Broccoli is the archetypal healthy food, although what’s healthy for people isn’t always healthy for chinchillas. But why might that be?
Can chinchillas eat broccoli? They shouldn’t because it can cause bloating, which in chinchillas, can kill. It also contains too much water and not enough of the fiber chinchillas need, so could cause diarrhea. Only feed suitable chinchilla snacks like rose hips, herbs, or occasional sweet hay instead.
The guide below is a short one. It begins by looking at the nutritional content of broccoli (it has too much of some things and not enough of others). Then we’ll look at the most important point, which is why broccoli causes bloating in chinchillas, and how serious a problem it can be.
Can Chinchillas Eat Broccoli?
Chinchillas can physically eat both frozen and cooked broccoli without a problem. Even raw, hard broccoli doesn’t pose your chinchilla’s teeth a problem. But as we’ll see later on, broccoli’s nutritional content isn’t optimal for chinchillas, and can cause digestive problems. What’s even worse, though, is that it can cause bloating which is dangerous for chinchillas.
As such, we don’t recommend feeding it to your pet, although it’s nowhere near as bad as other snacks.
Do Chinchillas Like Broccoli?
Chinchillas like any kind of fruit or vegetable. One way in which broccoli is good is that it’s fibrous and tough, so makes a fun chew toy for your pet. It’s also got a distinctive taste, so as your chinchilla is used to hay, it will be fun to eat.
Here, the obvious analogy is to something like candy or potato chips. You can eat them, and you’ll like them, but they aren’t good for you. And while broccoli might be good for you, it’s not so for your pet.
Why Can’t Chinchillas Eat Broccoli?
The key issue is that the nutrients in broccoli aren’t what a chinchilla needs. Here is a table detailing what key nutrients broccoli contains. Afterwards, we’ll look at each in turn to see why it isn’t suitable.
Nutrients in Broccoli: a Table
This table contains data from NutritionValue.org. It applies to all varieties of broccoli, which all share similar nutritional values.
|Nutrients||Amount per 100g|
There are several issues that stand out here. These are the low fiber, fat and protein contents, and the high water content.
Chinchillas need at least 15-23% fiber in their diets, a need which is met by dry and fibrous hay. Broccoli only offers 2.6g of fiber per 100g (i.e. 2.6%). In addition, chinchillas need food that has hardly any water, while broccoli has 89.3g per 100g. Giving your chinchilla too little fiber and too much water will cause diarrhea. While that likely won’t happen after a small snack, it’s worth remembering, and there are many snacks that wouldn’t have this effect no matter how much you fed them to your pet.
The fat and protein levels in broccoli are also too low. Chinchillas need between 16-21% protein and 2-4% fat, while broccoli offers 2.8% and 0.4% respectively. This isn’t a major problem if your chinchilla eats its hay, but there are snacks that do meet these requirements.
As for the calorific content of broccoli, there’s no problem there. They aren’t a calorie-dense food, so they won’t make your chinchilla gain weight, unlike many fruits and grain-based snacks. In this way, broccoli at least isn’t as bad as other snacks like apples or bananas.
Vitamins and Minerals in Broccoli
One advantage that broccoli has over other snacks is that is has plenty of vitamins and minerals. The following table details those it has in significant quantities.
|Vitamin/Mineral||Amount per 100g|
This is a far greater variety and amount of vitamins and minerals that other fruits and vegetables have. But even though broccoli does have lots of things chinchillas need, that doesn’t mean it’s a good snack. That’s because chins should get all the vitamins and minerals they need from hay. They don’t need supplements or ‘super foods’ to meet their needs.
If anything, foods that have high vitamin and mineral content would have negative health effects. It’s possible to have too much of a certain mineral and develop health issues. Excess calcium, for example, can form bladder or kidney stones.
Broccoli does at least have lots of vitamin C. But even that won’t be good for your pet. That’s because chinchillas can create their own vitamin C inside their bodies. Most animals can do this; humans are the exception rather than the rule.
Is Broccoli Poisonous to Chinchillas?
The problem with broccoli isn’t that it’s poisonous. It’s that it gives your chinchilla gas. This isn’t funny, and the point isn’t that it’s embarrassing. Bloating could kill your pet.
A chinchilla’s guts are set up perfectly to process fibrous hay and foods of a similar nutritional makeup. As shown above, broccoli (and, in fact, all vegetables) differ in many important respects to hay such as water content, fiber content and so on. This means your chinchilla’s gut can’t process them effectively, and too much gas is created in digesting them. As you’ll know, broccoli is particularly bad for causing gas, so is a vegetable that must be avoided.
While chinchillas can pass gas, it can build up to such an extent that it becomes very painful. If the gas builds up too much, it can rupture the stomach or the intestines and kill your pet. As such, if your chinchilla presents with a hard swollen stomach, stops eating or going to the toilet, grinds its teeth and/or holds its ears back in pain after eating broccoli then you should take it to a vet immediately.
Why Does Broccoli Cause Gas, But Hay Doesn’t?
This is a good question. It’s the fiber in broccoli that causes gas; but hay has more fiber than broccoli. So, shouldn’t hay cause gas in the same way? If not more?
The answer is that there are many, many different types of fiber. You’ll likely be familiar with the terms ‘soluble’ and ‘insoluble’ fiber. This gives the impression that there are only two kinds, but that’s not true. There are lots and lots, and they are digested in different ways. Examples of soluble (digestible) fiber include beta-glucans, inulin, wheat dextrin, oligosaccharides and many more. There are similarly many kinds of insoluble fiber.
In practise, the gut can be set up to deal well with one kind of fiber but not another. Certain kinds of bacteria ferment some fiber but not others. What happens here is that the chinchilla’s gut is well-prepared to deal with the fiber in hay, but not in broccoli. The fiber in broccoli therefore causes gas while that in hay doesn’t (or, at least, nowhere near as much).
How Much Broccoli Can Chinchillas Eat?
We would recommend not feeding any broccoli to your pet. It doesn’t meet your chinchilla’s nutritional needs, while snacks like herbs, sweet hay or rose hips do. But more importantly, even small amounts of vegetable matter can cause dangerous bloating.
If you do insist on feeding your chinchilla broccoli, only give a tiny amount the size of your pinky fingernail.
How Often Can Chinchillas Eat Broccoli?
Again, we recommend not giving chinchillas broccoli at all, so the ideal frequency would be ‘never’. If you do want to, then only feed your chinchilla broccoli once a week at the absoolute most. If you feed it consistently, that allows the gas to build up.
Should Chinchillas Eat Broccoli?
The short answer is ‘No’.
The slightly longer answer is that your chinchilla gets no nutritional benefit from it, so even if it’s a healthy food for us, it’s not for them. And more importantly, it causes deadly bloat. So, stick to healthy snacks like rose hips, herbs and sweet hay instead.
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