Can Guinea Pigs Eat Dandelions?

Can Guinea Pigs Eat Dandelions_

Keeping a guinea pig as a pet is adorable and more important – lots of fun! These cute animals are most famous for their eating habits. Every meal time with cavies is a leisure activity because they are so cute to feed. There’s nothing cuter in the world than a guinea pig munching food! And food is not always literally ‘food’ with cavies. Sounds confusing, but guinea pigs don’t eat just food, but plants and herbs as well. For them, even herbs or roots are food too. And yes, even flowers are food for cavies.

They are vegetarians, so most things that grow from the ground are good foods for cavies. Often, herbs and weeds can be dangerous, poisonous or toxic, so you must examine everything before feeding the cavy. Now, let’s have a look at the dandelion as food for guinea pigs.

Can guinea pigs eat dandelions? The answer is: yes. Without a doubt, guinea pigs can safely consume dandelion flowers, if in moderation. Technically, the dandelion is classified as a weed, but guinea pigs love it and consume it whenever they have the chance. They eat both the greens and leaves, also the root, the flower itself and the flower stems too. Dandelions are safe for guinea pigs and should be eaten in moderation (as anything else). The cavy can eat dandelions up to 4-5 times per week.

 Anyway, this plant is one of the favorites of your furry friend! Who would’ve thought flowers and weeds like this can be amazing food for cavies? It is even simple to purchase these! It’s not expensive and the cavy will love it.

This plant grows commonly in many places, but try to avoid polluted parts like banks on the roadside or areas with agricultural spraying of chemicals and pesticides. Also, avoid common areas where owners walk their dogs or where there is a risk of feces and pollution. Basically, dandelions grow almost everywhere.

I have also made separate articles about different parts of this plant (dandelion flowers and dandelion leaves) in order to cover every detail.

Health Benefits of Guinea Pigs Eating Dandelions

If you get dandelions from a clean and unpolluted place, they are perfectly fine for guinea pigs.

The root of the dandelion is very healthy. If consumed in moderation, it can cure appetite loss, upset belly, gallstones, it works up the bowels too. But, this is only for small or minimal serving, because the cavies have a different metabolism than humans. Cavies can benefit from this if consumed in minimal dose.

Dandelion promotes more appetite because it increases bile flow and gastric functions. Dandelion contains antioxidants (they prevent illnesses and create immunity) and protects from free radical damage (which causes illnesses). It also reduces blood sugar (this is good if you give sweet treats to the cavy sometimes).

This plant also heals and refreshes the liver from various toxins (animal studies proved this). When served in moderation, dandelion improves digestion and removes constipation. Be careful, too much of this and there is a counter effect (loose stool and bad digestion).

Most importantly, it has vitamin C. We mentioned in our previous articles that cavies don’t produce their own vitamin C, so they need it from other sources. Also, they cannot store this vitamin in their bodies, so it is crucial to get enough of this vitamin constantly. Without vitamin C, cavies get scurvy. This makes their whole organism weaker, and symptoms are fatigue, teeth and mouth problems, loss of appetite and a rough coat.

The dandelion greens can be consumed raw or cooked (cavies prefer fresh over cooked foods). Overall, the dandelion is very good for cavies and it is also tasty. However, it contains calcium and has a laxative/diuretic effect, so give it sparingly.

Nutrition Facts of Dandelions

For 3 oz of dandelion:

  • 45 calories in total
  • 20 g carbs (for fast energy)
  • 70 g protein (for slow release energy and healthy muscles)
  • 70 g fat (a low-fat level which is healthy overall)
  • 0 mg cholesterol (cholesterol clogs blood vessels, but this is not a risk here)
  • 50 g fiber (for good digestion)
  • 58% vitamin C (the essential vitamin for cavies)
  • 338% vitamin A (antioxidant for immune system, skin, vision, brain, lungs, kidneys, heart)
  • 23% vitamin E (for skin, immune system, less inflammation and less risk of cancer)
  • 649% vitamin K (for healthy bones and healing of wounds)
  • 76 mg sodium (too much salt for this usage here; this is why it’s a diuretic)
  • 397 mg potassium (prevents heart issues, hypertension, stroke, for water/electrolyte balance)
  • 187 mg calcium (high level of calcium which makes bladder/kidney stones in cavies)

During season peak time, you can give about a dozen dandelions as a serving. Some prefer 10, some even 20 dandelion leaves. Whatever you choose, remember to reduce other calcium foods from the cavy’s diet now. This will make balanced nutrition in the season of dandelions.

Or a simple rule to remember is one handful, 3-4 times per week (in the peak season of summer and spring when dandelions grow).

Good advice is to mix these with a bit of hay to enhance the natural flavors and aromas. You can even find stores that offer hay already mixed with dandelions! Sounds great and practical, right?

If this plant is new to the cavy, introduce it slowly. Give it a few leaves or flowers once or twice weekly. After some time, you can increase the serving or the frequency. Before the dandelion is served to the cavy, you should rinse it well with water.

Also, if you have dandelions in the backyard, don’t pluck the whole plant. Instead, get the leaves and flowers. If you have more of these plants, you can pluck some of them with their roots fully and use them as cavy food. Your furry friend prefers the flower, leaves, and stems, but root can be good also.

Risks to Consider When Feeding Dandelions to Guinea Pigs

One of the risks from eating excess dandelions is the laxative and diuretic effect. If your cavy eats too many dandelions, it might get an upset stomach or urinate too much. Don’t get fooled by the cute cavy face – you must not give too much of this plant. If eaten in excess, the dandelion may cause problems with the gastrointestinal tract of guinea pigs. The side effects are bad digestion, stomach pains, vomiting, bloating, gasses or diarrhea and loose stools.

Another thing is that dry herbs and plants, like the dandelion, have lots of calcium. Calcium is not good for the cavy because it builds up in the organism and makes bladder or kidney stones.

A minor risk is the change of urine color. You might notice that after they eat dandelions, the urine of the cavy will look orange or even reddish. No need to panic, this is just the body processing the pigments of the plant.

Quick Facts on Dandelions and Guinea Pigs

  • Dandelion must be from an unpolluted place and without chemicals/pesticides.
  • Cavies eat the flower, stem, leaves, and even root – they love everything about this plant.
  • It promotes appetite and works up stomach fluids.
  • Contains antioxidants that can prevent many illnesses.
  • It refreshes the liver (animal studies proved it).
  • Too much dandelion causes stomach problems.
  • Dandelion has a laxative/diuretic effect.
  • It has calcium which is bad for the cavy (bladder/kidney stones).
  • Also, it has vitamin C which is essential for the cavy.
  • Normal serving: almost a handful, a few times per week.
  • Too much dandelion changes the urine color.

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.