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Can Chinchillas Eat Broccoli? What You Need To Know!

bowl of broccoli

Broccoli is highly hailed 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 proceeded by the digestive tract of a chinchilla.

To know why something is good or bad for our pet chinchilla, we need to understand a chinchilla’s unique biology.

divider-chinchilla

A Chinchilla’s Natural Diet

black velvet chinchilla
Image Credit: ATTILA Barsan, Shutterstock

While many of us know Chinchillas to be cute, fluffy pets in our homes, they actually naturally live in the mountains of the Andes 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.

Chinchilla naturally feeds 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 in captivity, 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.

Broccoli Nutrition

broccoli
Image Credit: Auntmasako, Pixabay

Breaking Down Broccoli (per 100g)

Carbs 6.6g
Protein 2.8 g
Fat 0.4g
Fiber 2.6g
Water 89.3g
Additional Notable Vitamins & Minerals
  • Vitamin A
  • Betacarotene
  • Thiamin
  • Riboflavin
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin K
  • Calcium
  • Potassium

Why Is Broccoli Bad for Chinchillas?

broccoli
Image Credit: PDPics, Pixabay

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.

Symptoms of bloat include:

  • Lethargy
  • Swollen stomach
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Rolling around
  • No appetite

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 Chinchilla’s 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.divider-chinchilla

Can vs. Should: Feeding Your Chinchilla Safely

white short-tailed chinchilla
Image Credit: benjamingross83, Pixabay

Now we are well-equipped with the information about a chinchillas 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! 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:

  • Dried fruit
  • Root vegetables
  • Dried Herbs

Do NOT feed your chinchilla:

  • Nuts
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Avocado
  • Peas
  • Cabbage
  • Corn
  • Lettuce
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Asparagus
  • Rhubarb

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!


Featured Image Credit: ExplorerBob, Pixabay

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