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Can Guinea Pigs Eat Lettuce? Which Variety is Best?

Can guinea pigs eat lettuce?

Are some types of lettuce a safer, healthier treat for your cavy than others?

Stick around, and I’ll tell you everything you need to know about feeding your pet guinea pig these fresh veggies.

Let’s get started… 

Don’t forget to check our guide on the guinea pig poisonous food!

Can guinea pigs eat lettuce?

guinea pig smelling a lettuce but can guinea pigs eat lettuce?

Broadly speaking, it is safe to feed your guinea pig lettuce. If you’ve read any other articles on safe treats for guinea pigs, you might be able to guess what I’m going to write next.

While it is non-toxic to cavies, too much can cause them problems. Moderation is the key, as with many fresh fruits and vegetables.

The main reason for this is that this leafy green contains calcium and oxalic acid (aka oxalate). Each type of lettuce contains these compounds in differing levels.

Many other green vegetables contain these compounds. Take spinach, for example. Check out our article “Can Guinea Pigs Have Spinach? for more info.

More on the effects of oxalates later…

How much lettuce should you feed your cavy?

So it would seem it’s less a question of can guinea pigs eat lettuce and more a case of how much.

two brown cavies eating lettuce

The Humane Society suggests that you can feed your guinea pig one cup of romaine lettuce a day. This one cup can be a mix of fruit and veggies.

They also recommend that you vary the type of fruit and fresh vegetables you feed regularly to add variety to their daily diet.

This should be in addition to their regular meal staples of hay and pellets.

Related: Can Guinea Pigs Eat Carrots?

4 Types of lettuce and how good they are for your cavy

1. Romaine lettuce

Calcium 36 mg | Vitamin C 9.2 mg

romaine lettuce in a wooden bowl. can guinea pigs eat romaine lettuce?

If you’re going to feed your cavy these leafy green veggies, it’s worth knowing they don’t all have the same nutritional content. Romaine stands out as the best of the bunch.

While all types of lettuce on this short list contain similar amounts of calcium, gram for gram, romaine packs in a lot more vitamin C. 

More on why vitamin C is essential for an animal’s health shortly…

2. Red leaf lettuce

Calcium 33 mg | Vitamin C 3.7 mg

red leaf lettuce. can guinea pigs eat red leaf lettuce?

Can guinea pigs eat red lettuce? Yes, it’s not toxic to them, but it is lacking in vitamin C compared to the romaine variety.

It’s not a dreadful option but certainly not the best.

3. Butter lettuce

Calcium 33 mg | Vitamin C 3.7 mg

fresh butter lettuces. can guinea pigs eat butter lettuce?

Can guinea pigs eat butter lettuce? Yes, they can!

Butter (aka Boston) lettuce is not packed with as much vitamin C as you’d find in romaine, but it’s a better option than iceberg. 

4. Iceberg lettuce

Calcium 24 mg | Vitamin C 2.8 mg

iceberg lettuces placed on cloths. can guinea pigs eat iceberg lettuce?

Can guinea pigs eat iceberg lettuce? Sure, it’s non-toxic to them. But it’s not really worth the effort.

Iceberg is the runt of the litter. It has slightly less calcium per 100 g than romaine, but it has low levels of vitamin C.

It mainly consists of water and is not an excellent source of nutrition.

Nutritional data courtesy of the USDA.

The pros and cons of feeding your cavy lettuce

After seeing the rundown of which type of lettuce is best, you may be wondering what significance calcium and vitamin C have in terms of your guinea pig’s diet.

Have no fear; I’ll reveal all now…

Benefits of feeding your guinea pig lettuce

As we established in the “Can Guinea Pigs Eat Lettuce” section above, Romaine lettuce is rich in vitamin C. 

Vitamin C is an essential nutrient that needs to feature in every guinea pig’s daily diet.

This is because they are unable to produce vitamin C within their body. Other animals also share this trait including, monkeys, bats, apes, and humans.

As a result, your cavy needs to get her daily vitamin C intake from food and supplements.

Guinea pigs need between 10 mg and 50 mg of vitamin C a day. The requirement for each individual lies in this range and varies based on several factors.

A lack of vitamin C can cause scurvy in guinea pigs!

So the occasional lettuce treat is an excellent way to boost your guinea pig’s intake of this essential vitamin.

However, it’s worth noting that your cavy should get most of their vitamin intake from Timothy hay, guinea pig pellets, and specialist vitamin supplements.

All types of lettuce have a high water content which helps to keep your cavy hydrated. It’s a nice little boost but no substitute for a water bottle full of fresh water.

Cons of feeding lettuce to your cavy

The main downside to this veggie as a source of vitamin C for cavies is the calcium and oxalic acid it contains.

Why is this a problem…?

Calcium and oxalates are a cause of bladder stones in cavies. 

Veterinary Dr. Ellie Whitehead explains that bladder stones (aka urolithiasis) are a prevalent health problem in cavies.

That is why it’s essential to manage your guinea pig’s calcium/oxalate intake, especially if they are prone to bladder stones!

Sadly, Dr. Whitehead tells us that it’s not as simple as sticking to x grams of certain leafy vegetables a day to prevent stones.

Based on this, I would advise you to stick to the feeding guidelines I shared earlier or consult your vet for additional guidance.

Guinea pig lettuce FAQs

Can guinea pigs eat iceberg lettuce?

While it is safe to feed your guinea pig iceberg lettuce, it offers very little in terms of nutritional value. Romaine lettuce is a far better alternative that is packed full of vitamin C.

What happens if guinea pigs eat lettuce?

Lettuce is not toxic for cavies, so there is no cause to panic if yours has eaten some. The only thing to watch out for is the calcium and oxalic acid content. In large quantities, these can cause bladder stones.

Conclusion

Can guinea pigs eat lettuce? That’s the question I set out to answer in this article.

You discovered that it’s perfectly safe to feed lettuce to your cavy and that doing so offers some health benefits.

The most significant benefit is that this healthy treat is an excellent source of vitamin C, an essential nutrient in every guinea pig’s diet.

The amount of vitamin C varies by type of lettuce, with the romaine variety containing far more than any other.

However, it’s a double-edged sword as this leafy vegetable also contains calcium and oxalates, which can cause bladder stones.

I hope you found this article useful. If you still have any doubts, speak to your vet for further advice.

Thanks for being a responsible guinea pig owner.

References

  • Guinea Pig Feeding n.d., Humane Society of the United States, viewed 8 June 2021, <https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/guinea-pig-feeding>.
  • FoodData Central n.d., U.S. Department of Agriculture, viewed 8 June 2021, <https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/index.html>.
  • Spritzler, F 2017, Oxalate (Oxalic Acid): Good or Bad?, Healthline, viewed 8 June 2021, <https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/oxalate-good-or-bad>.
  • Hess, L (DVM) n.d., Feeding Guinea Pigs, VCA Hospitals, viewed 7 June 2021, <https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/guinea-pigs-feeding>.
  • Whitehead, E (DVM) 2019, Bladder Stones in Guinea Pigs, The Guinea Pig Vet, viewed 8 June 2021, <https://www.theguineapigvet.co.uk/post/bladder-stones-in-guinea-pigs>.
a cute guinea pig in a hole eating lettuce

Can guinea pigs eat lettuce? Have you tried feeding lettuce to your cavies? Share your experiences in the comments below!

Barry Stingmore
Barry Stingmore

Barry Stingmore is a British content writer living in Fuerteventura, Spain. An animal lover at heart, he shares his home with a dog and four rescue cats and has a passion for writing about animals big and small.

Barry loves finding answers to your animal-related questions, the more research involved the better! You can rely on him to find the facts.
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