Calcium is an essential nutrient for the growth and development of young guinea pigs. Slightly higher amounts of calcium can also be beneficial for pregnant or nursing females.
However, most adult guinea pigs require very little calcium in their diet. Feeding too many calcium-rich veggies can cause bladder stones to develop. It’s important to know which foods are high in calcium so you can make sure you’re only feeding a couple at a time. It’s crucial to balance one or two high calcium foods with a few low calcium foods. This ensures that your guinea pig isn’t consuming too much calcium.
Calcium for Baby Guinea Pigs
The easiest way to make sure young guinea pigs get the calcium they need is by providing high calcium veggies. You can also feed a pellet food formulated for baby guinea pigs, such as Oxbow’s young guinea pig pellets. Alfalfa hay provides a source of calcium as well.
However, if you have an older guinea pig living with the young one, pellets and alfalfa aren’t the best option. The calcium content in these foods can cause problems for adults. In this case, the best option is to feed the baby some high calcium veggies separately from the older guinea pig. This will ensure that the baby gets the calcium they need without providing the adults with any excess calcium.
In the list below, I’ll cover all the best nutrient rich, high calcium foods that are commonly fed to guinea pigs.
1. Collard Greens
Collard greens are a very nutrient-rich food for guinea pigs. It is high in Vitamins C, A, and K. It is also rich in calcium. When fed sparingly, it’s a great food to boost the nutrient content in your guinea pig’s diet.
For young guinea pigs that are still growing, collard is a great addition to their food rotation. Adults also benefit from the countless nutrients in this leafy green veggie. Like all the foods on this list, feed in moderation to avoid an overconsumption of calcium.
A nutrient-rich food, kale is one of the healthiest foods for people and guinea pigs alike. Kale is high in Vitamins A, K, and potassium. It is also very high in Vitamin C, which is so important for guinea pigs. Like most leafy greens, it’s incredibly high in calcium.
For this reason, you should never go overboard when feeding kale to your guinea pig. When fed in reasonable amounts, kale is a fantastic addition to the weekly veggie rotation.
Spinach is another nutrient-rich food. It also provides a decent source of Vitamin C. Spinach is very high in calcium, and it also contains a large number of oxalates. Both of these things can contribute to the formation of bladder stones. Therefore, spinach is a definite food to avoid if your guinea pig has issues with stones or calcium deposits.
If not, it’s fine to feed spinach sparingly to your guinea pig. However, veggies like kale and collard are usually a better choice. These veggies have all the same nutrients or more, with fewer drawbacks.
4. Bok Choy
Bok choy is high in Vitamins A and K. It’s also a good source of Vitamin C, which is an essential nutrient for guinea pigs. Bok choy is a member of the cabbage family, so it can cause stomach upset or bloat if fed too much or too often. It’s best to limit bok choy to once or twice a week at most. Introduce this veggie slowly into your guinea pig’s diet to minimize any stomach problems.
5. Swiss Chard
Swiss chard is high in all kinds of nutrients, including Vitamin C. It’s a rich source of Vitamins A, K, and potassium. However, it contains a decent amount of calcium and oxalates. Too much of this can be a bad thing. However, as long as it’s not fed too excessively, the benefits far outweigh the risks. Overall, swiss chard is a very healthy veggie and can be given to your guinea pigs a couple of times a week.
One of the most popular guinea pig greens, parsley is full of nutrients, including Vitamins A, B, K, potassium, and antioxidants. It’s a very high source of Vitamin C as well. Parsley is also quite high in calcium. In addition, it contains oxalic acid, which can contribute to bladder stones if consumed too much.
It’s a good idea to feed just 4-5 sprigs of this healthy herb a couple of times a week. Parsley can be fed more frequently to growing guinea pigs, as they need both the calcium and Vitamin C that it provides.
This common weed is often very popular with guinea pigs. It’s inexpensive and rich in nutrients, including Vitamin C. Dandelion is also high in calcium. Guinea pigs can eat the entire plant, from the bright yellow flowers to the stems and leaves.
Be sure to pick dandelions from your yard or another area that you know are safe and free from pesticides. Dandelions make a great treat for most adult guinea pigs in moderation. They can be given even more frequently to baby guinea pigs that are still growing.
Dill is a nutritious herb for guinea pigs that is packed with nutrients. Like most herbs, it is quite high in calcium. It also contains a reasonable amount of phosphorus. These two minerals can often work together to form bladder stones faster.
However, dill is also a great source of Vitamin C, Vitamin A, iron, and antioxidants. Just like parsley, it’s best to feed only a few sprigs at a time. Keep this herb limited to a couple of times a week, and supplement the veggie rotation with some lower calcium foods.
9. Rapini/Broccoli Raab
Rapini, also known as broccoli raab, is high in Vitamin C and other minerals. Despite the name, it is not a type of broccoli. Rapini comes from the turnip family. Rapini is a rich source of calcium and it’s also high in Vitamin A. It contains some phosphorus as well.
Too much Vitamin A can cause liver damage over time, so this veggie should be given very sparingly, once or twice a month. It can cause stomach upset at first, so feed it in small amounts and introduce this veggie slowly to your guinea pig.
Thyme is a very high source of Vitamin C. This little herb contains as much Vitamin C as bell peppers and even more than parsley. It’s also very high in fiber. However, thyme contains a very high amount of calcium. It also has quite a bit of phosphorus.
Due to the calcium content, this herb should only be fed in small quantities. A tiny stem once or twice a week is best. The good news is that guinea pigs can still get plenty of Vitamin C from even the smallest amounts of thyme. Thyme is also super easy to grow in your garden, so consider growing your own thyme to supplement your piggy’s diet.
Mint is another healthy herb you can feed your guinea pig. Guinea pigs can eat both spearmint and peppermint leaves and stems. Mint has a decent amount of Vitamin C. It also contains very high levels of calcium. It’s pretty high in fiber too, which is good for guinea pigs.
This herb also contains some phosphorus, which can contribute to stone growth when paired with calcium. All in all, mint is healthy but should be fed in small quantities. Feed just a few small leaves once or twice a week to be on the safe side.
Cilantro, also known as coriander, is a popular herb to feed guinea pigs. It contains a decent amount of Vitamin C, which is essential for guinea pigs. It’s also a great source of Vitamins A, E, K, potassium, and magnesium.
However, it is high in calcium and contains some oxalic acid. These two things can cause stones to form over time. It’s best to feed just a couple of stems of cilantro at a time, up to a few times a week.
Coriander can also slow down blood clotting and increase the risk of bleeding, so it’s best to avoid feeding this herb if your guinea pig is pregnant, injured, or scheduled for surgery.
Arugula is a leafy green that is high in Vitamins C, A, and iron. It also has a significant amount of calcium. As with all leafy greens, this veggie does have many benefits when fed in moderation.
However, it’s best to feed it no more than once or twice a week. Provide two or three leaves at a time, and be sure to mix up your guinea pig’s diet with several lower calcium veggies as well.
Watercress is another good veggie to offer your guinea pig. It’s a good source of Vitamins C, A, K, iron, folate, and calcium. Watercress is a very nutrient-dense vegetable to mix into your guinea pig’s weekly diet. Like all leafy greens, it should only be fed a couple of times a week at most.
Avoid giving large handfuls of this veggie at once, and be sure to balance it with lower calcium foods like lettuce, bell peppers, and tomatoes. Guinea pigs can get many benefits from even small amounts of watercress, so it still makes a great addition to your piggy’s veggie lineup.
15. Beet Greens
Guinea pigs can eat both beets and beet greens. Beets are a good source of fiber, folate, and potassium. Beet greens have an even higher vitamin content than the beets themselves. However, the greens are also quite high in calcium and oxalates.
The beets themselves are lower in calcium but pretty high in sugar for a vegetable. For this reason, they should both be fed sparingly. This veggie is best limited to small amounts once or twice a month.
16. Turnip Greens
Guinea pigs can eat both turnips and turnip greens. Turnip greens are a great source of Vitamin C for guinea pigs. They are high in calcium, so they should not be fed in large amounts. They are also high in oxalates, which can contribute to urinary problems. You can safely feed a small amount to healthy guinea pigs once or twice a week.
Basil contains high amounts of Vitamins A, K, manganese, iron, and antioxidants. However, it is not a significant source of Vitamin C, which is a nutrient that guinea pigs should get through their daily diet. It is also a bit high in calcium.
For these reasons, basil is best substituted for veggies that contain more Vitamin C. However, a leaf or two of basil is fine to feed your guinea pig up to a couple of times a week. Basil is rich in other nutrients and can give a health boost in different ways, as long as you ensure your guinea pig is getting their Vitamin C from other sources.
18. Mustard Greens
Mustard greens contain a good amount of Vitamin C. They are also high in calcium and a bit acidic. Like many other leafy greens, they have great health benefits and can be fed in moderation. A leaf of mustard greens once or twice a week is suitable for most guinea pigs when supplemented with a variety of lower calcium foods.
19. Chicory Greens
Chicory is another healthy leafy green that you can feed your guinea pig. Chicory is a great source of Vitamin C and minerals such as potassium and magnesium. Chicory is a bit acidic and high in calcium, so it’s best fed in small quantities. A couple of leaves once or twice a week is fine for most guinea pigs.
Okra contains a decent amount of calcium and oxalic acid. However, it’s also a great source of Vitamin C for guinea pigs. It is generally safe to feed your guinea pig a small chunk of okra once or twice a week.
Oranges have the lowest calcium level of all the foods on this list. However, they are one of the highest calcium fruits you can feed your guinea pig. Oranges are also high in Vitamin C.
Oranges are best served as an occasional snack. This fruit is relatively high in acidity and sugar. The acidity can cause stomach issues and mouth sores if fed too much. Sugar is difficult for guinea pigs to digest, and can lead to weight gain. One slice, once a week max is ideal for most guinea pigs.
22. Lambs Quarters
While not commonly fed to guinea pigs, this is for a good reason. Lambs quarters, also known as fat hen, is one of the highest calcium vegetables. They contain a high amount of Vitamin C, but this is not worth the high acidity and calcium content. For these reasons, your guinea pig should not be fed lambs quarters.
The Consequences of Too Much Calcium
It’s important not to go overboard on any of the foods above. Guinea pigs can develop severe problems from having too much calcium in their diet. Keep an eye out for any dried white pee stains left around your guinea pig’s cage. These indicate that your guinea pig has too much calcium in their diet. If this happens, you should cut back on some of the foods on this list.
Many foods high in calcium are best fed in moderation and mixed in with lower calcium veggies such as lettuce, cucumber, carrots, zucchini, and tomatoes. If your guinea pig is an adult, they should only be consuming small amounts of the veggies on this list. Guinea pigs take in 50% more calcium from foods than people do, so they need significantly less calcium in their diet.
Wrapping It Up
Leafy greens and herbs are often the highest in calcium, so these should generally be fed in small quantities to guinea pigs. However, it’s crucial to feed your guinea pig veggies that are high in nutrients, especially Vitamin C. To ensure your guinea pig is getting enough of this essential nutrient, check out our article on 15 guinea pig foods that are high in Vitamin C.