Guinea pigs are herbivores meaning they eat a plant-based diet. In the wild a guinea pig will forage for their food, munching on grass, herbs and weeds as well as fruits and vegetables.
However, not all plants and weeds are good for your guinea pigs and some are extremely poisonous to them.
It’s important not to let your guinea pigs eat any kind of food, plant, flower or weed that you haven’t first checked is safe.
We’re going to discuss some of the dangerous and poisonous foods and plants that people most commonly ask about. Further down the page is a list that includes many toxic wild and garden plants you should avoid.
Daisies and buttercups are poisonous to guinea pigs and so is a yellow flower, similar to the buttercup, called the celandine.
Buttercups and daisies can be found abundantly amongst the grass during spring and summer. This means you need to be extra cautious when picking grass so that you don’t mistakenly pick either of these toxic flowers or the leaves or stems of the plants.
Grass that has been mowed is not safe for guinea pigs. There are several reasons for this.
Firstly, if you have a petrol or diesel lawnmower, it will be polluted by the fumes which could make your guinea pigs very ill.
Secondly, it won’t just be grass that is in the clippings but could be a toxic combination of various other plants such as daisies, buttercups and other small poisonous weeds that you may not even have noticed growing in your lawn.
Another reason why grass clippings are extremely bad is fermentation. To begin with, grass clippings ferment very quickly. Then, because the grass is all chopped up, your guinea pig will eat a lot of it quickly. After this it will continue to ferment in their gut and could cause bloat.
Bloat can be fatal to a guinea pig if not treated urgently. If you’ve heard anyone say that they’ve fed grass clippings without any negative consequences, then they were lucky. Your guinea pigs may not be so lucky so make sure the grass you give them is always picked and not mown.
Guinea pigs can eat young dock leaves but they are not safe for guinea pigs to eat after flowering, or when they are seeding or after seeding. The dock leaves usually first appear in spring but they are high in oxalic acid so dock leaves shouldn’t be fed in large quantities to guinea pigs. If you’re unsure it is best to not pick them at all.
Rhubarb leaves and stalks, whether cultivated in your garden, backyard or found in the wild, are poisonous for guinea pigs.
If you grow rhubarb in your garden or backyard, make sure you don’t let your guinea pigs roam anywhere near it because if they eat this plant it can make your guinea pig extremely sick and it could well be fatal.
Potatoes and potato leaves are poisonous to your guinea pigs so they shouldn’t eat either of these. Green potatoes are especially dangerous due to high levels of solanine, which is a glycoalkaloid poison. So although we humans are big fans of the potato in many different forms, your guinea pig is not and should not be fed any part of the potato plant.
Guinea pigs are basically vegan so they shouldn’t eat meat or consume any animal products such as milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, eggs, honey, ham, bacon, chicken, fish or anything else that comes from an animal or is produced by an animal.
Guinea pigs have different dietary requirements to rabbits, so although they are both small animals and their dried food may look similar, the ingredients are different.
The main difference between rabbit food and guinea pig food is that vitamin C is added to guinea pig pellets because they can’t make their own whereas rabbits can. If they don’t have enough of this vitamin they can get scurvy and other health issues.
You shouldn’t give your guinea pigs rabbit food and neither should they have any other food that is produced specifically for another animal such as a dog, cat, hamster, rat, ferret, gerbil, mouse or any other pet.
Guinea pigs shouldn’t eat food that is designed for a human. By this, we are not talking about fruit and veg but food such as cooked or processed food in any form including bread, chocolate, chips, biscuits, popcorn, toast, crisps, cheerios, cereal, doritos, pizza, frozen vegetables or frozen fruit or any other food that is made for humans.
Guinea pigs shouldn’t eat any type of nuts including peanuts, almonds, cashew nuts, walnuts, pecans, brazil nuts, hazelnuts, pine nuts, pistachios or any other type of nut. Nuts are high in fat and a guinea pig’s digestive system isn’t suited to this type of food.
Most seeds are also unsuitable for guinea pigs because they are also high in fat. Some seeds such as sunflower and pumpkin seeds can get stuck in their teeth and may also pose a choking hazard. However, seeds in fresh food such as peppers, tomatoes or cucumbers are fine for guinea pigs..
Dried fruit isn’t toxic but is more concentrated in sugar than fresh fruit so it isn’t good for your guinea pig to have raisins, sultanas, prunes, dates, figs, dried apricots or other dried fruits.
Even fresh fruit shouldn’t be given in large quantities due to the high sugar content but fresh fruit in treat sized portions to accompany their veg is fine.
Too much fruit can cause diarrhea so it’s important to focus more on the vegetables and herbs.
When buying treats for your guinea pigs, check the ingredients first. Some are known to have sugar, yogurt, milk and seeds in them. Although they are sold for guinea pigs, they are not suitable so you should avoid these.
Some guinea pig food mixes may also contain unsuitable ingredients with artificial colors and flavorings, dried fruit and colored pieces that are packed with sugar.
There are many wild plants, garden plants and weeds that are poisonous for guinea pigs.
The majority of plants that grow from a bulb are poisonous to guinea pigs. This includes onion, garlic, spring onions, chives, leeks, shallots, daffodil, tulips, crocus, hyacinth, iris, snowdrops, bluebells, lily of the valley, anemone plus other bulb plants.
It is safest to assume that any evergreen plant is going to be poisonous to your guinea pigs as most of them are. This includes plants such as ivy, boxwood, rhododendrons, laurel and bindweed.
We have included many of the more common toxic plants, trees, shrubs, flowers and weeds below that you may find in your garden, backyard, or in the wild.
Bear in mind that this list isn’t exhaustive. So don’t assume that a plant is ok if it’s not on this list. It’s always safest to assume a plant is unsuitable for your guinea pigs unless you know for sure it’s safe for them to eat.
Foraging is a great way to provide free food and good quality food for your guinea pigs. But remember that some plants look very similar even though one could be safe and the other deadly poisonous.
Always make sure you know the difference before picking and feeding to your guinea pig. Check out our foraging for guinea pigs guide….
Take a look at the safe food list (vegetables and fruit) for guinea pigs which will help you choose a good variety of fresh food to feed your piggies. And don’t forget they also need a diet of good quality pellets and unlimited hay daily.