Guinea Pigs are one of the most popular pocket pets in the United States. Who can say no to feeding a cute little guinea pig a sweet treat like a juicy pepper piece? But be cautioned…not all foods are safe for guinea pigs! Can guinea pigs eat peppers?
Dr. Jess explains the answer below:
What is a Guinea Pig?
A guinea pig is a type of pocket pet that resides in the cavie family of animals.
They are small animals that grow to a maximum of approximately 10-11 inches long, and can weigh up to 2.5 pounds as an adult.
In captivity and with proper care it is fairly common to see these pets live to 8-10+ years of age.
One of their main anatomical (body) “quirks” is that they are constantly needing to chew in order to file down their teeth, as their teeth are constantly erupting (growing longer).
They are quite playful animals and love to socialize with the ones that they know and love.
They make great pets for responsible pet owners, and those living in small dwellings wanting a loveable pet that comes in a small package.
What Do Guinea Pigs Typically Eat?
Guinea Pigs eat an assortment of things to keep them healthy and happy.
- High-quality guinea pig food and Timothy hay should be the main staples of their diet.
- Up to about 10% of their diet can be made up of an assortment of vegetables and fruits, with fruits and vegetables over 12-24 hours old being discarded as soon as possible.
- They require 30 – 50 mg of vitamin C daily from their diet, either in their guinea pig food, a vitamin supplement, or from fruits and vegetables that are high in vitamin C. I’ll get to this more here in a sec…
- Guinea pigs do best with diets low in fats and sugars.
- Clean, fresh, filtered, chlorine-free water. ‘Fresh water‘ means that is is changed daily. ‘Changed daily‘ means that new water is placed into a CLEAN water dispenser!
The Importance of Vitamin C For Guinea Pigs
Like humans and certain other animals like birds and bats, guinea pigs do not have the ability to make vitamin C.
Instead, guinea pigs must get this essential nutrient from the foods they eat in their diet.
Guinea pigs in the wild get their vitamin C from fresh grass sources.
Pet guinea pigs receive supplemental vitamin C from leafy greens, fruit and veggies, specialty fortified pellets or supplemental droplets placed in their water bottles.
Let’s Talk About Peppers:
There are many different types of peppers out there, so I will cover a couple common types of peppers that you may encounter here in the United States.
Bell peppers are also known as sweet peppers. These peppers are actually a fruit, but are typically treated as a vegetable in many American dishes because of its flavor, texture, and look.
They have a very mildly sweet taste and a jucy, crisp texture.
They come in 4 main colors in the grocery store, red, yellow, orange, and green.
Chili peppers are smaller in size than a bell pepper and their shape is more like that of a banana. Most chili peppers found in stores have a thick glossy outer skin, that is green in color when immature and turns to a bright red when ready to eat.
They are also a fruit, but mainly used as a vegetable or spice in United States kitchens. They are used in many recipes as a spice to add heat to dishes that need more pizazz.
Chili peppers have much more of a spicy heat to them than the mild bell pepper with no spicy heat.
There are many different types of chili peppers available. One very common type of chili pepper available is the jalapeno pepper.
The capsaicin found in chili peppers is used for medicinal purposes and in pepper sprays across the world.
Pepper Health Benefits:
According to a recent Healthline article regarding the health benefits of bell peppers,
Bell peppers are rich in many vitamins and antioxidants, especially vitamin C and various carotenoids. For this reason, they may have several health benefits, such as improved eye health and reduced risk of several chronic diseases. All in all, bell peppers are an excellent addition to a healthy diet.
Bell peppers are low in calories. This is a good thing for your little piggie who may very well be prone to gaining weight and everything that comes along with obesity.
High Water Content:
Bell peppers can contain up to 92% water [source]. This could help your little pal stay hydrated.
Vitamins and Minerals:
Bell peppers are exceptionally rich in vitamin C as well as other vitamins and minerals, such as A, B6, E, K1, folate, and potassium.
Bell peppers are also rich in other antioxidants besides vitamin C.
Are Peppers Healthy For Guinea Pigs to Eat?
A pepper contains a low amount of calories and fat so it a better snack if your pet is overweight or has diabetes than other treats with higher caloric content.
Peppers also have a high water content to help keep your little friend hydrated.
As mentioned in the nutritional content of peppers section, peppers have a high amount of vitamin A, B, C, E, K, etc. in it – vitamins that help with the protection of important body systems that keep the body running and functioning appropriately.
A pepper is packed with a multitude of minerals and other nutrients which are great for the health of your pet bunny…. in the proper amounts! There is such thing as too much of a good thing!
Can Guinea Pigs Eat Peppers?
Well after learning about some of the health benefits and some of the risks that the consumption of peppers brings with it, wouldn’t it be nice it you could just safely feed it to your bunny?
Well, you can fed them bell peppers…. in moderation.
That’s right, feeding a small amount of BELL pepper as a treat to your guinea pig on occasion is totally fine and they will likely LOVE you for it!
“However, never feed your pet guinea pig any other type of pepper. The spicy factor alone could harm them to the point of causing death. Do not feed your bunny any type of chili pepper!”
Moderation = Approximately a 1-3 tablespoon-sized pieces of pepper is enough bell pepper for one adult guinea pig.
If you have a smaller guinea pig or a dwarf variety, cut the teaspoon on half and just give your smaller guinea pig no more than 1/2 tablespoon worth of pepper per week as a treat.
If your pet does not eat all of their fruits and vegetables within 12-24 hours, then you need to dispose of it for them.
They will likely not eat it, and it will only sit in their cage and get old and eventually become unsafe to eat.
The rest of their diet, the bulk of it, should be made up of guinea pig food and hay, as discussed above.
You should feed this amount no more than once per week and no two days in a row.
Can Baby Bunnies Eat Peppers?
I do not recommend feeding a baby or juvenile piggie any pepper pieces as it can lead to some pretty big internal issues with just small bites of this fruit.
How to Serve Bell Peppers to A Guinea Pig?
You will need to start by using a high-quality, fresh bell pepper.
Make sure that you wash it well to remove any dirt, debris, pesticides, etc. from its surface.
Remove the core and the round, flat, white seeds.
Then cut the pepper into bite-sized pieces, so that your guinea pig can easily eat it.
Remove any uneaten bell pepper pieces with 12-24 hours of offering it to your guinea pig to prevent bugs and food rot.
- 1 fresh, ripe bell pepper
- cutting board
- kitchen produce knife
- Inspect the bell pepper for rot, debris, or pests.
- Wash the bell pepper to rid it of chemical or pesticides
- Remove the core and the round, flat, white seeds.
- Slice or chop the bell pepper into bite-sized pieces.
- Give your pet one small piece of bell pepper and observe for adverse signs for 24 hours.
- Contact your vet if any signs appear.
Contact your veterinarian to discuss any changes in your pet’s diet before adding or making changes to their food routine. Monitor your pet for adverse reactions and side effects – if observed, contact your local veterinarian immediately.
How About Bell Pepper Leaves?
I would just suggest to skip the leaves altogether.
Just like anything else that they can stick in their mouths, these can be a choking hazard so I wouldn’t offer it to them.
Can Guinea Pigs Eat Bell Pepper Seeds?
Your guinea pig should have no problem munching away on a fresh piece of bell pepper with a stray seed on it. However, the more seeds the bunny sticks in their mouth, the more likely they have of choking on them, etc.
There is no reason why these small bell pepper seeds can’t be quickly removed before serving pepper pieces to your pet bunny. Remove the bell pepper seeds, but don’t worry if your guinea pig is exposed to a rogue seed or two.
Can They Eat Dried Peppers?
Because dried peppers contain a higher amount of sugars, I can not advise you to feed your guinea pig dried pepper even if it is for a small snack.
It is unsafe to do!
Can Bunnies Eat Pepper Jam or Jelly?
Jellies and jams have added sugars, spices, and/or preservatives or additives in them.
Therefore, it is not advised to feed your little pet any type jam or jelly, including the pepper varieties.
Are Peppers Harmful to Guinea Pigs?
Yes, they can be.
Remember that too much of any fruit or vegetable fed to these little buddies can give them side effects like an upset stomach, gas, bloating, and diarrhea.
This can lead to a multitude of problems including things like dehydration and electrolyte imbalances that could impart a trip to the veterinary clinic for your pocket pet vet to fix.
Alternative Foods For Guinea Pigs:
So weigh the pros and cons of feeding bell peppers to your guinea pig before tossing them a sweet and juicy snack, and if you do decide to give them a treat, remember, it’s safe in moderation.
Never feed your guinea pig any type of chili pepper. Keep it to ONLY bell pepper!
And as always, contact your veterinarian before changing any part of your pet’s diet.
The information provided in this article is not a substitute for professional veterinary help.