Strawberry tops are completely safe for guinea pigs to eat. They are full of essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Magnesium, potassium, and folate are also found in strawberry tops, which help promote blood flow in guinea pigs. However, too much of anything is unhealthy. Moderation is key.
Strawberries are a delicious and sweet snack that everyone can enjoy. They’re natural, they’re healthy, and you can purchase them throughout the year at your local grocery store. You can even grow them in your own backyard! But with the concern over sugar in the actual fruit, can the tops and leaves be safely fed to your guinea pig?
What Are Strawberry Tops?
Quite literally, strawberry tops are the top portion of the strawberry fruit, including the leaves and stems.
Strawberries come from hardy little plants that can come back year after year if the conditions are right.
The tops contain a small amount of the red and white fleshy parts of the fruit, as well as the leaves and stems from which the fruit grows when it is attached to the plant.
Are Strawberry Tops Healthy For Guinea Pigs?
Compared to other fruits, strawberries have relatively low sugar content and a high water content, 92%. They are also only approximately 23 calories per strawberry.
Before we go into more detail about strawberry tops, let’s go over the benefits of strawberries as a whole.
Strawberries are packed with vitamin C. Strawberries contain more vitamin C than even oranges when given in the same amounts.
Without an appropriate amount of vitamin C, guinea pigs can become extremely susceptible to scurvy. This is because guinea pigs do not produce vitamin C naturally.
Signs and symptoms of scurvy include:
- Weight loss
- Petechiae on gums or other areas of the skin
- Bleeding gums
- Painful and swollen joints
- Changes to their coat/fur
Strawberries are also packed with fiber. Fiber helps regulate your guinea pig’s digestive system, improving their overall gastrointestinal health. Fiber is one of the staples of a guinea pig diet.
Antioxidants are anti-inflammatory compounds that reduce inflammation inside the body. These compounds attach to free radicals. Inflammation is caused by free radicals, so by attaching antioxidants to them, it helps to reduce the level of inflammation overall.
Magnesium is especially critical for guinea pigs. Without it, the symptoms include:
- Loss of hair
- Poor/slow growth
- Stiffness in the back legs
- Poor muscle coordination
Potassium helps regulate blood flow and blood pressure in guinea pigs. Potassium also aids in the function of the heart, lungs, and kidneys. It’s also known to eliminate muscle cramping and aid in the prevention of arthritis.
Folate is an essential part of any guinea pig diet. Without proper amounts of folate, red blood cells increase in size, meaning there are fewer of these cells throughout the guinea pig’s blood.
Since these red blood cells carry oxygen through a guinea pig’s bloodstream and deliver it throughout the body, fewer of them mean less oxygen circulating through their blood.
Calcium-rich diets can lead to bladder and kidney stones, but calcium-deficient diets can cause bone and teeth problems in your guinea pigs.
Anthocyanin and Quercetin
Anthocyanin and quercetin are found within strawberries. They are chemicals that can promote cardiovascular health by lowering cholesterol.
Strawberry Tops Are Completely Safe
Strawberry tops themselves don’t pose much of a risk to your guinea pig. However, keep in mind that the stems can pose a choking hazard if you aren’t paying enough attention while they are eating.
Whole Strawberries – Give in Moderation
The whole strawberry itself can cause a few problems. They should be fed only one or two times per week and not on consecutive days.
Though the sugar content is not very high, it can cause diabetes in your guinea pig down the road if you’re not careful about how much you feed and how often.
Acid damage from strawberries can also be a concern, as the mucosal membranes of guinea pigs are very sensitive.
You must also be careful of how long you leave strawberries, even just the tops, in your guinea pigs’ cage. After they’re done eating, they need to be taken out within 12-24 hours. If they are left in the cage for too long, they can spoil and rot. This can lead to health concerns if your guinea pig starts to eat them again.
Another concern is the calcium content. A guinea pig diet that is too high in calcium can lead to kidney and bladder stones. These cause a whole separate set of issues on their own.
If your guinea pig is on any beta-blockers, you should not feed them too many strawberries or any other fruits that are rich in potassium.
When on beta-blockers, guinea pigs cannot process potassium as efficiently.
How to Offer Strawberry Tops
Offer strawberry tops in just about any way that suits you. The tops can be served whole, sliced, or even just the leaves.
They may turn their noses up at the leaves, as they’re not very sweet, but offering them often can lead them to investigate and eventually eat them.
Unlike tops with actual strawberries left on them, you can offer as many leaves as you would like. There are even dried blends that have strawberry leaves on them because of their health benefits.
Where to Get Strawberry Tops
You can buy strawberries at the store and offer the tops from them, or you can grow them yourself and offer them during the growing season. Just be sure to wash the strawberries and/or tops before offering them to your guinea pig.
Strawberry Tops Are Packed with Benefits
Strawberry tops are absolutely packed with essential vitamins and minerals. They’re super healthy for your guinea pig, but be sure to offer them in moderation.
Although they offer so many benefits, there is still a risk of offering them too frequently. Moderation is key!
If you give the entire fruit to the guinea pig, give them one strawberry each or give them as many leaves as you would like.
There is more fiber and potassium and less sugar in the tops than there is in the entire berry as a whole.
Offering the tops by themselves poses less risk and gives more benefits than offering the entire fruit.