Originating from South America, guinea pigs were first domesticated about 3,000 years ago by the Incas. No one knows exactly why they are called guinea pigs as they are not from Guinea, nor are they pigs, and this little rodent is known as a few different names around the globe. Some speculate that “pig” comes from how they taste when cooked. Whoa. Yes, people did and still do eat guinea pigs, but that culinary practice isn’t seen much in North America. In this article, we are more concerned with what the guinea pig eats as opposed to eating them!
Guinea pigs are herbivores, meaning they eat plants. Typically, a pet guinea pig’s diet consists of hay, e.g., Timothy Hay, and pellets to help wear down their ever-growing teeth. You may be wondering where the “salad” comes in. Although it may be tempting to feed your guinea pig strictly vegetables, The Humane Society of the United States recommends that you only feed them up to one cup of veggies per day. Any new vegetables should be introduced one at a time. Choose organic whenever possible and thoroughly wash all produce!
Vegetables that are acceptable to include in your guinea pig’s daily meals include a variety of dark leafy-green and Vitamin C rich items. Like humans, guinea pigs cannot make their own Vitamin C. Guinea pigs can get scurvy if they are not receiving enough. It’s important to supplement with dietary sources.
1. Kale: This superfood is packed with antioxidants and Vitamins A and C. However, high levels of calcium and potassium can lead to bladder stones and excessive thirst.
2. Parsley: Another great choice for guinea pigs, parsley is full of Vitamins A, B, and C, iron, and flavonoids. But like kale, it also can cause bladder stones.
3. Dandelion Greens: It may be a weed to you, but to a guinea pig it is a Vitamin C-rich delicious treat! You can feed a guinea pig dandelions up to 4-5 times a week in moderation, and not just the greens. They’ll eat the root, the stem, and the flower, too. Don’t assume you can just pick up dandelions anywhere, there. Polluted areas mean polluted plants.
4. Spinach: Raw spinach is a great choice for guinea pigs. It contains Vitamin A, C, K, iron, and a bunch of other beneficial minerals. It also has high amounts of calcium and phosphorus. You guessed it: bladder stones.
Also, consider feeding your guinea pig turnip greens and romaine lettuce.
Other, non-leafy green vegetables that are beneficial to your guinea pig include:
- Carrot (includes carrot tops)
- Bell Pepper (red and green)
What about broccoli? Unfortunately, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower can give your guinea pig digestive problems. They may not be life-threatening, but it is best to limit or avoid these kinds of veggies altogether.
Vegetables to Avoid
Avoid feeding your guinea pig the following vegetables:
- Bok Choy
- Iceberg Lettuce (there is very little nutritional value to iceberg)
This list also includes seeds, mushrooms, meat, dairy products, and certain types of fruit.
Moderation is Key
If you are concerned about your pet’s Vitamin C intake, it is recommended that you purchase Vitamin C fortified pellets or Vitamin C tablets. Speak with your veterinarian or pet specialist before choosing a product.
However, there’s nothing quite like a good dandelion to boost your vitamins! Remember, though, it is important to follow a strict moderation rule when it comes to feeding your pet guinea pig vegetables. You may feel like a superhuman after eating nothing but kale all day, but it could wind up making your guinea pig feel super sick.