Can Guinea pigs eat sweet potatoes safely? Guinea pigs are by far one of the most popular pocket pets– they are adorable, sweet, and compact little friends- we love them and we want what’s best for them. We also want to feed them foods that we also love. Sweet potatoes have lots of health benefits for us humans, but do they have the same benefits for our guinea pigs? Can you safely feed your piggie sweet potato? Dr. Jess explains the answer below:
A guinea pig is a pocket pet that resides in the cavie family of animal, weigh up to 2.5 pounds as an adult, and with proper care it is fairly common to see these pets live to 8 – 10 years of age.
Guinea Pigs eat a variety 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 and starches.
- 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 Sweet Potatoes?
Well, you can feed your guinea pig RAW sweet potato…. in moderation.
That’s right, feeding a small amount of sweet potato as a treat to your guinea pig on occasion is totally fine and they will likely LOVE you for it!
Moderation = Approximately a 1-3 teaspoon-sized amount of sweet potato is enough root veggie for one guinea pig.
You should never feed your guinea pig cooked sweet potato – your guinea pig’s digestive tract is not set up to be able to digest this form of vegetable and they can become very sick. Only feed your guinea pig raw sweet potato!
If your pet does not eat all of their fruits and vegetables within 12-24 hours, then you need to dispose of it for them.
They will likely not eat it at this point, and it will only sit in their cage and get old and eventually become unsafe to eat.
The rest of their diet, the other 90 or so percent, should be made up of guinea pig food and hay.
You should feed this amount no more than one to two times per week and no two days in a row.
Sweet Potato Basics:
Sweet potatoes are a type of edible root, commonly seen in the US with a brown or rust colored outer coating and bright orange center.
They are different from regular potatoes- that are actually tubers, of which should not be fed to your guinea pig.
Sweet potatoes have a naturally sweet flavor that is highlighted when it is cooked, especially when roasted or baked.
They are quite popular as a cooked side dish on holiday tables, sweetened with sugars and marshmallows or cut into strips for sweet potato fries.
Sweet Potato Nutrition:
Sweet potatoes contain many different types of vitamins and minerals, such as Vitamins A, B6, and C.
They are also a good source of Phosphorus.
A sweet potato contains a good source of fiber. Fiber adds bulk and can make you feel satiated. It can also keep your GI system more regular and has even been linked to reducing the risk of colon cancers [source].
They also contain water, and staying hydrated is always a perk. Every little bit helps!
Sweet potatoes are also a good source of certain antioxidants like beta-carotene (a carotenoid), an antioxidant that has been studied extensively and has been proven to promote a healthy body.
Studies have shown that antioxidants may help reduce cancer cell growth, decrease inflammation reactions, and improve overall health.
Beta-carotene, is converted in the body, to vitamin A, which is a necessary vitamin for healthy eyesight and a healthy immune system [source].
All these things are great for guinea pigs to consume in moderate amounts.
And after learning about some of the major health benefits that snacking on sweet potatoes bring, wouldn’t it be nice if somebody would tell you how to safely feed it to your piggie? I got you!
How To Feed Sweet Potato to Guinea Pigs:
- 1 fresh, raw sweet potato
- kitchen cutting board
- produce knife
- Inspect the sweet potato for pests, dirt, and debris. Discard any sweet potato that can not be washed and cleaned.
- Clean your sweet potato by scrubbing the outer surface with water or veggie cleaner and rinse well. Pat dry.
- Cut or slice your raw sweet potato into guinea pig bite-size pieces.
- Offer your guinea pig 1-2 bite-size pieces and watch your guinea pig for 24 hours for adverse effects.
- Remove any uneaten sweet potato that can grow bacteria or attract pests if your guinea pig does not eat it.
Consult with your local veterinarian before adding or switching up your pet's diet. If your pet shows signs of adverse reaction to their diet, contact your vet immediately.
Are Sweet Potatoes Harmful to Guinea Pigs?
Yes, sweet potatoes can be harmful in a few possible ways. Never feed your guinea pig cooked sweet potato – your guinea pig’s digestive tract is not set up to be able to digest this form of vegetable and they can become very sick.
Only feed your guinea pig raw sweet potato!
Too much sweet potato fed to these little buddies can give them side effects like an upset stomach, gas, bloating, and diarrhea.
This can lead to a multitude of problems including things like dehydration and electrolyte imbalances that could impart a trip to the veterinary clinic for your pocket pet vet to fix.
These three factors to keep in mind include:
Harmful Reason #1: Loose Stool/Diarrhea
Too much of any fruit or vegetable can produce hypermotile, or increased movement, of one’s digestive tract.
Some guinea pigs are more sensitive to additional foods or changes in their diets, so they are more likely to have loose stool and in some cases, full-blown diarrhea.
Other guinea pigs will not be impacted by any additional changes in their diets.
Harmful Reason #2: Allergic Reaction to Sweet Potatoes
A guinea pig can develop an intolerance or an allergy to any food, so there is always the possibility that your pet is allergic to sweet potato.
If you suspect your guinea pig is allergic to sweet potato do NOT feed this food to your pet.
If your guinea pig is allergic to sweet potato and accidentally ingests it, go to your nearest animal emergency room immediately.
When this happens, the attack sets off a hypersensitivity reaction and can result in any of the following symptoms:
Common symptoms of adverse/allergic reaction to food:
- Itching/Increased grooming
ALTERNATIVE PRODUCE FOR GUINEA PIGS:
- Butternut Squash
Weigh the pros and cons of feeding sweet potato to your guinea pig before tossing them a sweet, raw snack, and if you do decide to give them a treat, remember, raw sweet potato is safe in moderation.
If you have questions about your pet’s diet, contact your veterinarian before changing or adding items to their diet.
If you notice any adverse reactions after feeding your pet, let your vet know immediately for help.