Avocado fruit provides potent anti-inflammatory effects and boosts the immune system. Avocados are commonly recommended by human dieticians and have many excellent health benefits.
If avocados are so good for people, are they also healthy for guinea pigs? A good question to ask is can guinea pigs eat avocado too?
Generally speaking, guinea pigs cannot eat avocados as they contain a substance called persin, which is toxic to them. Persin causes mammary gland inflammation and cardiac problems, which can be fatal to guinea pigs. All avocado varieties and avocado oil contain persin and must not be fed to guinea pigs.
Pet owners must always think carefully about what they feed their pets, including guinea pigs. Many times foods that people can safely consume are toxic to animals.
For a complete list of unsafe foods for guinea pigs, you can also check out this article called 45 things you should never feed your guinea pig.
Why Can’t Guinea Pigs Eat Avocado?
Avocados are unsafe for many animals, including guinea pigs. The toxicity is due to the presence of persin, which is thought to protect the plant against fungi and insects. Humans can digest persin, but guinea pigs and many other animals cannot.
Persin is found in the leaves and stems of avocado trees. It is also found in the fruit, skin, and pip. Eating any of these parts of the avocado plant causes toxicity in guinea pigs.
What Happens If A Guinea Pig Eats Avocado?
Persin causes inflammation and hemorrhaging of the mammary glands in guinea pigs. This effect results in severe mastitis, which is extremely painful. If a lactating guinea pig eats avocado, there will be a 75% decrease in milk production within a few hours. This sudden reduction would cause a problem for baby guinea pigs, still dependent on their mother for milk.
Ingesting persin through eating avocado also causes fluid to accumulate around a guinea pig’s heart. The heart muscle becomes damaged and rots in a condition known as myocardial necrosis. This understandably leads to heart failure.
Guinea pigs that eat avocado may also suffer from gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea and bloat.
Other symptoms are lethargy, respiratory distress, and coughing. There may also be fluid that collects under the skin (subcutaneous edema), and blue mucous membranes (cyanosis), and the guinea pig will struggle to move around as they become too exhausted.
Are All Avocado Varieties Toxic For Guinea Pigs?
All avocado varieties contain persin, but the Guatemalan cultivars have higher levels of persin. The presence of any amount of persin makes all avocados toxic for guinea pigs.
Reasons Why Avocados Are Bad For Guinea Pigs
In addition to the persin found in avocados, this fruit is not well-suited to guinea pigs for a handful of other reasons.
Avocados Are High In Fat
Avocados have a very high fat content. 100 grams of avocado contains 14.7 grams of fat. Guinea pigs cannot process this much fat in their diet. As a result, they can develop pancreatitis, which is an inflammation of the pancreas.
The pancreas helps to regulate blood sugar. Guinea pigs that develop pancreatitis are at an increased risk of developing diabetes.
A second function of the pancreas is to produce digestive enzymes which process food. If a guinea pig has reduced digestive enzymes, they cannot use the food as it remains undigested. This leads to malabsorption and vitamin and mineral deficiencies in the guinea pig, negatively affecting their health.
Undigested or partly digested food moving through the gastrointestinal system makes an ideal environment for the growth of bacteria. The consequences are that the guinea pig can develop a severe bacterial infection which can be fatal.
Avocados Contain Carbohydrates
Avocados contain about 8.53 grams of carbohydrates per 100 grams of avocado. Foods with high carbohydrate levels alter the intestinal flora in guinea pigs.
Although these are normal bacteria in guinea pigs, it becomes problematic when they multiply out of control. The guinea pig can then develop gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea and bloat.
Avocados Contain Calcium
Avocados are rich sources of calcium. Guinea pigs have low calcium needs and a tendency to develop bladder or kidney stones in the presence of too much calcium. The bladder stones prevent the guinea pig from urinating and can cause infection.
Bladder stones may cause the guinea pig to have urinary incontinence. This is unpleasant as the guinea pig’s cage becomes soaked in urine. If the bladder stones get large or numerous, the guinea pig’s bladder may rupture.
What To Do If Your Guinea Pig Eats Avocado
Sometimes guinea pigs eat things they should not. Accidental ingestion can occur when avocados fall on the floor, or an uneducated family member tries to be helpful and feed the guinea pig. There are many scenarios where a guinea pig might accidentally eat an avocado or part of it.
It is crucial that the pet owner does not try to make the guinea pig vomit to bring up the avocado. Guinea pigs cannot throw up, and trying to make them vomit may cause more problems.
Some people try to squirt various substances into the guinea pig’s mouth to induce vomiting. This will not work, and there is a high risk of causing the guinea to aspirate fluids leading to pneumonia.
Instead, the guinea pig should be taken to the veterinarian for an assessment as soon as possible. The veterinarian can give medications to counteract the effects of the toxin.
If the guinea pig only ate a tiny amount of avocado and is generally healthy, it may be possible to wait and see if symptoms develop, but this is risky. The guinea pig would need to be very closely monitored and taken to the veterinarian at the first sign of symptoms.
Guinea pigs have specific medical needs. Establishing a relationship with an exotic animal veterinarian who knows your guinea pig is advisable. If your guinea pig accidentally ingests something toxic, like avocado, a quick phone call to the veterinary office can help ascertain the best course of action.
Alternatives to Avocado: Guinea Pig Safe Fruits and Vegetables
Even though avocado is not safe for guinea pigs, there are many other excellent options you can include in your guinea pig’s diet. Variety is beneficial to your guinea pig’s health and helps ensure that they receive a wide range of nutrients from different sources.
- Peaches: These sweet fruits make a great treat for guinea pigs. They provide a great source of vitamins and minerals, but should be offered no more than once a week due to their sugar levels.
- Melons: Guinea pigs can eat various types of melons, including cantaloupe, watermelon, and honeydew melon. These fruits provide a great source of hydration and minerals as an occasional treat.
- Celery: A popular staple veggie for guinea pigs, celery provides a range of nutrients and can be fed a couple of times a week.
- Radish: Radish roots and greens provide many excellent vitamins and antioxidants for guinea pigs.
- Kohlrabi: This less common cruciferous vegetable is very healthy for guinea pigs and people alike. However, it should be introduced to the diet slowly due to its gassy nature.
There are many great fruits and vegetables you can include in your piggy’s diet. However, it’s important to never feed your guinea pig avocados. Persin is found in the whole avocado plant, so no parts of the fruit are safe for consumption. Persin is toxic to guinea pigs and can cause symptoms of poisoning that can eventually lead to death.
It’s crucial to stick to safe fruits and vegetables in your guinea pig’s diet to ensure they get the nutrients they need. For a thorough list of everything you can feed your piggy, check out our complete list of safe foods for guinea pigs.