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Can Guinea Pigs Eat Mint? What You Need to Know!
Mint, a refreshing flavor available across the world and a favorite in everything from tea to ice cream. Mint leaves themselves are packed with flavor! But what about for our guinea pigs, would it be safe for them to partake?
Yes, mint is safe for guinea pigs to eat – both spearmint and peppermint, in fact!
Both varieties of mint can confer health benefits to your guinea pig when part of a diverse array of greens and veggies. However, there are also a number of factors that mean too much mint in their diet could be harmful.
This article will give you an in-depth look at the health benefits, possible concerns, and practicality of feeding mint to your squeaky little friends!
Mint Nutrition and Fun Facts
Spearmint is what you will most often find in the grocery store, or maybe even growing around your neighborhood. It goes by many names: common mint, garden mint, mackerel mint, and lamb mint. This powerfully odiferous herb is native across Europe and Asia – from Ireland all the way to southern China.
Spearmint has been eaten by humans since at least the 1st century A.D.!
Peppermint is a much newer cross of the less common watermint and spearmint. It was first documented by the Swedish botanist, Carl Linnaeus in 1753. Though indigenous to the Middle East and Europe, this hardy herb is now cultivated across the globe.
Important nutrition information for spearmint, based on 100g raw:
Important nutrition information for peppermint, based on 100g raw:
Health Benefits of Mint for Guinea Pigs
Overall, mint does not have the density of nutrition to be a staple in your guinea pig’s diet. But it does still contain a number of vitamins, minerals, and helpful nutrients.
Both mint types are rich in vitamin A. It supports healthy eyesight and can provide a boost to the immune system. This vitamin also helps various organ functions, including the kidney, heart, lungs, and reproductive organs.
Vitamin C protects cells from free radicals, which cause premature aging. It also supports the immune system and protects guinea pigs from a variety of nasty diseases.
Peppermint and spearmint have relatively low levels of vitamin C but can provide supplemental support when served in tandem with other vegetables.
Vitamin C is of particular importance to guinea pigs because, like humans, they cannot produce it in their own bodies at all. Yep, pirates, bats, and guinea pigs can all get scurvy.
Fiber is mint’s most abundant nutrient. Its main function is to provide support to the digestive system. Enough fiber in a guinea pig’s diet will prevent constipation and diarrhea, promote smooth and regular elimination, and improve the health of the entire gastrointestinal system.
And the best part? A happy GI system is even better at absorbing nutrients from the good foods you feed your guinea pig!
Healthy potassium levels can even reduce the potential for your little buddy to develop bladder stones – an extremely painful and somewhat common ailment for guinea pigs.
Can Mint Be Bad for Guinea Pigs?
Mint is completely safe and non-toxic for guinea pigs. However, there are still some considerations that suggest moderation of this herb in their diet.
Though an essential nutrient for guinea pigs, too much calcium in their diet can pose a problem. Excess calcium can crystalize and become bladder stones. Though rarely life-threatening, these stones are extraordinarily painful to pass.
The relatively high amounts of calcium in spearmint and peppermint means that these herbs should be a once or twice weekly treat at most, and not the only greens you give your piggy.
Pesticides can wreak havoc on a delicate herbivore’s digestive system and immune system. So, if you buy spearmint or peppermint fresh from the grocery store always go organic.
Better yet, grow some mint in your garden! That way you are completely in control of what kind of chemicals may come into contact with the plant. Make sure you grow it far away from the road where car fumes can spread contaminates and use natural pest control only.
The high amounts of vitamin A in mint are safe and healthy in moderation. But if your guinea pig got into a whole patch of mint, or you gave them large amounts multiple times a week for an extended period, the levels of vitamin A in their system could become toxic.
Hypervitaminosis, or vitamin A toxicity, is an uncommon but serious condition. The symptoms that characterize this illness are scaly and dry skin, brittle fur, and lethargy. If you notice any of these, try removing mint from your guinea pig’s diet to see if that helps. If symptoms persist, contact your vet.
How to Feed Mint to Your Guinea Pigs
Totally raw! These guys are the OG raw vegans, just as nature made them. In fact, the gastrointestinal system of a guinea pig cannot even digest cooked or seasoned foods.
Before serving spearmint or peppermint to your guinea pig, give it a quick rinse in clean water to remove any dirt or sneaky insects. Et voilà! Bon appétit, guinea pigs!
How Much Mint Should I Feed My Guinea Pigs?
Mint is relatively low in nutritional value for guinea pigs and has the possibility of becoming harmful in large amounts. It is best as a source of variety, or a supplement, and should not be used as a staple for your guinea pig’s diet.
No matter how much they plead, 3-5 leaves a couple of times a week will suffice. And some guinea pigs just aren’t interested in mint at all, perhaps because of the strong scent.
Final Thoughts on Feeding Mint to Your Guinea Pig
Spearmint and peppermint are a safe herb for your guinea pigs to eat – whether they love it or hate it!
Mint has mild health benefits for guinea pigs. But the relatively low nutritional value, combined with the high levels of calcium, mean that it should only be fed occasionally as part of a well-rounded diet.
Featured Image: guvo59, Pixabay
Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts’ knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.
- Mint Nutrition and Fun Facts
- Health Benefits of Mint for Guinea Pigs
- Can Mint Be Bad for Guinea Pigs?
- How to Feed Mint to Your Guinea Pigs
- How Much Mint Should I Feed My Guinea Pigs?
- Final Thoughts on Feeding Mint to Your Guinea Pig