Guinea pigs like to snack on a lot of different tasty treats, many of which you can find in your kitchen and fridge. One of those tempting foods may be the cilantro hanging out in your produce drawer of your refrigerator. But can guinea pigs eat cilantro?
Dr. Jess explains the answer below:
Let’s Talk Cilantro… I mean Coriander:
Cilantro is a annual plant used as a herb and a spice in cooking.
People in the United States refer to “cilantro” as the leaves and stems or stalks of the plant, and “coriander” refers to the seeds of the same plant.
Just because cilantro and coriander come from the same plant, doesn’t necessarily mean that they taste the same, does it?
Cilantro and coriander have different tastes and aromas.
Most people describe the taste of cilantro leaves as a citrusy, tart, lemon/lime taste, but some people can’t stand the taste and think that the leaves taste like dish soap!
On the flipside, coriander commonly has a less dramatic taste and smell.
Its flavor and aroma is usually described as warm, spicy, earthy, and nutty, with just a hint of citrus.
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 an adult.
In captivity and with proper care it is fairly common to see these pets live 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 down their teeth, as their teeth are constantly erupting (growing 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?
Guinea Pigs 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!
Can Guinea Pigs Eat Cilantro?
After reading up on some of the health benefits and some of the risks that the consumption of cilantro brings with it, wouldn’t it be nice it you could just safely feed it to your piggy?
Well, you can feed your guinea pig cilantro…. but only in moderation. This means – in SMALL amounts!
Moderation = A couple little pieces of cilantro is enough cilantro for one guinea pig.
Because cilantro is high in calcium and oxalic acid, you must not feed it in excess to guinea pig or health issues can arise.
In total, your guinea pig should have around 1/4 – 1/2 cup of fresh fruits and vegetables combined everyday, and no more than that.
And that 1/4 – 1/2 cup should not consists solely of cilantro!
Remember, cilantro is acceptable to feed guinea pigs as long as it is an occasional treat.
Also – cilantro has a pretty strong taste and odor, which some guinea pigs find unsatisfactory and won’t consume, so don’t be surprised if your pet doesn’t eat very much or any at all!
If your piggy does not eat the cilantro, it will only sit in their cage and get old and eventually become unsafe to eat.
If your pet does not eat all of their 1/4 – 1/2 cup of fruits and vegetables within 12-24 hours, then you need to dispose of it for them.
The rest of their diet, the other 90% or so, should be made up of guinea pig food and hay.
You should feed this amount no more than 1-2 times per week and no two days in a row.
Is It Healthy For a Guinea Pig to Eat Cilantro?
Most vets I have talked to agree that cilantro and coriander are quite safe for your cavy to consume. However, that is only when we are talking about in moderation, as discussed above.
Cilantro contains some of essential nutrients including calcium, phosphorus and Vitamin C that can be helpful in keeping your cavy healthy. It also has some other potential health benefits for your pet guinea pig:
- Inflammation/Antioxidants: Multiple studies show that cilantro is a great source of anti-inflammatory compounds that help in fighting against inflammation.
- Vitamins: Cilantro contains vitamin C and A. Guinea pigs require both these vitamins to stay healthy. Vitamin C helps guinea pigs stay safe and adequately protected from diseases and strengthens their immune system.
- Blood Sugar: Cilantro may help lower blood glucose levels in the bloodstream of animals
- Toxins: Cilantro has the potential to detoxify the body from some types harmful toxins.
May Reduce Inflammation
Multiple research studies have shown that cilantro is a source of anti-inflammatory compounds, which effectively can help fight different forms of inflammation.
Cilantro and coriander are packed with these potential anti-inflammatory molecules called antioxidants.
Antioxidants are thought to help reduce inflammation inside the body by binding (attaching) to and suppressing (decreasing) inflammation-promoting molecules known as free radicals. [source]
While many of these studies are promising, I definitely would like to see more research studies conducted on the antioxidant benefits of cilantro and coriander.
May Lower Blood Sugar Levels
It is widely known in medicine that individuals having elevated blood sugar levels are at higher risk for Type 2 Diabetes [source].
One animal study performed with rats showed that rats that received coriander seeds showed hypoglycemia action, decreased or lower sugar in their bloodstreams [source].
Basically, cilantro has been proven to be an effective tool in the process of managing diabetes by lowering blood sugar levels [source].
How About Cilantro Stems?
There’s no reason your guinea pig can’t enjoy chewing on cilantro stems unless they just don’t like cilantro at all.
They love having little things in their mouths to chew on and to keep them occupied and entertained throughout their busy days!
The stem texture is not too tough and you cut them in medium-sized pieces,for them to nibble on.
But just like anything else that they can stick in their mouths, these can be a choking hazard so monitor your piggie while snacking on these stems!
How To Feed Cilantro To Guinea Pigs:
Some Guinea Pigs will love the taste of cilantro and other piggies will find the flavor too strong and may not be willing to eat it when it is offered in front of them.
However, it is most often one of their favorite herbs to snack on.
So how do you safely feed cilantro or coriander to your pet guinea pig?
- fresh cilantro
- Kitchen knife
- cutting board
- For starters, make sure to wash the cilantro thoroughly, removing any possible dirt, chemicals, or pesticides.
- Then you can chop the cilantro into medium-sized pieces, stems included, as all parts of the cilantro are edible: the flowers, stems, and leaves.
Make sure to use a clean knife and cutting board that are food-safe to do the chopping.
For starters, make sure to wash the cilantro thoroughly, removing any possible dirt, chemicals, or pesticides.
Then you can chop the cilantro into medium-sized pieces, stems included, as all parts of the cilantro are edible: the flowers, stems, and leaves.
Make sure to use a clean knife and cutting board that are food-safe to do the chopping.
How Much Cilantro To Serve To Guinea Pigs?
When introducing your guinea pig to anything new, you’ll always want to take it slowly and be very careful.
Start off by offering your pet just a single stem of cilantro the first time, and then watch for about 12-24 hours for any adverse reactions, such as digestive upset, diarrhea, decreased energy, not eating, etc.
If your cavy shows any signs of distress or discomfort, then you’ll want to stop feeding the cilantro and contact your veterinarian about the current situation for further guidance.
That being said, most guinea pigs take to cilantro very well.
As long as your guinea pig shows no signs of an adverse reaction, you can gradually increase the amount of cilantro you’re offering until they’re enjoying a full serving- which still isn’t a lot of the herb!
It’s best to give cilantro a few times a week and to not exceed that.
Why? Well, cilantro contains calcium and phosphorus and these elements can be detrimental in the wrong amounts, to your cavy’s health, as they can lead to kidney stones and other medical concerns that you do not want to have to deal with, trust me!
You should serve no more than 1 – 2 small bite-sized pieces of cilantro to your guinea pig a day and no more than around twice a week.
Those few times a week also need to be spaced out – no two days in a row!
Is Cilantro Harmful To Guinea Pigs?
Yes, it can be harmful if not prepared, served, and monitored appropriately.
Too big of pieces could lead to the potential of being a choking hazard. Not good!
If the cilantro is not cleaned properly, then you leave your pet vulnerable to whatever was left on the herb, dirt, chemicals, pesticides, etc., which could potentially have harmful side effects.
Feeding too much cilantro has its own set of issues to.
Guinea pigs can show digestive upset like diarrhea, decreased eating or anorexia, dehydration, lethargy, etc., that can lead to more dangerous health issues of not treated by your veterinarian.
If your guinea pig shows signs of any of these after introducing them to any new food in their diet, contact your local veterinarian immediately for more help.
Alternative Foods For Guinea Pigs:
There are many fruits, veggies, and herbs that are good for your guinea pig and for you!
Unfortunately, some foods are toxic to guinea pigs that are not harmful to us.
For this reason, it is very important to research every new food you plan to give your guinea pig and its corresponding serving size.
Find out about other common foods that you may find in your kitchen.
Are these foods safe to feed your guinea pig?
Make sure to weigh the pros and cons of feeding cilantro to your pet before tossing them a delicious herbal snack, and if you do decide to give them a yummy treat, remember, it’s safe in moderation.
Moderation is small amounts on every once in a while.
If your pet experiences a change in their everyday activities, such as activity level, sleeping patterns, elimination patterns, or behavior, after eating a new food such as cilantro, contact your veterinarian immediately for assistance on what to do next.
If you have any questions or concerns with feeding your guinea pig cilantro, contact your veterinarian before attempting to feed it to your loved pet.