Broccoli is thought of highly by people to be a wonderous health food. Its green florets are a prominent feature in the picture of a perfectly healthy diet. Since this food is so good for us, it’s common to wonder if it can have the same benefit for some of our pets.
So, can our beloved chinchillas eat broccoli?
While chinchillas can physically consume all parts of broccoli, it is not safe to be fed to them. The nutritional content of broccoli is not able to be processed by a chinchilla’s digestive tract.
To know why something is good or bad for our pet chinchilla, we need to understand a chinchilla’s unique biology.
A Chinchilla’s Natural Diet
While many of us know chinchillas to be cute, fluffy pets in our homes, they actually naturally live in the Andes Mountains in South America. This alpine environment leaves them with very few options for food, so over thousands of years, they have evolved their digestive system to eat and process foods that are usually low in nutrition.
Chinchillas naturally feed on grass, seeds, bark, and other normally unpalatable parts of plants. It may seem like this kind of food could not provide them with what they need, but they are perfectly adapted to digest cellulose and dry matter. They have made the most of the harsh environment of which they hail, and their biology has adapted.
This means that their diet needs to be very high in fiber, and as pets, they are fed on diets of hay, grass, and pellets. While they can be fed some common vegetables, this is limited to those high in fiber, such as sweet potato, kale, and squash.
Breaking Down Broccoli (per 100g)
Why Is Broccoli Bad for Chinchillas?
Looking at all the goodies that broccoli contains, you may wonder why broccoli may do harm to your chinchilla. Yes, broccoli has some seriously great health benefits. Still, your chinchilla can get all it needs from a regular diet of rudimentary plant matter such as grass and hay.
Not Enough Fiber
Chinchillas need 15-30% fiber content in their diet for their gut to work efficiently and properly. Looking at the fiber content of broccoli above, it is only 2.6g per 100g, which amounts to only 2.6%. It also does not reach their diet’s fat or protein requirements, 5% and 15%, respectively.
Without this high level of fiber, your chinchilla physically won’t be able to process broccoli in its gut. Their digestive tract will create an excess of gas in the stomach, and it is highly likely to cause your chinchilla to get bloat.
Bloat is a life-threatening condition for a small rodent like the chinchilla. The excess gas will not be able to be released naturally and can cause internal rupture. While a nibble of broccoli won’t cause this extreme reaction, broccoli fed with any regularity (even as a treat) may contribute to illness.
Signs of bloat include:
Water Content Is High
Additionally, chinchillas are adapted to process almost exclusively dry matter, except for small amounts of moisture. Broccoli is 89% water, so consuming any significant amount of this can cause diarrhea by disrupting the water content of the gut.
Ongoing diarrhea can be extremely dangerous for such a small critter. It can quickly dehydrate the body by flushing out the gut contents. So ultimately, too much water can cause dehydration; it sounds strange, right? But chinchillas’ guts are equipped for low moisture in the diet and digestive tract.
Diarrhea can also cause strain on the digestive tract. Extreme strain can lead to rectal prolapse.
Can vs. Should: Feeding Your Chinchilla Safely
Now we are well-equipped with the information about a chinchilla’s natural diet and digestion processes. We know there are many foods they cannot eat, broccoli being one of them. So how can we ensure we maintain a healthy diet for them so they can thrive?
Some vets have described chinchillas as the “Labrador Retrievers of rodents,” meaning they love to eat, and they will eat almost anything you give them! But just because your chinchilla will happily eat it doesn’t mean it is good for them.
Broccoli will likely be highly enjoyed by your chinchilla, even though it is bad for them! They are an opportunistic species, meaning they will eat whatever they can find. Hence, it is your job as their owner to provide them with a suitable diet.
Since they do love to have treats, and you love to make your chinchilla happy, ensure they are getting suitable and safe treats.
Some safe chinchilla treats include:
Do NOT feed your chinchilla:
In addition to providing a natural and safe diet, make sure you are closely monitoring your chinchilla. Always observe how much they eat, how much they drink, how much they poop, and their energy levels. Knowing what is typical for your chinchilla will help you quickly identify when something is abnormal and get them the help they may need!
Now you know that while chinchillas technically can eat broccoli, they really shouldn’t! Broccoli is not good for chinchillas, and there’s really no reason to feed it to them anyway. There are plenty of commercial foods available that you can feed your chinchilla that meets their nutritional requirements to make sure they stay healthy.
Featured Image Credit: ExplorerBob, Pixabay