The mango fruit is indigenous to Southern parts of Asia, and most of the world’s mangoes are grown in India and China. Being tropical fruits, they flourish in places with warm, humid climates, and mango trees are nowadays grown in countries all over the world. The Latin name for mango – Mangifera indica – means “king of fruits” and its nutritional content and versatility certainly makes this fruit live up to its name. But, does being highly nutritious make mangoes suitable to feed to all common herbivorous pets? Can guinea pigs eat mango?
Guinea pigs are rodents who live only on food sources derived from plants. The guinea pig that is so well known and beloved today as a house pet, is believed to have been domesticated more than three thousand years ago in South America, where they provided a convenient source of meat that could easily be kept and bred in settlements. Therefore, their ideal diets cannot be copied exactly from that of their distant non-domesticated cousins – who are called “cavies” – but the basis of their diets should be similar.
However, the fact that they have not only been kept in captivity for dozens of centuries, but also been used extensively in laboratory testing worldwide, has led to plenty of information being available on what should be in their diets, and what shouldn’t.
So, what do guinea pigs eat?
The Dietary Requirements Of Guinea Pigs
Guinea pigs’staple food, is grass. They can eat it either green or dried, as long as it is fresh, clean and pest free.
Interestingly enough, these South American descendants are said to thrive best on dried timothy grass, which is indigenous to Europe. Being a tough, fast-growing grass which is high in nutrition and is loved by various species of livestock and pets, timothy grass is now grown all over the world, especially in the USA. Other grass or hay feeds can also be used as guinea pig food, the most recommended ones being orchard grass, bluegrass, bermuda grass and even wheatgrass.
Experts reckon that about 80% of a guinea pig’s diet should consist out of timothy grass or similar variants of grass or hay of a good quality. Dry pellets made from grass and other natural ingredients can be used to substitute parts of their hay rations, but some grass should always be available for your guinea pig to eat, as chewing on stalks helps to trim their bottom teeth, that keep growing throughout their lives.
Fresh greens and other low-starch vegetables can fill up another 15% of their menu. Greens that guinea pigs love to eat include lettuce, various fresh herbs, such as basil, fennel, and sprouts. Vegetables should be low in carbohydrates, such as cucumber and zucchini. Ones that are high in sugar, such as carrots, should be given in moderation.
That leaves a mere 5% for fruits and other treats, which should be chosen carefully, as foods that are high in sugar can be damaging to their health. Although fruit sugars are harmless for many pets who eat plant-based diets, guinea pigs’ digestive systems simply aren’t adapted to process large amounts of food high in sugar. Guinea pigs being allowed this little fruit in their diet, just goes to show how significantly fruit can affect their well-being. This makes the choice of which fruits to feed your guinea pig a weighty one!
To complicate matters further, guinea pigs have very delicate digestive systems. They can become easily bloated and have a hard time passing gas built up in the digestive tract. Too much calcium in their diets can cause them to develop kidney or bladder stones. They require an exceptionally high amount of fiber and have a tendency to develop a vitamin C deficiency.
As with many pet diets, variation and inclusion of seasonal foods are recommended to keep your guinea pig healthy and happy. Let us examine this prized fruit to see if mangoes are safe to include in your piggy’s cuisine.
The Vitamin And Mineral Content Of Mangoes
The first thing nutritionists will often tell you about mangoes is that they are high in vitamin C. Indeed, one cup of diced mango provides 60-70% of the average human adult’s daily vitamin C requirements. That means, when you eat a large mango, you can easily get all the vitamin C you need for the day! But, that is far from the only benefit this fruit can boast with.
Mangoes are excellent sources of vitamin A, vitamin B6, potassium, fiber, copper and anti-oxidants. These tropical gems are even said to possess anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory and aphrodisiac properties. Although quite sweet, mangoes are surprisingly low in calories and contain practically no fat.
The rich nutritional value of mangoes makes them a fitting choice as a treat for guinea pigs, especially for those who are reluctant to take their vitamin C supplements. The fiber is gentle on their digestions and the vitamin A aids in maintaining healthy skin, fur and eyes. Mangoes also contain relatively low amounts of calcium, which makes it a safer choice of fresh food for your guinea pig to eat.
The main concern that is often raised when owners ask “can guinea pigs eat mango?” is the fact that mangoes are high in sugar. However, when fed in small amounts and as part of a balanced diet, the sugar content will not be harmful, and it is, therefore, safe to let your guinea pigs eat mango.
The High Water Content Of Mango
The flesh of the mango contains a lot of water and is recommended for treating dehydration in humans. However, guinea pigs should not get too much water in their diets – even too much fresh greens or vegetables can cause them to have mushy or runny droppings. You do not have to avoid feeding mangoes because of their high water content; simply keep the portions small and make sure your guinea pigs do not eat it every day, but rather alternate it with a variety of other fruits.
Remember that mango should be served as a treat, and should never become one of their staples!
Can Guinea Pigs Eat Mango Skin?
Mango skin turns beautiful shades of red, yellow and orange when ripe and contain even more fiber than the flesh they enfold. They, too, are high in vitamin C and several other nutrients.
Unfortunately, mango skin contains certain oil compounds that can trigger dermatitis and other skin irritations. It is safer to remove all skin from your guinea pigs’ mango pieces and not risk letting these potential irritants come into contact with their delicate digestions.
Can Guinea Pigs Eat Mango That Has Been Dried?
Guinea pigs do well with dried grass and dry pellets that they eat. Fruits, on the other hand, lose a lot of their crunchiness that guinea pigs relish, during drying. When mango is dried, it diminishes in its vitamin C content, which largely defeats the purpose of including it in your guinea pig’s diet in the first place.
Dried fruit’s chewiness makes it harder for them to eat and digest, not to mention that many store-bought dried fruits are often treated with sulfur or other preservatives which is not healthy for your guinea pig to consume.
It is also not recommended to let your guinea pigs eat any foods in which the original ratio between the sugar content and water content has been altered. Therefore, stick to fresh, unprocessed fruits; nothing dried, cooked, steamed, soaked or pickled should be fed to your guinea pig to eat!
How To Prepare Mango For Your Guinea Pig
First, make sure the mango is ripe; it should give way a bit under your finger when you squeeze it. An unripened mango might have a lower sugar content, but contains less of the natural digestive enzymes contained in these fruits and will be harder for your guinea pig to digest.
Rinse the mango and carefully remove all skin. If you have a few piggies living together in the same space, it is best to hand out the pieces individually to each guinea pig, and not to simply place down all the pieces and leave them to help themselves. Make sure to remove any uneaten mango after about twelve hours.
Never serve your guinea pig canned mango or mango that has been fried, baked or sweetened; they need fresh fruit straight from nature! Do not feed mango that is overripe or has been cut and left to wilt. You will probably not be able to serve a whole mango as treats before it starts to go bad, but fortunately mangoes are even more beneficial for humans than for guinea pigs, so you can simply eat the left-over mango yourself!
How Much Mango Should Guinea Pigs Eat?
The average guinea pig requires about 100 milligrams of vitamin C per day. Larger guinea pigs or piggies who are sick or recovering will require more. Mango contains about 35 milligrams of vitamin C per 100 grams, but remember that not all your guinea pig’s daily vitamin C should come from mangoes!
A quarter cup of diced mango – or a chunk that is roughly 50 grams in weight – should be more than enough per day, and this should not be given more than two or three days of the week.
Can Guinea Pigs Eat Mango That Has Been Frozen?
The small serving sizes of mango for your guinea pigs can be problematic if you do not enjoy eating mango yourself. Some fruits, such as berries, can be frozen to overcome this problem, but what about a mango?
Mangoes generally do not freeze well. Ripe mangoes tend to lose their firm texture in the freezer and will probably not appeal to guinea pigs once thawed.
Alternatives To Mango For Your Guinea Pig
Mango is a seasonal fruit and can be difficult or expensive to obtain certain times of the year, especially if you have to resort to buying imported produce. A mango’s inability to maintain a good texture when spending time in the freezer means that you cannot save some in there for the winter months.
But, there is no need to worry if you cannot find fresh mangoes for your guinea pigs. There are several varieties of fruits available that are also packed with vitamins and minerals. In fact, giving them an ever-changing variety of treat foods is actually recommended, in order to prevent them from getting “hooked” and since there is not one fruit that contains all the required nutrients, variety is essential for getting them all the nutritional components they need.
Mangoes are primarily fed because of their high vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium and fiber content. Other fruits that fit this bill and make great substitutes for mangoes are bell peppers – red, yellow and orange varieties are fine – melons, plums, oranges, apples and tomatoes.
Berries are also an excellent choice which guinea pigs love: strawberries, blueberries, gooseberries and raspberries all contain ample amounts of vitamin C and are safe choices for treats.
A mango is a safe food for guinea pigs, as long as it is given in small amounts and not on a daily basis. It provides plenty of nutritional benefits that your piggies need and there is no reason not to take advantage of this beloved fruity treasure!
Mangoes should always be fed as a supplement to an already balanced diet consisting of 80% grass or hay and 15% of greens and low-calorie vegetables. Treat fruits such as mangoes should never be considered as a staple.
Despite mango’s wide array of nutrients, you should always opt for variety and not feed it to your piggy more than two or three times per week. Swap out mangoes with other fruits high in vitamin C when they are not available or out of season.
With moderation and variation, your guinea pig will delight in nibbling on these royal fruits!