Can Guinea Pigs Eat Basil? (How Much is Safe?)

Guinea pigs are known lovers of fruits and veggies and providing a variety of fresh produce has countless benefits for their health. While they can safely eat many different types of fruits and vegetables, can they eat herbs such as basil too?

Guinea pigs can eat basil, but only in small amounts. Basil has a lot of great nutrients for guinea pigs but it is very high in calcium, so it should be offered in moderation.

Basil has many benefits for your guinea pig, but there can be some drawbacks to feeding it. Throughout the rest of this article, I’ll talk about how much is safe to give your piggy and the pros and cons of feeding this herb as a treat before you start including it as a staple in your furry potato’s diet.

How Much Basil Is Safe for Guinea Pigs?

Basil is safe to feed your guinea pig in small quantities, approximately 3-4 leaves once or twice a week. Basil is not overly high in vitamin C, which is necessary for guinea pigs, so it’s best to prioritize high vitamin C foods in their diet. Additionally, basil is pretty high in calcium which can lead to stones and urinary sludge in guinea pigs.

Basil is not bad for your piggy in moderation, but it’s not a replacement for unlimited hay or pellets formulated for guinea pigs. It’s also important to mix up the diet with a variety of different fruits and vegetables so they are getting a variety of nutrients from different sources.

Nutrient Facts for Basil

Basil, like many other herbs, is very nutrient-dense and packed with vitamins and antioxidants. In the table below, I’ll list the nutrient facts for basil per 100 grams:

NutrientAmount (per 100g)
Calories23 kcal
Protein3.15 g
Fat0.64 g
Carbohydrate2.65 g
Sugar0.3 g
Fiber1.6 g
Vitamin C18 mg
Calcium177 mg
Phosphorus56 mg
Iron3.17 mg
Magnesium64 mg
Manganese1.15 mg
Potassium295 mg
Vitamin A5280 IU
Vitamin K415 µg
Source: USDA Food Database.

Positive and Negative Effects of Feeding Guinea Pigs Basil

While basil is healthy for us, it could become problematic for animals such as guinea pigs when given too much or not spaced out between meals. Here are some pros and cons when it comes to feeding guinea pigs basil. Let’s start with the benefits of giving your guinea pig basil.

Benefits of Basil for Guinea Pigs

Here are some benefits your pet could gain from eating basil:

  • High in vitamin K, which is responsible for proper blood clotting and bone health.
  • Low in fat, sugar, and calories, basil is unlikely to cause obesity in guinea pigs.
  • Contains a small amount of vitamin C, which helps the immune system stay healthy.
  • Has plenty of vitamin A, which helps strengthen eyesight.
  • Lowers cholesterol when consumed, which helps improve heart health in the long run.
  • Contains antioxidants, which help to reduce inflammation and neutralize harmful free radicals that cause cell damage.
  • Good source of magnesium, which helps regulate muscle and nerve function, blood sugar levels, and more.
  • Helps maintain strong, healthy bones and teeth.
  • Guinea pigs LOVE basil. This leafy herb is often a favorite among piggies!

You may still be cautious about giving your furry friend this herb. However, a study from the National Library of Medicine has proven giving rodents basil will help lower diabetic blood sugar. 

In the study, 30 rats were divided into six groups. All of these rats had type two diabetes for this experiment, and they all were given different methods for treating it. These rats were treated with basil leaves and metformin. 

Researchers found that “…either metformin or basil leaves can be used for lowering blood glucose, and one is not inferior to the other…”

Basil has a lot of great health benefits for small animals as long as it’s offered in moderation as part of a healthy and balanced diet.

Negative Effects of Basil

Despite its many benefits, including the ability to lower blood glucose, there are still some concerns to keep in mind when feeding basil or any herb to guinea pigs.

Here are the potential negatives of feeding basil to your guinea pig:

  • High in Calcium: Basil is very rich in calcium, containing 177mg per 100 grams, or 4.42mg per 5 leaves. Guinea pigs absorb more calcium from foods than we do, meaning they need much less of it in their diet. Any excess calcium can form stones internally, leading to serious urinary problems in guinea pigs.
  • Pesticide Residue: Like many other types of fresh produce, basil is often grown with pesticides. It’s important to thoroughly rinse the herb before feeding it to your piggy to reduce their exposure to pesticide residue. You can also buy organic basil if that’s an option, or even grow your own!
  • Bad Reactions: Like other foods, there is always a chance your guinea pig is allergic or has a bad reaction to basil. This is why it’s crucial to introduce all new foods in small amounts and monitor your piggy before increasing the amount.

Signs of an Allergic Reaction

If you think your guinea pig is having an allergic reaction to basil, carefully assess your pet and watch for these symptoms.

  • Wheezy, runny nose
  • Lethargy
  • Irritated and reddened eyes
  • Irritated skin, along with rashes

If your pet has any of these symptoms, it’s important to monitor them closely and consult a knowledgeable exotic vet.

How to Prepare and Feed Basil to Your Guinea Pig

Before feeding basil to your guinea pig, there are a few tips and things to keep in mind.

  • First of all, be sure to introduce basil gradually to your guinea pig. Start with just a single leaf and monitor them for 24 hours before gradually increasing to 3-4 leaves.
  • Additionally, it’s important to spread out the days you give basil to your guinea pig. Leave at least a few days in between so they are not consuming too much calcium all at once. It’s also a good idea to feed basil along with several low-calcium foods to balance their diet.
  • Be sure to rinse basil leaves thoroughly under cool running water to remove traces of dirt or pesticide residue.
  • Try growing your own! Basil thrives in small planters and is easy to grow on your windowsill. Growing basil can be a fun project and provide you with a source of fresh organic greens for your guinea pig!

More Guinea Pig Safe Fruits and Vegetables

It’s important to mix up your guinea pig’s diet with a variety of fruits and vegetables so they can get different nutrients from various sources. Some great additions to their diet are:

Guinea pigs can eat mint leaves in moderation, but many guinea pigs don’t like the strong scent!
  • Fennel: This herb is a safe and healthy addition to your guinea pig’s diet and it offers a range of great nutrients. Guinea pigs can eat fennel bulbs as well as the leafy tops.
  • Mint Leaves: This aromatic herb is nutrient-dense but should be fed sparingly due to its calcium content.
  • Turnip Root and Greens: This vegetable offers a lot of nutritional value to guinea pigs and makes a great addition to their weekly veggie rotation.
  • Grapes: These sugary fruits are rich in antioxidants but should be offered very sparingly due to their high sugar levels.
  • Forage from Outside! Guinea pigs can also eat many types of plants from outside, such as fresh grass, dandelion, and clover. However, it’s crucial to pick these plants from an untreated area as herbicides are very toxic to guinea pigs.

Most fruits and vegetables are safe for guinea pigs in reasonable quantities, but it’s important to do your research first and introduce all new foods gradually and in moderation to prevent adverse effects.

If you are wondering what your piggy could not eat, be sure to check our article that lists 45 foods your guinea pig should not eat. You may be surprised what foods could harm your guinea pig. 

Final Thoughts

Guinea pigs can eat many different kinds of greens and fruits, but not all of them are safe or healthy. Additionally, every animal is different, so they will each have unique favorites and foods they dislike. While there are some foods that most guinea pigs love, it’s important to adjust to your piggy’s preferences and acknowledge that they likely won’t enjoy everything they try.

Basil is a great herb to feed your furry potato, but it’s important to mix up their diet with a variety of safe foods. Guinea pigs can eat all kinds of herbs and other vegetables, so there are countless options to try!

For more herbs you can add to their diet, you can check out our complete list of safe herbs for guinea pigs. Additionally, you can find a detailed table of all the foods your guinea pig can eat here: Guinea Pig Food Chart.

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