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Can Guinea Pigs Eat Jalapenos? Vet-Reviewed Facts & Safety Guide

Chris Dinesen Rogers

By Chris Dinesen Rogers

green jalapeños

Vet approved

Dr. Karyn Kanowski Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Karyn Kanowski

BVSc MRCVS (Veterinarian)

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

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Good nutrition is vital for your guinea pig’s health. These cavies differ from many pets because they are unable to synthesize vitamin C; a trait they share with only a few other animals, including humans. In order to meet their vitamin C requirements, guinea pigs need to obtain around 10-50 mg of Vitamin C from their diet, so foods rich in this essential nutrient must feature high on your guinea pig’s diet.

100g of jalapeno peppers contains 16.7mg of vitamin C, so you might think it would be a good item to include in your guinea pig’s food bowl, but unfortunately, these spicy items are not safe for guinea pigs.

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The Problem With Jalapenos

Let’s consider the obvious first: Jalapenos are spicy. The culinary world quantifies this trait with the Scoville Scale. The higher the number, the greater the burn. It comes from the concentration of a pepper’s capsaicin content. The highest scores go as high as 16,000,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU).

Bell peppers (capsicum) have 0 SHU, because ironically, capsicums have no capsaicin. Poblano peppers come in at 2,000 SHU, while jalapenos are up to 10,000 SHU. Next time your friend dares you to take a bite out of a Carolina reaper, we suggest you pass on tasting its 2,200,000 SHU. The takeaway is that a jalapeno can cause mouth irritation for anyone, and it’s no different with a guinea pig. It’s especially problematic because the animal doesn’t normally encounter this heat.

Capsaicin can also cause sneezing, increased saliva flow, and stomach irritation. A guinea pig may exhibit behavioral issues, including refusal to eat after a negative experience with jalapenos. Cavies can’t sweat, so the heat from capsaicin will likely have adverse effects on your pet.

sliced green jalapenos
Photo Credit: phloen, Shutterstock

Unexpected Issues

The problems with capsaicin and jalapenos don’t stop at irritation. One study found that the chemical could affect the functioning of smooth and cardiac muscle with a depressant effect, resulting in a laxative response in the GI system. Another study found that capsaicin may increase the strength of  Other research showed it could strengthen smooth muscle contractions in the trachea, which could lead to potentially life threatening airway obstruction.

We know ourselves how unpleasant the effects of spicy ingredients like jalapenos can be, and the stimulation of the nociceptors (pain receptors) in our pets is something we must avoid at all costs.

Tips for Feeding Fresh Foods

Hay should make up the bulk of your guinea pig’s diet. It provides the necessary roughage, nutrients, and dental care for guinea pigs. A commercial pellet product can help ensure that all the animal’s nutritional needs are met, however, some do not contain high enough levels of vitamin C. Fortunately, there are loads of cavy-friendly fresh fruits and vegetables that will boost your guinea pig’s vitamin C levels without causing harm.

We mentioned earlier that capsicums are a 0 SHU food. Well there’s more good news, because 100g of yellow capsicum contains around 184 mg of vitamin C, making it an ideal addition to your guinea pig’s daily fresh veg.

Other cavy-safe foods that are rich in vitamin C include:
  • Broccoli
  • Chinese cabbage
  • Cress
  • Kale
  • Mustard greens
  • Parsley

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Final Thoughts

Guinea pigs are delightful pets that are fun to own. Of course, raising one comes with responsibilities, which include providing a healthy diet. While they can eat a multitude of fresh fruits and vegetables, jalapenos aren’t an appropriate treat for your pet. Many other options exist that don’t have the same unpleasant and unhealthy side effects.

Featured Image Credit: Brett_Hondow, Pixabay

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