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Guinea Pigs/Apple tree branches

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Question
Hi Pat,
I'm wondering if it is ok to feed my 2 piggy pigs apple tree branches with lots of leaves on?
I'm guessing it's ok but don't want to give them tummy ache!

Many thanks,
Paula

Answer
Because they are herbivores they should in theory be able to eat the leaves of the apple tree. They will probably try to chew on the branches. They need something hard to chew on to help keep their teeth worn and may try anything. That doesn't mean the apple branches are safe for them. I would not offer branches as roughage. I use the rule of thumb: would I eat it? By that I mean is it safe. If the answer is no I don't give it to my pigs.

I recently saw yet another video on the internet about what guinea pigs can and cannot eat. Putting it on the internet does not make it true and in most cases advice given is actually misunderstood word of mouth by people who may own pets but have no clinical experience to base their advice on. I have an advantage because I have friends who are breeder/exhibitors and vets who special in exotic pets such as guinea pigs.  Their knowledge is both medically and experience based.

Good example:  Never give a guinea pig Iceberg lettuce. Some go so far as to say it is poisonous. Absolutely untrue. It has little or no nutritional value, but is an excellent source of water and is used by many of us when traveling state to state for shows. Water bottles leak easily when being transported, leaving the bedding wet and often making a mess of a specially groomed coat in coated animal.

Potatoes: "poisonous" - never feed to a guinea pig.  Not true. It's not the skins or the meat of the potato that is the danger. It's the green part of the potato that develops as they sit that can be toxic. So we just eliminate that completely.  

Rabbit food is dangerous.  Not so. The issue is two fold.  Some rabbit foods have added antibiotics that are toxic to guinea pigs. They also do not contain Vit C which is manufactured by rabbits as it is in humans. Guinea pigs must have it supplemented as they do not produce their own.

I know a great number of breeders who feed rabbit pellets because they are less expensive. They add Vit C to make up the deficit. They've done this for years with no harmful results. You just have to know the true dietary needs of the animals you are raising.

Another I just read recently: Never feed banana peels to your pig. Again, false. My pigs love the peels and won't eat the meat. Same goes for melons, they prefer the rinds. Works out well as we eat the inside of the melon and give the rinds to the pigs.

Guinea pigs love apples. As for the leaves I can't honestly tell you that they should or should not. You want to consider whether or not pesticides have been used on the tree to treat for fungus and insects that would damage the production of the fruit.

Rabbit breeders do not feed apple leaves or branches to their rabbits as they claim they have some form of toxicity that is harmful to their bunnies and impacts reproduction. For that reason I would say no to feeding it to guinea pigs as well. I feed apples in limited amounts to my pigs as the acid in the apple fruit can cause sores on the sides of the mouth.

I've also read that some claim there is an issue with the seeds. I think this is more a reactionary claim than a scientific one. But there really isn't any reason to give them a whole apple with seeds included, so it shouldn't be a problem. I know that mine will NOT eat the stem of an apple. I don't know if it's because it's too hard to chew or do they sense that they should not.

Because the branches are so fibrous they would cause digestive problems. With that in mind I wouldn't offer them to your pigs. I don't offer mine celery stalks either. But they do enjoy the leaves.  When you have a large caviary of nearly 100 pigs you don't often have enough leaves to offer all of them, so I have to choose carefully who gets them and who doesn't.

The basic rule of thumb with extra treats for guinea pigs should be the same rule you would use for you other pets.  All things in moderation. Their main diet should be their pellets, not the treats.

I hope this helps you. You're fortunate to have access to an apple tree. Just don't get too over zealous with offering them to the pigs.  

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Pat VanAllen

Expertise

As is sometimes the case, people in urgent need of information have a higher degree of expectation than those of us as experts are able to give. The experts on this site do their best to give the most accurate and responsible answers possible. We ask that you remember that it is not our intention nor place to criticize the professional advice given by your veterinarian, nor is it appropriate for us to comment on the correctness of a diagnosis made by a licensed physician. Our knowledge is experience based. Although many years of breeding and showing cavies gives me a wealth of experience it cannot change the fact that we as experts are not veterinarians and therefore may occasionally have to reject questions that appear to be asking us to criticize advice given by the licensed professional. Having raised and exhibited cavies for many years I have extensive experience in cavy care and husbandry. I currently have an active breeding program for pedigreed show animals but do not encourage backyard breeding for inexperienced owners. Although I don't encourage breeding for fun I'm always happy to answer any questions from an owner who is in sincere need of help. Pet owners wanting to breed should understand that even experienced breeders have litter losses. The mortality rate is high in cavies. The chance for losing both sow and pups is always present, even with experience. Although this is a site for experts to assist owners, there is no expert in any field who has all the answers. The wisest thing a good expert can know is their limitations. Not having an answer does not diminish one's ability or knowledge. It simply shows that we recognize our limitations and operate within them.

Experience

Raised and shown cavies for many years, having aquired my first cavies in the early 1970's as pets. My caviary currently handles 65 + animals in two different breeds and several varieties. Having been in the health care industry as a licensed nurse for 35 years I have hands on experience with care and needs in both humans and cavies. Member of American Rabbit Breeders Association and American Cavy Breeders Association.

Organizations
Awarded Lifetime Membership in of one of the oldest cavy clubs in the United States, on whose Board I served as Sec/Treas for six years and currently serving as President. Also editor/publisher of the club's quarterly newsletter. We are strong supporters of our youth exhibitors, most of whom are 4H members who are working on cavy projects. Through these projects they become good responsible citizens. We deal with all aspects of showing, breeding, caring for and sharing experiences in the fancy. The cavy fancy is not a new one but in some areas is still relatively unknown. Our goal is to inspire interest in high quality, responsible breeding to improve the species, not just the reproduction of guinea pigs. Our job is to educate owners to help them make the right decisions and choices in the care of their cavies.

Education/Credentials
Graduate in nursing. Certified in emergency medicine.

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