Can Guinea Pigs Eat Arugula? (Rocket Salad) How Much is Safe?
Arugula, also known as rocket salad, is a spicy green popular in Italian dishes. These tangy greens are a rich source of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. But is arugula safe for guinea pigs to eat too?
Generally speaking, arugula is safe to feed guinea pigs once or twice a week. However, be sure to offer this leafy green in moderation as this veggie is fairly high in calcium.
While arugula packs a punch in nutrients and flavor, the calcium content can be a problem for some guinea pigs. However, when fed in the right quantities, they have a lot to offer health-wise.
Throughout the rest of the article, I’ll cover everything you need to know about feeding this peppery green to your guinea pigs.
You can also check out the Guinea Pig Food Chart for an alphabetical list of everything your piggy can eat and how often they can have it, along with calcium and Vitamin C levels for each food.
*Important Note: The quantity of arugula shown in the photos is for visual purposes only and not indicative of the correct amount to feed your guinea pig in one serving.
Benefits of Feeding Arugula to Guinea Pigs
Arugula is nutrient-dense and chock full of vitamins and minerals. This leafy green is low in sugar, fat, and calories, making it a fantastic weight-loss food.
Arugula is Rich in Vitamins and Minerals
Some of the vitamins found in rocket salad include Vitamins A, C, and K1.
Vitamin A is well-known for improving vision and protecting against eye diseases. However, it also supports immune function and cell growth and ensures the proper functioning of several vital organs.
Vitamin K1 plays an essential role in blood clotting and proper bone metabolism.
Arugula also contains a small amount of Vitamin C, coming in at 15mg per 100 grams. This works out to 0.3mg per leaf.
This is not a lot on its own, but it makes a good additional source when fed alongside several high Vitamin C foods. Vitamin C is essential to keep the immune system strong and help the body absorb iron.
Receiving plenty of Vitamin C will also prevent your guinea pig from developing scurvy, a painful condition that causes weakness in the joints and difficulty moving.
Guinea pigs need an average of 10-30mg of Vitamin C daily to stay strong and healthy. Sick, pregnant, or senior piggies sometimes require even more.
Nutrition Facts in Arugula
|Vitamin C||15 mg|
|Vitamin A||2370 IU|
|Vitamin K||109 µg|
Additionally, rocket salad is a rich source of potassium. Potassium is essential for heart and nerve function. It also helps to flush excess sodium from the body.
Arugula contains a decent amount of fiber, which keeps the digestive system functioning normally. It also includes a reasonable amount of folate, magnesium, and a bit of iron.
Arugula is High in Antioxidants and Anti-Cancer Properties
Arugula contains many cancer-fighting properties. First of all, these leafy greens are rich in antioxidants. These compounds protect and even reverse cell damage by targeting free radicals in the body.
When free radicals get out of control, this can lead to oxidative stress. In this state, the body is more vulnerable to chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Feeding your guinea pig plenty of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables greatly reduces these risks and can even increase their lifespan.
In addition, arugula contains glucosinolates which give arugula its unique taste. These naturally occurring compounds can protect against many types of cancer.
Arugula Supports Better Heart Health
Arugula also contains nitrates which have been linked to lower blood pressure and reduced exertion when exercising.
Cruciferous vegetables, including arugula, have been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, and better heart health overall.
Risks of Feeding Your Guinea Pig Arugula
While arugula is beneficial for your guinea pig in numerous ways, there are a few things to watch out for.
Arugula Can Cause Stomach Discomfort
Arugula is a cruciferous vegetable in the same family as broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, and collard greens.
Cruciferous vegetables are known to cause possible gassiness or stomach discomfort in some guinea pigs, especially when they are first introduced.
In addition, arugula has a peppery flavor that may not mesh well with some guinea pigs. This does not affect all piggies, and usually, it is less of a problem once their stomach has adapted to the new food.
As a precaution, it’s best to introduce this veggie into your guinea pig’s diet slowly. Observe your guinea pig in the hours after they eat it to ensure that they are acting normally and have no diarrhea.
Arugula is High in Calcium
Arugula is relatively high in calcium at 160mg per 100 grams. This works out to 3.2mg of calcium per leaf. While some calcium is important for bone and tooth health, arugula contains a pretty large amount.
Calcium needs for adult guinea pigs are much lower than for babies; it’s easy for fully grown guinea pigs to consume too much. An overdose of calcium can lead to bladder stones in adult piggies.
Stones are quite painful and need to be surgically removed, so it’s best to manage the diet carefully from the beginning.
Some guinea pigs are more prone to bladder stones, so if your piggy has dealt with stones or bladder sludge in the past, it’s best to avoid high-calcium foods like arugula entirely.
Arugula also contains some phosphorus, at 52mg per 100 grams. Phosphorus is safe in low quantities, but it can contribute to stone development over time as well.
Calcium Levels in Leafy Greens (per 100 grams)
Large Amounts of Vitamin A Can Be Problematic
Arugula is exceptionally rich in Vitamin A, which is a good thing in moderation! However, Vitamin A is a fat-soluble nutrient, meaning any excess is stored in fat and not excreted from the body. Over time, too much Vitamin A can lead to liver problems and potentially even issues with the brain and bones.
Since many different vegetables contain Vitamin A, it can be easy for guinea pigs to overconsume this nutrient when Vitamin A-rich greens like arugula are fed frequently.
Potential Allergic Reactions
Like other foods, there is always a chance that your guinea pig is allergic or has a bad reaction to arugula. This is rare, but it’s always important to introduce new foods gradually and keep an eye on your guinea pig in case they have an adverse reaction.
Can Guinea Pigs Eat Baby Arugula?
Baby arugula is perfectly safe to feed to guinea pigs. In fact, many piggies like it better than mature arugula leaves!
Baby arugula is simply regular arugula that was harvested early before the leaves grew larger.
It has a similar nutrient make-up to regular arugula, but the baby variety is usually less bitter than the fully mature plant.
For this reason, many guinea pigs prefer the milder taste of baby arugula and may be more likely to eat it.
Can Guinea Pigs Eat Arugula Sprouts?
Arugula sprouts, also known as arugula microgreens, can be fed to guinea pigs in moderation. Like their older counterparts, arugula sprouts are rich in calcium, Vitamins K, A, and several other nutrients. Like baby arugula, microgreens are milder in taste than fully mature leaves.
Microgreens are also easy and rewarding to grow in pots. If you’re looking for a fun indoor gardening project, try growing some for your guinea pigs or even for yourself. Arugula sprouts are fast-growing and ready to harvest within 10 days.
How Often Can Guinea Pigs Eat Arugula?
Guinea pigs can eat 2-3 mature arugula leaves once or twice a week.
When feeding baby arugula, offer up to a half dozen leaves per serving. Avoid feeding arugula salad to your guinea pig daily due to the high calcium levels.
It’s a good idea to feed arugula along with some lower calcium foods such as cucumber, blueberries, tomatoes, zucchini, bell peppers, and radicchio, so they are not consuming too much calcium all at once.
Do Guinea Pigs Like Arugula?
Guinea pigs often love the texture of leafy greens like arugula. With that said, arugula has a very distinctive flavor that guinea pigs will either love or hate.
Sometimes it helps to shred up the arugula finely and mix it with other vegetables to get your guinea pigs used to the taste. It also helps to start with baby arugula, as that tends to have a milder flavor.
However, some guinea pigs may take a whiff and refuse to even try it. You can try offering the arugula for a few days to see if they change their minds, but some piggies are not fans of intense flavors.
If your guinea pig is not crazy about arugula, there are plenty of other nutritious foods you can try. My piggies go nuts for carrots, watermelon, lettuce, endive, fennel, celery, cilantro, dandelions, and strawberries.
Can Baby Guinea Pigs Eat Arugula?
Baby guinea pigs can eat arugula a few times a week. The calcium content makes it a good choice for growing guinea pigs.
The Vitamin K in arugula also supports good bone development by helping the body to absorb calcium better. In addition, arugula contains a bit of Vitamin C and other nutrients that benefit a baby guinea pig.
Arugula is a cruciferous vegetable, so it’s a good idea to introduce it to your baby guinea pig gradually.
Even though young guinea pigs can eat solid foods from birth, their digestive system is sensitive and still adapting to new foods. You can help them avoid any stomach discomfort by introducing new types of food slowly into their diet.
How to Prepare and Feed Arugula to Your Guinea Pig
To feed arugula to your guinea pig, start by selecting a couple of green, healthy leaves that are not rotting or overly wilted. Rinse them thoroughly under cool water to remove any traces of germs, dirt, or pesticides.
Offer your guinea pig the arugula leaves whole. There is no need to remove stems or chop up the leaves as guinea pigs can safely eat the whole plant.
Store the remaining arugula in your fridge. Baby arugula can be kept in the bag or container they are sold in. Arugula bunches should be kept in a plastic bag in your vegetable drawer to preserve the freshness for as long as possible.
For best results, use up the arugula within about 3 days. Don’t wash the leaves until just before feeding them to your guinea pig, as this causes them to wilt and go bad faster.
Also, avoid feeding your guinea pig any cooked arugula. Cooking removes some of the nutrients from the raw vegetable and also makes it harder for your guinea pig to digest. In addition, vegetable oils and other added ingredients are not safe for guinea pigs to eat.
How to Introduce A New Food For The First Time
If your guinea pig has never tried arugula, introduce it into the diet gradually. Cruciferous vegetables can cause stomach discomfort at first, so start with tiny amounts and work your way up.
Start with 1 small leaf and see if your guinea pig likes it. Some guinea pigs will eat it right away, while others may take a few nibbles and ignore it. Some may be outright disgusted by the peppery flavor and avoid it entirely. These pigs may never grow to like this tangy-tasting veggie, and that’s okay.
However, sometimes it helps to leave the new food in the cage for a while to give them a chance to try more at their own pace.
Some guinea pigs will grow more curious and decide to investigate it more thoroughly with a bit of time.
Often guinea pigs take a bit of time to adapt and try a new type of food, so if they don’t eat it right away, try it for a few more days. It is quite normal for guinea pigs to take their time accepting a new food.
In the wild, their ancestors would avoid poisonous plants by trying tiny amounts of unfamiliar plants and seeing if they made them sick before eating them again. Pet guinea pigs often do the same thing when presented with a novel food.
To get them to eat something new, it often helps to give the new food separately from their regular vegetables (i.e., new food in the morning, regular veggies at night.) Guinea pigs are often more willing to try something if they have fewer options.
Keep an eye on your guinea pig for several hours after they try the arugula to ensure that they are acting normal and have no signs of diarrhea or stomach discomfort. As long there’s no diarrhea or odd behavior, you can gradually increase the amount of arugula next time.
Be sure never to exceed a couple of leaves per serving. While arugula is very healthy in moderation, the calcium content can add up over time and could be potentially problematic.
It’s also a good idea to introduce no more than one new food at a time. This way, you can easily identify which new food is causing problems if you notice any unusual behavior from your piggy.
Fun Facts About Arugula
- Arugula is a member of the Brassica family, which includes broccoli, brussels sprouts, and kale.
- Arugula was first grown in the Mediterranean area in Roman times.
- This leafy green is known by many names, including arugula, rocket, rucola, roquette, and Italian cress.
- Arugula leaves have a peppery taste that becomes more bitter as the plant ages.
- The name rocket salad comes from the Italian word “rochetta” which was one of arugula’s first names. When arugula was brought to France, it was called “roquette.” Once it spread to America, the name was interpreted as “rocket.”
- Arugula is also a rocket-fast grower, ready to harvest in as little as 40 days.
- Arugula’s spicy aroma makes it naturally resistant to pests in the garden.
More Fruits and Vegetables That Guinea Pigs Can Eat
Did you know that guinea pigs can also eat oregano, thyme, and apricots?
These foods all contain various nutrients that can boost your guinea pig’s health in numerous ways. They can also eat parsnips, turnips, broccoli rabe, and so much more.
For a complete list of all the fruits and vegetables that guinea pigs can eat, check out our article, Complete List of Safe Foods for Guinea Pigs.