Carrots were first grown for medicinal purposes somewhere in ancient Persia. Later on, Romans and Greeks used them as potent aphrodisiacs. Today, we use them as healthy additions to salads and dishes.
Now that we have covered the basics of carrot history, it is time for the question many guinea pig parents ask – can guinea pigs eat carrots? Considering how much we love carrots and evaluating the benefits they bring to the table, it is only natural to wonder whether they make healthy additions to a guinea pig's menu.
If you want to learn more about guinea pigs and carrots, you are reading the right lines. This article will reveal everything you need to know about adding carrots to your guinea pigs menu.
Can Guinea Pigs Eat Carrots?
Yes, guinea pigs can eat carrots. Carrots are high in vitamins A and C, beta-carotene, and fiber, ensuring healthy growth and preventing scurvy. However, follow the feeding guidelines as carrots are high in sugars which may cause obesity, tooth problems, and diabetes in pet guinea pigs. They are also rich in oxalic acid, and overfeeding may cause bladder sludge.
The skin is packed with nutrients and much healthier and more nutrient-dense than the part we usually eat.
- Dr. Ivana Crnec, DVM
It is important to remember that veggies should only make up a tiny part of your guinea pig's daily food intake. Guinea pigs thrive on a diet made of high-quality hay (80%), vegetables, leafy greens and fruits (15%), and store-bought pellets formulated for guinea pigs (5%).
Still, guinea pigs can definitely enjoy the juicy taste and crunchy texture of carrots, and they are not toxic to them. In fact, carrots are one of the few veggies that are entirely safe for guinea pigs – tops, roots, and skin (as long as it is not treated with pesticides but more on this later).
Do guinea pigs like carrots? To say that guinea pigs like carrots would be an understatement. The truth is guinea pigs adore carrots, and they are one of their favorite snack foods.
So yes, guinea pigs really enjoy carrots, and if left to their own devices, they would eat more than they should. Carrots are healthy and tasty, that is clear, but remember there are both risks and benefits involved.
We will thoroughly discuss the potential health risks and benefits in a second and help you out determine how to prepare and serve this crunchy and juicy veggie to your guinea pig.
Health Benefits: Are Carrots Good for Guinea Pigs?
Let's have a close look at the health benefits carrots bring to the guinea pig's table.
Carrots are excellent because they offer many health benefits, from growth support through a solid vision to scurvy prevention.
Scurvy is a disease caused by low vitamin C levels. Guinea pigs are prone to scurvy because, unlike most mammals, they cannot synthesize their own vitamin C.
Scurvy manifests with skin issues and hair loss, dental problems, weight loss, painful joints, diarrhea, lethargy, and bruising. If left untreated, scurvy in guinea pigs is life-threatening.
Since carrots contain this vitamin, they are an excellent addition to the veggies you are feeding your piggy when you want to ensure adequate vitamin C intake.
Great for Eye Health
Carrots are exceptionally rich in Vitamin A and beta-carotene, which are the basics of eye health and strong vision?
Well, this is not the only benefit. Vitamin A and beta-carotene ensure proper and healthy growth, support the reproductive system, and promote healthy skin and shiny coat.
Immune System booster
Carrots are loaded with several different antioxidants, including lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. These antioxidants are present in high concentrations and help keep your guinea pig healthy in many ways, especially supporting the immune system.
Antioxidants boost the immune system, lower and prevent inflammatory processes, reduce oxidative stress, and promote heart health.
Strong and healthy cardiovascular system
Carrots promote a strong and healthy heart and blood vessels. This is because of several nutrients.
First of all, the antioxidants prevent oxidative damage and ensure a healthy heart. Then, the potassium lowers the blood pressure, and finally, the fiber content keeps the blood cholesterol and glucose levels within the normal range.
Health Risks: Are Carrots Bad For Guinea Pigs?
Carrots are a healthy and crunchy super-food for guinea pigs, but if served too frequently or in significant amounts, they can trigger some serious health issues. These are the downsides of feeding your guinea pig carrots.
With as much as 4.74 mg of sugar per 100 grams, one would think carrots are fruits and not veggies. In fact, carrots contain the same amount of sugars as strawberries and more sugar than raspberries.
To avoid sugar overload, when serving carrots, pair them with low-sugar veggies like lettuce.
- Dr. Ivana Crnec, DVM
Undeniably, guinea pigs love sugary foods. However, too much sugar will eventually lead to diarrhea and some more serious long-term health issues, including tooth decay, obesity, and diabetes.
Tooth problems are hard to manage in small pets like guinea pigs, and a guinea pig with bad teeth is incapable of feeding correctly. Obesity is something all modern pet guinea pigs are predisposed to, considering their sedentary lifestyles.
Adding sugary treats will only contribute to the problems. Finally, diabetes is not particularly common in guinea pigs, but it is definitely worth mentioning.
Bladder stones and sludge risk
Carrots are rich in oxalic acid and calcium – a combination that can have detrimental effects. Guinea pigs, just like all other animals and people, need calcium to maintain strong and healthy bones.
However, unlike other mammals, guinea pigs can absorb and utilize most of the calcium from their food. This predisposes them to hypercalcemia – high blood calcium levels. The high calcium levels increase the risk of developing bladder stones.
On the other hand, the oxalic acid is harmless in smaller amounts, but it binds with the excess calcium and contributes to the problem of forming bladder stones if present in more substantial quantities.
Bladder stones or sludge (if more like sand) is a severe health problem in guinea pigs that manifests with an inability to pass urine, painful urination, and production of blood-tinged urine. In extreme cases, if the stones are too big, they might need a surgical extraction.
If you suspect your guinea pig is suffering from bladder sludge or urinary stones, contact a vet for more advice. Sometimes the situation may need veterinary help, while other times, a change in the diet may be of help.
Carotenemia is a health issue that manifests with yellow skin pigmentation (xanthoderma) and high blood levels of beta-carotene. Guinea pigs can develop carotenemia if they overeat on carrots or other carotene-rich foods like sweet potatoes or squash.
Just like many other foods, carrots are safe and healthy only when used in moderation and occasionally.
Usually, no medical treatment is necessary; all you need to do is withhold carotene-rich foods for some time. With these simple dietary changes, the carotene levels in the blood will drop within a week, and the yellow skin pigmentation will gradually decrease over the next few weeks to months.
All fruits and veggies grown for commercial purposes are heavily treated with pesticides, and carrots are no exception. Usually, the amount of pesticide residue in carrots is not enough to cause issues in people, but in a tiny creature such as your guinea pig, even a tiny chunk of pesticide-treated carrot can be harmful.
The pesticides are primarily concentrated in the skin, so the carrots need to be washed thoroughly before serving. Alternatively, you can serve the carrots peeled, but most healthy nutrients are found in the skin.
Finally, if you want to use most of the carrot's benefits without the need to wash them thoroughly, you can buy organic carrots. That way, you can rest assured your piggy is not in contact with dangerous chemicals.
As we already mentioned, carrots among the favorite treats for guinea pigs. Therefore, it is normal for your guinea pig to get all excited when it sees a carrot.
In an effort to gulp down on the offered carrot as soon as possible, a chunk of carrot can quickly end up in the wrong pipe and cause choking.
To prevent this problem from happening, you should always serve carrots cut into smaller, bite-sized pieces.
Feeding Guidelines: Carrots For Guinea Pigs
With the risks and benefits explained, it is time to explain how you can safely feed your guinea pigs carrots – the quantity they can eat, how often they can enjoy it, and which form is best for serving.
Can guinea pigs eat carrot tops or skin?
Yes, guinea pigs can eat both carrot tops and skin. The tops (also known as greens, leaves) are good sources of vitamin C, potassium, and calcium. Plus, they are leafy greens, and guinea pigs love munching on them.
However, just because they are safe and healthy does not mean you should serve them daily.
The same applies to the skin. The carrot skin contains far more nutrients than the actual veggie. However, before feeding your guinea pig carrot skin, you need to make sure the skin is free from pesticides. You can do this by either shopping organic or giving the carrots a good wash.
Can I give raw, cooked, or frozen carrots?
As with any other veggie, when it comes to your piggy, carrots should be served raw. This is the natural form and is most nutrient-dense.
Cooked carrots are a no-go for guinea pigs. Simply put, guinea pigs are not capable of digesting cooked foods, and feeding them cooked carrots can wreak havoc on their sensitive tummies and result in diarrhea or other health problems.
Frozen carrots are safe for guinea pigs as long as they are defrosted before serving. In fact, they need to be defrosted and then washed since you do not know whether they were appropriately cleaned before freezing.
Finally, we should note that canned carrots are forbidden for guinea pigs. This version contains too much salt and artificial preservatives, and it is not suited for guinea pigs.
How much carrot can a guinea pig eat?
The recommended portion size of carrots for guinea pigs is one regular medium-sized carrot or two baby carrots.
If feeding carrots for the first time, start with a smaller amount. If your piggy doesn't show signs of tummy trouble within the next 12 hours, you can increase the serving size. These increases should be done gradually over the course of several weeks.
Baby guinea pigs are allowed to munch on veggies, including carrots, once they are four weeks old.
How often can a guinea pig eat carrots?
In general, guinea pigs can eat carrots between three and four times a week.
However, considering there are many different guinea pig-friendly veggies, and each offers different nutrients to add more diversity to the menu, you should limit the carrot servings to twice per week.
To avoid sugar overload, when serving carrots, pair them with low-sugar veggies like lettuce.
How to give carrots to your guinea pig?
1. You need to start with carrot shopping at your local grocery store or the farmer's market. Look for fresh and healthy-looking carrots that are free from signs of decay. If possible, it is always advisable to shop organic.
2. Once you have the carrots at home, please give them a thorough wash. As mentioned, pesticide leftovers are a serious concern. The washing part is vital if serving the carrots with the skins. If you are serving them peeled, washing doesn't have to be so thorough.
3. Slice and store. Once cleaned, the carrots can be stored in the refrigerator or sliced into 2-inch slices and served.
4. Remove any uneaten pieces. Keep in mind that any uneaten carrot pieces need to be removed from the enclosure about an hour after serving. This is because leftover carrots spoil quickly, and eating carrots that have gone bad is risky.
Can guinea pigs eat baby carrots?
Baby carrots are safe for guinea pigs – this includes both original baby carrots and baby carrots made by shaping regular carrots.
Guinea pigs love baby carrots, but most experts recommend serving whole carrots as they are richer in vitamin C – something all cavies need.
Can guinea pigs drink carrot juice?
Sadly, carrot juice is off the table when it comes to guinea pigs. In theory, carrot juice is not a bad idea since it is loaded with nutrients. However, in practice, it should be avoided because its sugar content is off the charts.
The only fluid guinea pigs need and are allowed to drink is fresh water.
Here are the nutrition facts for 100g of carrots:
- 88.29 g water
- 41 kcal
- 0.93 g protein
- 9.58 g carbohydrates
- 4.74 g sugar
- 2.8 g fiber
- 0.24 g fat.
With the macronutrients covered, let's see what 100 grams of carrots offer in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants:
- 16.706 IU vitamin A
- 5.9 mg vitamin C
- 13.2 mcg vitamin K
- 320 mg potassium
- 33 mg calcium
- 35 mg phosphorus
- 1 µg lycopene
- 256 µg lutein & zeaxanthin.
This short nutritional analysis shows that carrots contain exceptionally high amounts of vitamin A and few antioxidants, moderate amounts of vitamin C, and decent amounts of several essential minerals. However, the analysis also shows that carrots, while being low in fats, are quite high in sugars and calories.
Yes, fortunately, guinea pigs can enjoy carrots, and as a matter of fact, carrots are one of the guinea pigs' favorite treats. However, just like many other foods, carrots are safe and healthy only when used in moderation and occasionally.
Carrots are excellent because they offer many health benefits, from growth support through a solid vision to scurvy prevention. Plus, they make amazing treats for training guinea pigs.
To exploit these benefits and avoid the health risks, you should always serve carrots following the guidelines listed in this article.
One of the best things about carrots is that they are loaded with antioxidants. Antioxidants offer various benefits, and giving your piggy an extra antioxidant boost is more than welcome.
Shopping organic is not always possible, and it is definitely not a budget-friendly option. However, it is worth investing in organic carrots as this allows you to offer the skin. The skin is packed with nutrients and much healthier and more nutrient-dense than the part we usually eat.
- 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.