Guinea Pigs are one of the most popular pocket pets in the United States. Who can say no to feeding a cute little guinea pig a sweet treat like a juicy tomato piece? But be cautioned…not all foods are safe for guinea pigs! Can guinea pigs eat tomatoes?
Dr. Jess explains the answer 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 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!
The Importance of Vitamin C For Guinea Pigs
Like humans and certain other animals like birds and bats, guinea pigs do not have the ability to make vitamin C.
Instead, guinea pigs must get this essential nutrient from the foods they eat in their diet.
Guinea pigs in the wild get their vitamin C from fresh grass sources.
Pet guinea pigs receive supplemental vitamin C from leafy greens, fruit and veggies, specialty fortified pellets or supplemental droplets placed in their water bottles.
While many people think or consider tomatoes a vegetables, it’s aactually a fruit.
More specifically, tomatoes are a type of berry which grows on a vine, AKA, the tomato plant and are a part of the same family as potatoes, chili peppers, and eggplants.
The most common varieties of tomato are those that are commonly used for cooking and are large, red, and juicy.
However, you can get them in different colors (such as yellow, green, orange, and even purple!), sizes from grape and cherry tomatoes to giant beefsteak tomatoes, and funny shapes!
Let’s look a little deeper into what tomatoes are comprised of so that we can better decide if they should be a part of your guinea pig’s diet.
Tomatoes can offer a range of important nutrients and health benefits to your friendly guinea pig friend, such as:
- High water content (about 95% water) which is good for keeping well hydrated
- A good source of vitamins A, C and B6
- Rich in the antioxidant lycopene, which may help prevent cell damage caused by free radicals
- Low in fat
- Source of fiber (helps in digestion and reduces some GI issues)
- A good source of potassium (helps prevent hypokalemia in guinea pigs, low potassium levels in the bloodstream)
Do Guinea Pigs Eat Tomatoes?
Most guinea pigs will eat a tomato when offered one.
But just because guinea pigs DO eat tomatoes does not necessarily mean that this is the best or safest choice for your pet.
Can Guinea Pigs Eat Tomatoes? Are They Safe?
There are some foods that us humans can eat that are actually toxic to your guinea pig and need to be avoided all together.
While there isn’t anything toxic to guinea pigs in the actual tomato fruit itself, you shouldn’t give them too much because problems may arise as I will discuss further down in this article.
You see, guinea pigs are herbivores and need a diet which is high-in fiber and low in sugar and fat.
They get their fiber supplied in the form of plants, such as hay which is a roughage that contains a lot of fiber.
This fiber is beneficial for two reasons:
- Dietary fiber keeps the guinea pig’s digestive system running smoothly (it’s the same reason why some people take a fiber supplement like Metamucil!).
- The physical roughage (hay) helps keep the guinea pig’s teeth healthy and worn down as their teeth are continually growing and need to be filed in order to prevent overgrowth.
So, long story short- Yes!
Adult guinea pigs can have tomatoes, IF given to them safely, and I’ll cover that in just a bit.
You do not want to feed the wrong tomatoes or the wrong amount or frequency, potentially making your furry friend unintentionally sick.
Can Baby Guinea Pigs Eat Tomatoes?
Compared to their adult counterparts, baby guinea pigs have much more sensitive gastrointestinal systems.
Avoid feeding baby guinea pigs any kinds of fruits and vegetables until they reach 12 weeks of age to allow their stomachs to mature with them.
Then, when ready to introduce them to juicy fruits, take it very slowly, waiting at least 24 hours to observe any potential adverse side effects, before moving on and trying more of the same fruity snack or a different tasty treat.
Remember – baby and young, and juvenile guinea pigs have more sensitive digestive systems!
Wait 24 hours to see their reaction.
If everything is fine, you can move to the next treat.
Is The Rest Of The Tomato Plant Safe To Eat?
The green parts of the tomato plant – the leaves, stems, flowers, and green fruit contain a alkaloid chemical known as solanine which can produce a substance called tomatidine when digested in the guinea pig’s GI tract.
This toxin has the potential to cause health issues in your guinea pig if ingested. Do NOT feed any other part except for the ripe fruit portion of the tomato to your pet!
Medical & Health Concerns of Feeding Tomatoes to Guinea Pigs:
- Pesticides: Tomatoes should always be washed to make sure they are free of any pesticides or chemicals that could be harmful to guinea pigs.
- Parasites: Tomatoes should be checked over for parasites that can lead to potential parasite problems with your guinea pig.
- Overly Ripened: Avoid rotten fruits that can cause diarrhea and gastrointestinal upset.
- Processed Tomato Products: Canned or cooked tomatoes are full of sugar, can contain chemicals, and are higher in acidity if cooked, so avoid feeding any type of tomato product besides ripe and clean tomatoes to your guinea pig.
- High Sugar Content: Tomatoes do contain sugar. Too much sugar is bad for guinea pigs and can lead to digestive problems such as upset stomachs and diarrhea.
- Weight Problems: Too many sugary treats can lead to issues such as obesity, dental problems, and diabetes in guinea pigs.
- Solanine/Tomatidine Toxicity: As discussed earlier in this article, the green parts of the tomato plant is toxic to guinea pigs. The ingestion of the plant, leaves, flowers, stems and/or vines can manifest as diarrhea, bloat, and stomach pain in your guinea pig.
- Baby Guinea Pigs: Baby guinea pigs have a more sensitive digestive system than adults do, and therefore you shouldn’t give your hoppy pet any fruits or vegetables until they reach around 12 weeks of age.
Can Guinea Pigs Eat Cherry Tomatoes?
The good news is that cherry tomatoes, yellow tomatoes and other tomato varieties are safe for guinea pigs to eat!
Just remember to feed them to your guinea pig in moderation and none of the green parts of the plant.
I will discuss how to feed these types of tomatoes to your guinea pig in the next section below.
How To Feed Tomatoes To A Guinea Pig:
First step to focus in on is the serving size that you are giving your little fur baby.
Depending on your guinea pig’s size, the average tomato portion should be about the size of one cherry tomato and should only be fed about 1-2 times per week, definitely not on a daily schedule.
Remember that tomatoes should be limited to a special treat only because of potential digestive and other assorted health problems.
Moderation is key here!
- 1 ripe tomato
- cutting board
- kitchen knife
- food-safe storage container
1. Remove the tomato stem, leaves, and/or vine from the tomato fruit as they can be poisonous.
2. Wash the fruit thoroughly to get rid of any chemical, pesticides, or pests.
3. Cut the tomato in slices and then into bite-sized pieces.
4. Prepare an amount equivalent to the size of a cherry tomato to give to your guinea pig, keeping in mind not to feed any piggies with health issues or whom are not full grown.
5. Place any leftover tomato you may wish to keep in an airtight food-safe storage container in the fridge until ready to use.
Consult with your local veterinarian before adding or switching up your guinea pig's diet.
Here are my recommended steps when feeding tomatoes to guinea pigs:
- Remove the tomato stam, leaves, and/or vine from the tomato fruit as they can be poisonous.
- Wash the fruit thoroughly to get rid of any chemical, pesticides, or pests.
- Cut the tomato in slices and then into bite-sized pieces.
- Prepare an amount equivalent to the size of a cherry tomato to give to your guinea pig, keeping in mind not to feed any guinea pigs with health issues or whom are not full grown.
- Clean up any juicy spills or splatters immediately as to not make any messes with your guinea pigs fur – they typically do not enjoy wet fur!
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?
- Green Beans
- Butternut Squash
Guinea pigs can have small pieces of ripe, clean tomato in moderation.
Too much tomato can cause a minacherie of health problems for the guinea pig.
Do not feed immature guinea pigs or guinea pigs with underlying health conditions tomatoes even as a treat.
If you have concerns regarding feeding your guinea pig tomatoes, contact your local veterinarian beforehand.