As pet owners, we sometimes find ourselves wondering if foods we eat are safe for our pets. Unwinding with some popcorn and a movie after a long day can be a welcome joy for most people. While air-fried popcorn might be a healthy snack for you, it is a human treat. No forms of popcorn should be shared with your guinea pig.
Although plain popcorn does not contain too many damaging ingredients, it is high in starch, which is undesirable, and there is also a risk that your guinea pig will choke on the popcorn. It is best to stick to treats that help meet the dietary requirements of your pig.
What Is Popcorn?
Popcorn is a kernel of corn with a hard outer shell and contains around 15% moisture. As it is heated, it quickly expands and pops. This snack can be eaten plain, but it is usually combined with sweet or savory ingredients to enhance and improve its flavor. Salted popcorn is popular and so is sweetened popcorn with a sticky toffee coating.
Can Guinea Pigs Have Any Popcorn?
Some owners say that it is fine for a guinea pig to have one or two pieces of popcorn on occasion, while others say that they shouldn’t have it at all. As there is no real benefit to feeding them this food, it is better to err on the side of caution.
Why Guinea Pigs Should Not Be Offered Popcorn
Too Much Starch
Although it is not poisonous or toxic to your guinea pig, starch is not considered safe or healthy. It converts to sugar, which can negatively impact blood sugar levels and will eventually lead to your guinea pig becoming overweight or obese. The starch in popcorn is also bad for digestion and can cause indigestion or diarrhea in your guinea pig. Both of these are serious problems for a small animal.
Difficult to Digest
Furthermore, popcorn can be difficult to digest. Plain popcorn is quite dry, and its shape means that it could become lodged or stuck in a guinea pig’s throat. This will cause them to choke and could prove fatal if you are unable to remove the popcorn quickly.
If your guinea pig has stolen a piece of popcorn and it has gone down safely, you should be fine, but you should monitor them to ensure that they do not have any adverse reactions afterward.
Popcorn carries considerable toxicity concerns for guinea pigs (and other pets). These have two forms.
These products can contain harmful chemicals commonly referred to as perfluorinated compounds. Examples that are commonly found in microwave popcorn bags include polyfluoroalkyl phosphate surfactants or fluorotelomers. These chemicals are toxic and non-biodegradable and accumulate within the body. Studies on rats have shown that they may induce tumors in the liver, testes, and pancreas.
Sometimes, popcorn is fried in appliances that are coated with Teflon (such as air fryers). When heated to 260°C (500°F) and beyond, Teflon begins to deteriorate and release invisible gasses that are toxic to many pets. They are especially lethal for birds, and teflon toxicity has also been observed in guinea pigs.
Healthy Alternatives to Popcorn
Even if you are feeding them healthy treats, you need to limit the amount that you give to your guinea pig. If you aren’t careful, they could become overweight; guinea pigs will eat pretty much anything that you put in front of them.
While a single piece of plain popcorn might not pose an immediate threat to your guinea pig, it offers them no meaningful nutrition and is a potential choking hazard. Popcorn is also associated with other toxicity concerns. For these reasons, there is no justification to include popcorn in your guinea pig’s diet. Instead, you should opt for healthier alternatives for them.