Oregano is a popular herb, often used fresh and dried to spice up dishes like pasta, pizza, sauces, and more. While this herb packs a punch in vitamins and minerals for humans, is it just as good for guinea pigs?
While oregano is safe for guinea pigs to eat, it is high in calcium and rich in essential oils that can potentially cause stomach upsets in piggies. For these reasons, oregano should be fed to guinea pigs in moderation.
Oregano is also a super easy perennial to grow in a garden. It will grow back year after year with little maintenance, meaning it’s quite easy to grow a consistent supply of this herb organically with very little cost or ongoing work.
Throughout the article below, I’ll go into more detail on the benefits and drawbacks of feeding this flavorful herb, as well as safe quantities of oregano to feed to your guinea pig.
Benefits of Oregano for Guinea Pigs
Oregano is a nutrient-rich herb for people. It is especially beneficial for bone health as it contains high levels of calcium and Vitamin K1. It also contains some excellent vitamins and minerals that support healthy functions in other areas of the body. I’ll cover several of the primary benefits below.
Oregano is Excellent for Bone Health
Oregano is high in Vitamin K1 and also contains lots of calcium, which is good for bones and teeth. This means that oregano can be good for guinea pigs in small amounts, particularly for growing guinea pigs that are under 4 months of age. However, oregano also contains strong essential oils that can upset a baby guinea pig’s stomach, so introduce this herb very slowly to young guinea pigs.
Oregano Helps Fight Bacteria and Can Reduce Infections
Oregano has been shown to have antibacterial and antiviral properties that can protect against certain viruses. As studied in test tubes, oregano extracts were shown to be quite effective at blocking several bacteria strains that could lead to infections.
Oregano can also protect against certain viruses thanks to two compounds in particular, carvacrol and thymol, that have antiviral properties. This means that oregano may be able to help protect against some types of bacteria that your guinea pig may come into contact with from time to time.
Oregano is Rich in Antioxidants
Oregano is also an excellent source of antioxidants, which are good for fighting off harmful free radicals in the body. Free radicals are a natural by-product of energy consumption that can build up in the body and attack healthy cells. If they manage to overwhelm the body, this can lead to serious health issues such as cancer growth, heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic conditions.
Some of the compounds in oregano, such as carvacrol can also reduce inflammation, which may benefit guinea pigs with chronic inflammatory issues such as arthritis.
Risks and Drawbacks of Feeding Oregano to Guinea Pigs
Despite the benefits, there are a few drawbacks to feeding oregano to guinea pigs, which I’ll cover below.
Calcium Levels in Oregano
One of the primary concerns about oregano is its calcium content. Adult guinea pigs need very little calcium in their diet to maintain good health and bone structure. Too much extra can lead to bladder stones and other urinary conditions. Baby guinea pigs need slightly more calcium in their diet, but even they can get too much.
So how much calcium is in oregano exactly? Dried oregano contains about 1600mg of calcium per 100 grams. However, dried herbs tend to have higher calcium levels than fresh ones. As of the time of writing, there aren’t any reputable sources that have calculated the precise calcium levels in fresh oregano, but we can get an estimate by comparing it to other herbs.
For example, parsley contains 138mg of calcium fresh and 1140mg dried. This is about 8 times the calcium levels in dried vs fresh. Going off this, fresh oregano would contain about 200mg of calcium per 100 grams. This may vary a bit up or down, but regardless, it is up there as one of the higher calcium foods for guinea pigs.
Calcium in Herbs for Guinea Pigs
|Herb||Calcium (per 100 grams)|
The chart above shows just how high calcium levels are in most of the commonly fed herbs for guinea pigs. Compare these numbers to other common foods like strawberries, at 16mg of calcium, or green bell pepper, containing 10mg, and you can see that herbs in general are extraordinarily high in comparison.
How to Know When You’re Feeding Too Much Calcium
Guinea pigs can develop bladder stones very quickly and easily in some cases, so it’s good to know the signs.
The main signal that your guinea pig has too much calcium in their diet is the appearance of dried white powdery urine marks in your guinea pig’s cage.
If you see these, it’s important to cut down on the herbs and other high-calcium foods in your guinea pig’s diet.
Essential Oils in Oregano Can Cause Stomach Issues
Additionally, oregano contains essential oils that can cause stomach upsets in some guinea pigs. It is crucial to introduce all strongly scented herbs into your guinea pig’s diet very slowly to reduce the risk of digestive issues and abdominal pain in your piggy. If you notice any odd behavior or discomfort from your guinea pig after trying oregano, it’s best to stop feeding it to your furry potato entirely.
Some Guinea Pigs Dislike the Bitter Taste
Like many herbs, oregano has a strong smell and powerful flavors. Some guinea pigs are more sensitive to this and will not like the taste at all. I’ve also had some guinea pigs that dislike strong scents so much that they won’t even go near herbs like oregano. These preferences vary a lot from one guinea pig to another.
Additionally, oregano is not rich in Vitamin C, so it’s important to make sure you include plenty of foods high in Vitamin C, such as oranges, kale, guava fruit, broccoli, and mustard greens in your guinea pig’s regular diet.
How Much Oregano Can Guinea Pigs Eat?
If you choose to include oregano in your guinea pig’s diet, it’s best to feed only half a stem with the tiny leaves once every week or two. Guinea pigs don’t need much calcium in their diet, so it’s important not to go overboard.
Other Guinea Pig Safe Herbs
In addition to oregano, there are several other herbs that are safe for guinea pigs to eat. Keep in mind that all herbs are high in calcium, so feed them sparingly (only one per week) and ensure that most of your guinea pig’s diet is made up of low-calcium foods.
- Parsley: This herb is popular among guinea pigs, but it should be limited to once a week due to its high calcium content.
- Cilantro: Another favorite among guinea pigs, cilantro is lower in calcium than most herbs, but should still be fed in moderation.
- Basil: This herb is easy to grow in planters and many guinea pigs love the flavor.
- Mint: This strong-smelling herb is one that guinea pigs either love or hate. It has a powerful flavor and aroma that can take some time for piggies to get used to.
- Dill: This feathery herb is leafy and delicious. Many guinea pigs are quite fond of it.
- Fennel: Fennel is very popular among guinea pigs and also a bit lower in calcium than other herbs. Guinea pigs can eat both the bulbs and leafy parts.
- Dandelion: Dandelion is beloved by nearly all guinea pigs and can be found nearly anywhere for free. However, ensure it’s picked from an area free of pesticides to prevent your piggies from getting ill.
- Thyme: This herb is nutrient rich with very high levels of Vitamin C. However, it is extremely high in calcium and should be offered to guinea pigs sparingly.
For a detailed list of herbs that your guinea pig can eat, check out our complete list of safe herbs for guinea pigs.
Unsafe Herbs for Guinea Pigs
Chives and anything in the onion or garlic family are poisonous to guinea pigs, so avoid including these in your guinea pig’s diet. Chives contain a compound called disulfides which damages red blood cells and can cause serious long-term problems.
For more things that are unsafe for guinea pigs, you can also check out our list of 45 things your guinea pig should never eat.
Oregano is safe and beneficial for guinea pigs in small amounts, but be careful not to feed too much! This pungent herb can cause gut issues or calcium overdose if fed in excess.
In moderation, many herbs have a lot to offer, but they should be fed sparingly as a small part of a healthy and balanced diet.
Guinea pigs benefit from a wide range of nutrients found in a variety of fruits and veggies. For more ideas of fruits and vegetables you can include in your piggy’s diet, check out our complete list of safe foods for guinea pigs.