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Can Guinea Pigs Eat Crackers? Vet-Approved Nutrition Facts & FAQ

Kathryn Copeland

By Kathryn Copeland

guinea-pig-crackers

Vet approved

Dr. Lorna Whittemore Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lorna Whittemore

MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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As pet owners, one of our favorite things to do is to give occasional treats to our pets. It always feels good to make them happy! If you own a guinea pig, perhaps you’ve wanted to share your love of crackers with them.

While most varieties of crackers are technically safe for guinea pigs and it’s likely that your pet will eat them, it is recommended that you never give crackers to your guinea pig.

Here, we get into why guinea pigs shouldn’t eat crackers and more suitable treats that your cavy will love.

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What Goes Into Making Crackers?

First, we must look at what crackers are made of to understand why they aren’t safe for guinea pigs. Crackers come in a wide variety of styles, but a basic cracker is hard and crunchy with low water content and a long shelf life. They are made with wheat flour, water, yeast, and several other ingredients, including salt, sugar, and fat.

Soda crackers, or saltines, are dry and flaky crackers. They don’t typically contain sugar and are fairly low in fat compared to other crackers.

Snack crackers are made with enzymes and chemically leavened products and are typically sprayed with oil once they have finished baking. They tend to be greasier than soda crackers and contain sugar and seasonings like onion powder, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, cheese, and salt. There are also usually added artificial preservatives, flavors, and colorings.

crackers in ceramic bowl
Photo Credit: Maryia_K, Shutterstock

Why Shouldn’t Guinea Pigs Eat Crackers?

Guinea pigs are herbivores and in the wild exist on a diet almost solely of grass and weeds. Most of the ingredients that go into making crackers are not good for guinea pigs.

Gastrointestinal Problems

Cavies have delicate digestive systems that are easily upset when they eat something that they shouldn’t. Issues can include indigestion, GI stasis, bloat, and diarrhea.


Dehydration

There is a large amount of salt in crackers, which is not good for guinea pigs. Most animals don’t need extra salt in their diets, and it can lead to excess thirst and dehydration.


Weight Issues

Crackers are made with oil, and some are coated with oil after baking. They can also be high in carbohydrates and calories.

Cheese crackers are particularly high in fat and protein, so giving a guinea pig even a tiny piece on occasion could potentially lead to obesity, which could result in other conditions, such as diabetes and the possibility of flystrike.

a cute guinea pig in the enclosure
Photo Credit: Dev_Maryna, Shutterstock

Choking

Crackers tend to break into multiple pieces when bitten into. This could potentially lead to choking for the guinea pig if a piece becomes lodged in the throat.

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What Should Guinea Pigs Eat?

Guinea pigs need high-quality hay as the staple part of their diet, and it should be available to them at all times. It is recommended that 85% of their diet is hay such as Timothy Hay. In addition to this they need around a cup of mixed veg and a tablespoon of guinea pig pellets.

Vegetables

The second most important part of a guinea pig’s diet after hay, is vegetables. They require around 1 cup of two to three different kinds of veggies daily. The vegetables that they are given should be varied and not the same every day. To be more detailed it is recommended that 90% of the vegetables are leafy greens such as:

  • Arugula
  • Bok Choy
  • Cilantro
  • Dandelion greens
  • Endive
  • Kale
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Turnip greens

The following veggies can be fed to guinea pigs but may need to be at a reduced frequency or amount depending on the health of your piggy.

  • Cruciferous vegetables, like cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts can cause gas or bloating so should be given in smaller amounts.
  • Vegetables with high calcium, which include dill, parsley, kale and spinach may need to be given more sparingly to guinea pigs with a history of kidney or bladder stones.

The third element that rounds out the guinea pig’s diet is guinea pig pellets, which provide them with essential nutrients. They should have roughly 1 tablespoon daily.

It is important to remember that guinea pigs, like humans, cannot make their own vitamin C and must have a dietary source every day. Providing a variety of vegetables and guinea pig pellets should give them what they need. No single vegetable provides them with all they need and variety is key.

Two guinea pigs are eating cabbage leaf
Image Credit: yurilily, Shutterstock

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What Other Foods Shouldn’t Be Given to Guinea Pigs?

Guinea pigs have sensitive digestive systems designed to eat grass, so various foods shouldn’t ever be given to them:

  • Meat
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Dried fruit
  • Multivitamins (only vitamin C should be given, in the form of a pet-safe supplement)
  • Pellets made for any animal other than the guinea pig
  • Spoiled food
  • Any foods high in fat and sugar
  • High-starch foods, such as crackers, cakes, cereal, corn, beans, bread, and grains

What Treats Are Safe to Give to Guinea Pigs?

Fruit makes a good treat that can be given on occasion. Too much fruit can cause bloating and gas because it is high in sugar. It should only be given once or twice a week at the most so as not to contribute to weight gain.

Some safe fruits for cavies are:

  • Berries
  • Apples (seeds removed)
  • Kiwi
  • Cantaloupe
  • Banana

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FAQs

Can Guinea Pigs Eat Bread?

Bread is about as bad as crackers for guinea pigs. It has a higher risk of choking because of the softer texture, and consumption can lead to many of the same health issues that result from crackers.


What About Biscuits?

Biscuits tend to contain more sugar than crackers, which can also cause an upset stomach and contribute to obesity.

biscuits
Image Credit: LEEROY Agency, Pixabay

What If Your Guinea Pig Already Ate a Cracker?

The good news is that crackers are not usually toxic to guinea pigs, so eating part of a cracker won’t necessarily harm your pet. The harm comes from feeding crackers to your cavy regularly, so if it’s a one-time thing, your guinea pig should be fine. Check the ingredients and if onions, garlic or chives are mentioned then contact your veterinarian for advice.

Otherwise just keep an eye on your cavy, and take them to your vet if you notice anything that concerns you. They might be just fine or experience a bit of an upset stomach. If they seem to be choking, take them immediately to your vet or closest emergency clinic.

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Conclusion

If your guinea pig snatches part of your cracker and eats before you can get it away from them, they will likely be just fine. But guinea pigs should not be intentionally fed crackers. These contain ingredients that are bad for them and can potentially make them sick.

Stick with your pet’s usual diet of hay and vegetables, and give them appropriate treats on occasion, such as fruit. Just know that even healthy fruit can cause issues for your guinea pig if they overeat it.

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