July 1, 2020

Can Guinea Pigs Eat Asparagus

Cavy Food Guide

Published by Emma Hughes

Vet Approved

As a guinea pig owner, you probably already have a good idea of what your pet's diet should look like. They're herbivores, and in a comfortable domestic setting, are best off eating mainly hay and purpose-made pellets.

However, adding fresh fruit and veggies can be a great way to add variety to your guinea pig's life, helping to keep boredom away. It can also help to keep your pet's appetite healthy. But not all veggies and fruits are suitable for guinea pigs. Some need to be fed in small amounts, and others are plain toxic.

Can Guinea Pigs Eat Asparagus?

Yes, guinea pigs can eat asparagus. Because it’s high in fiber and low in sugar, it makes for a healthy treat for your cavy. However, asparagus may cause bloating. It also contains oxalates and calcium, which is why you should stick to our vet-approved recommendations on feeding to avoid urinary stones.

Asparagus comes in several varieties: American and British ones are green, while Spanish and Dutch asparagus is white. French asparagus is the most distinctive with its purple coloration.

Guinea pigs can safely eat asparagus, be it green, white, or purple. The catch is that it must be fed in small quantities, and only occasionally. Asparagus has a lot of nutritional value for guinea pigs, but there are reasons why too much is not good, as we'll see a little later.

Pellets are essential to ensuring adequate Vitamin C intake and healthy digestion. In addition to veggies, make sure you have the best food to feed guinea pigs.

Health Benefits: Is Asparagus Good for Guinea Pigs?

Asparagus is not an easy vegetable to grow and can take years to get to harvest stage. For this reason, it's expensive. But is the expense worth it? Up to you to decide, but asparagus certainly has some great nutritional value for your guinea pig (and you too!).

Rich in fiber and low in sugar, it provides several essential vitamins and minerals for your guinea pig.

1. A Good Source of Vitamin A

Vitamin A is as essential for guinea pigs as it is for human beings. It is needed to maintain healthy eyesight, especially as your pet grows older. But it has other functions in the body too.

It contributes to a strong immune system, helping your guinea pig fight off infections and disease. Vitamin A also has a significant role to play in keeping your guinea pig's skin healthy, especially if your pet is sensitive and prone to allergies.

Asparagus contains vitamin A, mainly in the form of beta carotenoids. If your guinea pig is getting most of its nutrition from good quality hay and pellets, it is already eating a balanced diet. But a little extra vitamin A is only to your pet's advantage.

asparagus shoots

2. Rich in Vitamin K

Vitamin K is not a single vitamin, but rather a group of fat-soluble vitamins. Since guinea pigs are herbivores, vitamin K from animal sources is inaccessible to them, so they must source it entirely from plant matter.

Vitamin K has several roles to play in the body, but perhaps the most important is in assisting with blood clotting. A lack of vitamin K in the body may prevent wounds and cuts, however minor, from clotting quickly enough. It could expose your guinea pig to a range of health issues, including bacterial infection.

Asparagus is an excellent source of vitamin K. It is an excellent addition to your pet's diet from this point of view. Again, you just have to be careful not to feed too much to avoid any of the potential negative effects, which we'll discuss later.

3. Good Source of Copper

Another reason asparagus can make an excellent addition to your guinea pig's diet is its high copper content. Copper is one of the essential trace minerals and plays several vital roles in keeping your guinea pig healthy.

Your pet needs copper to form collagen and absorb iron. It also requires copper to maintain a healthy nervous system and to keep the immune system functioning properly. Copper is necessary for your pet's survival and is found in all body tissues.

4. Asparagus Contains Vitamin C

Asparagus contains a reasonable amount of vitamin C, which is very important for guinea pigs. The problem is that guinea pigs cannot manufacture vitamin C in their own bodies. The only way they can get it is from their diet.

Vitamin C has several benefits. It is a powerful antioxidant and does a lot to keep your pet's immune system functioning properly, keeping diseases and infections at bay. Vitamin C also helps to heal cuts and scrapes faster.

A lack of this vitamin can lead to a condition known as scurvy, which can even be fatal in severe cases. A vitamin C supplement is recommended for your guinea pig daily in addition to the vitamin C your guinea pig gets from its pellets, and a little extra certainly won't hurt.

Health Risks: Is Asparagus Bad for Guinea Pigs?

Asparagus is not known to be toxic to guinea pigs, and this applies to all three color varieties we talked about earlier. But it's still not a good idea to feed your guinea pig too much asparagus too frequently. Asparagus can cause some health issues that will negate any benefits the veggie may have had for your pet.

It's best to keep asparagus as an infrequent special treat due to its high calcium and oxalate content, and the subsequent risk of bladder stones.
- Dr. Leonie McKinlay, DVM

1. Asparagus Contains Calcium and Oxalates

It may sound counterintuitive to be concerned about calcium. We've all been taught that calcium is important in our bodies, and that is true. Guinea pigs need calcium just as we do, using it to grow and maintain healthy bones and teeth.

But here's where guinea pigs differ from us. We can regulate how much calcium we absorb, only taking what our bodies need. Guinea pigs can't and will absorb almost as much calcium as they consume.

When there is too much calcium in a guinea pig's body, it binds with compounds known as oxalates. These then form bladder stones, which can be very painful for your guinea pig and will require veterinary help. And a guinea pig that has once suffered from bladder stones can easily develop them again, making the post-treatment diet more difficult as well.

Asparagus contains both calcium and oxalates in relatively high amounts. It is the main reason why you shouldn't ever feed your guinea pig too much asparagus, or too frequently.

2. Risk of Bloating

If your guinea pig eats too much asparagus in one go, it may end up with a messed up digestive system. A guinea pig's tummy is quite sensitive, and eating a lot of asparagus can cause bloating and general digestive discomfort.

A mild case of this will not require much attention and will clear on its own in a few hours. But a more severe case may become very painful for your pet, forcing you to visit your vet for help.

Feeding Guidelines: Asparagus for Guinea Pigs

By now you've already figured out that asparagus can be fed only in small quantities, and infrequently. But how small is small? And how often is infrequently?

A single serving once or twice in a week is plenty.

One-quarter of a Cup at a Time

Before feeding your pet any asparagus, make sure to wash it thoroughly to remove any traces of pesticide and dirt. If your guinea pig has never tried this veggie before, start with a very small piece or two, and see how it goes.

Once you're sure your guinea pig can handle it, you can gradually increase his serving. Guinea pigs are tiny animals, and one-quarter of a cup of asparagus is the most you should give in one feeding.

A Couple of Times a Week is Enough

Asparagus, being high on calcium and oxalates, should not become a daily treat. A single serving once or twice in a week is plenty. And if you're worried about overfeeding calcium, you can skip asparagus altogether and feed other, low-calcium veggies instead.

Nutrition Facts

Apart from vitamins A, C, and K, asparagus also contains some vitamin E and many of the vitamins in the B complex. These come in smaller amounts but are still substantial enough to provide some nutritional value to your pet.

Asparagus is also high in fiber and low in sugar, which makes it an excellent addition to your pet's fiber-dependant digestion. There is also a fair amount of protein in this crunchy vegetable.

And when it comes to minerals, asparagus contains all the essential minerals in varying amounts, except sodium. This makes it a great all-round source of nutrition, as long as you remember to watch out for the calcium.

Bottom line: Can Guinea Pigs Have Asparagus?

Asparagus is considered a delicacy by many people, and most guinea pigs love the taste too. Fed in small quantities, it's a great addition to your pet's diet. Rich in fiber and low in sugar, it provides several essential vitamins and minerals for your guinea pig.

But asparagus is also high in oxalates. Coupled with its calcium content, eating too much asparagus may cause your pig to develop bladder stones. It is the biggest reason why it should be fed in strict moderation. And if your guinea pig has suffered from bladder stones before, it may be best to avoid asparagus altogether.

FAQ

Can guinea pigs eat asparagus tips?

Yes, guinea pigs can eat asparagus tips as well as the stalks. However, because of the high calcium and oxalate content, asparagus should only be an occasional treat for your cavy to prevent bladder stones from forming.

Vet's Comment

It's best to keep asparagus as an infrequent special treat due to its high calcium and oxalate content, and the subsequent risk of bladder stones.

The bulk of your guinea pig's diet should be fresh hay – which should always be freely available – and other fresh vegetables that contain ample vitamin C but are low in calcium and oxalates.

A small amount of pellets can be fed as well but should be limited to no more than about a tablespoon per day. If your pet gets more pellets than this, it can lead to obesity, and they will also likely eat less hay, which can lead to problems with their teeth.

- Dr. Leonie McKinlay, DVM

Dr. Leonie McKinlay, DVM

Vet-Approved by
Dr. Leonie McKinlay

DVM

Dr. Leonie McKinlay has always had a special fondness for animals and knew from a very young age that she wanted to be a veterinarian. She obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in Zoology from the University of Calgary and then her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in 2011. Since graduation, Dr. McKinlay has been working at the same small animal practice, caring for dogs and cats.

NOTE: Advice provided within this article by FeedingMyPet.com is not a substitute for veterinary advice. Please discuss your guinea pig's specific dietary needs (based on his breed, weight, age, and health status) with a veterinarian.

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