March 3, 2021

Can Guinea Pigs Eat Cilantro? A Daily Treat or Not...?

cilanto for guinea pigs
Veterinarian Dr. Ivana Crnec, DVM
Published by Emma Hughes

Vet Approved

Guinea pigs enjoy a wide variety of veggies when they are not eating hay and pellets. One leafy green that many pet owners would like to feed their piggy is cilantro. It's widely used in cooking and usually available at any store, but can guinea pigs enjoy it too?

Firstly, it's important to point out that in the U.S., cilantro refers to the stalks, stem, and leaves of the plant, while coriander is the dried seeds of that plant. Internationally, however, the whole plant is referred to as coriander, and the seeds are just called coriander seeds.

But with that cleared up, what about our pet piggies? Should they be fed this fresh and tasty plant, or are there health reasons why it should be avoided? Let's dive in and get started.

Can Guinea Pigs Eat Cilantro?

Yes, guinea pigs can eat cilantro. It has many beneficial nutrients, including Vitamin C, which is important for guinea pigs. Still, you should follow feeding guidelines, as cilantro contains oxalates and calcium, which can cause bladder sludge in guinea pigs. Also, overfeeding may cause digestive upsets.

The veggies component should be comprised mostly of leafy greens. A perfect example of such a leafy green is the healthy and tasty cilantro.
- Dr. Ivana Crnec, DVM

We'll get to the potential health risks and benefits in a second and help you out in figuring how much and how often you should be feeding cilantro to your piggy. But first, let's quickly go through what a balanced guinea pig diet looks like:

  • 80% high-quality hay
  • 15% veggies (mostly leafy greens)
  • 5% guinea pig pellets

So how does cilantro fit into a nutritionally sound guinea pig diet?

The answer is that you can let your guinea pig enjoy cilantro but only in small amounts. There's nothing toxic about the cilantro in and of itself. Guinea pigs, by and large, love the taste of cilantro. But thanks to its strong odor, some guinea pigs might turn their noses up at it. It varies from pet to pet.

The coriander part (the seed) is something to be avoided, as the taste isn't all that great, but the leaves, stems, and flowers are all ok for your pet to enjoy.

All parts of the plant are edible. It means your cavy buddy can enjoy the flowers as well as the leaves and stems. The main thing to remember is that you don't want to feed too much, and you want to wash it carefully first.

However, avoid feeding cilantro to pregnant guinea pigs- these herbs are known to cause a reduction in blood clotting and could cause your guinea pig to bleed more. This can be a hazard for all cavies, but especially for mothers carrying babies.

As you can see, guinea pigs can definitely eat cilantro. But how much and how often is another thing. But first, let's talk a bit about what health benefits or risks this plant may have when it comes to guinea pigs.

Health Benefits: Is Cilantro Good for Guinea Pigs?

May Help Avoid Scurvy

Guinea pigs cannot synthesize or store their own Vitamin C. Thus, we have to provide them with enough of it in their daily diet.

If cavies are not provided with adequate amounts of this vitamin, they are at risk of developing scurvy. This disease, which is caused by Vitamin C deficiency, causes problems with the bones, joints, and skin. Symptoms include:

  • lethargy
  • painful joints
  • weight loss
  • dental problems
  • bruising
  • diarrhea
  • alopecia

It is a painful condition and a common cause of death for pet guinea pigs. If you suspect your piggy may be suffering from Vitamin C deficiency, contact a vet to see if your pet needs immediate assistance or if you should improve their diet.

fresh cilantro on table

However, when talking about a healthy diet, cilantro definitely has Vitamin C, so feel free to give your guinea pig a bit here and there, and know you are doing them a service by offering it to them.

A Healthy, Low-Calorie Treat

As all piggy owners know, guinea pigs have a huge appetite, and they are always ready for some more treats. They are also prone to gaining weight since they rarely get enough exercise, but many owners can't resist the cute wheeks and offer their piggies too many treats.

The cilantro is packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Plus, it has anti-inflammatory properties and promotes healthy digestion, eyesight, immune system, and cardiovascular system.
- Dr. Ivana Crnec, DVM

Luckily, cilantro is low in calories but full of healthy vitamins and minerals. You can feed it to your guinea pig without the worry of causing them diabetes or making them obese or overweight.

Great for Eye Health

Did you know that cilantro contains Vitamin A? When it comes to eye health, this vitamin is quite helpful, and guinea pigs actually need quite a high amount of it. Since cilantro contains Vitamin A, it's a great addition to your pet's veggie mix.

Great for the Immune System

Cilantro has a high concentration of antioxidants, which help keep your pet healthy in many ways and support the immune system. Antioxidants are great not only because they help prevent illness in your cavy but also because they lower/prevent inflammation. They also reduce oxidative stress.

Promotes Cardiovascular Health

Cilantro is low in cholesterol and a good source of dietary fiber, which helps control your pet's cholesterol levels. 

These properties help maintain glucose and cholesterol levels and protect your pet from heart disease and support cardiovascular health.

Provides Fiber for the Digestion

Dietary fiber will not only help regulate cholesterol but also keep your guinea pig feeling full and satisfied. This is a good thing if your pet is a bit on the chubby side and you're trying to offer healthy veggies.

The fiber also aids in the regularity of bowel movements, which is very important for guinea pigs. In addition to hay, cavies also need high-fiber veggies to support their gastrointestinal health.

Health Risks: Is Cilantro Bad for Guinea Pigs?

Now that we've learned about why cilantro is a good food to offer your guinea pig let's have a look at the possible downsides.

Watch Out for Pesticides and Dirt

Where you get your cilantro matters; if you can grow it yourself, great – you can avoid harmful pesticides. Most of us, however, will be buying our cilantro from the supermarket or farm market.

It means the growers likely used pesticides to keep the crop safe, which can harm your guinea pig if eaten. Make sure you wash the cilantro very thoroughly to avoid dirt or pesticides being ingested by your piggy.

Can Cause Digestive Upset

It is true that a moderate amount of cilantro can help keep your guinea pig regular and promote their digestive health. But too much of this can really upset their sensitive digestive systems, leading to bloat and/or an upset stomach.

Because guinea pigs have such delicate digestive systems, too much of any good food may cause them tummy issues. This includes cilantro.

You should never offer this to a pregnant guinea pig, a baby guinea pig, or a cavy that's had a negative reaction to it before. Keep quantities small as you don't want them developing digestive trouble or bladder stones/sludge.

Bloating and diarrhea are both dangerous conditions that may need veterinary help. Diarrhea may lead to dehydration, while bloat is dangerous because guinea pigs cannot pass gas. A swollen or distended tummy can be a sign of bloat, and if you suspect your pet may be suffering from it, contact a vet for assessing the situation as it can worsen quickly.

In theory, it is possible for some guinea pigs to be allergic to cilantro. The allergies manifest with skin irritations, rashes, and excessive itching.  If you witness these symptoms after feeding cilantro, stop feeding it immediately and contact a vet for advice.

May Cause Bladder Stones

Cilantro is fairly high in calcium, which helps your guinea pig have healthy bones. Still, although they need an adequate amount of calcium in their diet, too much will cause problems.

This is due to the fact that guinea pigs absorb most of the calcium they intake with their food. If there is too much calcium in the system, it may cause bladder sludge.

Since cilantro also contains oxalates, there is also the risk of the calcium binding to the oxalic acid to form bladder stones. They can be painful to pass along with the urine, and if big enough, they need to be surgically removed.

Presents a choking hazard

Although guinea pigs are used to munching on all kinds of veggies and greens, cilantro has a bit of a stringy texture, which could cause a choking hazard or form a blockage in the digestive tract.

Therefore, it's better to cut it into manageable pieces for safety.

Feeding Guidelines: Cilantro for Guinea Pigs

Now we will take a closer look at how you can safely feed your guinea pigs cilantro, the quantity they can eat, and how often they can enjoy it.

Because of its suitability and nearly non-existent caloric value, cilantro can safely be used as a daily treat.
- Dr. Ivana Crnec, DVM

How Much Cilantro Can Guinea Pigs Eat?

Adults can enjoy about 10-20 small size sprigs. Offer small quantities at first to see how your guinea pig reacts. Remember, these guys have sensitive stomachs.

Observe them for 24 hours after you feed them cilantro for the first time to see how they react. If you notice any discomfort or negative side effects, like diarrhea, don't offer that treat any longer.

How Often Can Guinea Pigs Eat Cilantro?

The great news about cilantro is that it is a treat you can offer daily to your healthy, non-pregnant adult guinea pig. But the portion must be quite small.

It is also important to keep in mind that not all guinea pigs will enjoy this herb, although most really do. However, keep watch over them as they sniff and begin to chew on the plant. If they love it, great; if not, simply remove and discard it so it isn't left in the cage to go bad.

Even though you can offer it in small amounts every day, switch things up a little to keep it interesting and enriching for your pet. A varied and diverse diet of different veggies and leafy greens will ensure a balance of nutrients and help your pet avoid nutrient deficiencies.

How to Prepare Cilantro for Guinea Pigs?

  1. The best thing to do is begin by shopping smart at your local farmers market or supermarket. Make sure you look for cilantro that is free of spoilage and mold.
  2. Once you bring it home, you should wash it right away, even if you do not plan on serving it that day. This way, it will be ready to go when it's feeding time. Don't worry about drying it. A bit of extra water from washing won't harm your guinea pig (and the excess water is helpful for hydration).
  3. Once it is treat-time, begin by chopping it up into smaller pieces. Go for small to medium pieces, depending on the size of your guinea pig.
  4. Now you can place them into a dish or right into the enclosure if you like. Allow them some time to enjoy and eat the cilantro.
  5. After an hour, remove any uneaten cilantro and discard it to avoid it rotting in the enclosure.

Nutrition Facts

Here are the nutrition facts for 100g of cilantro:

  • Calories: 23 kcal
  • Sodium 46mg
  • Carbs 3.7g
  • Dietary Fiber 2.8g
  • Sugar 0.9g
  • Protein 2.1g

Cilantro also contains the following vitamins and minerals:

  • Vitamin C
  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Potassium

As you can see, cilantro is a nutritious and low-calorie veg. It's a great food to feed your piggy daily, although you should always remember to keep the quantities in moderation.

Summing Up – Can Guinea Pigs Have Cilantro?

Now you are "in the know" about what it means to feed your guinea pig cilantro. It is truly a unique treat, as it is one the cavies can enjoy just about every day. Thankfully, it's very easy to find in most grocery stores, making it easy to bring home and prepare for your pet.

But caveats do exist. The key takeaways here are that you should never offer this to a pregnant guinea pig, a baby guinea pig, or a cavy that's had a negative reaction to it before. Keep quantities small as you don't want them developing digestive trouble or bladder stones/sludge.

A diet of unlimited hay, fresh water, and a portion of pellets is the way to go, with some nutritious vegetables added into the mix. Enjoy treating your cavy in moderation!

Vet's Comment

Proper nutrition is the brick and mortar of health. For guinea pigs, proper nutrition involves 80% high-quality hay, 15% veggies, and 5% guinea pig pellets. The veggies component should be comprised mostly of leafy greens. A perfect example of such a leafy green is the healthy and tasty cilantro.

The cilantro is packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Plus, it has anti-inflammatory properties and promotes healthy digestion, eyesight, immune system, and cardiovascular system.

All parts of the plant are guinea pig friendly. Because of its suitability and nearly non-existent caloric value, cilantro can safely be used as a daily treat.

- Dr. Ivana Crnec, DVM

Ivana Crnec doctor of veterinary medicine

Vet-Approved by
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.

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