Diet is a key consideration when caring for guinea pigs. You must ensure that your pocket pets eat right, and eats well. The cornerstone of any small animal diet is plenty of Timothy or meadow hay, muesli and pellets from a pet store, and fresh fruits and vegetables as treats. Which considering these additions to diet, you may be wondering – can guinea pigs eat collard greens?
What Are Collard Greens?
Collard greens, perhaps unsurprisingly, are leaves plucked from the collard plant. Many guinea pigs like to chew on these thick, sturdy greens, though the slightly bitter taste many deter some. When it comes to guinea pigs, food can be a contentious issue!
These greens are often confused with similar ingredients, including mustard greens and turnip greens. The fundamental difference is that the latter are herbs, while collard greens are part of the cabbage family. There are also some key differences in nutrition.
To give a better idea of what these foodstuffs are, here are some examples of members of the same food family:
As you’ll see, several favorite snacks of guinea pigs are listed here. This means that you may wish to consider bringing this unique vegetable into the daily food plan of your small animal. If you decide to do so, you’ll need to be aware of the benefits and drawbacks associated with collard greens and small animals.
Are Collard Greens a Good Food for Guinea Pigs?
No matter what the food, guinea pigs must always consume fresh ingredients in moderation. Hay will always the cornerstone of all guinea pig foods, with anything else an additional bonus. Make sure your pet’s enclosure is packed with hay.
Collard greens can be a good addition to your pocket pet’s diet. You’ll just need to ensure you feed them in moderation and appropriate amounts. Guinea pigs enjoy munching on green veg, but too much can upset their delicate digestion. In addition, the calcium found in this greenery can make small animals dangerously sick.
Guinea pigs will enjoy health benefits and perks from chewing on these ingredients. Collard greens include high amounts of:
- Vitamin C (staves off scurvy), A (bolsters immunity and vision) and K (keeps bones strong and healthy)
- Thiamin (balances blood sugar)
- Niacin and Pantothenic Acid (turns food into energy and bolsters cell production)
- Choline (critical to the nervous system)
This all sounds as though collard greens should be a major part of your guinea pig’s life. That is not the case, though. When it comes to these vegetables, less is frequently more.
Drawbacks and Warnings
Calcium content is the biggest warning that needs to be heeded when feeding collard greens to a small animal. Too much calcium is very harmful to guinea pigs. It can lead to the following health concerns:
- Bladder stones, making urination difficult and painful
- Kidney failure
- Addison’s disease (shutdown of the adrenal glands)
- Tumorous growths and cancers
In addition, too many collard greens will impact upon the digestion. This can lead to bloating, gas, flatulence, and even intestinal blockages. These can all be dangerous, and in the case of an intestinal blockage, rapidly fatal. There is little to gain by taking any risks.
This is why you need watch the nutritional intake of your pocket pet very carefully. Remember, Timothy hay is the cornerstone of any guinea pig’s food. Anything additional should be considered a treat and offered sparingly.
Serving Collard Greens to Guinea Pigs
So, we have established that the answer to, “can guinea pigs eat collard greens” is a yes – provided you exercise appropriate moderation.
Chop these vegetables small and serve them as an occasional guinea pig food, not the main focus of your pet’s diet. Every other day, at most, is fine. Any more and your pet may end up bloated and gassy. This can be uncomfortable, and even dangerous, for a small animal.
These snacks also come in various forms. We have confirmed that guinea pigs can eat raw collard greens and that they like to do so. How about the stems of these ingredients, though? And even tinned versions?
Collard Greens Stems
Just like the rest of the vegetable, the stem of collard greens are fine for guinea pigs to eat – but in small amounts. The toughness of this stem will be fun for your pet. It will take a while to chew through, which provides entertainment. There are also nutrients to be found in these stems.
Just like the leaves themselves though, collard green stems will have a negative impact if eaten to excess. If a stem remains unfinished after a few hours, remove it from an enclosure. You do not want this ingredient to be left to rot.
Canned Collard Greens
With regard to food, guinea pig nutrition is all important. This means that canned goods are best avoided. For foodstuffs to be stuffed into a tin vessel, they need to be heated, dehydrated or both. These processes will extract a great deal of nutrition from the core ingredients.
This happens with collard greens too. Guinea pigs gain little from eating any kind of tinned vegetable – you should always stick with fresh produce. What’s more, canned goods typically contain higher levels of sodium and other preservatives. Eaten to excess, these will cause harm to your pocket pet.
With all this in mind, steer well clear of the canned food aisle in your local supermarket. Small animals need to be treated to fresh produce, not anything that has been processed and preserved.
So, let’s return to the biggest, and most important, question pertaining to this article. Can guinea pigs eat collard greens or not? It’s OK, and maybe even advisable, to let guinea pigs eat these ingredients in moderation.
There is plenty of goodness to be found in these vegetables. Just don’t feed collard greens every day. It is possible for a guinea pig to have too much of a good thing. As is so often the case with fresh fruit and veg, a little does a long way.