Calcium is an essential mineral for all animals, including guinea pigs. Calcium is a major component of teeth and bones, and it's also important for bodily functions like muscle contraction and nerve impulses. Without enough calcium, your guinea pig could get very sick. Here are four things you need to know about calcium deficiencies.
Where do guinea pigs get calcium?
Guinea pigs need to get calcium from their food, just like people do. Some commercially available guinea pig pellets are fortified with minerals like calcium. Many types of vegetables also have high levels of calcium.
What are the signs of calcium deficiency?
There may be no outward signs that your guinea pig has a calcium deficiency. Guinea pigs are very good at hiding their illnesses, so it's possible for calcium deficient pigs to die suddenly without showing any warning signs.
Other pigs will show vague symptoms like not wanting to eat, not drinking, and lying down instead of playing with you or their cage mates. Small changes in their behavior can be clues that something is seriously wrong, so if your pig starts acting strangely, you need to see your vet right away.
Sometimes, severe calcium deficiencies can also cause very obvious symptoms like muscle spasms or convulsions. Your pig may also lose the ability to use their limbs; this is because of calcium's important role in nerve impulses.
How do vets treat calcium deficiency?
Calcium deficiency is treated with the mineral calcium gluconate. This calcium supplement can be given intravenously or orally. The vet may also give your pig other treatments to make them more comfortable, like painkillers or intravenous fluids. If your pig is experiencing muscle spasms, your vet may give them a muscle relaxant to stop the spasms.
How can you prevent calcium deficiency?
If you're not feeding your pig any vegetables, you need to start doing that. Pellets and hay are important, but they don't provide all of the minerals that your pet needs. High calcium vegetables include things like parsley, kale, spinach, okra, and broccoli. As a general rule, an adult guinea pig can eat about a cup of green, leafy vegetables every day.
Your vet may also tell you to switch to a brand of pellets that includes added calcium. You may also be told to give your pig calcium supplements. These last two steps should only be taken at your vet's direction, since too much calcium can also cause problems and you don't want to overdo it.
Calcium deficiency is a big problem for guinea pigs, but you can keep your furry friend healthy by feeding them a vegetable-rich diet. For more information, contact an animal hospital like Munster Animal Hospital.