When I used to do info/exhibit tables at pet stores for the rescue, invariably someone would say to me, "I’m trying to find different snacks that I can feed to my guinea pigs during playtime. I'm wondering if these fruit-flavored yogurt drops are any good. They sound like they'd be yummy."
Most commercial treats sold for guinea pigs are equivalent to junk food for humans. These treats are often full of fat and sugar and, in the case of yogurt drops, excess calcium. Giving these treats on a regular basis fills guinea pigs up with empty calories, leaving less room for the basic, nutritious foods that they need on a daily basis.
Feeding too many commercial treats becomes detrimental to a pig’s health, and the results aren’t limited to extra weight. Products containing excess calcium — such as those with dairy ingredients — lead to the development of stones and crystals that, in turn, lead to dangerous blockages.
The dairy-based treats, in particular, must be avoided as dairy is not something guinea pigs need or should have. I know several families where guinea pigs developed difficult cases of GI stasis as a result of being overfed yogurt drops (3 or more a day, every day, for weeks); the treatment, which included multiple vet visits and medication, was expensive. Once cured, the families and the pigs went through short-but-difficult retraining periods in which the pigs were broken of their junk-food habits and switched to healthy diets.
There are many options for healthy snacks:
- Occasional bits of apple or halved and seedless grapes are easy to hand feed, as are chunks of fresh melon (e.g., honeydew, cantaloupe, Crenshaw, seedless watermelon) and seedless orange wedges (Clementine oranges were favorites of several of my own guinea pigs).
- Get veggies that you wouldn’t feed on a regular basis because they’re more expensive: Belgian endive, radicchio, frisee, curly endive (a.k.a. chicory), yellow or orange sweet bell peppers, and packaged baby romaine or spring mix. (These same ingredients can add life to your own salads.)
- During the spring and summer, fresh clean grass — untouched by pesticides, lawn-growth enhancers, and the bathroom trips of the family dog — is also a great treat.
- Feed a different kind of hay than what is always on hand in the cage, such as orchard grass hay, mountain grass hay, bluegrass hay, and others.
You can find a list of favorite guinea pig foods on Guinea Lynx, which will suggest some additional options.