Can Guinea Pigs Eat Basil?

Can Guinea Pigs Eat Basil

The guinea pigs are probably the most adorable house pets we can have. Most of us are doubtful whether or not to keep a rodent pet at home. The truth is, these cute pets are maybe the perfect house pets. They are cute and sociable and they want to hang out with other cavies or the owner. Even better, they are budget-friendly in every single aspect – mostly for food. They eat fresh produce or almost all the veggies and fruits. They also eat other things that grow in nature, like herbs, roots or even flowers. Cavies are that simple! So, let’s see if these vegetarian cuties can eat certain herbs.

Can guinea pigs eat basil? Yes, guinea pigs can eat basil, but in moderation. The guinea pigs eat many different herbs and plants, however, some herbs might be toxic for them. With basil, that’s not the case, but it still needs to be given in moderation. Cavies have some favorite herbs they like to eat constantly and to your surprise – basil is one of them. This plant is not extremely bad for cavies, but it requires some precaution. This is because basil contains calcium and phosphorus – both of these can create urinary problems in cavies.

The cavies adore eating herbs and some plants too. They absolutely go crazy for some of this fresh produce. It’s not uncommon for the cavies to indulge in different herbs: mint, dill, parsley, cilantro, endive, fennel, dandelion…and basil! These herbs and plants are like a real treat for the cavies.

Health Benefits of Guinea Pigs Eating Basil

The most important benefit of basil is that it has vitamin C. This vitamin is incredibly beneficial for cavies and their overall health. We can even say vitamin C is a life-saver for guinea pigs! Unfortunately, cavies don’t make this vitamin naturally in their bodies, and when they ingest it, they can’t store it too. Regular ingestion of this vitamin through supplements or food is crucial for a healthy cavy.

Why? Well, if there is a deficit of vitamin C, the cavy will most likely get scurvy. If this happens, the cavy will have fatigue, rough coat, no appetite, stiff joints and limbs, hopping, nose and eye discharge too.

Another benefit of basil is that it has natural fibers and proteins that improve digestion and provide energy for a whole day.

Basil also has many vitamins and minerals that contribute to the health of a guinea pig. Vitamin A is a very good antioxidant. It’s crucial because it fights inflammation and stops free radical damage. The free radicals cause premature aging and many illnesses. Other benefits of this vitamin are the health of kidneys, heart, brain, skin, lungs, eyesight and even immunity in guinea pigs.

Basil also has vitamin K – this vitamin is essential for healthy bones, but also for good blood clotting (in case of injuries).

There is another beneficial ingredient, the antioxidant manganese. This antioxidant reduces all risks of all diseases overall. It is the strongest protector of health and removes free radicals that do damage to healthy cells in the body.

Lastly, another benefit worth mentioning is the zinc mineral. This mineral protects the immunity, speeds up healing of wounds and keeps DNA healthy. This is especially important for pregnant cavies and their offspring.

Nutrition Facts of Basil

The basil is a very aromatic and tasty herb, for both humans and guinea pigs. Let’s see the nutritional values of this herb.

For a serving size of 3 oz (100 g), there is:

  • Total of 23 calories
  • 6 g fat (not a lot of fat, which is good for the cardiovascular system.
  • 4 mg sodium (not too much salt, another benefit for cardiovascular health)
  • 6 g fiber (for healthy and good digestion)
  • 3 g sugar (low amount of sugar, healthy overall for the blood sugar levels and the whole organism)
  • 2 g protein (source of slow release energy)
  • 106% vitamin A (a powerful antioxidant, removes free radical damage, fights inflammation, keeps kidneys, heart, lungs, brain, skin, vision and immunity healthy)
  • 30% vitamin C (the essential vitamin for guinea pigs and their optimal health)
  • 18% calcium (this amount can be problematic because excess calcium causes urinary problems in cavies)
  • 18% iron (for healthy blood and blood cells)
  • 518% vitamin K (for healthy bones, fast healing of wounds)
  • 16% magnesium (for healthy bones, strong and healthy muscles, healthy heart)
  • 57% manganese (a powerful antioxidant that keeps connective tissues strong, balances hormones, controls metabolism of sugars and calcium, removes free radicals)
  • 6% phosphorus (for healthy and strong bones – but this amount may be problematic because phosphorus works together with calcium. These two cause urinary problems in cavies)
  • 5% zinc (for good immunity, healthy DNA, and growth)

There are a few types of basil that are the most famous in cuisines; Mediterranean with green leaves, Greek with peppery-like leaves, purple basil with darker leaves, lemon basil with lemony-citrus flavor, also holy basil with very strong and spicy aroma.

Some cavies are crazy for this herb and aroma, but some cavies dislike the fresh/raw basil because the aroma is just too powerful. But in general, the flowers are edible and they have a mild aroma, but also a bit of bitterness. If this is a new food for the cavy, introduce it slowly. The leaves have a more neutral aroma and taste.

So, what would be a normal serving of basil for the cavy? A small amount is fine, for example, less than a handful, 2 times per week maximum.

Risks to Consider When Feeding Basil to Guinea Pigs

There are some risks of consuming too much basil for guinea pigs. Or even consuming it too often.

For example, there is phosphorus and calcium in the basil plant. These items cause urinary problems in the body of guinea pigs. When there is an excess of these items in the cavy’s body, the urinary tract shows certain changes. The bladder and kidneys could most likely develop stones. So, with excess calcium, there is also grit and sludge too in the urinary tract.

This problem is commonly seen in rodents and also rabbits – these animals remove excess calcium (which is not needed) through their urine. So, way too much excess of calcium can make urinating for the cavy very painful and problematic. Don’t take this lightly – this can develop into a serious problem and can even lead to renal failure with fatal consequences. The phosphorus binds with the calcium, they work together in the body. Excess of either one affects the urinary stones almost certainly.

Another risk of too much basil is the digestive problems. This goes for any food, no matter how healthy it is. Anything not in moderation, and in excess – can have counter effects. So, large servings of basil more than 2 times weekly can result in a disturbed digestive system of your cute guinea pig pet. The cavy might be bloated or flatulent. If it’s more serious, there will be diarrhea and even vomiting in extreme cases. So, stick to the rules of less than a handful, 2 times weekly.

Quick Facts on Basil and Guinea Pigs

  • Cavies can eat basil but in moderation
  • Basil is one of the most favorite herbs of guinea pigs
  • Basil has vitamin C (the essential vitamin for the health of cavies)
  • This herb also has good natural proteins and fibers for energy and digestion
  • Basil also has vitamin A – an antioxidant that fights inflammations
  • There is also vitamin K – for the health of bones and good blood clotting
  • Basil has manganese – the strongest antioxidant in the organism
  • There are a few popular basil types: Mediterranean, Greek, Purple, Lemon, and Holy.
  • The flower part is bitter, whereas the leaf is more neutral
  • A normal serving would be less than a handful
  • Cavies can eat basil 2 times weekly, not more
  • Too much basil can cause bladder/kidney stones

Before I let you go, one final thought on food. With food, you can’t ever be too careful which is why I get all guinea pig food from a reliable source such as Amazon. If you are not sure what to order but believe your little piggies deserve some great treats please check our Helpful Guide to the Best Guinea Pig Treats to get some ideas. We have also made a full list of foods that guinea pigs can and can’t eat (150+ Types of Foods). Be sure to also check our recommended products page for everything you will ever need to assure a happy life for your Guinea Pigs. Hope this information was helpful and you have found the answer you were looking for.

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Clarissa Moolbrock

Clarissa Moolbrock is one of the founders and editor at Guinea Pig Tube. She is also an author of "Complete Guinea Pig Care Guide: The Essential, Practical Guide To All Aspects of Caring for Your Guinea Pigs" (available on Amazon). Being a veterinary technician helping animals and sharing her experience and knowledge with other guinea pig owners is her passion. Her life goal is to popularise guinea pigs as pets and that is why she has started Guinea Pig Tube website.