Humans are unable to create their own supply of vitamin C. As many people now know, failing to get enough vitamin C in your diet means getting scurvy. What many people do not know is that guinea pigs also lack the ability to produce their own vitamin C, so a healthy dose in their diet is crucial if yours is to remain fit and healthy.
Scurvy in guinea pigs is serious business; in fact, it can lead to bone and tissue deformation, blood clotting problems, and general pain. Unfortunately, it tends to be quite a common problem.
Here are just three signs that you need to watch out for.
1. Difficulty Walking
One of the main reasons your guinea pig needs vitamin C is so they can manufacture collagen. This is a critical compound needed for the health of bones, cartilage, and blood vessels, and any abnormalities with those parts of your guinea pig's body can lead to a pronounced swelling of the joints, resulting in pain while walking. It's unlikely that you will be able to spot that swelling yourself unless you happen to be a vet, but you may notice that your guinea pig seems to be in pain or have difficulty while walking. For example, they may take more pauses or adopt a stiffer gait.
2. Difficulty Eating
Collagen also plays a vital role in the oral health of your guinea pig. As all owners know, guinea pigs love gnawing away at a tasty treat, but those who are suffering from a vitamin C deficiency may seem unwilling to eat as they normally would. Any history buffs will know that one of the first signs of scurvy among seamen in the olden days was loose or painful gums, and it's the same with guinea pigs. This is because scurvy can cause problems with the anchoring of the teeth. If the teeth aren't sitting firmly, eating will be painful. Over time, the teeth can suffer from malocclusion (poor positioning), which can make eating even more unpleasant.
Guinea pigs like to scurry around and play. Unfortunately, a lack of vitamin C will cause a noticeable drop in energy, and you may find that your guinea pig isn't moving around very quickly and is happy to just spend all their time resting. Luckily, this is often quite easy to spot since younger guinea pigs are more at risk of a vitamin C deficiency due to their rapid development. A younger guinea pig will generally be more active and excitable than a younger one, so any sudden lethargy should be a clear-cut sign that something is wrong.
If you notice any of these signs in your guinea pig, talk to a veterinarian near you.