Everyone who has a home garden knows the burden of cleaning out the weeds. It is the most tedious thing in the world! But, if you keep guinea pigs as pets you might want to stop for a second and read this article. The guinea pigs can consume some types of weeds, and you might just have them in your garden. Of course, there are many types of weed, but trust me it is worth your time to explore them in detail because some of them are a nice tasty treat for the guinea pigs!
Can guinea pigs eat weeds? Guinea pigs can eat only certain types of weeds because some weeds can be poisonous for them. Guinea pigs can eat the following types of weeds: cleavers, chickweed, dandelion weeds, oxalis, plantain, yarrow, white clover, and nut grass.
If the guinea pig tries some unidentified and possibly toxic weeds they could be in great health danger. They can get stomach pains and diarrhea from certain weeds, and in most serious cases poisoning, which can be fatal.
It would be lovely if the guinea pig could roam freely in the backyard, right? Yes, but first we must know what grows in our yard. It isn’t safe to pick a random type of weed that grows near streets and busy roads and feed it to a guinea pig. Best case scenario would be letting the guinea pig stretch his little legs around the yard and happily nibble weeds that are safe for him. But, in order to proclaim your yard safe for guinea pigs, you must do some research about weeds.
If you are interested to learn more about some weeds as food for the guinea pigs we have prepared sections about benefits, nutrition facts, risks, and some fun information about these weeds.
Table of Content
Health Benefits of Guinea Pigs Eating Weeds
Antioxidants – are nutrients that can strengthen our immunity, and they fight the free radicals which cause most of the diseases in guinea pigs.
Lots of energy, healthy cells, and organs – the B vitamins are essential for the health of every cell in the body. When the cells are in good health, the whole organism works perfectly and it will be kept in good shape. Vitamins B1, B2, B5, B6, and B12 are usually present in most types of weeds; they keep all internal organs healthy, also the skin, and eyesight too. These vitamins also help with converting everything the cavy consumes into energy, and they also create new blood cells.
Scurvy prevention – our guinea pigs can only survive if they get enough vitamin C in their diets. They need this on a daily basis, otherwise, they will have many health problems, and they are more prone to the disease called scurvy. This disease will appear only when they have a deficit of vitamin C.
Healthy blood – without enough iron, the blood isn’t healthy and this triggers different problems. Lack of iron makes the organism tired and fatigued, there is no appetite, and there is a rapid, unhealthy weight loss. But, weeds have good amounts of iron, and this way the guinea pig can fight off any risk of anemia. Some of them also have vitamin K, which produces a blood protein prothrombin, which is also essential for healthy blood.
Nutrition Facts of Weeds
As an example, we will start with the nutrients for dandelion weeds:
Beta-carotene – this nutrient gets converted into vitamin A. The vitamin A is needed for healthier skin, better immunity, and better eyesight too. Vitamin A is one of the strongest antioxidants for the organism.
B-vitamins (B1, B2, B5, B6, B12) – the B1 keeps the nerves, muscles, brain, stomach, heart, and intestines healthy. Also, it converts everything consumed into energy. The B2 promotes better oxygen flow in the body. The B5 makes new blood cells. B6 boosts the serotonin (happiness hormone), improves the quality of sleep and reduces anxiety. And, B12 helps in the formation of red blood cells, keeps the bones healthy, and reduces the risk of eyesight problems.
Vitamin C – guinea pigs need vitamin C to survive. Since they can’t create it naturally, they depend on foods and supplements with vitamin C to avoid the fatal scurvy disease (the symptoms of a scurvy disease are: rough coat, weakness, no appetite, weight loss, discharge, diarrhea)
Vitamin E – this vitamin improves the skin quality, boosts the immunity, lessens inflammations, improves the eyesight, and reduces the risk of certain cancers.
Iron – iron is a very important mineral for the survival of the guinea pigs. The iron prevents anemia, removes weakness and fatigue, and it improves the overall health.
Potassium – with potassium, the blood pressure is always at normal levels, there is no risk of losing bone density or muscle mass, and also there is less risk of kidney stones.
Magnesium – this mineral keeps the bones and heart healthy, and prevents diabetes.
Zinc – zinc boosts immunity and treats colds and diarrhea.
The following are nutrients of another weed called the cleaver:
Citric acid – this nutrient acts as an antioxidant and it protects the organism from the damaging free radicals.
Flavonoids – these are the natural plant pigments. Flavonoids reduce the risk of cancer, stroke, heart diseases and they improve brain health too.
Tannins – the tannins lower the high blood pressure, boost the immunity, and balance the blood sugar levels.
Gallotannic acid – acts like an antioxidant that protects the body from diseases and free radicals.
And finally, another example – the plantain weed:
Vitamin A – a very strong antioxidant that keeps the immunity in great shape.
Calcium – mineral for the formation of strong bones, but it’s harmful to the urinary tract of guinea pigs (if consumed in excess and too often)
Vitamin C – an essential vitamin for survival and health of guinea pigs.
Vitamin K – important for the blood. This vitamin produces the prothrombin, a blood protein
Risks to Consider When Feeding Weeds to Guinea Pigs
Urinary problems – the calcium is present in some types of weeds and it is not the healthiest nutrient for the guinea pigs. Calcium can be useful for the cavies only briefly, while they are growing up. But, in adult guinea pigs this mineral damages their kidneys and creates bladder (urinary stones), causes blood in urine and painful urinating, and it can trigger frequent infections in the urinary tract.
Laxative and diuretic effect – this is especially for the dandelion weeds, but some other weed types as well. This herb can stimulate the bowels and the bladder in guinea pigs, so it might need to urinate and defecate more often.
Upset stomach – even the healthiest foods are not so good when they are consumed too much and too often. A lot of weeds can irritate the stomachs of the guinea pigs, so mix them up with some other foods in their diet! You also wouldn’t want to consume the same foods every single day, would you?
Toxins and pollutants – if you don’t have a garden or yard, you probably want to go on a walk and just pick some weeds for the guinea pig. But, you must be extremely cautious with this. Weeds that grow near streets, busy roads or areas of strong pollution in cities are definitely not good at all for your guinea pigs. These weeds will absorb all the toxins and pollutants nearby, so if your guinea pig eats them, it can get nauseous, or even worse they could get poisoned. In this case, you must rush to the vet. However, just to be safe, always pick weeds from your own yard/garden or unpolluted areas.
Tips on How to Feed Weeds to Guinea Pigs
My guinea pig would love to munch on weeds, but I’m not sure how often it should eat them…or how much…
The rule for most leaves, herbs, flowers, and weeds is between 2-4 times per week, not more. As far as the serving size goes, half a handful is quite enough, and more than that could upset the tummy of the guinea pig. Just imagine if it consumes more than a handful – it will be like a regular size salad for humans, so that’s a lot to digest. And, if your guinea pig is allowed to roam around the yard freely, let them munch on the safe weeds for them, but not for too long. Those little guys are fast and you could be left without a lawn pretty fast!
I don’t have a yard or garden, but I want to pick some weeds for my cavy…
You must never, ever pick the weeds that grow near busy streets, areas with lots of traffic or pollution. The weeds from such areas are full of pollutants. If you have the opportunity, pick the weeds from areas that are further away from the main traffic streets and pollution; mountains, meadows and similar. Then, rinse the weeds with water several times to remove any remaining dust, small insects or dirt.
Quick Facts on Weeds
The cleavers are also known as ‘kisses’, ‘sticky weed’, ‘sticky willy’, and ‘sticky bud’.
The cleavers have small hairs that look hooked, and they use them to attach themselves on everything on the way.
The chickweed seeds date back to Neolithic times, 12.000 years ago.
Chickweed was also used as food for chickens, fowl, rabbits, and hogs.
Yarrows are also called ‘poor man’s pepper’ because their taste is pungent and bitter.
There are over 100 species of dandelion worldwide
Weeds, in general, can be divided into broadleaf and grassy weeds. The broadleaf weeds are flat and netlike. The grassy weeds are narrow, and with upright form of leaves.
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