Can Guinea Pigs Eat Sweet Potatoes? (The Good, The Bad, The Tasty)

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Sweet potatoes are a great food for humans. They have a lot of nutrients and minerals in them. Some people wonder if guinea pigs like sweet potatoes too. Are sweet potatoes safe for guinea pigs? Can they eat them?

Yes, sweet potatoes are safe for guinea pigs to eat and nutritious treat for them. Sweet potatoes have plenty of Vitamin C and potassium that benefit guinea pigs just as much as they do humans. But only offer this snack to piggies raw once or twice a week.

a picture of a guinea pig wondering if he can eat sweet potatoes

Today we are going to talk about feeding sweet potatoes to guinea pigs. We will try to cover everything that most guinea pig owners want to know about this vegetable. Yes, it’s a vegetable! Keep following to the end for more information.

An easy-to-read food chart for safe piggie foods – Buy, download, and print.

What Are Sweet Potatoes? Are They Called Anything Else?

a tip explaining how guinea pigs can eat sweet potatoes
As root veggie go, sweet potatoes are some of the healthiest you can give your piggies.

Sweet potatoes, scientifically referred to as Ipomoea batatas, is a vine species belonging to the morning glory family, Convolvulaceae. The plant originated from northwestern Southern America.

This dicotyledonous plant (fancy word, I know) might have been first grown in Peru about 750 BCE. But it took a long time for it to spread to other parts of the world. In fact, Christopher Columbus brought sweet potatoes back to Spain from his trips to the New World in the 15th century.

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Sweet potatoes are a popular ingredient in thanksgiving meals because they taste good and make you feel good. It can come with orange, purple, beige, brown, red, or yellow smooth skin, while the color of the flesh ranges between yellow, orange, white, purple, pink, violet, and beige.

Sometimes the orange sweet potato is called “yam” in some areas of North America. But that doesn’t mean it’s any close to the botanical yam, a member of the monocot family –  Dioscoreaceae.

Can Guinea Pigs Have Sweet Potatoes?

a decision tree to help people figure out if their guinea pig should eat sweet potatoes

Guinea pigs can have sweet potatoes as a snack. Sweet potatoes are good for them and might even be better than other snacks you offer. But follow the feeding guidelines to make sure your cavies get all the benefits and none of the risks.

To begin with, congratulations! Sweet potato is one treat that will do your piggy a world of good. It comes packed with plenty of nutrients and minerals and is sure to improve your guinea pig’s overall health.

Before you give your guinea pig sweet potatoes, be careful. It is healthy for them, but you need to follow the feeding instructions to make sure they stay healthy.

So, let’s start off with why sweet potatoes are good for guinea pigs to eat.

Are Sweet Potatoes Good For Guinea Pigs To Eat?

Yes, sweet potatoes are just as good for guinea pigs to eat as they are to you. But as a general rule of thumb, always bring in a certified vet before you introduce any new food to guinea pigs.

Guinea pigs generally enjoy eating sweet potatoes. The root vegetable can help improve your cavies’ brain health, vision, immune system, gut health, and more.

1. Boosts Brain Health

Sweet potatoes contain antioxidant vitamins – Vitamin C and beta-carotene. Each of these is healthy brain food and will go to a large extent to prevent brain inflammation in guinea pigs.

This root vegetable is also rich in other phytochemical antioxidants that can help improve cognitive function in rodents.

Phytochemical antioxidants are compounds that can protect the brain from oxidative stress and cell death triggered by free radicals.

Simply put? The antioxidants can help keep your guinea pig’s brain function in check.

Usually, the darker the skin tuber, the highest the concentration of these compounds, making the purple variety the richest in these antioxidants.

2. Good For Vision and Eyesight

Sweet potatoes are rich in pre-vitamin A (now the beta-carotene). After eating, your guinea pig’s body will transform this compound into vitamin A, the essential vitamin for your guinea pig’s eye health.

Beta carotene helps improve your piggy’s eyesight by preventing eye-related infections and helping to form eye light detectors.

What are eye light detectors? These are cells that can sense the difference between light and dark.

They can even help your guinea pig see in dim lighting conditions.

If you feed your fur babies a little bit of sweet potato, the better their eyesight will be – preventing night blindness can reduce falls and bumps caused by vision problems.

3. Boosts Immune System

While vitamin C in sweet potatoes is good for healthy immune, it’s not the only compound that will benefit your piggie’s body defense system.

The antioxidants in this superfood also maintain a healthy immune by keeping it from suppression by free radicals.

But that’s not all – they will also help prevent tumors and cancers, both of which are common health concerns in guinea pigs.

4. It Helps With Gut Health

Guinea pigs generally have super-sensitive guts. That’s why they need foods rich in dietary fiber to keep them healthy and everything running smoothly. Fortunately, sweet potatoes have a lot of dietary fiber, both soluble and insoluble.

There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. The soluble type dissolves in water and creates a gel that is beneficial for guinea pigs’ digestive health. The insoluble fiber, on the other hand, absorbs water to soften your pet’s stool and make it easier to pass.

Are Sweet Potatoes Bad For Guinea Pigs?

Sweet potatoes can be good or bad for guinea pigs. It all depends on how you go about offering them to your guinea pig. A lot of sweet potatoes coming more frequently will expose guineas to several risks, some fatal.

1. Choking Risk

Sweet potatoes are a potential choking hazard for guinea pigs. Guinea pigs have long teeth, but they’re not necessarily suited for chewing large pieces of food.

Instead, the four ever-growing scissors are there to help grab whatever food (or treat) you offer for chewing.

That’s why when offering your guinea pig sweet potatoes, always ensure that you first cut them into smaller tidbits.

The tinier pieces will be more convenient for guinea pigs to handle and are less likely to get lodged in their gut or airways.

2. Obesity From Starches and Sugar

Sweet potatoes boast a great deal of sugar and starch. Now, a little bit isn’t going to do any harm to your guinea pig, but guinea pigs can easily get overweight from consuming sweet potatoes all the time.

This can create an array of health problems for your guinea pig, including digestive problems, joint pains, heart diseases and strokes.

So always offer it in moderation – feed sweet potatoes once or twice a week, maximum, and no more than a 1 inch chunk per adult guinea pig (to avoid excess intake).

3. Potential Kidney Issues From High Oxalates

Sweet potatoes have something in them that can combine with calcium to form stones in your pet’s kidney or bladder. It’s called oxalates.

And the stones form when there’s a high concentration of oxalates. Oxalates can also increase the risk of kidney stones and can damage kidneys to such an extent that can cause them to stop working completely.

In fact, calcium oxalate stones can also cause other health issues related to mineral balance, inflammation, urinary tract health, auto-immunity, and connective tissue – to mention but a few.

4. Digestive Issues

Soluble fiber and insoluble fiber in sweet potatoes are healthy for your guinea pig’s gut, just as said. But excessive intakes can cause your pig’s tummy problems. For instance, it can trigger gas formation (yeah, bloat) , a fatal condition in pets.

The sugar and starch in sweet potatoes can be difficult for guinea pigs to digest. That’s why it’s important to feed your guinea pigs sweet potatoes in the correct way.

Nutritional Facts for Sweet Potatoes

Before you give your guinea pigs sweet potatoes, it is a good idea to know what they are made of. That will help you come up with a list of other treats. After all, no one wants their fur babies having too much of one nutrient, but not enough of another.

According to USDA, every 100 grams of raw, unprepared sweet potato contains the following;

  • Water –  77.3g – Keeps your pet hydrated.
  • Starch – 12.6g – Gives the pet the energy to remain active all day.
  • Sugar – 4.18g – It serves as brain food.
  • Fiber – 3g – It helps in improving digestive health
  • Protein – 1.57g – It helps in the growth and development of your pet.
  • Fat – 0.05g – It serves as a crucial depot for storing energy, but too much can be a problem
  • Vitamin C – 2.4mg – It promotes a healthy immune system.
  • Vitamin E – 0.26mg – Keeps your guinea pet’s fur healthy
  • Vitamin A – 709µg – Improves eye health of guinea pigs.
  • Vitamin K – 1.8µg – Helps in proper blood clotting.
  • Choline – 12.3mg – Helps in formation of cell membranes.
  • Folate – 11µg – Great for pregnant guinea pigs
  • Potassium – 337mg – It ensures a strong cardiovascular system.
  • Sodium – 55mg – Proper balance of blood and fluid levels.
  • Calcium – 30mg – Promotes healthy bones and teeth.
  • Iron – 0.61mg – Ideal for the formation of red blood cells.
  • Copper – 0.151mg – Keeps blood vessels, nerves, heart, and immune system healthy.
  • Magnesium – 25mg – Supports muscle health.
  • Phosphorus – 47mg – Keeps bones and teeth healthy.
  • Manganese – 0.258mg – Helps in the formation of connective tissues and bones.

How Do Sweet Potatoes Compare To Other Similar Vegetables?

Before you introduce sweet potatoes to your pet, first know how they compare to other similar vegetables. With that information, you’ll know when your pet needs sweet potatoes more than other vegetables and vice versa.

The table below compares the key nutritional value of sweet potatoes with that of different citrus fruits per 100 grams of quantity based on the USDA information on each of them;

FiberSugarVitamin CCalcium
Sweet Potato3g4.18g2.4mg30mg
Butternut Squash2g2.2g21mg48mg
Turnip3.2g0.81g60mg190mg
Radish1.6g1.86g14.8mg25mg
Parsnip4.9g4.8g17mg36mg

As you can see, sweet potatoes are just as healthy as each of these fruits. They are the lowest in vitamin C, however.

But again, what they have is still fine for a treat. In addition, sweet potatoes come second-lowest in calcium, which is a good thing considering all the manner of problems associated with the mineral (I’m looking at you, bladder stones!).

Can Guinea Pigs Eat Sweet Potatoes Everyday?

No, guinea pigs shouldn’t eat sweet potatoes every day. The high amount of sugar in sweet potatoes can cause diabetes and obesity for guinea pigs when ingested daily. So yes, keep it an occasional treat.

Much like in humans, too much sugar will increase the chances of your pet becoming diabetic and obese.

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How Many Sweet Potatoes Can Guinea Pigs Eat?

How many sweet potatoes guinea pigs can eat differ from one pet to another. As such, it’s best to get the vet to advise you on this. But generally, sweet potatoes shouldn’t take more than 15% of your piggy’s daily diet.

One may think that there’s a standard quantity of sweet potatoes for guinea pigs cutting across all pets sharing some characteristics such as weight or age.

But that’s not the case.

In fact, no two guinea pigs of the same litter have everything in common. That’s why the best way to play it safe is to get in touch with the vet regarding the quantity.

How Often Can A Guinea Pig Eat Sweet Potato?

How often a guinea pig can eat sweet potato is another subjective topic. But generally, they need not come more than once a week. In fact, we recommend sweet potatoes be offered to guinea pets once a fortnight.

The frequency at which you offer sweet potatoes to guinea pigs is as crucial as the amount you give. In fact, a condition like diabetes develops from repeated high sugar ingestion and not one bulk sugar intake.

Do Guinea Pigs Like Sweet Potatoes? 

Guinea pigs usually like sweet potatoes as a treat. However, different guinea pigs may like different things, so it’s important to try different things to see what your piggie prefers.

Don’t get discouraged if your little friends don’t like it. Just be patient and keep offering small nibbles of it periodically. Eventually, you can get them to like it.

Can Guinea Pigs Eat the Skin of Sweet Potatoes?

Yes, guinea pigs can eat the skin of sweet potatoes without developing any health issues from it. The skin is high in antioxidants, fiber, and other essential components your piggy’s body will appreciate.

However, there’s also a harmful part of guinea pigs eating sweet potato peels that must be avoided.

You see, peels (or skin) may contain bacteria, dirt, and pesticides, all harmful to pets. That’s why you should rinse the vegetable thoroughly before slicing it down for your little buddies.

Can Guinea Pigs Eat Cooked Sweet Potatoes?

No, guinea pigs shouldn’t eat cooked sweet potatoes. Guinea pigs can only eat raw sweet potatoes. If you cook their vegetables and fruits, it’ll make them sick. Keep their food raw so they stay healthy and it is easier for you.

Raw sweet potatoes are digestible for pets. But that’s not the case with the cooked sweet potatoes.

Guinea pigs’ digestive systems can’t handle anything cooked. Their digestive systems aren’t designed to process (formerly fresh) foods that are heated to high temperatures.

In fact, cooking can destroy a significant amount of the nutrients in food they can only handle raw.

Can Guinea Pigs Eat Sweet Potatoes Vines?

Yes, guinea pigs can eat sweet potato vines safely as a special treat. If you are planting sweet potatoes in your garden, it will be okay for your piggy pet to enjoy a small handful of vines every once in a while.

Unlike standard potato vines, sweet potato vines can serve as a time to time healthy surprise treat for your piggy. They aren’t toxic to guinea pigs and will benefit them a lot.

But that doesn’t come without risk – always wash the vines thoroughly before placing them on your pet’s bowl. Pesticide and dirt need to be removed from the vines before your little friends start munching away..

Can Guinea Pigs Eat Sweet Potato Leaves?

Guinea pigs can also eat sweet potato leaves as greens. The leaves are a good source of Iron, Vitamin C, Fiber, beta-carotene, Protein, zinc, calcium and other important nutrients for the growth of guinea pigs.

Guinea pigs need to be cleaned regularly to avoid health issues. You should also make sure you don’t overfeed the sweet potatoes, or they might get sick.

Can Guinea Pigs Eat Yams?

Guinea pigs can definitely eat yams. They have many of the same nutritional benefits as sweet potatoes. In fact, they can be even healthier as yams are high in Vitamin A. Yams can be a good substitute for sweet potatoes.

Can Guinea Pigs Eat Baked Sweet Potatoes?

No, guinea pigs can’t eat baked sweet potatoes. Since baked sweet potatoes are cooked, they can’t be easily digested by guinea pigs. Like I mentioned before, cooked food is a big no-no for cavies.

Can Guinea Pigs Eat Sweet Potato Fries?

Unfortunately, guinea pigs can’t eat sweet potato fries – and for several reasons. Sweet potato fries are processed and cooked. Hence, guinea pigs can’t digest them like raw sweet potatoes, so they’ll cause bloating, gas, diarrhea, and other complications.

In addition, sweet potato fries usually contain high amounts of seasoning and had to be cooked in oil, which can lead to health issues for piggies.

Even the tiniest amount of sweet potato fries can lead to weight problems, cardiovascular issues, and other conditions.

Can Guinea Pigs Eat Sweet Potato Pie?

a sarcastic comment from a guinea pigs about sweet potatoes
Avoid giving any and all baked good to you cavies. All the sugar is tough for them to digest.

Guinea pigs should not eat sweet potato pie. Sweet potato pie is too high in sugar, which is difficult for guinea pigs’ digestive systems to handle. Stick to offering sweet potatoes in their most basic form – raw and without anything added to it.

Feeding your guinea pig sweet potato pie can cause it to have a high blood sugar level and become overweight. These conditions can lead to other health problems.

Can Baby Guinea Pigs Eat Sweet Potatoes?

Baby guinea pigs can eat sweet potatoes, but not immediately after birth. With proper timing, young pigs will reap as many benefits from eating sweet potatoes as their older counterparts.

Before offering your newborn piggy sweet potatoes, allow them enough time to benefit from the mother’s milk.

Maternal milk carries a lot of nutrients and minerals the little one likely won’t find in sweet potatoes – or any other food. Therefore, wait until a baby guinea pig is at least two to three weeks old before introducing them to sweet potatoes.

Can Pregnant Guinea Pigs Eat Sweet Potatoes?

Pregnant guinea pigs can eat sweet potatoes, too. Guinea pigs who are pregnant will benefit from the vitamin C in sweet potatoes. The vitamin will help keep them healthy and free from scurvy and other conditions.

But as you know, sweet potatoes aren’t the best source of vitamin C. That’s why it’s important to find other foods that have more of this nutrient. Some good choices include broccoli, kale, and green and yellow bell peppers.

How To Introduce Sweet Potatoes To Your Guinea Pigs

Introducing sweet potatoes to your guinea pigs is a straightforward process. In fact, you don’t need to be an experienced guinea pig owner to get the procedure right. Follow these steps;

Step 1: Choose The Right Type Of Sweet Potatoes

After the vet green-lights your idea,  proceed and choose the right sweet potatoes for your pet. Get the freshest and preferably organic.

Step 2: Prepare the Vegetable

Wash it thoroughly to remove any toxins that could be on the surface. Then, cut it into tiny bits. 1 inch chunks should be large enough for a cavy.

Step 3: Start Low and Proceed Slow

When offering it to your pet, begin with the smallest amount possible. You can offer a single piece (a half or quarter inch cube) and closely watch your pig in case of any side effects.

If your fur baby does well when you increase the amount a little at a time, keep doing that until you reach the vet’s recommended level. But if you notice any side effects, stop giving your pet the treat right away and take care of the problem.

What’s the Ideal Diet For a Guinea Pig?

The ideal diet for a guinea pig consists of hay, vegetables (or fruits), and pellets. The hay should be low in calcium and can only take up to 80% of what the pet eats. 15% of the food needs to go to vegetables or fruits while the remaining 5% should be pellets.

As for the hay and pellets, it’s more standard. Therefore, you don’t have plenty of decisions to make here.

That 15% of produce that you can give your piggies is where you can get creative.

Will it be radicchio, fennel, and broccoli florets on the menu for your cavies today? Or endive, parsley, and raspberries? The possibilities are endless.

And as long as you feed the produce to your cavies properly (the right amount and frequency), then you can create the most nutritious diet for them – to keep your fuzz spuds happy and healthy.

Which Vegetables and Fruits Do Guinea Pigs Like The Most?

Knowing the vegetables and fruits that guinea pigs like most will help you understand the options to go to the 15%. Luckily, as natural herbivores, guinea pigs aren’t as picky as some pets, so you’ll be spoilt for choice on what to offer.

Some of the healthy options are kale, green pepper, broccoli, cabbage, blueberries, papaya, peaches, oranges, spinach, banana, apricot, pineapple, tomatoes (avoid leaves and stems), cucumbers, strawberries, apples, and other vegetables and fruits.

Avoid potatoes, onions, garlic, mushroom, lilies, bread, rhubarb leaves, meat, nuts, seeds, avocados, dairy products, chocolate, ice cream, and any other food your vet rules out for your guinea pig.

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Final Thoughts

Sweet potatoes are healthy for eating by guinea pigs but with certain conditions. They should only come raw, occasionally, and sparingly. That way, they will improve your pet’s brain health, eyesight, immune system, and digestive health.

Otherwise, they can cause digestive problems, obesity, kidney issues, and blockage of the gut and airways. That’s why you have to follow every guideline to the letter when offering these root vegetables to your pet.

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Doucleff M. (2013, January 23). How The Sweet Potato Crossed The Pacific Way Before The Europeans Did. The Salt. https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2013/01/22/169980441/how-the-sweet-potato-crossed-the-pacific-before-columbus

Ermer T, Eckardt K, Aronson K & Knauf F.  Oxalate, inflammasome, and progression of kidney disease. US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. 2016 Jul; 25(4): 363–371. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4891250

Harbster J. (2010 November 24). A Sweet Potato History. Inside Adams, Science, Technology & Business. https://blogs.loc.gov/inside_adams/2010/11/a-sweet-potato-history/

Lake Shore Pet Hospital. (n.d.). Your Guinea Pig’s Pregnancy: The Stages of Pregnancy. https://lakeshorepethospital.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Guinea_Pig_Pregnancy.pdf

National Library of Medicine. (2021, November 19). Potassium. Medline Plushttps://medlineplus.gov/potassium.html

O’Brien PJ. The Sweet Potato: Its Origin and Dispersal. American Anthropologist. 1979 June; 74(3) 342-365. https://www.jstor.org/stable/671520

Plant Village. (n.d.). Sweet potato. https://plantvillage.psu.edu/topics/sweet-potato/infos

U.S. Department of Agriculture. (2019, April 1). Parsnips, Raw. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170417/nutrients

U.S. Department of Agriculture. (2019, April 1). Squash, winter, butternut, raw. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/169295/nutrients

U.S. Department of Agriculture. (2019, April 1). Sweet potato, raw, unprepared. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168482/nutrients

U.S. Department of Agriculture. (2019, April 1). Turnip greens, raw. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170061/nutrients

U.S. Department of Agriculture. (2020, October 30). Radish, raw. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1103374/nutrients

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