Can Guinea Pigs Eat Onions? (Garlic, Chives, etc) Dangers and Why to Avoid

Some people consider onions and garlic as essential flavorants for food. They may want to offer some to their guinea pigs too, but is this a wise idea? The question of whether guinea pigs can eat garlic, onions, chives, and similar foods must be well investigated to keep guinea pigs healthy.

Generally speaking, guinea pigs cannot eat onions, garlic, or chives. Garlic, onions, and chives all come from the same plant family that is known to be toxic to guinea pigs. The bulbs from this plant family contain sulfur, which is toxic to guinea pigs and can be fatal.

Some vegetables may be healthy for people, but small animals such as guinea pigs cannot cope with them. Their small size increases their vulnerability to high levels or certain forms of nutrients.

You can also find a complete list of 45 unsafe foods to avoid feeding your guinea pig here so you can know in advance what else to avoid giving your piggy.

Are Onions And Garlic Safe For Guinea Pigs?

Everything in the onion family, including onions, garlic, chives, leeks, shallots, scallions, and spring onions, is unsafe for guinea pigs to eat, and should never be fed to your furry potatoes. Onions can cause severe health issues and often result in the death of the guinea pig.

Can Guinea Pigs Eat Cooked Onions And Garlic?

Guinea pigs should not eat any kind of cooked food, including onions and garlic. Cooking lessens the toxicity slightly, but the vegetables remain toxic for guinea pigs. Usually, onions and garlic are also cooked in oil, which would add a further problem for guinea pigs. Guinea pigs should not eat any kind of cooked food, as it can cause digestive upsets and diarrhea.

Do Guinea Pigs Like Onions And Garlic?

Most guinea pigs would sensibly avoid garlic and onions. The sharp scent usually repels them from taking even a nibble. Unfortunately, some guinea pigs are more adventurous and may eat onions if given the opportunity. It is best to keep them out of reach of guinea pigs.

Why Are Onions Bad For Guinea Pigs?

Onions and garlic belong to the Allium plant family. The same family includes leeks, chives, shallots, and scallions. These vegetables are all bulbs from plants in the Allium family.

Onions, garlic, and other alliums contain a substance called thiosulphate which gives these vegetables their pungent smell. People can digest thiosulphate, but many animals, including guinea pigs, cannot properly break it down.

Thiosulphate builds up in the guinea pig’s body and causes unbalanced levels of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin in red blood cells is responsible for carrying oxygen around the body.

Damage to the hemoglobin and red blood cells leaves the guinea pig short of vital oxygen to maintain life functions and keep organs and tissue healthy. Essentially the guinea pig’s body becomes starved of oxygen.

Thiosulphate poisoning can occur from a single ingestion or build-up from multiple small amounts eaten by the guinea pig.

What Are Signs Of Onion And Garlic Poisoning In Guinea Pigs?

Knowing what signs to look out for if your guinea pig has eaten onions or garlic is helpful. Good observation is helpful to the veterinarian that will need to treat your guinea pig.

Onions And Garlic Cause Anemia In Guinea Pigs

When guinea pigs eat onions or garlic, they become anemic. Anemia refers to an inadequate amount of red blood cells. Pale gums, tongue, or mucus membranes in the eyes are evidence of anemia. In some guinea pigs, the membranes may even be bluish.

Due to the lack of oxygen, the guinea pig will be lethargic and weak. Their strength will be reduced, and they may struggle to walk or move around.

Onions And Garlic Cause Organ Failure

The lack of oxygen can cause the deterioration and failure of organs such as the liver and kidneys. If this damage occurs, you may see a range of symptoms, from inactivity to refusing to eat, and many more. Organ failure becomes fatal very quickly.

Guinea Pigs Get Diarrhea From Onions

The guinea pig may also develop diarrhea due to gastrointestinal issues caused by onions and garlic. Poor oxygen supply may compromise the gastrointestinal system, which can also contribute to diarrhea.

Onions and garlic create gas in the guinea pig’s stomach, which will cause cramping and bloating. The guinea pig will appear very unwell and may drool or salivate. Guinea pigs cannot vomit, so owners will not notice any vomit, but there may be regurgitation and excessive salivation.

Onions And Garlic Affect Breathing In Guinea Pigs

When oxygen levels are lowered in the body, the organs and tissues cannot function properly. The guinea pig’s brain tells the lungs to work harder to obtain more oxygen. The lungs are under strain, and without adequate oxygen, they cannot function and are damaged.

The guinea pig may wheeze and gasp for air as they try to breathe with a faulty respiratory system. This lung malfunction can lead to fluid collecting in the lungs which can cause pneumonia.

Onions Cause Eye Irritation In Guinea Pigs

Onions irritate a guinea pig’s eyes. The irritation causes the production of tears and mucus, which can result in runny eyes, salivation, and mucus dripping from the nose.

Action For A Guinea Pig Poisoned By Onions Or Garlic

If your guinea pig has eaten anything from the onion family, a veterinary consultation is the best route to follow. Some guinea pigs are more sensitive and will be poisoned by tiny amounts of allium vegetables such as onions, garlic, chives, leeks, etc.

Try to report the amounts of onion or garlic consumed by your guinea pig as accurately as possible. Do not try to make your guinea pig vomit. They cannot throw up food from their stomach, so this would be ineffective and distressing to the piggy.

After reaching out to your vet, try to encourage your guinea pig to eat hay to keep food moving through the digestive system and prevent stasis and other gastrointestinal issues.

Safe Alternative Fruits and Vegetables for Guinea Pigs

Although guinea pigs cannot eat onions or garlic, there are still many great options to include in their diet. I’ll list a few great fruits and vegetables below.

Ciara investigating some asparagus stalks.
  • Spring Mix: Mixed salads like spring mix provide a great variety of lettuces and other baby greens that many guinea pigs love. However, it’s crucial to ensure that all the ingredients in the spring mix are safe for guinea pigs.
  • Asparagus: These greens are low in sugar and contain many great nutrients for guinea pigs in moderation.
  • Berries: Guinea pigs can eat an assortment of different berries, including strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and cranberries. They should be offered once a week due to their sugar content.
  • Eggplant: This spongy fruit is delicious but should be limited to an occasional treat for guinea pigs. Avoid feeding any leaves or greens from the plant.
  • Cherries: These antioxidant-rich fruits provide some great nutrients, but should be a rare treat due to their high sugar levels.

In Conclusion

Guinea pigs cannot eat onions, garlic, chives, or any other vegetables from the allium plant family. If consumed, these vegetables can lead to anemia, organ failure, and death in some cases. Guinea pigs have small bodies and can be affected by even small amounts of toxic foods. If your guinea pig eats anything toxic, be sure to monitor your guinea pig closely and consult a veterinarian for further instructions.

It’s crucial to include a variety of foods in your guinea pig’s diet, but since guinea pigs are so small and sensitive to poisonous foods, it’s crucial to ensure that everything you feed them is safe and healthy. For some great ideas to add to your furry potato’s menu, you can check out our complete list of safe foods for guinea pigs.

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