One of the joys of owning guinea pigs is providing them with fresh vegetable treats. Many owners assume that if a vegetable is safe for people, it is also safe for guinea pigs.
Peas are a good protein source and contain essential vitamins and minerals. Guinea pigs eat vegetables, so people assume guinea pigs can eat peas. But is this correct – can guinea pigs eat peas safely?
Generally speaking, peas are not good for guinea pigs. They contain too much protein and sugar and can cause bloat. For this reason, they should not be part of a guinea pig’s regular diet. Veterinarians advise against feeding peas to guinea pigs. Guinea pigs with digestive problems are especially at risk.
However, guinea pigs can eat pea flakes in moderation as they are a bit less starchy than fresh peas.
One of the first tasks when getting a guinea pig is determining what food they can eat. It is important to understand their digestive system and nutritional needs.
Should Guinea Pigs Eat Peas?
Most guinea pigs love peas in any shape or form. Pet shops often sell guinea pig feed containing pea flakes, which are flattened, dried peas. Fresh peas are also often a firm favorite with guinea pigs. Owners happily feed their pets this treat, thinking they are choosing a healthy treat for their furry friend.
The truth is that peas are not good for guinea pigs and can cause health problems over time. While peas will not harm your guinea pig in small quantities, they are not healthy for guinea pigs and should not form part of their regular diet.
Some owners feel it is acceptable to feed one or two peas as a treat occasionally. The owner must decide if the risk is worth it when so many other food options can be used as treats. Most veterinarians advise against giving peas to guinea pigs.
Peas Can Cause Bloat In Guinea Pigs
Guinea pigs are creatures that have a digestive system very different from people. In humans, a large percentage of digestion occurs in the stomach. This is completely the opposite in guinea pigs.
Guinea pigs have relatively small stomachs, and food passes through quickly. Minimal digestion occurs in the stomach, with most of the digestion occurring in the large intestine. Due to this digestive pattern, guinea pigs are known as hind-gut digesters.
Animals like guinea pigs digest their food primarily in the large intestine and eat a fibrous plant-based diet. The food is low in energy, proteins, and sugars. Their natural diet consists of grass and shrubs, which have insoluble fibers that are difficult to digest.
Guinea pigs’ stomachs are not designed to digest peas which have soluble fiber that is easily broken down in the stomach. Peas have high sugar and protein, which are released as the fiber is digested.
The result is that gas is produced and forms a stable foam in the guinea pig’s stomach. The foam is stable because it does not break into bubbles that can be passed out of the body as gas.
The guinea pig develops bloat, which can quickly become life-threatening as the stomach swells and distends from all the gas. The stomach may twist, causing the guinea pig to die rapidly.
Bloat also leads to a dangerous condition known as gut stasis, where the entire gastrointestinal system stops working. Once it has stopped, it is difficult to start the gut working again.
Do Guinea Pigs Need The Protein In Peas?
Peas are classified as legumes, and most people know they have a high protein content. Guinea pig owners may feel they need to feed peas to provide their guinea pigs with plant protein.
Guinea pigs have low protein requirements compared to some other animals. Zoologists and veterinarians recommend that guinea pigs’ diets consist of eighty to ninety percent grass or hay. Fresh vegetables or fruit should only make up ten percent of their diet.
Grass and vegetables provide enough protein for the guinea pig without adding peas.
The Danger of High Starch In Peas
Peas have a high sugar or starch content. Guinea pigs’ digestive systems are not designed to deal with so much sugar, and an imbalance can develop in the gut’s bacteria.
Although the bacteria occur naturally in the guinea pig’s gut, an imbalance is fatal as it allows certain bacteria to multiply. These naturally occurring bacteria overwhelm the guinea pigs’ system. This situation creates a fatal and difficult-to-treat condition known as endotoxemia which can result in rapid death.
Do Guinea Pigs Need The Vitamin C In Peas?
Some blogs say that peas should be fed to guinea pigs because they provide a good source of vitamin C. Guinea pigs are prone to vitamin C deficiency resulting in scurvy.
Although peas contain vitamin C, many other vegetables also contain vitamin C and do not carry the health risks of peas.
Some healthy options for supplying vitamin C to your guinea pig include bell peppers, kale, or oranges. We also have a list of 17 Foods That are High in Vitamin C here. Guinea pig owners have plenty of safe foods to choose from as a vitamin C supply for their piggies.
Can Guinea Pigs Eat Mangetout?
Mangetouts are sometimes known as sugar snap peas or snow peas. They are a variety of peas picked very young, and the entire pod is eaten.
Mangetout contains less starch than regular peas, as the plant seed or pea is less developed. The lower starch content makes mangetout less harmful for guinea pigs than regular peas.
Mangetouts are still legumes, so the potential for bloat still exists if fed to guinea pigs. Healthy guinea pigs can eat two or three small pieces of mangetout. However, guinea pigs with a history of bloat or other gastrointestinal disorders should not be fed mangetout.
Can Guinea Pigs Eat Pea Flakes?
Pea flakes are dried peas that are flattened and baked treats for guinea pigs. Pea flakes contain less starch than fresh peas, making them a little safer in moderation.
As with fresh peas, most guinea pigs love pea flakes and eat them eagerly.
However, it’s crucial to limit these treats to small amounts. They can be used as occasional treats for bonding or foraging in their hay, but avoid giving several at once or offering them daily.
There are so many other great treats you can mix up with pea flakes to bond with your piggy. Some popular favorite foods for guinea pigs often include radicchio, lettuce, carrots, endive, blueberries, and dandelions.
Can Guinea Pigs Eat Pea Baby Food?
Generally, guinea pigs should not eat pea baby food. However, if you have a case of a guinea pig in dire health that doesn’t want critical care, you can mix a bit of pea baby food with critical care to encourage them to eat it.
I’ve done this with my boy when he was very ill with dental issues and sore after surgery and it helped encourage him to eat. However, this should only be a temporary thing if you run out of options and are struggling to get the piggy to take mushed food on their own. Make sure you choose baby food with no garlic and very limited ingredients.
Alternatives to Peas: More Fruits and Vegetables for Guinea Pigs
- Melons: Guinea pigs can eat all kinds of melons, including watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew melon. These fruits are high in sugar, so should be fed in moderation.
- Broccoli and Cauliflower: These cruciferous veggies are extremely nutrient-dense, but it’s important to introduce them gradually as they can cause bloat in some cases.
- Fresh Grass: Guinea pigs thrive on fresh grass included in their regular diet. However, be sure to pick grass that has not been treated, fertilized, or gone through a lawnmower.
- Herbs: Many kinds of herbs are safe for guinea pigs, including basil, mint, cilantro, parsley, thyme, and oregano. However, herbs are very high in calcium and should be fed in small amounts.
- Radish: Radish root and greens are both safe to feed guinea pigs in moderation.
Although peas have beneficial nutrients, they can be harmful to guinea pigs. The danger lies in their effect on a guinea pig’s gut. Most veterinarians do not recommend feeding peas to guinea pigs.
Some owners like to feed peas as an occasional treat, but this is rolling the dice with a guinea pig’s health. There are many better options for treats for guinea pigs. For some more safe ideas to include in your guinea pig’s diet, you can also check out our complete list of safe foods for guinea pigs or the guinea pig food chart.