The best way to raise a happy and healthy guinea pig is by supplying them with the essential vitamins and minerals they need through their diet.
To accomplish this, we as pet owners must understand what the best foods are for our furry friends.
Sure, we love to eat watermelon in the summer, but is it safe for our pet cavies?
As a whole, watermelon is a delicious and nutritious treat for guinea pigs. Guinea pigs enjoy eating both the flesh and the rind of these melons. However, watermelon is a sugary fruit and should not be fed to guinea pigs daily.
The best treats for your piggies are both tasty and high in essential nutrients.
Let’s take a closer look at what watermelon brings to the table and the possible risks of serving it too often.
Is Watermelon Safe For Guinea Pigs?
Watermelon is a popular fruit fed to piggies by their owners.
If you own cavies and have given them this tasty fruit in the past, you were probably left with happy pets begging for more.
Watermelon is an excellent source of vitamins, making it an excellent fruit to feed your pets.
Although it is nutritious, this sweet fruit has various health risks associated with it.
The best way to understand these benefits and drawbacks is by analyzing the nutrient makeup of watermelon.
The following table contains nutrition information of 100 g of fresh watermelon flesh.
|Dietary Fiber||0.4 g|
|Calcium (Ca)||7 mg|
|Phosphorus (P)||11 mg|
|Vitamin A||170.7 mcg|
|Vitamin C||8.1 mg|
We can see watermelon contains both vitamin A and C, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, sugar, and dietary fiber from the table above.
Benefits Of Watermelon For Guinea Pigs
There are several benefits associated with feeding this fruit to your pets.
The main benefit is its concentration on its most essential nutrient, vitamin C.
Vitamin C is essential for cavies to consume daily.
Their bodies do not naturally create this nutrient, so you must supplement it through whole foods.
This vitamin helps to support a healthy immune system and prevents dental disease.
One of the significant benefits of this vitamin is its ability to strengthen the immune system.
It helps to fight off illness and allows for wounds to heal at a faster rate.
A vitamin C deficiency will leave your pets vulnerable to these health problems.
The prevention of dental diseases like scurvy is also a primary benefit.
Scurvy is one of the most common diseases cavies develop.
Scurvy presents itself through gum irritation and bleeding, open sores, and a weakened body.
This disease develops in cavies when their body is lacking this critical nutrient.
When a cavy develops this disease, it also puts them at risk of tooth overgrowth.
Their teeth are continuously growing, so they constantly need to chew on hard objects to file them down naturally.
This is often accomplished by chewing on untreated wood or hard toys.
Tough foods like the watermelon rind also act as files.
Chewing on hard foods is often painful for a cavy with dental disease.
They will avoid hard foods or may even refuse food altogether.
If left untreated, this will lead to weight loss, lethargy, and possible depression.
On average, an adult guinea pig needs to consume between 10 mg and 30 mg per day.
Based on the information above, a 100 g serving of watermelon provides 8 mg.
If you were to feed your pet a 100 g serving, they would be on the low end of this requirement.
However, 100 g of watermelon is much too large of a serving for these animals.
Although watermelon does contain this nutrient, it is not the best source of vitamin C.
From this, owners should understand not to rely on watermelon as the primary source of this vitamin.
Vitamin A & Potassium
Vitamin A is another crucial nutrient in piggy diets.
This vitamin supports immune health, as well as internal organ function and vision.
As seen above, 100 g of juicy watermelon contains approximately 171 mcg of vitamin A.
Even in smaller portions, the fruit is still an excellent source of this crucial nutrient.
Potassium is essential for several reasons as it supports organ health and regular muscle contractions.
These benefits work together to help keep your pet’s heartbeat regular.
Potassium also aids in the absorption of nutrients in the body and helps to counteract the adverse effects of sodium in the blood.
This nutrient is also known to promote water retention, which is very important for guineas.
These animals are very susceptible to kidney or bladder stones, which usually result from varying calcium levels.
Since potassium increases water retention, it also aids in flushing these stones out before they become too large to pass.
Health Risks Of Watermelons In Guinea Pigs
The primary health concern associated with this fruit is its high sugar content.
With 6.2 grams of sugar per 100 g of fruit, it is a relatively sugary food.
However, these levels are lower than other popular treats like pineapple, which has over 9 g of sugar per 100 g of fruit.
While this sugar content is not the highest of all foods fed to our pets, it is still present.
Excess sugar may lead to weight gain.
If the sugar intake is not corrected, this weight gain poses a risk of obesity and diabetes in our pets.
These conditions will likely make it difficult for your pet to keep up with its cage mates.
A decrease in physical activity and playtime may lead to further concerns, including a decline in mental health.
Another factor to consider is watermelon’s calcium to phosphorus ratio (Ca:P).
With 7 mg of calcium and 11 mg of phosphorus, this fruit has a Ca:P ratio of approximately 0.6:1.
This is because phosphorus inhibits the absorption of calcium in the body.
Since calcium is vital for strong bones, the inability to absorb this mineral is never good.
A calcium deficiency will force your pet’s body to take calcium from its bones.
This will leave it weak and more prone to broken bones.
If your pets already receive adequate calcium levels in their diet from other foods like kale and parsley, this ratio is not a huge concern.
Too much calcium in the body will lead to bladder stones.
Again, these stones are prevalent and will leave your furry friend in pain.
In severe cases, cavies require surgery to have these stones removed.
Without it, they will be unable to urinate properly, which may be fatal.
The final significant risk associated with watermelon is digestive health issues.
This fruit contains dietary fiber, and while this is good, consuming too much fiber will lead to digestive problems like diarrhea.
Diarrhea usually only occurs when foods like watermelon are served too often.
If you notice your pets have digestive issues after enjoying this sweet treat, consider decreasing the portion sizes.
If this digestive upset continues, cut the food out of their diets completely.
How To Serve Watermelon To Guinea Pigs
While the watermelon rind is often thought of as an unappetizing part of the fruit, it is an excellent food to feed your pets.
Surprisingly, the watermelon rind is very nutritious and provides several beneficial factors such as potassium, zinc, and digestion aiding enzymes.
When preparing this fruit for their pets, owners often opt to serve a small watermelon wedge.
This provides the animals with juicy watermelon flesh along with its nutritious rind.
Some owners even opt to feed their pig watermelon rind on its own.
Essentially, the only part of this delicious fruit to avoid feeding your pets is the seeds.
A watermelon seed is a choking hazard and will also be very difficult for your pets to digest.
To ensure they do not eat a watermelon seed, remove them before serving the fruit.
Even a seedless watermelon tends to have seeds.
If the seeds are tiny and white, you do not need to worry about them.
If the seeds are large or your fruit contains fully developed black seeds, you will need to remove them.
Your best option is purchasing an organic watermelon with little to no seeds.
Organic products are not treated with harmful pesticides.
Since our pets eat both the inside and outside of this fruit, choosing organic fruit is ideal.
We understand not all grocery stores carry organic watermelon, and not every owner is in the position to purchase these higher-priced melons.
In this case, take extra care to wash the outside of the melon before cutting it open.
It is best to take a sponge and scrub the skin to remove any excess debris and germs.
Serving Size and Frequency
As we now know, this juicy fruit is a fan favorite among piggies, and they will likely eat as much of it as you let them.
Since it is a sugary fruit, it is essential not to feed watermelon in excess to your pets.
An appropriate watermelon portion is a few small cubes.
If you prefer to feed your pets the fruit flesh and the rind, give each cavy a thin slice of watermelon.
A popular time to offer this occasional treat is on a hot summer day.
The juicy fruit will help satisfy your pets’ thirst in summer weather.
We suggest feeding them more of the rind than the flesh of watermelon.
More rind per serving reduces the sugar content and provides a rougher texture for your piggies to chew on.
Remember, regular consumption of watermelon may leave your piggy with an upset stomach.
Use this fruit as a treat and rotate it out with other tasty foods like pineapple and strawberries.
We have another post dedicated to feeding guinea pigs pineapple if you’re interested in learning more on that.
Preparing the Watermelon
The best way to prepare this fresh fruit is by first ensuring it is not overly ripe or rotten.
Once you have chosen the perfect melon, thoroughly wash the outer skin.
Slice the watermelon into small cubes or thin slices, and remove any large seeds.
If you choose to feed your piggies cubes of watermelon, you are always able to provide them the rind later on.
Breaking up this sweet treat into two separate servings is a great way to reward your pets throughout the day.
Guinea Pigs Healthy Diet & Sweet Treats
A healthy diet for an adult guinea pig consists of 90% hay and pellets and 10% produce.
The majority of their products should consist of leafy greens and nutritious vegetables.
A small portion of this fresh food is saved for fruit.
Your piggies are grazers and need food to eat throughout the day.
The best way to do this is by providing them with a constant source of timothy hay.
Timothy hay is the most common type of hay fed to cavies and is easy to find.
Our favorite hay is Kaytee second cut timothy hay found on Amazon.
When choosing hay, most owners opt for second cut.
This cut of hay is the most nutritious, and your pets will love it.
Usually, 10% of a guinea pig’s daily diet equates to approximately one cup of fresh produce.
The majority of this portion should be dedicated to nutrient-dense foods like:
- Sweet Peppers
The rest of this portion is dedicated to tasty fruits.
Some popular fruit choices other than watermelon include:
- Seedless Grapes