Guinea pigs are adorable pets that are popular because of their looks, disposition, and relatively easy care. With proper care, guinea pigs can live five years or longer, and that starts with the right diet.
Can guinea pigs eat bread? No, guinea pigs should not have bread or other high-starch foods like grains, or cereal, which offer little nutritional benefit and may cause digestive upset.
Why Shouldn’t Guinea Pigs Eat Bread?
Technically, guinea pigs can eat bread. It’s not toxic or poisonous to them. But just because they can doesn’t mean they should. Bread has virtually no nutritional benefits for guinea pigs and acts more as a “junk food” than a necessary part of their diets.
There are numerous types of bread with different nutritional qualities, but generally, it’s just flour and water. The small amount of fiber or vitamins and minerals in whole wheat or other less-processed bread varieties aren’t enough to outweigh the calorie and starch content.
In fact, bread offers a higher risk of harm for guinea pigs in the form of:
This applies to all types of bread, including bread sticks, bread crusts, and other varieties of bread. There’s plenty of other foods you can feed your guinea pig to make up a healthy diet and offer exciting treats.
What Do Guinea Pigs Eat?
Guinea pigs have a high metabolic rate and need to eat most of the time. They are strict herbivores and shouldn’t have any type of animal protein, ever.
As herbivores, guinea pigs do well on grass and hay as the primary component of the diet and some fruits and vegetables. Timothy and orchard grass hay work well, but they can also have meadow, oat, or brome hay. Alfalfa and clover hay should only be used for pregnant or juvenile guinea pigs, due to its high calorie and calcium content.
It is recommended that guinea pigs eat 85% to 90% good quality feeding hay and a small amount of guinea pig pellets. They can have variety of fresh fruit and veg amounting to no more than one cup per day.
Feeding hay free choice helps them get the nutrition they need and prevents digestive or dental problems. The grass wears down their ever-growing teeth. The roughage also keeps their digestive tracts moving as they should.
After hay, guinea pigs should have vegetables like romaine lettuce, parsley, celery, tomatoes, carrots, green beans and dandelion greens. They can have a variety, but it’s important to introduce new vegetables in small portions to avoid digestive upset.
If you choose to feed commercial pellets, it’s important to do so in limited quantities. You can add grass pellets to enrich the diet, but they shouldn’t replace free-choice hay. Pellets shouldn’t have seeds, nuts, or fruits.
Treats and fruits can be fed sparingly, as in a couple times a week. Treats may be high in sugar that can upset the guinea pig’s delicate digestive system. Fruits are also high in sugar and may cause gas. Safe fruits for guinea pigs include apples (not the core), pineapple, kiwifruit, berries, and cantaloupe. However, these should be in small occasional amounts.
Guinea pigs are prone to chelitis, inflammation of the lips, and acidic fruits may worsen this.
Guinea pigs also need a source of vitamin C. Unlike dogs and cats, they can’t manufacture their own vitamin C and need to get it from their diet. Without it, they can get scurvy and other problems. This is why pellet feeds should be specific for guinea pigs, as rabbit pellets are not suitable.
And of course, guinea pigs should have access to fresh, clean water at all times. A sipper bottle attached to the cage is ideal.
What Can Guinea Pigs Not Eat?
Along with bread, there are several foods that guinea pigs should never have. Whether they’re directly toxic or cause excessive gas and bloating, it’s best to err on the side of caution.
Guinea pigs are voracious eaters, but as a pet owner, it is important to give them the nutrition to thrive. These herbivores should be fed a diet consisting of mostly hay and some vegetables, never bread, crackers, or other starchy foods.