequently.

Low Calcium Vegetables

  • Parsnip: This is a good food for guinea pigs. Parsnips are delicious and they don’t have a large amount of calcium. So you can feed this to your little friend a bit more often.
  • Tomatoes: Tomatoes are low calcium vegetables. Therefore, they can be fed to your guinea pigs more frequently. However, it is crucial to remove the green stalks at the head of tomatoes. These green stalks are poisonous and could affect guinea pigs. 
  • Peas: Peas have the right proportion of calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin C. Therefore, it’s not recommended to give your guinea pigs very little or too many peas. They should be fed in moderation to regulate the amount of calcium. 
  • Carrots: Carrots contain little calcium and high vitamin A. It is also a favorite food by guinea pigs. However, you should go easy on the portion, because of the amount of sugar in carrots. 
  • Cucumber: There’s not a lot of calcium in cucumbers, but there are a lot of other nutrients that your guinea pigs should have. Therefore, it’s fine to feed them occasionally to guinea pigs. 
  • Radicchio: As a low calcium food, it’s fine to give your guinea pigs the green leaves of the radicchio. But make sure they don’t eat too much and get a bellyache (more on that later). Radicchio contains far less calcium than other vegetables like spinach or turnip greens.
  • Endive: There’s about 52 mg of calcium in a 100 g serving of endive. As calcium amounts go, that’s not bad at all. That means you can serve your piggies a small portion of endive two or three times a week.
  • Bell pepper: This fantastic fruit is high in Vitamin C and low in calcium. Added bonus. It can be fed to your fur babies every day. Good-bye scurvy. Hello happy cavies. 

As a general rule of thumb, you have to research and know the amount of calcium present in a vegetable before feeding it to your guinea pigs. This way, you will be able to control their calcium intake. 

Never serve two high calcium veggies in a meal. And never serve high calcium veggies back to back .

Watch Out For Calcium In Fruits

Per 100 grams of quantity, most fruits contain less than 50mgs of calcium. So, it’s unusual for piggies to end up with calcium-related health issues from fruits. It’s pretty tough to do.

For example, Beet greens have 119 mg of calcium while Dandelion greens have 187mgs. In comparison, Apple have a tiny 7 mg of calcium and blueberries have 6 mg of calcium.

From a list of 30 varieties of fruits examined here, raisins and oranges have the highest amounts of calcium with 49 mg and 40 mg, respectively. On the other hand, Spinach and Mustard have 210 mg of Calcium. 

But, let’s not get crazy and think that you can just let your piggies scarf down as much fruit as they want.

Even though calcium isn’t a huge concern with fruits, the sugar and water content can be. So, indulge your cavies with fruit every once in a while–just not to the point where they get diabetes or bloat.

Watch Out For Calcium In Pellets 

Foods like cereal pellets or pellet based mixes too much calcium. And, if you mix in high calcium vegetables with your pellets, it’s even worse because your piggies are getting double the amount of unnecessary calcium.

If health issues due to high calcium are a concern, then you should make the following changes to your piggies’ pellets:

  • Make sure you only use low or no grain pellets made from Timothy Hay
  • Only purchase pellets that are low or no calcium. If you read the labels, they’ll tell you how much calcium is in the pellets.

You also need to consider what type of guinea pig you have. For example, is it pregnant, a baby, or an adult? This will help you figure out how much calcium your fur baby needs.

Watch Out For Calcium In Water

The calcium in water varies between 1 mg and 200 mg per liter. You should always give your guinea pigs low calcium concentration water to drink.

Tap water can actually have really high amounts (for piggies anyway) of calcium in it. The rule of thumb is that if you live in a hard water area, you definitely need to find another source of water for your piggies.

Mineral waters are a hard no (unless you want your piggies bladder loaded down with stones) But, the following are some good water drinking options for your little friends:

  • Purified water usually has small amounts of calcium in it.
  • Springwater is also an alternative; it has an average concentration of 21.8mgs per liter.
  • Filtered water can also be purchased at grocery stores and it only contains small amounts of calcium. Or you can purchase a filter and use it at home for your little friends. You can snag a good one here.

Planning Your Piggie's

Meals Just Got A LOT Easier!

Our Wheekly Meal planner is designed to make it simple and fun for you

to create balanced and healthy

meals for your furry friends -

and they'll love you for it!

FREE

Low Calcium Diet Suggestions For Guinea pigs

If you want your guinea pigs to enjoy a health diet with well managed calcium, then focus on doing the following:

  • Avoid alfalfa and clover hay. Stick with Timothy, Orchard, or Bermuda that’s lower in calcium. 80% of a healthy guinea pig’s diet should consist of quality hays.
  • Only use low or no calcium pellets. Pellets are another way that extra calcium can sneak into your guinea pigs’ diet.
  • Fresh and purified water is the best diet for guinea pigs. Mineral waters and sea waters are not good for guinea pigs because they contain high amounts of calcium.
  • About 10% of a cavies diet should be fresh produce. Just feed the low calcium veggies more frequently than the high calcium veggies.  To do this keep track of how much you feed your piggies and when.
  • Avoid romaine lettuce, too. It’s a sneaky lettuce, and can have high calcium content.

And that’s it! You’re ready to start reducing calcium in your guinea pig’s diet.

Important Things To Know About Guinea Pigs And Calcium

It is very important that guinea pigs absorb calcium correctly. If they don’t, it could create problems in their urinary system.

This could end up causing your piggies a lot of pain and discomfort costing you a lot of worry and money.

So, how do guinea pigs absorb calcium?

How Do Guinea Pigs Absorb Calcium

Just like every other animal, guinea pigs eat food that goes through the mouth, esophagus, and stomach. However, it has a different way of absorbing calcium. 

In guinea pigs, the amount of calcium that is absorbed from food into the bloodstream directly depends on how much calcium-rich food is in their systems.

Guinea pigs absorb 50% of their calcium per intake. (And that’s more calcium than most mammals). For comparison, human beings absorb 30% of their calcium intake.

How Much Calcium Do Guinea Pigs Need?

According to the book Nutrients Requirements of Laboratory Animals, an average adult guinea pig should eat 8 grams of calcium per kilogram of their body weight.

So, how do you know whether your guinea pig is eating 8 grams of calcium per kg of pellet? 

For example, a guinea pig that weighs 1 kilogram (1000 grams)would need 7.2 grams of calcium intake, while the one that weighs 1.2 kg would take 9.6 grams of calcium.

Whether you are feeding your pigs with pellets or not, you can check their calcium intake. If the pellet or food being provided to the guinea pig has a label, you can check the amount of calcium concentration in the food.

Now, let’s be serious.

Most of us (and I included myself in that statement when I had my fur babies) can’t be bothered with the weight of our guinea pigs all the time, to know how much they should be eating.

I mean, we’re raising with piggies, not studying to become nuclear physicists for cavy’s sake.

So here’s I recommend:

  • Write down what you feed your piggies. Plan it out.
  • Make sure you don’t overfeed high calcium veggies.
  • Take control of the calcium in their water, hay, and pellets, so you don’t have calcium sneaking into your guinea pigs’ meals.

Boom. Done!

Tons of piggie parents do that and their fur babies are healthy and energetic. So, don’t drive yourself crazy with proving a well-managed, low(er) calcium diet for your little friends.

A little planning and education go an awfully long way.

And remember, any changes to their diet should be done slowly, if needed. (I am talking about switching over to the hay and veggie diets here.)

Oh, and don’t forget.

The age and environment of a guinea pig determines their calcium needs. Young guinea pigs need more calcium than grown-up ones.

When pregnant, guinea pigs need more nutrients and calcium for them and their offspring. You should know when to increase or decrease the amount of calcium they take.

Should I Stop Feeding My Guinea Pigs Calcium Rich Food?

It’s not a good idea to stop feeding your guinea pigs calcium completely. It’s better just to control the amount of calcium that you feed your little friends. They need enough, but not so much that they can’t get rid of any excess calcium in their bodies.

Why?

Guinea pigs need calcium for healthy bones and teeth. If they don’t get enough, then their body takes it from their bones. This makes the bones weak and the teeth break or loosen. You need to give them enough calcium so that this doesn’t happen.

Too much or too little calcium can cause problems for your guinea pig. When you see symptoms of over-calcium, adjust their diet.

But, what are the symptoms of excessive calcium in guinea pigs? 

How Do You Know Your Guinea Pig Is Getting Too Much Calcium? 

Detecting whether your guinea pig has too much calcium is actually pretty easy. You have to pay attention to your cavies’ urine.

It’s normal for piggies to pass urine with white spots or powders. By doing that, they are passing out the calcium remnants in their body. You want them to do that. That’s good.

However…

If the white spots get gritty like sand, then this is the first sign of too much calcium in their body.

And if you see any thick and cloudy sludge in their urine, you need to reduce their calcium intake – like yesterday. Otherwise, your piggie isn’t going to be in a whole ton of bladder stone trouble.

How To Prevent Bladder Stones Or Bladder Sludge In Guinea Pigs

To prevent bladder stones and sludges in guinea pigs, follow the following steps

  • Reduce intake of vegetables high in calcium for them. Spinaches, turnips, and Dandelion greens should not be the go-to option for your guinea pig food
  • Feed them Timothy hay (or other low calcium hays) and fewer hays with high calcium amounts
  • Give them enough water by wetting their veggies (when necessary) and providing multiple water bowls
  • Give them purified water, not calcium concentrated mineral water
  • Also, provide them with a well-balanced diet with high calcium meals no more than once a week (if you’re feeling comfortable), but once or twice a month (if you want to be more cautious)

Planning Your Piggie's

Meals Just Got A LOT Easier!

Our Wheekly Meal planner is designed to make it simple and fun for you

to create balanced and healthy

meals for your furry friends -

and they'll love you for it!

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Wrap It Up

To summarize, there are several ways to reduce calcium in your guinea pig’s diet. You can feed them fewer high-calcium vegetables, provide Timothy hay instead of other hays, and give them purified water instead of calcium-concentrated mineral water. You can also regulate their calcium intake by controlling the amount of calcium in their food and water.

Guinea pigs need calcium, but not too much. Too little or too much calcium can cause problems for your guinea pig. Reduce the amount of calcium in their diet by following these steps so that they can have healthy bones and teeth.

Just follow the tips and tricks mentioned above to help your piggies live a happy , healthy life. If you follow the steps, you are helping your piggies avoid risks of bladder stones or sludges.

You got this!

Caring For Your Guinea Pig. (n.d.). NC State Veterinary Medicine. https://cvm.ncsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Caring-for-your-Guinea-Pig.pdf

Deposition of calcium in the internal organs in Guinea pigs. (2010, July 21). The Best Pet Health & Care Advice from Real Vets | PetMD. https://www.petmd.com/exotic/conditions/endocrine/c_ex_gp_metastatic_calcification

Feeding Guinea pigs. (n.d.). vca_corporate. https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/guinea-pigs-feeding

Guinea lynx :: Diet. (n.d.). Guinea Lynx :: A Medical and Care Guide for Your Guinea Pig. https://www.guinealynx.info/diet.html

Guinea lynx :: Fruit chart. (n.d.). Guinea Lynx :: A Medical and Care Guide for Your Guinea Pig. https://www.guinealynx.info/diet_fruit.html

Guinea lynx :: Nutrition. (n.d.). Guinea Lynx :: A Medical and Care Guide for Your Guinea Pig. https://www.guinealynx.info/nutrition.html

Guinea lynx :: Vegetable chart. (n.d.). Guinea Lynx :: A Medical and Care Guide for Your Guinea Pig. https://www.guinealynx.info/diet_vegs.html

How much calcium is in your drinking water? A survey of calcium concentrations in bottled and tap water and their significance for medical treatment and drug administration. (n.d.). PubMed Central (PMC). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2488164/

Nutrient requirements of the Guinea pig – Nutrient requirements of laboratory animals – NCBI bookshelf. (n.d.). National Center for Biotechnology Information. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK231932/

Nutrient requirements of the Guinea pig – Nutrient requirements of laboratory animals – NCBI bookshelf. (n.d.). National Center for Biotechnology Information. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK231932/

Quesenberry, K., Mans, C., & Orcutt, C. (2020). Ferrets, rabbits and rodents – E-book: Clinical medicine and surgery. Elsevier Health Sciences.

What can Guinea pigs eat? (n.d.). Exoticdirect. https://www.exoticdirect.co.uk/news/what-can-guinea-pigs-eat-food-unsafe-food-and-dietary-requirements#vegetables

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