"Do guinea pigs eat cantaloupe?" It's a common question piggy owners pose. The fruit is delicious and sweet, refreshing, and easy to chew. You mostly find it for sale during the summer months, but it can be found in most grocery stores all year round. Since cantaloupe is tasty and readily available, it would be a great treat for guinea pigs – or would it?
It certainly offers your cavy nutrients he can benefit from, making it both enriching and nutritious. However, these fruits are relatively high in sugar, which is far from ideal.
So what does it come down to? Should you cut your piggy a sweet treat of cantaloupe or drop the fruit from his or her menu completely? Or is it something that won't hurt your pet, as long as you follow the recommendations and feeding guidelines?
Read on to learn all you need to know about safely serving your guinea pig cantaloupe.
Can Guinea Pigs Eat Cantaloupe?
Yes, guinea pigs can eat cantaloupe. It's a hydrating treat with lots of Vitamin C to prevent scurvy in your piggie. However, the seeds contain cyanide and are a choking hazard, while the rind is tough for digestion. Also, you should follow the feeding guidelines because cantaloupe is high in sugar and water, which could cause diarrhea and bloating.
The most important thing is that even if guinea pigs can eat sugary fruits like cantaloupe, their diet should consist of:
- 80% hay
- 15% vegetables
- 5% pellets
Only a tiny part of the veggies they get should be fruit, so we are talking about very small amounts. To keep your piggy healthy, you need to ensure you're meeting their nutritional requirements, and although cantaloupe can be a great occasional treat, it certainly cannot be staple food.
The vegetable part allows you to be creative and spoil your guinea pig by adding something delicious and healthy to its menu—something like cantaloupe.
- Dr. Ivana Crnec, DVM
That being said, let's talk some more about cantaloupe. The flesh of the fruit- the orange part- is OK to serve in small bits as a treat, but what about the rest of it?
What about the rind or seeds?
The truth is that the rind is something you want to avoid. It has a tough, hard-to-chew texture. This is not good for the guinea pigs to eat as it can be hard on their digestive system. Eating the rind could cause diarrhea or intestinal blockages. Wax and pesticides could also remain on the rind. Washing most of the chemicals away can help, but it's best to avoid the risk and just stick to feeding your piggy the orange part.
Now, about the seeds. Guinea pigs should avoid cantaloupe seeds. This is because these are hard and large seeds that pose a choking hazard to your pet. Cyanide is also present in the seeds, and while there isn't a huge amount contained within, it's best to just discard them before you feed your guinea pig cantaloupe.
So yes, guinea pigs tend to love cantaloupe for its sweet taste and are allowed to eat it in moderation. Still, there are some health risks you should know about before feeding, and we'll get to those in a bit. But first, let's look at some of the advantages cantaloupe has for cavies.
Health Benefits: Is Cantaloupe Good for Guinea Pigs?
Here are a few excellent advantages of adding cantaloupe to your piggy's diet:
Cantaloupes are tasty and packed with healthy nutrients, like vitamin A, vitamin C, dietary fiber, antioxidants, and minerals.
- Dr. Ivana Crnec, DVM
Help your cavy avoid scurvy
Did you know that guinea pigs cannot synthesize their own vitamin C? As a result, owners have to offer it to their pets. Doing so will prevent the guinea pig from developing scurvy and keep the immune system functioning well. It helps your pet stay resistant to disease and maintain better health.
Most owners use Vitamin C supplements to ensure adequate intake, but offering fruits rich in this nutrient is another good way to ensure your pet stays healthy. Since cantaloupe contains Vitamin C, it's something that can benefit your guinea pig's wellbeing.
It helps keep your guinea pig hydrated
Since cantaloupe is 89% water, it can be an excellent way to offer your guinea pig some hydration.
Guinea pigs have digestive systems that are mainly designed to process dry hay, grass, and leafy greens, but water is a key element in keeping the digestion running.
Of course, unlimited fresh water should always be provided to your guinea pig, along with their hay. It will ensure they can have all the hydration they need. But, a delicious, juicy treat, such as cantaloupe, can help them stay hydrated as well.
Great for eye health and skin health
Cantaloupes are loaded with Vitamin A, a vitamin known for helping the eyes maintain healthy and strong vision. Folate is also present in the fruit, which helps the body grow overall.
The combination of phosphorus (also found in cantaloupe), folate, and Vitamin A helps with tissue growth and organ function within the body of your guinea pig.
An enriching and fun way to treat your guinea pig
Providing your pet with a diverse and varied diet not only ensures that they are getting a plethora of nutrients but also gives them exciting experiences and enrichment to have new tastes and textures.
Your guinea pig is going to love the sweet taste of cantaloupe, and you will love the exciting squeaks they make as a result of eating this delicious fruit. It feels good to treat your pet while still giving them something healthy.
Health Risks: Is Cantaloupe Bad for Guinea Pigs?
Now that we've learned some of the benefits of cantaloupe, it might seem like a no-brainer to be adding it to your piggy's veggie mix. But before you do, we have a few considerations you should be aware of.
High in sugar
High sugar foods contribute to obesity and diabetes. Cantaloupe is excellent for its vitamin, mineral, and water content, but it is very high in natural sugar and calories. As a result, guinea pigs must be fed this fruit sparingly, so they don't become overweight, obese, or develop diabetes.
Causes Issues with Digestion
Bloating and diarrhea can happen in guinea pigs easily, thanks to their sensitive digestive systems. Offering large quantities of foods that are high in sugar and water, such as cantaloupe, could cause your guinea pig to suffer from digestive problems.
As a result, keep the amounts of cantaloupe very small and closely monitor your cavy for any signs of diarrhea. If you note any, remove the cantaloupe and do not offer it again.
Phosphorus to Calcium Ratio Is Risky
Guinea pigs need plenty of potassium, calcium, and phosphorus to carry out ordinary bodily functions.
Overeating cantaloupe can cause digestive problems, unnecessary weight gain, and abnormal calcium to phosphorus ratio.
- Dr. Ivana Crnec, DVM
Calcium is excellent for forming and maintaining bone and tissue, while phosphorus helps the animal absorb nutrients like fats and proteins. Meanwhile, potassium helps the guinea pig hold onto water, which is good for hydration. But since phosphorus binds to calcium and exits via the urine, the guinea pig runs the risk of becoming deficient in calcium if it eats too much cantaloupe.
Basically, cantaloupe contains far more phosphorus than calcium. In such cases, when the phosphorus outweighs the calcium, they bind together and form strong deposits that collect in the kidneys. These deposits (kidney stones) can eventually block the urinary tract. Urinary tract blockages are life-threatening issues that require surgical correction.
Plus, excess phosphorus lowers calcium levels, which leads to weak and fragile bones.
Rinds and Seeds Are Not Ideal
As mentioned previously, you want to avoid the rinds and seeds of the fruit when feeding your piggy. These parts simply too tough to comfortably chew and digest. It could lead to digestive system damage or upset in your guinea pig, so be sure to check and double-check these parts are removed from the fruit before offering it.
The seeds could pose a choking hazard and even result in blockages of the digestive tract because they are not easily digestible. The same goes for the rind, so it's better to avoid both.
Feeding Guidelines: Cantaloupe for Guinea Pigs
Now that we've established that cavies can indeed eat cantaloupe as a treat, we will go over some basic guidelines for feeding your guinea pig cantaloupe safely.
Make sure you are using the cantaloupe as a treat.
- Dr. Ivana Crnec, DVM
How Much Cantaloupe Can Guinea Pigs Eat?
The smaller, the better. Cantaloupe is high in sugar and calories for guinea pigs, so keep it limited to a small slice. Don't go any bigger than this, as it can really harm your pet and cause digestive issues.
It is important to remember that cantaloupe and other melons like it are to be considered treats for guinea pigs, and they should be used as such.
Serving size should also be adjusted based on the health of your individual guinea pig- for example, a guinea pig that is obese or overweight should only be offered a small piece, whereas a guinea pig with diabetes should avoid it altogether.
How Often Can Guinea Pigs Eat Cantaloupe?
You can offer cantaloupe once or twice per week (but not on two consecutive days) – taking into consideration that all fruits and treats combined should only make up a very small part of the overall food intake.
No matter how your guinea pig wheeks for more, draw the line and put the cantaloupe away.
How to Prepare Cantaloupe for Guinea Pigs?
The first thing to do is start by shopping smart. Buy organic, if possible, to avoid any unnecessary chemicals in your pet's diet. Look for ripe cantaloupes that are free of spoilage and mold.
You don't need to wash it when you arrive home. Keep it in the fridge until you are ready to use it.
When you are ready to serve the cantaloupe, start by washing your hands, then carefully cut a small slice for your guinea pig, about 2-3 inches long. Now put that onto a plate and cut away the rind completely. Discard the rind, and now inspect the fruit for seeds, picking them out and discarding them.
Cut the fruit into smaller pieces and place them into the enclosure. Monitor your guinea pig for the next 24 hours to see how they react if it's the first time it has cantaloupe.
Be sure to remove and discard any uneaten fruit after an hour to ensure it doesn't spoil and spread bacteria in the cage.
Here are the nutrition facts for 100g of cantaloupe:
- Calories 34
- Sodium 16mg
- Carbohydrate 8.2g
- Dietary fiber .9g
- Sugar 7.9g
- Protein .8g
Cantaloupe also contains the following vitamins and minerals:
- Vitamin C
Although cantaloupe is 89% water, it does contain many useful vitamins and nutrients. Even if it's can be considered a healthy sweet snack for humans, the sugar content is high for guinea pigs and can become a concern if the melon is treated as a staple food instead of an occasional snack.
Now you are aware of what it takes to offer your guinea pig cantaloupe safely. The most important thing to remember is that this fruit is meant to be a special treat. It is not without its benefits, but it certainly has its risks. As with any other treat food, moderation is the key.
Your best bet is to ensure your guinea pig is given unlimited hay, an appropriate serving of pellets each day, veggies, and of course, unlimited fresh water to enjoy – with fruits thrown in as treats. Do this, and you are sure to keep your guinea pig in good health but also enjoying delicious treats in moderation.
When it comes to nutrition, guinea pigs are pretty simple – they need 80% hay, 15% vegetables, 5% pellets, and of course, plenty and continuously available clean water. The hay and pellets part is non-negotiable.
However, the vegetable part allows you to be creative and spoil your guinea pig by adding something delicious and healthy to its menu—something like cantaloupe.
Cantaloupes are tasty and packed with healthy nutrients, like vitamin A, vitamin C, dietary fiber, antioxidants, and minerals. Just make sure you are using the cantaloupe as a treat. In terms of portion size and frequency, overeating cantaloupe can cause digestive problems, unnecessary weight gain, and abnormal calcium to phosphorus ratio.
All in all, do not fall for your guinea pig’s wheeks and squeaks – moderation is the key.
- Dr. Ivana Crnec, DVM
Ivana Crnec is a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine specialized in domestic carnivores. She graduated from the University Sv. Kliment Ohridski, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Bitola, Republic of Macedonia. Ivana is a certified canine nutritionist and also certified in HAACP food safety system implementation. She currently works as a veterinarian while completing her postgraduate studies. Her research has been published in international journals.
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.