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Home > Guinea Pigs > Can Guinea Pigs Eat Dog Food? Vet Approved Facts & Safety Tips

Can Guinea Pigs Eat Dog Food? Vet Approved Facts & Safety Tips

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Dr. Amanda Charles

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The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Guinea pigs originated in the Andes Mountains, where they can still be found living today. They live in deserts, savannas, and other habitats, but wherever they live, they exist on a diet that consists primarily of grass, and solely of plant material. Guinea pigs became domesticated when they were reared for food and used in rituals. Today, they are kept primarily as pets. They are sociable animals that shouldn’t be kept as solitary pets, and they will usually take well to handling and human contact.

Guinea pigs also spend a lot of time awake, approximately 20 hours a day, and most of this time eating. They eat a diet primarily consisting of grass or hay, with some vegetables. Because they are herbivores, they cannot digest meat properly, and it can make them quite ill. As such, and because it is usually high in calories and lacks the nutrients that guinea pigs require, dog food is not a safe or suitable food for guinea pigs.


Guinea Pig Diet

As herbivores, guinea pigs exist on a diet that consists primarily of grass and hay. They can be allowed to graze on your lawn, although you do need to ensure that the grass is safe for them to eat, but they should never be fed lawn mower clippings. They need a diet that is rich in fiber, which helps keep their digestive system moving, and this means around 85% of a cavy’s food should be high-quality hay. Examples include Timothy hay, grass hay, and orchard grass hay. Avoid feeding alfalfa hay except to very young and pregnant guinea pigs.

As well as providing the fiber a guinea pig needs, chewing the hay also helps wear down their teeth, which grow constantly through their lives and can become dangerously long if allowed to grow unchecked.

The remaining 15% of their diet will be made up of leafy greens. Spring greens and rocket are great sources of vitamin C, which is an essential vitamin for guinea pigs. A small amount of fruit can be fed occasionally, as a treat. Remove the core and seeds from an apple, ensure it is washed thoroughly, and you can feed a couple of slices every 2–3 weeks, for example.

Merino guinea pig eating grass
Image Credit: Natalia Kuzmina, Shutterstock

Can Guinea Pigs Eat Dog Food?

Dog food is not formulated for guinea pigs which means it contains ingredients that are not appropriate for them. It also lacks many of the nutrients that they need in a healthy diet. As such, guinea pigs cannot eat dog food and it may make your cavy ill if it does eat any, regardless of whether it is dry or canned food.


The Dangers of Dog Food

Dog food is formulated for dogs, and whether it is canned food or dry kibble, dog food is high in protein, low in fiber, and doesn’t contain the essential vitamins and minerals needed by your little rodent, but it does contain meat, which can make them very unwell.

Guinea Pigs Can’t Digest Meat

The single most important reason you shouldn’t feed dog food to guinea pigs is that they are strict herbivores. They cannot digest meat and feeding meat to a cavy can cause serious gastrointestinal problems.

wet dog food in bowl
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Not Enough Vitamin C

Guinea pigs cannot synthesize their own vitamin C, which means that they have to get it from their diet. The leafy green element of a piggie’s diet provides most of the vitamin C they require, with some coming in pellet form. Dog food does not contain high enough levels of vitamin C.

High In Calories

Dog food is high in calories when compared to a typical guinea pig diet. High-calorie foods can cause your cavy to put on excess weight and may lead to obesity. Obesity, in turn, heightens the risk of diseases like diabetes and heart conditions. High-calorie foods should not be a part of your guinea pig’s diet.

dry dog food in bowl and on wooden table
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Difficult To Eat

As well as having inappropriate ingredients, dog food is created for dogs, which have larger and stronger jaws than guinea pigs. The dry kibble is likely too hard for a Guinea Pig to crunch on, which means it poses a risk of choking. Even canned food can be difficult to eat because the pieces of meat and other ingredients are larger than a cavy can handle.


What To Do If Your Guinea Pig Eats Dog Food

Ideally, you should keep dog food well out of the way of your guinea pig, but accidents do happen. If your cavy eats a small amount of dog food, monitor them closely especially for digestive upset.  If you’re worried, take a photo of the ingredients list and contact your vet to ask for advice. They may want you to visit or they may offer advice over the phone.

Guinea pig in hands of child
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divider-guineapigThe 6 Things You Should Feed Your Guinea Pig

So, guinea pigs shouldn’t be given dog food, but they do need to be given food that is appropriate for their species. A guinea pig diet is a very simple diet, consisting of just a few ingredients.

1. Hay

Hay forms the main part of a piggie’s diet. The grinding of the hay controls tooth length, while good-quality feeding hay is high in fiber, which is critical to guinea pigs. Alfalfa hay is only suitable for young guinea pigs under the age of 6 months, but other options include Timothy hay, grass hay, and orchard grass. Ensure your guinea pig has a constant supply of hay.

Timothy Hay Food for rabbits on white background
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2. Greens

Around 10% to 15% of a cavy’s diet will consist of leafy greens. Leafy greens provide vitamin C as well as other essential vitamins and minerals. Avoid iceberg lettuce because it is primarily water and doesn’t contain many nutrients. Opt instead for greens like spring greens and rocket. You can also feed some flowers like dandelion.

3. Vegetables

Other vegetables can be given as a treat, which means you should only feed them around once a week. Suitable vegetables include broccoli and cauliflower. Wash the vegetables first and cut them into manageable chunks.

guinea pig eating
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4. Fruit

Similarly, fruit can be fed as a treat but only very rarely and in moderation. Fruit is very high in natural sugars, which can lead to obesity and weight-related problems. Apples are a common treat but you need to remove the seeds before feeding and wash them thoroughly, even if you buy organic.

5. Pellets

Guinea pig pellets are hay-based pellets, but they are fortified with vitamins and minerals, so they help ensure your pet is getting all the vitamins and minerals it requires.

little guinea pig eats from a boy's hand
Image Credit: KseniyaHaritonova1406, Shutterstock

6. Herbs

Herbs are another great source of vitamin C and other nutrients, and you can add a small amount to our cavy’s bowl. Choose herbs like cilantro, basil, and dill, all of which contain beneficial nutrients and are low in calories and sugar.


Frequently Asked Questions

Can Guinea Pigs Eat Cat Food?

Cats are carnivores, which means that their food tends to be even higher in meat content than dog food. It is also high in calories and does not contain enough fiber to be considered a good food for guinea pigs. It can make them quite ill, so you should avoid feeding any cat food and try to keep the cat bowl away from your guinea pig.

Can Guinea Pigs Eat Rabbit Food?

Rabbit food does not contain meat and is generally higher in fiber than both dog food and cat food, but it is formulated for rabbits. It doesn’t have a high enough concentration of vitamin C or other essential vitamins and minerals, so it should not be fed to guinea pigs.


Guinea pigs are sociable, chatty little animals that keep their owners entertained. Among their care requirements is a need for a high-fiber diet that contains plenty of vitamin C. This diet is made up primarily of hay with some leafy greens and the occasional vegetable and fruit treat. But, because guinea pigs are herbivores, their food should not include any meat.

Therefore, it is not safe to feed dog food to guinea pigs. It can cause serious gastrointestinal problems initially and may lead to malnourishment and obesity in the long term. Similarly, cat food is not an appropriate food either.

Featured Image Credit: Anna Hoychuk, Shutterstock

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