Guinea pigs are one of the most loved of all pocket pets. As cute as they are, it is easy to want to give them all the delicious human foods we enjoy, like asparagus! Nonetheless, numerous human foods aren’t safe for your guinea pig to eat. So, can guinea pigs eat asparagus?
Dr. Jess will answer all the details of this question below:
What is a Guinea Pig?
A guinea pig is a type of pocket pet that resides in the cavie family of animals.
They are small animals that grow to a maximum of approximately 10-11 inches long, and can weigh up to 2.5 pounds as a healthy adult.
In captivity and with proper care it is quite common to see these pets live up to 8-10 years of age.
One of their main anatomical (body) “quirks” is that they are constantly needing to chew in order to file their teeth down, as their teeth are constantly erupting (growing longer and longer).
They are quite playful animals and love to socialize with the ones that they know and love.
They make great pets for responsible pet owners, and those living in small dwellings wanting a loveable pet that comes in a small package.
What Do Guinea Pigs Typically Eat?
These little buddies eat an assortment of things to keep them healthy and happy.
- High-quality guinea pig food and Timothy hay should be the main staples of their diet.
- Up to about 10% of their diet can be made up of an assortment of vegetables and fruits, with fruits and vegetables over 12-24 hours old being discarded as soon as possible.
- They require 30 – 50 mg of vitamin C daily from their diet, either in their guinea pig food, a vitamin supplement, or from fruits and vegetables that are high in vitamin C. I’ll get to this more here in a sec…
- Guinea pigs do best with diets low in fats and sugars.
- Clean, fresh, filtered, chlorine-free water. ‘Fresh water‘ means that is is changed daily. ‘Changed daily‘ means that new water is placed into a CLEAN water dispenser!
What is Asparagus?
Asparagus is a herbaceous perennial plant, meaning that it can come back and survive for more than one year.
Garden asparagus is a very popular type of asparagus used for human consumption and cooking.
For the sake of this article on feeding guinea pigs asparagus, we are going to speak specifically on the green garden asparagus found commonly in grocery stores and in gardens.
Asparagus has a tall hardy stalk, also known as a shoot, that has a fibrous, tough glossy exterior. The thicker this shoot is, the older that this particular plant is.
The top of each stalk is tapered off with a spear-shaped head that is made up of more delicate scale-like plant.
Types of Asparagus:
Garden asparagus is a very popular type of asparagus used for human consumption and cooking.
However, there are other types of asparagus out there.
Not all asparagus is the bright beautiful green color, there are also white, purple, etc. colors of asparagus.
The white varieties of asparagus are seen as delicacies or for special occasions in certains parts of the world.
According to Wikipedia’s description of the nutritional benefits of asparagus:
“Water makes up 93% of asparagus’s composition. Asparagus is low in food energy and very low in sodium. It is a good source of vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium, and zinc, and a very good source of dietary fibre, protein, beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, rutin, niacin, folic acid, iron, phosphorus, potassium, copper, manganese, and selenium, as well as chromium, a trace mineral that regulates the ability of insulin to transport glucose from the bloodstream into cells. The amino acid asparagine gets its name from asparagus, as the asparagus plant is relatively rich in this compound.”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asparagus
Asparagus has a particularly large supply of vitamin K that can help support proper blood clotting and the skeletal system’s bones.
Vitamin C is an essential vitamin, meaning that guinea pigs MUST have it in order to be healthy and for their body systems to function properly. Luckily, asparagus contains vitamin C!
Vitamin C helps support a healthy immune system and is in general “essential” because your guinea pig cannot produce it themselves.
Scurvy is just one example of a disease or health concern seen among guinea pigs which occurs due to lack of vitamin C in their systems.
Asparagus is also rich in different antioxidants like vitamin E, with research proving that the vegetable contains notable amounts of various flavonoids and polyphenols [source], other antioxidants, as well.
Antioxidants are plant compounds that help protect the body from damage by free radicals, which can cause degenerative diseases.
Asparagus also has a decent amount of fiber to help with digestion and can sometimes help in stabilizing blood sugar levels.
Another thing that asparagus is full of is water. On top of a high water content, asparagus in known to be very low in calories – two things, that when combined together, can help mitigate weight loss or at least help to stave off weight gain, which is important in our little guinea pig diets!
Do Guinea Pigs Like Asparagus?
Most guinea pigs like asparagus, whether it is the stalk of the head, the more hardy part, or the softer head, of the vegetable.
Is Asparagus Healthy For Guinea Pigs to Eat?
Asparagus contains a low amount of calories and fat so it a better snack if your pet is overweight or has diabetes than other treats with higher caloric content.
Asparagus also has a high water content to help keep your little friend hydrated.
As mentioned in the nutritional content of asparagus section, asparagus has a high amount of vitamin B, C, E, K, etc. in it – a vitamin that helps with the protection of important body systems that keep the body running and functioning appropriately.
Asparagus has a fiber content that will help your cavy keep their digestive system running smoothly and can also help with keep blood sugar level stable if you have a worrisome diabetic guinea pig.
Asparagus is packed with a multitude of nutrients which are great for the health of your pet guinea pig.
Can Cooked Asparagus Be Served To Guinea Pigs?
It is not advisable to serve cooked asparagus to guinea pigs.
Not only do nutrients leave the asparagus if overcooked, but cooked asparagus is also difficult for guinea pigs to digest properly, leading to gas and bloat, and other symptoms of gastric upset, such as anorexia, constipation, diarrhea, and/or vomiting.
How To Serve Asparagus to a Guinea Pig:
Serve only fresh, raw asparagus to your pet guinea pig.
Begin by washing the asparagus thoroughly as you’ll need to remove any bacteria, pesticides, or other chemicals that may have been placed on the asparagus.
Then, you’ll want to cut off and discard the thick stem.
Cut the asparagus into small bite-sized pieces. Do not add any fats or oils or spices of any kind to the asparagus!
Remove any uneaten asparagus from the cage within a few hours of serving so that bacteria does not form and grow on it.
- 1 fresh ripe store-bought asparagus spear
- Cutting board
- Kitchen knife
- Begin by washing the vegetables thoroughly as you’ll need to remove any bacteria, pesticides, or other chemicals that may have been placed on the asparagus.
- Then, you’ll want to cut off and discard the thick lower white part of the spear.
- Cut the asparagus spear into small bite-sized pieces.
- Remove any uneaten asparagus from the cage within a few hours of serving so that bacteria does not form and grow on it.
Contact your veterinarian before changing parts of your pet's diet. Stop the feeding of asparagus immediately and contact your veterinarian if any signs of ill health appear.
Can Asparagus Be Bad For Guinea Pigs?
Asparagus is a relatively safe treat to feed your pig in moderation.
One worry that comes up from time to time is the unfortunate allergic reaction, which can happen when any pet eats something for the first time, not just asparagus.
It usually catches everyone by surprise when it does happen so contact your veterinarian if you sense that your pet is not themselves after ingesting something new or different to be on the safe side.
Another worry is the choking hazard which also exists with everything that a guinea pig puts into their mouth, including asparagus.
Too much of a good thing should be another warning to guinea parents.
Feeding too much asparagus to your pet can lead to gastric upset with signs of vomiting or diarrhea, which can lead to dehydration and other health issues.
Too much asparagus can also act as a diuretic, which too much of a diuretic can lead to too much fluid loss, and can become dehydrated.
As discussed in one of the previous sections of this article, gas and bloat can be a product of eating too much asparagus or for ingesting cooked asparagus, for some guinea pigs.
Lastly, asparagus contains small amounts of oxalic acid, which can lead to calcium stones to be produced in the kidney or bladder.
Kidney and bladder stones in a guinea pig can lead to a multitude of problems, especially if not treated, ultimately leading to death if not addressed and allowed to go without veterinary help.
How Much Asparagus Can a Guinea Pig Have?
Like with every type of food you should never go overboard.
Vegetables, like asparagus, and fruits are only supplements in their diet (see “Guinea Pig Diet” section above for reference).
If you increase the intake of vegetables and fruits too much, their diet of mainly of hay and feed will become disproportionate, giving your guinea pig the chance of suffering from various disorders discussed later.
If you are thinking about introducing asparagus or any other new food into your pet’s diet, make sure that you do so gradually.
Start out with a small bite-sized piece and wait 24 hours to see how the guinea pig reacts.
If your furry friend enjoys the asparagus treat and doesn’t show signs of abnormal behavior, then try a second small piece of asparagus in the next day or two.
A common rule of thumb is to serve no more than approximately 100 grams of Asparagus to our guinea pig in a day. That is about 1-2 small bite-sized pieces per offering.
Try to mix up the offered asparagus pieces with other vegetables and prepare a salad for your guinea pig.
The right combination of asparagus and other safe vegetables such as pieces of cucumbers, bell peppers and lettuce would be a great addon to your guinea pigs diet.
How Often to Feed Guinea Pigs Asparagus:
It is pretty safe to say that asparagus can be used as a more frequent treat for your guinea pig over many other choices of fruit and vegetable treats.
You can safely feed a snack-sized portion of asparagus to your guinea pig up to 1-3 times per week but remember to gradually work up to this frequency.
Strict monitoring should be done to avoid negative effects because too much of this food could lead to gastrointestinal (GI) upset with symptoms such as decreased appetite and energy levels as well as diarrhea and/or vomiting.
No fun, right?!?
For instance, if you are serving your guinea pig asparagus 3 times per week but your furry friend doesn’t eat the offered asparagus 3 times per week, then back down the offerings to 2 times per week and see how they react to the veggie at a decreased frequency.
This may help with ‘the desire’ to eat the asparagus pieces.
Fruit & Vegetable Alternatives For Guinea Pigs:
- other squash
- Butternut Squash
Your cute little guinea pig deserves the best – best home, best health, and best treats.
Treating your pet to some of your favorite snacks, like asparagus, is just fine as long as that store-bought and properly-cleaned asparagus is prepared properly, served correctly (correct amounts and correct frequency), and only fed to healthy piggies.
If you have any questions or concerns, contact your local vet before feeding asparagus to your buddy.
The information provided in this article is not a substitute for professional veterinary help.