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pigsforlife

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Apr 7 08 3:39 AM

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Interested on your thoughts and opinions on the perfect diet.

Grain mix or no grain mix?
What are the dietary benefits for feeding grain mixes? Are they healthy?

I am in two minds about this. From what I can gather, the only purpose grain mixes have other than being a "filler" in their overall diet is to provide fiber.

Does the quality of the mix affect whether or not it should be fed? Probably yes, but what would you call a good quality mix?

Pellets or no pellets?
I feel strongly that pellets should be provided but should be the least important in a pigs diet. Though unfortunately the only high quality pellet currently available is Oxbows Cavy Cuisine - which is apparently quite high in calcium compared to Kleenmamas Hayloft Timothy Based Pellets (not available in Australia), some say this has something to do with stones occuring in their pigs (though I think it is a matter of what and the amount of certain veggies they are getting).

Oxbows Cavy Cuisine can be pricey, and so in the past I have combined this with a lower quality pellet from the vets with no ill effects.

I do believe that pellets are healthier than grain mixes (what do you think?) and the following paragraph copied off Oxbows site sort of backs this point up -


Guinea pigs are designed to eat and digest fiber found in plant material. Timothy hay provides the fiber necessary to maintain intestinal health, and makes Cavy Cuisine the veterinarian's number one choice for your adult guinea pig.

Pellets made with timothy grass meal provide a lower level of protein, calories, and calcium than traditional alfalfa pellets. Cavy Cuisine's optimal calcium to phosphorus ratio also helps maintain a healthy urinary system. Pellets also provide balanced nutrition in every bite and prevent selective feeding behaviors.


Hay or no hay?
Hay is a big big part of a pigs diet, and helps with their teeth and digestive system. I think the main question here is, what kind?

The quality and variety of hay is limited compared to that of other countries. As far as I know Australians have a choice between
- Clover
- Lucerne
- Oaten
- Timothy (oxbows)
- Botanical (oxbows)

Both Timothy and the botanical hay by oxbows are alot greener and softer then any other hay I have seen, but again are very pricey. So I wonder whether a mixture of different types of hay would benefit the pigs as a pose to just one kind?

Lucerne is high in calcium, so calcium levels in veggies need to be watched if fed. Though it is sweet and generally the pigs love them.

Oaten is quite stemmy, but if you get a good batch, there is yummy seed heads and the hay quite green.

Timothy hay I can only say good things about - very green, soft, leafy and fresh smelling.

Botanical is apparently a big hit and smells beautiful but as of yet I have not tried it myself.

I myself, feed unlimited quantities of Oaten Hay but supplement this with Oxbows Timothy hay every other day. I also occasionally purchase bundles (I have talked about this before - the bundles are about as thick as the tip of your middle finger, on the tip of your thumb and arched out) of lucerne hay as a treat.

Veggies or no veggies?
I believe a good veggie diet is essential. And it should be quality and variety of quantitiy. What do pigs get out of veggies? The big one is vitamin c, which they can not make themselves.

My girls get a some of the following veggies twice a day - cucumber, cherry tomatoes, parsley, mint, basil, cos lettuce, spring mix, bok choy, carrot, apple, watermelon, corn husks and silks.

If veggies are not provided, vitamin c supplements should in my opinion.

Overall what would you call the perfect diet -
Grains or no grains
Pellets or no pellets
Hay or no hay
Veggies or no veggies

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Buttercup - March 2007 - August 2008
Toffee - June 2007 - December 2010

~Ash~

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Apr 7 08 7:09 AM

Hi Ash, Good questions - Hay is the most important part of a piggy diet. I'm not sure where to place pellets -although I think Oxbow Cavy Cuisine pellets are probably the best. Based on Timothy hay they have the proper calcium to phosphorus ratio - just like in natural forages. The other good things about the pellets are that they have stabilised Vitamin C which retains it's potency on the shelf and are low in fat. Vegies are important too...although I have read many different opinions about quantity and type, I think that moderate amounts with lots of variety is best. Your list, Ash looks quite similar to mine. I'm not sure about grains....I know many people do feed piggies grain with no ill effects. I think the problem is that it can lead to obesity...
On the subject of hay again, I can recommend Oxbow's Botanical hay. As soon as you open the bag...the smell...it's absolutely beautiful...plus the piggies love it - check this out - it has timothy hay plus 3 of the following herbs depending on seasonal changes: Chamomile, Lemon Verbena, Hibiscus, Lavender, Rose Hips, Comfrey, Borage and Red Clover Blossoms. Small quantities can be blended in with other hay. It is a shame that you can't get Cavy Performance pellets for growing, nursing, sick and old piggies in Australia. What do other forum members think is a good alfalfa (lucerne) pellet for piggy bubs?? I have seen Peters Lucerne pellets but they seem quite high in fat, and contain cereals and legumes ( the packaging does not specify what type) . I think piggy diets face the constraints of the owner's financial situation and location too. I find it quite difficult to afford Oxbow products - but I think they are the best. Below is their list for daily feeding.....I must say it is quite confusing trying to find out what is the best diet.


Daily Feeding

Offer fresh water daily in a sipper bottle.
* Ideally your guinea pig should drink 100-150 ml (3-5 oz) of water a day.
* Give unlimited grass hay for all ages (timothy, orchard, oat hay, or brome).
* Offer alfalfa hay during growth and pregnancy.
* Feed a limited amount of high-fiber pellets.
* 6 months and under: offer unlimited alfalfa-based pellets, daily amounts of alfalfa, and unlimited grass hays such as timothy, orchard, or oat hay.
* 6 months and older: Feed 1/4 cup of a complete pellet containing a minimum of 23% fiber and an unlimited variety of grass hays such as timothy, orchard or oat hay.
* Provide supplemental vitamin C daily.
* Offer vegetables and treats amounting to less than 1 tablespoon per day.
* When feeding healthy greens, give no more than 1/2 cup twice a day (romaine, bib, red leaf).
* Sweet treats, fruit, and seeds are unhealthy and can lead to digestive problems and obesity, even when given in small amounts.


Kitty

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pigsforlife

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Apr 7 08 7:38 AM

Location and money play a BIG part for many many cavy owners in Australia.

According to my vet, larger bags (which will make it cheaper) of Oxbows products, plus more variety (so hopefully the cavy performance pellets) will be coming in hopefully soon.

In the meantime, I suppose it is just balancing the diet. So calcium enriched vegetables, and perhaps lucerne hay (preferably supplemental to timothy hay - but again it depends on the person/location/money). I am not sure, it is a matter of working out a diet that best suits the pig - if the pig is prone to bladder stones, I would hold off on the calcium diet.

Sick pigs is a hard one, I suppose it depends on whats wrong. If the pig has diarrhea - then hold off on the veggies and increase fiber intake. I dont think I would necessarily put the pig on a calcium enriched diet if s/he was sick - but again it depends on whats wrong. Critical Care is fantastic for sick pigs.

Veggies are a big part in my girls diet, it means that I dont need to worry about them not getting enough vitamin c. Here is an interesting quote from GL:

Small amounts of fresh vegetables (about a cup a day) are an important additional source of vitamin C and other nutrients

And another from cavyspirit:

Your healthy cavy shouldn't need additional Vitamin C supplements IF your cavy is getting proper fresh greens and some fruits and high quality, fresh guinea pig pellets on a daily basis. You should not give your cavy a diet high in fruits to ensure they get adequate vitamin C.

Also, need to watch that you dont OVERDOSE on vitamin c. It is possible!

I do wonder whether if someone did buy and feed their pigs a low quality pellet, whether there would be any point. Vitamin C has something like a 90 day shelf life, which isnt long when you think about how much that will be spent being shipped, and then sitting there. I suppose pellets, low or high quality, still do have fiber.

It is interesting to hear your opinions, and thoughts. They are really helpful! By starting this thread, I hope to create discussion with the final goal being coming up with the perfect diet. Though I understand that might not work out, as Kitty pointed out location and money play a big part.

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Buttercup - March 2007 - August 2008
Toffee - June 2007 - December 2010

~Ash~

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Apr 7 08 7:46 AM

My girls ADORE the oxbow normal hay... but the botanicals gave Kellie diahorrea (sp) so I wont feed it again...even though it smelt lovely.

I think Kellie has food intolerances!

****Rowena****

Begin doing what you want to do now.
We are not living in eternity.
We only have this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand – and melting like a snowflake.

Sir Francis Bacon

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Apr 7 08 8:03 AM

Hi Rowena, That's a shame...it smells so good I feel like trying some myself. Poor Kelly...I think piggies can have sensitivities to some foods. Heidi acted very badly when she was eating fresh corn...very naughty indeed!! Every time I reintroduced it for a test - the same thing...

Kitty

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Apr 7 08 8:21 AM

Hi Ash, Supplemental Vitamin C...I agree with Cavyspirit that fresh veg in combination with high quality, fresh pellets is probably best for Vit C. The stress is on high quality and fresh. The Oxbow pellets retain the potency of Vit C for 12 months after opening. I think there is probably no harm in supplementing if your piggy is stressed or ill though. I have read that piggies need from 20-50mg per kg of bodyweight per day to prevent deficiency. If that is true it might be difficult for the average person to work out a dietary plan to cover this...Although Oxbow include a smaller amount of vegies than is usually advised, I think GL's advice seems reasonable. The other point is that whatever diet is provided, it is almost certainly better than what rescue piggies would have had in their former life. I think the goal of the perfect diet is to ensure good health and long life.....prevention is better than huge vet bills. I'm not sure about diet and stones though...there are many opinions....I know Oxbow are spending money researching this health problem.... it could be diet related, genetic or a combination of both...

Kitty

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Apr 7 08 10:02 AM

Well my current pigs get all sorts of feeds and treats. Some healthy, some not so healthy.

I'm probably going to get grilled on many things here but that's ok. I'm choosing to spoil them.

My piggies are my babies. They are my spoiled babies. They get whatever they want. I'm not one of those people who says "Oops strawberries are bad for you, only one per week, kiwi fruit is too high in sugar, none of them for you".

I've owned piggies for longer than I can remember. They've always been fed on a pretty good diet, even when I had nearly 100 of them, they still got heaps of stuff and lots of variety and no illness.

I feed several types of mixes (at least two different ones daily) and two types of pellets on offer at all times. They get compressed hay cubes at all times, Peters Nibble and Gnaw mix at all times, Oxbow Hay - both botanical and regular, I rotate between the two. They also have one of those nibble pellet blocks available at all times.

They get a mixture of fruit and veges everyday. I usually go for the lettuce/salad mixes as a base and add several types of fruits and veges. eg...tonight they got the salad mix, an extra leaf of cos lettuce each, blueberries, broccolini, baby cucumbers (I think they're called quikes or something similar), corn kernels, celery leaves, mandarin pieces and rockmelon.

I'm not into weighing up how much vitamin C is in what vege and how much calcium is in their diet. I've never had a diet related problem with any of my piggies over the years so I must be doing something right.

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pigsforlife

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Apr 7 08 10:26 AM

Kitty, I agree with you 100%. Supplementing an ill or pregnant cavy with extra vitamin c is recommended - I did this with Buttercup ON TOP of her normal veggies!

Generally speaking, if the pigs are recieving a varied diet of vegetables - whether it be a couple of leaves of cos lettuce, 3 chunks of capsicum, 2 slices of cucumber and 4 cherry tomatoes (for example) - they will be recieving an adequate amount of vitamin c. The thing is if you do both veggies and supplemental vitamin c under normal circumstances you run the risk of the cavy getting pseudo scurvy.

If you dont feed vegetables, but give the pig vitamin c then you should be ok in terms of vitamin c.

Also, I wonder if it was the starch in the corn that resulted in her reacting badly. I know that the starch in sweet potato has affected some cavies on guinealynx before.

Liss - I dont think that you need to sit down and calculate how much calcium or vitamin c the pig is getting - unless there is a health problem that means you have to.

Would also like to point out the my pigs are my babies too, but I prefer to keep them on a healthy diet so as to prevent them going through the stress and sometimes pain of being sick as a result of a poor diet.

So far I have not had a diet related problem (have had everything else under the moon - infected bone which resulted in amputation, URI after URI, mites, fungal etc all things I couldnt prevent) either, but am interested in working out the perfect diet to prevent such things happen. As cavies get older they become weaker and more prone to such things.

I think that the main thing I am interested in, and may be beneficial to others is breaking down the diet and going through it - is this good, is this not in terms of grain mixes, veggies, hay and pellets. Are grain mixes needed? Are pellets needed?

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Toffee - June 2007 - December 2010

~Ash~

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PansyGirl

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Apr 7 08 11:17 AM

I thought it should be

Jeni

“Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength” - St Francis de Sales

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Apr 7 08 1:30 PM

i must admit i believe immune system has alot to do with diet e.g. guinea pigs that seem to get hit with the more severe cases of infections ( or infections that don't respond to treatment as well as they should ) whether it be mites, fungal, respiratoy etc seem to usually have a diet hat it insufficient or poor living conditions or a combination of both.

I am definitely one of those people that preach to not use supplements unless you'd like to add it to the diet if the guinea pig is pregnant or unwell for obvious reasons where they'll need the extra nutrients. Their has been studies where if say an animal is given excess vitamins over a long period of time and then that amount is reduced for whatever reason that they can be prone just as easily to infection because their system is used to a higher than normal amount. Vitamin C should be covered by the feeding of natural foods high in the vitamins needed ( particularly vit c of course ) in the diet.

Veg! Ash I agree with you're statement ' quality and not quantity ' . With my pigs since around 5 years ago now I've always fed them capsicum every second day to every day. Only in the amounts they need but I know that by feeding this particular veg that they are indeed getting their daily vitamin C intake. The min amount needed daily of Vit C is said to be 10mg although I don't calculate I'm sure my guys get more. The good thing with the capsicum method I've found is that I have the joy of being able to then add almost whatever veg i like to their meal everyday as long as it's got a decent amount of nutrition. More green leafy veg, not so much fruit ( infact i only feed apple or on the occasion a small piece of banana ).

Diet should also be high in fibre fibre should exceed the protein level in the diet so lots of hay and greens not just for fibre but to help keep piggies constantly growing teeth grinding so that they don't overgrow. I think like others have said since Oxbow has now entered Australia it comes very highly recommended the lucky thing is that it is available from ebay so anyone anywhere are able to purchase this fantastic high fibre grassy hay.
Since I run the shelter here naturally I have to buy most things in bulk so I buy a ' grassy hay ' regularly. Luckily havn't had to resort to lucerne in yonks because i have 7 produce stores local to me so If one dosn't have grassy hay or barley hay I'll search the others hehe. For those that arn't aware the main reason lucerne is often not recommended is because it is higher in calcium than the other hay's and excess calcium in a piggies diet can result in bladder stones and other urinary conditions. In saying this I did used to feed lucerne hay for many years before i knew this and I never had a piggy suffer from eating this sort of hay BUT I did get alot of the white pee stains from the excess calcium excreted in the urine and it was only when i switched i noticed it basically completely stopped.

I'm one of those people that do recommend a grain mix in the diet. I find pretty much all the pigs here don't like pellets so I figure why purchase if they're not going to touch them. If the pigs eat them the people that feed them are very lucky. Umm In stating I like a grain mix in the diet the main reason is due to the fact I find it helps to add extra condition and bulk to a piggy ( not necessarily fat but a nice big solid body ). It's the main difference I've always noticed from when i had my piggies as a child to nowdays. As a child my piggies never got very large and they were never nice and conditioned and solid like the pigs i have today. With a grain mix I never feed ' seedy ' mixes with high ' bad ' fats in them I've seen the damage these sorts of mixes fed ' regularly ' and not as a ' treat ', can cause. I like a mix to have ingredients like barley, oats, wheat, lupins...most mixes will contain a little bit of molasses to make the mix a bit more moist and palatable...I've never found it to be an issue with the piggies here. My pigs would go insane without their grain mix it's one of the highlights of their feed regime especially in winter they go nuts over their oats and it really helps to keep them in good condition throughout the colder months. The problem is that so many mixes on the market just don't cut it so it's one of those things I both do and don't agree with...I agree with having a mix in the diet if it's a quality healthy mix...I don't agree with say feeding the seedy supermarket brands among several others still on the market. I've found shopping around the past couple of years that alot of the mixes have improved and the seeds seem to be weaning out of alot of places...

To summarise and some may differ or disagree...my theory is to feed a daily diet which is consistent and balanced and fed almost the same every single day ( by almost i mean usually the veg changes slightly ). I believe keeping their diet consistently similar is the key to health and stable condition. As with humans for example if a human changed their diet frequently or had a consistent diet then had a sudden change in what they ate they'd more than likely have weight fluctuations, health fluctuations sometimes indigestion or an upset stomach in the case of a sudden change in diet...My pigs get pretty much a range of around 8 or so diff veg it never changes I always feed the same veg just in diff veg mixes throughout the week...and then their grain, hay, sometimes grass ( since there's so many pigs it's difficult to always supply ), and water everyday. I rarely have one of my gang fall unwell and if they do it's usually a quick recovery unless it's something completely untreatable caused by genetics or something else and I don't find any of my pigs every really change in weight, size, personality etc...I came to this conclusion after realising the complete difference between my pigs as a child to nowdays ( regarding what they were fed in their diet and how consistent their diet was and how long they lived, how healthy they were as a result. The difference is huge from nowdays to back then ).

phew...ok my thoughts over and out...

jess

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pigsforlife

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Apr 7 08 2:10 PM

enchantingcavy wrote:
i must admit i believe immune system has alot to do with diet e.g. guinea pigs that seem to get hit with the more severe cases of infections ( or infections that don't respond to treatment as well as they should ) whether it be mites, fungal, respiratoy etc seem to usually have a diet hat it insufficient or poor living conditions or a combination of both.


I do agree with you here, but I seem to have had one thing after another lately and can assure you that living conditions are wonderful, and diet pretty good, I think! I think a good diet is necessary, as well as decent living conditions but neither prevent URIs/mites/fungal etc.

I am not such a fan on grain mixes. I think I have said this before, but the quality of the mix defers greatly between place to place - like pretty much everything else. Here, the only grain mix available (apart from the crappy coles and woolworths ones) contains chaff, corn, lupins and sunflower seeds. What do grain mixes do other then "fatten" them up? Does the pig actually benefit (apart from the body) from being fed grain mixes? I ask, because I have taken out grain mixes from their diet and wont introduce again unless it is necessary to a good diet.

My girls have never dived into their pellet bowl, but I dont really mind as it is not the most important part of their diet in the end.

Everyone has the same common goal -- Having a healthy cavy, that lives to a ripe old age happily. It is just how we go about it to get the pig there, and I think diet plays an important factor in this.

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Buttercup - March 2007 - August 2008
Toffee - June 2007 - December 2010

~Ash~

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Apr 7 08 2:25 PM

From what I know ' healthy ' grains help to build bone tissue and muscle which helps the body in strength and endurance and is a source of energy aswell...I think grain mixes ( again only decent quality ) are benefitical for young growing piggies in particular. They say it's appropriate to lower the amount of protein content in a grain mix as a guinea pig/animal ages as their body dosn't need the excess so would be best to feed in smaller amounts to minimise the intake....I think it'd really help in the prevention of fragile bones/arthritis in older piggies. I guess apart from all this these particular grains I'm moreso referring to are whole grains cnosidered healthy and they are lower fat grains which are a source of fibre.

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pigsforlife

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Apr 7 08 2:33 PM

Hmm, thats interesting. Its a pity the quality of said mixes are so low here.

I am wondering though, why out of the plenty of people I know from other forums (granted they arent all in Australia) none of their elderly pigs have arthritis - they dont feed grain mixes. I suppose it depends on the overall diet. Hmm, sorry, thinking aloud here.

So, each food has its own purpose, it is simply a matter of intertwining and balancing them out.

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Buttercup - March 2007 - August 2008
Toffee - June 2007 - December 2010

~Ash~

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Apr 7 08 10:43 PM

Hi Ash,

it's ok and I don't think anyone has to agree it's just my theory and what I've read about the grains I ' prefer ' to feed. Umm I do think genetics probably plays a part possibly aswell. I've only ever had one piggy develop arthritis that was ruby she started having bladder problems in her old age ( 7-8yrs old ) and then developed the arthritis she was one of the ' lawn piggies ' from when i was younger and they didn't get the grains although I started her on them i think around 4yrs old...I did have three sows that lived to around 10yrs old ( these were previous lawn piggies aswell and were switched in their older years to the grain mix added in the diet ) they were pets and passed away a couple of years ago they did get alot of muscle stiffness in the back legs and body although luckily didn't lose all movement in their legs...I havn't found any of my pigs nowdays to develop any muscle stiffness or arthritis umm Patch my peruvian girl in the barrel she is around 7yrs old and is doing really well in that area...it's hard to say I guess I'll start noticing a difference if any moreso in the next couple of years I do have quite a few very old piggies here and none have any problems in that area now if could be due to diet or it could be genetics play a part who knows....

I know barley and oats in particular have a good write up anything ' wheat ' based really. I think it'd be awesome to be able to create a grain mix with ONLY the healthier grains in them with added chopped up hay in the mix (instead of lucerne chaff with the majority of mixes have here).

jess

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PansyGirl

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Apr 7 08 11:28 PM

What do grain mixes do other then "fatten" them up? Does the pig actually benefit (apart from the body) from being fed grain mixes?


Ash, I'm interested in where you would draw the line between a healthy, solid pig and a 'fat' one. Sometimes I worry that my girls are 'fat', but they appear to be very healthy. They are both around the 2.2kg mark.

Violet is 5 and Sally is 3. Violet has had one URI (October 05) and one op to remove cysts (November 06). I've had her since she was 3 months old. I've had Sally since October 05, and (touch wood) she's never been to the vet (although she had a tiny fungal spot on her nose a few months ago, and she seems to get a slight crust around her left eye every few months).

They are very fussy with grain mixes. They will certainly eat horse oats and cracked lupins, but generally only eat lucerne chaff out of a mix. They are also getting Peter's Pasture Hay at the moment.

Violet has food sensitivities (most types of lettuce and cucumber), so their diet mainly consists of tomato, carrot, celery and capsicum with some different things thrown in for variety (eg. broccoli, corn husks). They get a little bit of fruit (apple, banana, rockmelon) about once a fortnight. I've always stuck by the '1 cup of veg per day' rule.

Jeni

“Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength” - St Francis de Sales

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Apr 8 08 12:26 AM

rowie78 wrote:
but the botanicals gave Kellie diahorrea (sp) so I wont feed it again...even though it smelt lovely.


you ARE talking about the hay aren't you? sick:

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Irene is a foodie (obligatory mention of foodiness to make random posts in foodie thread relevant)

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pigsforlife

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Apr 8 08 1:37 AM

PansyGirl wrote:
What do grain mixes do other then "fatten" them up? Does the pig actually benefit (apart from the body) from being fed grain mixes?


Ash, I'm interested in where you would draw the line between a healthy, solid pig and a 'fat' one. Sometimes I worry that my girls are 'fat', but they appear to be very healthy. They are both around the 2.2kg mark.


Wow! You have some chubby little girls! My girls range from 0.90kg to 1.03kg. The average weight appears to be anywhere between 2 pounds (just under a kg) and 3 pounds (about 1.5kg). So long as your girls are healthy then I wouldnt worry to much, but there is a high risk of heart disease with being overweight, as well as respiratory problems and bumble foot.

I am just going to play devils advocate for a second. The following paragraph is off this thread from gl http://www.guinealynx.info/forums/viewtopic.php?t=33265&highlight=obesity

Mixes contain nuts, seeds, husks cracked corn and grains. Guinea pig pellets must be plain pellets only no mixes. Mixes are too high in fats and contain an excess amount of protein. They are not a natural food source and contain little to no nutrient value.

The Grains and cereals are too high in carbohydrates which can alter the delicate balance of intestinal flora.

The high fat content can cause obesity over a long period of time leading cavies to become susceptible to heart disease and other obesity related illnesses.


Iowa State University has concluded:

''A certain percentage of stones are caused by an imbalance of calcium and phosphorus in the diet. This is the reason why carbohydrates, grains are not recommended. Grains have an inverse ratio of phosphorus to calcium and can cause stones to form''

'' Remove all grain based foods. The high levels of starch encourage the growth of E.Coli and clostridium supp.


Interesting.

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Buttercup - March 2007 - August 2008
Toffee - June 2007 - December 2010

~Ash~

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PansyGirl

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Apr 8 08 2:39 AM

doh

I meant to say 1.2kg, not 2.2...



Jeni

“Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength” - St Francis de Sales

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