Spinach is a popular green superfood, frequently served in salads and dinner dishes. Packed with vitamins, it’s one of the most nutrient-dense foods there is.
But how safe is it for guinea pigs? Can they get the same benefits from eating spinach?
Generally speaking, guinea pigs can eat mature or baby spinach in moderation. However, feed very sparingly due to the high levels of calcium and oxalic acid.
Spinach is beneficial in many ways, but oxalates are a major concern for guinea pigs.
Keep reading to learn about the precautions to take and the frequency that you can safely feed this nutritious green to your piggy.
*Important Note: The quantity of spinach shown in the photos is for visual purposes only and not indicative of the correct amount to feed your guinea pig in one serving.
Nutritional Value of Spinach for Guinea Pigs
Spinach is well-known as one of the most nutrient-dense greens on the planet. Here is a table outlining the nutritional data of spinach per 100 grams:
|Nutrient||Amount (per 100g)|
|Vitamin C||28.1 mg|
|Vitamin A||9380 IU|
|Vitamin E||2.03 mg|
|Vitamin K||483 µg|
Benefits of Feeding Spinach to Guinea Pigs
As you can see from the table above, spinach is extremely nutrient-dense, with a wide variety of vitamins and minerals for guinea pigs and people alike. These nutrients can provide several great benefits to piggies, which I’ll outline below.
Spinach Contains Many Nutrients for Guinea Pigs
Spinach is a low-calorie, nutrient-dense veggie. It is very low in sugar, meaning it’s not likely to cause weight gain for your guinea pig. This healthy green is also an excellent source of insoluble fiber, which helps the digestive tract function smoothly.
Spinach is also high in Vitamin A, which is good for vision. It is a good source of Vitamin K1 as well, which helps support healthy blood clotting and good bone health. Additionally, it contains more nutrients like folate, iron, potassium, magnesium, and Vitamins E and B6.
Spinach Provides a Source of Vitamin C
According to the USDA food database, spinach has about 28mg of Vitamin C per 100 grams and 2.81mg per large leaf.
Vitamin C is crucial in your guinea pig’s diet to strengthen the immune system and prevent diseases like scurvy. Like humans, guinea pigs cannot make their own Vitamin C and need to get it through the diet. Aim to provide 10-30mg of this nutrient each day (good quality pellet foods also contribute to this requirement.) Young, senior, pregnant, or immune-compromised piggies may need 50mg per day or more.
Spinach is Very Antioxidant-Rich
This leafy green is also rich in antioxidants. These compounds target and neutralize excess free radicals in the body, which prevents them from damaging cells and causing oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress is often responsible for chronic diseases in the body, such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and accelerated aging. Consuming foods high in antioxidants reduces the risk of oxidative stress and, therefore, can help prevent many illnesses.
Some of the antioxidants found in spinach, including lutein and zeaxanthin, are also beneficial for eyesight. They can even prevent many age-related eye diseases and protect against blindness from certain conditions.
Additionally, it contains two compounds, MGDG and SQDG, which have been studied for their ability to slow down or decrease the size of cancer tumors.
Risks of Feeding Your Guinea Pig Spinach
Although spinach is very nutrient-rich, there are some downsides to feeding spinach, which I’ll cover below.
Spinach is Incredibly High in Oxalates
Spinach is incredibly high in oxalic acid. Also known as oxalates, these compounds slow down the absorption of nutrients and contribute to the formation of kidney stones. Since guinea pigs are so small, they cannot process as many oxalate-rich foods as we can. For this reason, oxalate-rich foods like spinach should be offered sparingly.
Spinach contains a very high amount of oxalates, approximately 656 mg per cup. This is very high, as guinea pigs should ideally consume less than 50 mg of oxalic acid per day. They can easily exceed this by eating just a single leaf of spinach.
Common Vegetables and Amount of Oxalic Acid (per 1 cup)
|Beet Greens||500 mg|
|Swiss Chard||Green – 347mg|
Red – 420mg
|Romaine Lettuce||0 mg|
Spinach is High in Calcium
Spinach is also pretty high in calcium at 99mg per 100 grams. This works out to almost 10mg of calcium per large leaf. Calcium (especially when bound to oxalic acid) can also contribute to stone formation.
Bladder stones are relatively common in guinea pigs, which is why it’s important to be cautious of foods high in calcium or oxalates.
Stones are very painful and usually need to be surgically removed, so it’s best to prevent bladder stones from occurring if at all possible.
If your guinea pig has had problems with stones or bladder sludge in the past, you should not feed spinach to your guinea pig.
It’s a good idea to limit the amount of spinach you feed your guinea pig. On the days that you do offer it, feed low-calcium foods like zucchini, radicchio, strawberries, or tomatoes to balance the ratio.
When feeding spinach or other calcium-rich foods, keep an eye out for powdery dried pee stains in your guinea pig’s cage. These indicate high levels of calcium in your piggy’s diet. If you see signs of this, reduce calcium and oxalate-rich foods in your guinea pig’s diet and increase their water intake by syringing water or feeding watery veggies like cucumber.
Bad Reactions to Spinach
Like with other foods, there is always a chance that your guinea pig is allergic or has a bad reaction to spinach. This is rare, but it’s always important to introduce new foods gradually and keep an eye on your guinea pig in case they have an adverse reaction.
How Often Can Guinea Pigs Eat Spinach?
Guinea pigs can eat one mature spinach leaf or half a dozen baby spinach leaves once or twice a month. It’s not safe to feed spinach to your guinea pig every day due to the high level of oxalates.
Spread out the days you feed spinach and avoid offering it on back-to-back days. It’s also best to avoid giving other foods high in oxalates like Swiss chard, beets, raspberries, etc around the same time as spinach.
Do Guinea Pigs Like Spinach?
Yes, the majority of guinea pigs love this tasty green. Spinach has a leafy texture that most guinea pigs are drawn to nibble on.
The first time I tried spinach with my herd, they all dove right into it with little hesitation.
If your guinea pig doesn’t want to try it right away, it may be worth trying again a few more times. Some guinea pigs are hesitant to test out something new but then discover they like it later on.
However, all guinea pigs have their own likes and dislikes, just like people.
Can Guinea Pigs Eat Spinach Stems?
Yes, it is safe to feed your guinea pig spinach along with the stem. Most guinea pigs love the texture of the stem, and some are even drawn to that part of the spinach more than the leaves themselves.
Can Baby Guinea Pigs Eat Spinach?
Baby guinea pigs over six weeks old can start eating spinach in tiny amounts. The calcium content is not a problem for them, and it also contains some Vitamin C.
However, the oxalic acid in spinach is a problem for guinea pigs of all ages. For this reason, you should feed spinach sparingly to young guinea pigs.
Oxalates can slow down the absorption of calcium and other nutrients, which baby guinea pigs need for proper growth.
The best fresh foods to offer your baby guinea pig include kale, parsley, and dandelions, as these provide a high source of Vitamin C without as much oxalic acid. You can also find more high Vitamin C foods in this list.
How to Prepare and Feed Spinach to Your Guinea Pig
To feed spinach to your guinea pig, start by choosing some healthy green leaves that are not rotting or overly wilted. You can feed your guinea pig regular or baby spinach. Rinse the leaves thoroughly under cool water to remove any tiny bugs or traces of dirt and pesticides.
Always feed your guinea pig raw, uncooked spinach. Cooked vegetables lose many of their nutrients and are also harder for guinea pigs to digest than raw.
If your guinea pig has never had spinach before, start with just 1-2 baby leaves or half of a large leaf.
You can offer the spinach by hand or leave it in the cage for your piggies to try at their own pace. Be sure to check back after a few hours to remove any uneaten fresh food so it doesn’t rot.
Sometimes guinea pigs take a bit of time to adapt and try a new type of food, so if they don’t eat it right away, try it for a few more days.
It also often helps to give the new veggie separately from their regular vegetables (i.e., new veggie in the morning, regular veggies at night.) Guinea pigs are often more willing to try something if they have fewer options.
Observe your guinea pig for several hours after they try the new food. As long as there’s no diarrhea or odd behavior, you can gradually increase the amount of spinach next time.
More Fruits and Vegetables That Guinea Pigs Can Eat
For a complete list of all the fruits and vegetables that guinea pigs can eat, check out our article, Complete List of Safe Foods for Guinea Pigs.