When adopting a new pet, it is vital to know which foods are safe for them and which should be avoided.
Understanding the essential nutrients your animal needs is one of the first pieces of information you should seek out as a new owner of guinea pigs.
A common leafy green many owners want to know about is spinach.
As a general rule, spinach is a safe food for your guinea pig at any age. This leafy green is rich in essential vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin C, A, Potassium, and Calcium, vital to your cavy’s health. However, there are several risk factors associated with its high levels of oxalic acid.
Knowing the benefits and risks of feeding spinach to your guinea pigs is necessary to raise happy and healthy pets.
Let’s look at this food’s place in the overall diet.
Spinach Nutrition Facts
Spinach is an excellent leafy green full of essential nutrients, including calcium, potassium, and vitamins A and C.
This healthy green is an excellent addition to your pet’s diet, but you should feed it in moderation.
Let’s look at the nutrition facts of 100 grams of raw baby spinach to understand these benefits better.
|Dietary Fiber||2.2 g|
|Calcium (Ca)||99 mg|
|Phosphorus (P)||49 mg|
|Vitamin A||2.81 mg|
|Vitamin C||28.1 mg|
|Oxalic Acid||1 g|
Looking at the table above, you are able to see raw baby spinach is rich in protein, fiber, calcium, potassium, as well as vitamins A and C.
These nutrient quantities, along with the green’s low levels of phosphorus and sugar, qualify spinach as a healthy, nutrient-dense food.
Benefits of Fresh Spinach For Guinea Pigs
Spinach has many benefits for guinea pigs.
One of the most important benefits is its vitamin C content.
Vitamin C is crucial for guinea pigs because their bodies do not naturally produce this nutrient independently.
This makes supplementing this nutrient in their diets incredibly important.
Scurvy is a disease which develops from a deficiency of this nutrient and will lead to bleeding or sore gums, open wounds, and weakness in the body.
On average, a guinea pig needs between 10 mg and 30 mg of vitamin C per day.
Since 100 g of spinach contains approximately 28 mg of this nutrient, it is an excellent source.
Of course, you will never feed your pet 100 g in a single serving, so the actual levels they gain from spinach are lower than 28 mg.
Some great alternatives to spinach are parsley and kale.
These greens, along with other safe fruits and vegetables like strawberries and broccoli, contain vitamin C.
This nutrient is also supplemented in the pellets of guinea pig food, which should make up the majority of your pet’s diet.
Vitamin A & Potassium
Vitamin A is also an essential nutrient for these animals.
It helps support vital organ function as well as a healthy immune system and vision.
Guinea pigs require adequate levels of this nutrient in their daily diet to stay in good health.
Potassium is another essential nutrient for guinea pigs.
Potassium also plays a vital role in internal organ function.
Calcium is another essential nutrient for guinea pigs.
Like many animals, calcium content is essential for a guinea pig’s bone health.
It has an excellent calcium to phosphorus ratio (Ca:P) of approximately 2:1.
This is important because phosphorus will inhibit an animal’s ability to absorb and process calcium in its body.
Spinach Issues For Guinea Pigs
Although spinach is a healthy food rich in many essential nutrients, it poses a risk factor for guinea pigs.
Spinach is high in oxalic acid, also known as oxalates.
Oxalic acid is a compound which inhibits calcium absorption in the body.
Since calcium is essential for these animals, high levels of oxalate are unhealthy and may be dangerous.
Oxalates may also lead to kidney or bladder stones.
Bladder stones, a common issue among guinea pigs, are often incredibly painful for your pet.
If the stones are small enough, your pet may be able to pass them on their own.
Your vet will likely advise you to increase their water intake to flush them out before they get too big.
In some cases, your pet may be unable to pass these bladder stones naturally, and they will require surgery to have them removed.
Warning signs to detect guinea pig bladder stones are irregularity or inability to urinate.
This condition is severe and must be corrected for your guinea pig to survive.
No matter the size of the bladder stone, you should do your best to keep your pet comfortable and free of stress.
This painful condition will increase stress levels in your pet, which may lead to other health issues.
The other risk associated with spinach is how much your pet will enjoy it.
Cavies are known to enjoy the taste of this green and will likely eat as much as you give it.
Since they will not naturally know when to stop eating this food, it is up to guinea pig owners to limit their intake.
Spinach Serving Size And Frequency For Guinea Pigs
Spinach has many health benefits associated with it, but it also poses several risk factors for your pet.
If you own a single guinea, feel free to add a few leaves to their salad bowl once per week.
If you have multiple piggies, it is best to hand feed these leaves to them to ensure one does not eat more than the appropriate portion.
While spinach is rich in many of the essential nutrients for your pet, they are also found in other vegetables and leafy greens.
For instance, kale is a superfood with all of the benefits of spinach and deficient oxalate levels (20 mg/100 g).
When feeding spinach to your piggies, be sure to also provide other nutritious foods like kale and parsley.
Keep in mind, too much of any one food is never a good thing.
Variety is key to a healthy and balanced diet.
We advise reserving spinach as an occasional treat and do not recommend feeding it to your pets regularly.
It is best to provide them with this green once per week at most.
Guinea Pig Dietary Requirements
An ideal guinea pig diet consists of fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, hay, and food pellets.
These animals are herbivores, meaning they are only able to consume plant matter.
In the wild, guinea pigs are natural grazers.
This means they are constantly foraging for food and eating throughout the day.
Domesticated also have this eating habit, so it is vital to always provide them with something to munch on.
Your pets should have constant access to hay in their cage.
We suggest a high-quality guinea pig hay, such as this Kaytee second cut timothy hay.
You may be wondering what the difference is between first cut, second cut, and third cut hay.
First cut timothy hay is high in dietary fiber with a coarser texture and more seed heads.
The second cut is the most popular choice of timothy hay and is generally the most nutritious.
Third cut hay is the softest cut and is the leafiest.
Along with second-cut timothy hay, guinea pig-specific commercial pellets will make up the majority of your pet’s diet.
Specifically, 90% of your pet’s overall diet should consist of these two foods.
There are lots of options for guinea pig pellet food.
A highly rated and trusted choice is the Kaytee Timothy Complete Guinea Pig Food.
Kaytee also sells a pellet called Timothy Complete Plus Fruits and Vegetables.
We suggest opting for the original formula if you intend to supplement your pet’s meals with fresh produce.
This will allow you to provide a balanced diet without adding too many extra fruits and vegetables.
Since 90% of your pet’s diet will consist of pellets and hay, only 10% should be allocated to fresh fruits and vegetables.
For the average adult guinea pig, 10% of their diet equates to approximately one cup of fresh vegetables and fruits per day.
The majority of this serving should consist of dark leafy greens.
You will also need to ensure your cavy has clean, fresh drinking water every day.
Clean drinking water means you will need to clean the water bottle every day and fill it with fresh water.
Foods Guinea Pigs Love
It may seem obvious guinea pigs love timothy hay.
They also love munching on some fruit and almost any type of green vegetable.
Fruits For Guinea Pigs
The following is a list of safe fruit options for your guinea pig.
- Cherries (no pit)
- Seedless grapes
- Kiwi fruit
- Passion fruit
- Honeydew melon
Since fruit is generally higher in sugar than green veggies and leafy vegetables, the portion sizes should be limited.
For instance, if your piggies enjoy eating seedless grapes, be sure only to provide one or two grapes per pet.
Watermelon is another excellent guinea pig treat which you should feed in moderation.
Here’s our post going into more details on feeding watermelon to guinea pigs.
Any fruit you choose to add to your pet’s meals should be done so in moderation.
The diet of guinea pigs should include a variety of fruit.
If you give them strawberries one day, considering switching to blueberries or apple slices the next time they get fruit.
Incorporating these treats into meals will keep your guinea pigs happy.
Citrus fruit is packed with lots of vitamins for your pet, especially vitamin C.
If you choose to add these foods to your pet’s diet, be sure to do so in limited amounts.
The high acidity levels may leave your pet with mouth sores if citrus is fed to them too often.
Vegetables Guinea Pigs Love
You should include a wide range of vegetables in your pet’s diet.
This list includes raw vegetables and leafy greens you which will keep your guinea pig healthy.
- Brussels sprouts
- Baby corn
- Beet greens/roots
- Butternut squash
- Green beans
- Bok choy
- Turnip greens
- Swiss chard
- Sweet peppers (green, yellow, red)
- Lettuce (red leaf, romaine, bibb)
- Dandelion leaves
- Dandelion flowers
As seen above, there are plenty of delicious options and a wide range of vegetables and greens you should feed your guinea pigs.
Foods to Avoid
Since we have covered acceptable foods to include in your pet’s diet, let’s now discuss some foods to avoid.
One of the leading food items to keep out of your guinea pig’s diet is the tomato stem.
Tomatoes are a perfect food option for your pet, but the little stems and leaves at the top of the fruit are poisonous and cause adverse health effects.
Be sure to remove them before mealtime entirely.
Onions and potatoes are also dangerous for guinea pigs.
Be sure to keep your vegetable choices limited to those approved for your pet’s consumption.
Seeds pose a risk to your guinea pig’s health.
These are choking hazards, and you should remove large fruits such as melons before you feed your pet.
If your guinea pig is experiencing health issues after eating and unsure of the cause, it is always best to seek professional advice from your veterinarian.