Although guinea pigs are no longer found in the wild, they have retained many traits of their wild counterparts who eat various tubers, fruits, leaves, and other plant material. Domesticated guinea pigs rely on their owners, however.
These animals can eat many so-called “people foods”, such as blueberries, kale, and carrots. Bok choy is another vegetable you can add to the list. Let’s do a deep dive into this kind of Chinese cabbage and see how it can fit into your pet’s diet.
Nutritional Value of Bok Choy
You should always have hay available for your cavy to make up the majority of their food intake. However, you can offer a cup of fresh vegetables to ensure your pet is getting a well-rounded diet. That’s where bok choy steps up to the plate. One cup of shredded leaves contains only 9 calories 1. Yet, it’s highly nutritious, with 73.5 mg of calcium, 25.9 mg of phosphorus, and 31.5 mg of vitamin C.
Guinea pigs and humans share a unique quality that differs from most other mammalian species: neither can synthesize vitamin C 2.
Guinea pigs need between 10 to 30 mg per kg of body weight. Adult cavies weigh 0.7 to 11 kg or 25 to 39 ounces 3. A serving of bok choy more than covers this amount. It’s worth noting that vitamin C is water-soluble. The animal doesn’t store the excess. Instead, they excrete it.
1. Calcium-to-Phosphorus Ratio
The correct dietary proportion of calcium to phosphorus is important for a number of reasons. If a food has too much phosphorus, it can bind calcium and lead to dangerous developmental problems and cause painful calcium phosphate deposits in joints.
The recommended ratio of calcium to phosphorus is at least 1.5:1 and 2:1 4. The figure for bok choy is 2.84 : 1.
2. Oxalic Acid Concerns
Oxalic acid is another chemical compound that’s worth discussing. Many foods contain this anti-nutrient, including spinach, carrots, and collard greens. The problem is that it binds with magnesium or calcium to form crystals. Ruminants can metabolize this chemical better than non-ruminants, like guinea pigs. However, it puts some foods on the limited list because of this reaction.
Fortunately, bok choy is low in oxalates. One cup contains a mere 1 mg 5. On that score, this vegetable is safe to feed your pet. However, it should be part of a varied diet that contains different items because of its high calcium content. Of course, it’s also essential to have plenty of fresh water available for your pet.
The only factor that we need to be careful of when feeding bok choy to our guinea pigs are goitrogens. Certain foods, particularly cruciferous vegetables like bok choy, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower, contain substances that can affect thyroid function. So although bok choy (like many cruciferous vegetables) are a healthy option, they must always be given in moderation.
Will My Guinea Pig Eat Bok Choy?
While we’ve painted a bright picture of bok choy, some pets may not eat it. Guinea pigs imprint on their diet early in life. If they weren’t exposed to new things while young, they might not take them later in life. We suggest trying it in small amounts with foods your pet usually consumes. Always go slowly with introducing new foods to avoid digestive issues.
What’s the Best Diet for My Guinea Pig?
The best diet for a guinea pig has fresh hay as its foundation. Timothy is preferable to alfalfa because of the latter’s high calcium content. Variety is also paramount for overall nutrition. Good choices for vegetables include leafy greens, carrots, and tomatoes. You can also give your cavy fruits occasionally. We recommend limiting them as treats because of their high sugar content.
Bok choy has a lot going for it as an addition to your guinea pig’s diet. It is a nutritional powerhouse with high amounts of essential vitamins and minerals, particularly the all important vitamin C. It’s also low in calories with a decent moisture content. Nevertheless, it should only form part of a varied menu for your cavy companions.