You probably know that your guinea pig is an herbivore, but does that mean they can eat all plant-based foods? Absolutely not! Some plants are toxic to guinea pigs and others can wreak havoc with their digestive system.
What about potatoes, though? Can guinea pigs eat potatoes? The short answer is no, you should never feed your guinea pig regular potatoes, but sweet potatoes can make a nice occasional treat.
Read on for more information on why your guinea pigs shouldn’t eat potatoes, and how to safely feed them sweet potatoes. We’ll also look at some of the other vegetables your guinea pig should never eat.
Guinea Pig Diet
As an herbivore, the core of the guinea pig’s diet should be high-quality hay, which should be available at all times. The hay should be dry, sweet-smelling, and free from mold.
This is their main source of fiber, which is essential for their digestive system. It also helps keep their teeth, which grow continually, from getting out of hand.
At home, the other staple for your guinea pig should be special guinea pig pellets, which are mostly a mix of dry hay and alfalfa with a few other veggies in the mix. The pellets are usually about 15% protein and 25% fiber, fortified with the other nutrients guinea pigs need to thrive. Hay and pellets together should form about 90% of their diet.
In addition to this, guinea pigs should have fresh fruits and vegetables, but these should only be about 10% of their overall diet. The veggies should always be raw, and cleaned to remove any pesticides. Do your research and choose fruits and vegetables that are safe for your guinea pig.
By the way, don’t be surprised to see your guinea pig occasionally eating their own feces. They don’t do this all the time, but they do it with a particular type of feces called cecotropes. These are softer and lighter than usual droppings and contain nutrients absorbed from plants during digestion. Eating them is just part of your guinea pig’s digestive process.
Can Guinea Pigs Eat Potatoes?
Can you include potatoes among the fruits and vegetables your guinea pig eats? No, you should never feed potato to your guinea pig, regardless of how it’s prepared or whether it’s raw or cooked.
The first reason is that potato skin contains alkaloids that can be toxic to guinea pigs, even in relatively small amounts. It can lead to a variety of health issues including lethargy, nausea, vomiting, and in the most extreme cases, death.
But even if you peel the potato, you shouldn’t include it in their diet. This is because potatoes are high in starch and a guinea pig’s digestive system will struggle to process starches, which can cause a lot of gas. While guinea pigs do fart, they don’t have an effective way to relieve themselves of gas, so it can get pretty uncomfortable and messy.
If your guinea pig does accidentally get their hands on a small piece of potato and gobble it down, it probably isn’t an emergency. Give them some extra water to help clean their system and observe them for signs of illness. If they start showing symptoms, contact your vet.
Can Guinea Pigs Eat Sweet Potatoes?
While your guinea pig shouldn’t eat regular varieties of potato, they can have sweet potato. The skin does not contain the same dangerous alkaloids as regular potato, and the meat of the sweet potato is also less starchy.
Sweet potato can even be a healthy treat for your guinea pig, since it’s rich in potassium and vitamin C. The latter is particularly important in your guinea pig’s diet since they cannot produce it themselves and must obtain it through dietary means.
But you should only give sweet potato to your guinea pig once or twice a week since it’s high in carbohydrates, which can lead to excessive weight gain.
Make sure you feed the sweet potato to your guinea pig raw, and clean it thoroughly before feeding to ensure it isn’t contaminated with pesticides.
Cut the potato into bite-sized chunks about one inch by one inch for your guinea to munch on.
Other Vegetables Best Avoided
What other vegetables should you avoid feeding to your guinea pig, to maintain their health?
Iceberg lettuce and other light-colored lettuces are best avoided. This is due to their high water content, which can lead to diarrhea. This can in turn lead to dehydration and a compromised digestive system.
Several vegetables, including cabbage and cauliflower, are gassy and can cause bloating. Because your guinea pig doesn’t have a good way of dealing with gas, this can lead to constipation and some significant discomfort.
Onions, leeks, chives, and shallots can lead to blood disorders, while garlic is also poisonous to guinea pigs. These are among the main reasons you should never feed them foods you have prepared for yourself, because they often contain these kinds of seasoning.
Rhubarb and other plants high in oxalic acid also need to be avoided because they can cause kidney and urinary tract stones.
Tomatoes are fine for guinea pigs, but they shouldn’t eat the stalks or leaves, which are toxic.
Whenever you feed your guinea pig fruits and vegetables, remove the seeds. Some seeds, such as apple seeds, contain arsenic and can be deadly. Yes, you probably eat apple seeds quite often, but you can handle it. Your tiny guinea pig, though, can handle much less, so it’s a good idea to remove seeds, which can also be a choking hazard.
Finally, make sure you always wash the fruits and vegetables thoroughly. Your guinea pig’s sensitive little digestive system can respond badly to the chemicals in pesticides, which can destroy their liver and kidneys, especially if it’s something they are consuming regularly.
Read our complete beginner’s guide to caring for guinea pigs
Can guinea pigs eat potato peels?
No, guinea pigs should never eat potato peelings. They are high in alkaloids, which can be toxic to guinea pigs.
While it probably isn’t an emergency if they accidentally get their paws on a piece and decide to gobble it down, the toxins can build up in their tiny bodies pretty quickly.
What kind of potatoes can guinea pigs eat?
While guinea pigs shouldn’t eat regular potatoes, they can occasionally have sweet potato as a tasty and crunchy treat.
Sweet potatoes don’t contain the dangerous alkaloids that normal potatoes have, and they also aren’t as starchy as regular potatoes so they don’t cause the same gas and bloating.
What should I do if my guinea pig ate a potato?
If your guinea pig accidentally ate a small amount of potato, it’s probably nothing to worry about. Give them plenty of water so they can remain hydrated, and keep an eye on them for any sign of an adverse reaction, such as lethargy, vomiting, or diarrhea.
If any of these things happen, it’s a good idea to contact your vet. If your guinea pig has munched their way through a fair amount of potato or eaten a potato chip, which is also fatty, oily, and may contain other things that aren’t good for your guinea pig, their reaction may be worse, so keep a closer eye.
What vegetables are not safe for guinea pigs?
Vegetables in the onion and garlic families are dangerous for guinea pigs and should be avoided. You should also avoid vegetables with a high water content, such as iceberg lettuce, because they can cause diarrhea.
Outside of this, gassy vegetables, such as cabbage and broccoli, should be avoided because guinea pigs don’t handle gas well. Make sure you clean vegetables thoroughly before feeding as the chemicals in pesticides are extremely dangerous to them.
Understanding The Guinea Pig’s Diet
The old saying “you are what you eat” holds true across species. Just as a healthy diet full of foods that are high in the nutrients that you need and that avoid potentially toxic elements leaves you with a healthier and happier life, it will do the same for your guinea pig.
Choose good-quality hay and good-quality pellets that are designed to give your guinea pig the best nutrition. Top this off with raw fruits and vegetables that not only contain healthy nutrients but also offer interest and variety. Read up on the healthiest fruits and vegetables and which ones are best avoided, such as potatoes.
Curious about carrots? Read: can guinea pigs eat carrots?