Fruits and vegetables are healthy. Cucumber is a kind of vegetable—so, it should be healthy. But is cucumber good for chinchillas, or could it be unhealthy? Could it even be poisonous or have strange side effects?
Can chinchillas eat cucumber? They shouldn’t as it has too much water and not enough fiber. It can cause digestive issues like diarrhea or bloating. Bloating is particularly dangerous, as it can rupture your chinchilla’s stomach or gut lining. Even small slices of cucumber, if fed regularly, could cause this problem. This occurs because a chinchilla’s gut struggles to digest vegetables like cucumber. So, stick to more suitable snacks like rose hips, sweet hay and herbs.
The guide below first explores the nutritional content of cucumbers, breaking down exactly why it’s so bad for chins. Then, we’ll look at how the chinchilla’s digestive system works, which explains why cucumber is so unsuitable, and even potentially dangerous.
Can Chinchillas Eat Cucumber?
Chinchillas can physically eat cucumber without a problem. It won’t make your pet choke, and cucumber isn’t instantly poisonous for chinchillas. But it is nutritionally inadequate, and if fed in large enough quantities, will cause dangerous bloating.
It’s the cucumber’s high water content and low fiber content that mean it’s nutritionally unsuitable. Chins need foods with lots of fiber and hardly any water, and cucumber is the exact opposite. A diet with lots of water but no fiber will give your chinchilla diarrhea, which is made worse because your chin’s gut struggles to digest vegetables. Plus, they can cause bloating—so there’s no good reason to give any cucumber to your chin.
Do Chinchillas Like Cucumber?
While you might not think so, cucumber is slightly sweet as it contains a small amount of pure sugar. As a rule, chinchillas enjoy eating any snack that’s different to their normal diet of hay.
The problem is that cucumber isn’t good for your pet. It’s similar to candy or potato chips are for us: your pet might enjoy it, but it doesn’t give it the nutrients it needs. It can also be actively bad for your pet if it eats too much. So in the same way that we feel good when we eat snacks, but our bodies might feel bad later, the same applies to chinchillas: they’ll enjoy eating cucumber, but won’t enjoy the dangerously high and painful levels of gas that vegetables can cause.
Why Can’t Chinchillas Eat Cucumber?
There are two core problems with cucumber. The first is that it contains too much water for your chinchilla’s digestive system. The second is that because chinchillas aren’t used to eating vegetables, their digestive systems won’t efficiently break the cucumber down, causing gas/bloating and even diarrhea. These are serious problems for your chin.
Nutrients in Cucumber
The data below comes from a site called NutritionValue.org. This site analyzes common foods. The numbers below apply to any variety of cucumber; while the numbers may differ slightly between kinds, they will all roughly correspond (e.g. in high water content).
|Nutrients||Amount per 100g|
|Carbohydrate||3.6 (1.7g sugar)|
There are several ways here in which cucumbers are unsuitable. The most important one is the combination of low fiber content with high water content. But the amounts of protein, fiber and pure sugar aren’t good either.
First, water. The kind of hay you feed to a chinchilla contains 10-12% water. This can differ depending on how old the hay is and how it was stored, but unless there are serious problems with it, this is how much it will have. As there are 95g of water in 100g of cucumber, that means cucumber is 95% water. While a wild chinchilla may eat succulents and other plants with high levels of water in them on occasion, it would only do so in the dry season when there’s no actual water for it to drink.
Having watery cucumber on top of its daily regular water intake could cause diarrhea. Some of the body’s water is excreted through pee, and some through poop. Your chinchilla’s stool would be softer, perhaps even runny if it ate lots of cucumber. This is made worse because of cucumber’s low level of fiber. Chinchilla hay has 15-23% fiber, if not 30% or more; cucumber has 0.5%. The lack of fiber makes stool even looser.
On top of that, cucumber is nutritionally inadequate for your pet. Chins need 16-21% protein and 2-4% fat, while cucumber has 0.7% and 0.1% respectively. This isn’t a major problem unless you feed your chin nothing but cucumber. But considering there are treats that do meet these requirements, such as rose hips or sweet hay, it makes sense to feed these instead.
Vitamins and Minerals in Cucumber
What makes vegetables so healthy for us is that they contain lots of vitamins and minerals. But what’s healthy for a person isn’t necessarily healthy for an animal. Here’s a table with data on which vitamins and minerals cucumber contains in any meaningful quantity:
|Vitamin/Mineral||Amount per 100g|
While the list above may look impressive, cucumber isn’t as good as other fruits and vegetables in terms of its vitamin and mineral content. But even if it were, that’s not relevant here.
That’s because chinchillas can get all the vitamins and minerals they need from a diet of hay alone. Your pet can live its whole life, even thrive on a diet of nothing but fresh hay and hay pellets. The only problem that occurs with any frequency is calcium deficiency, which can be fixed by giving your chinchilla a cuttle bone to gnaw on.
Plus, chinchillas don’t need every vitamin or mineral that we do. Take vitamin C, for example: easily the best known vitamin that people need. Chinchillas are one of many animals that can make their own vitamin C inside their bodies, meaning they don’t need to find it in any external sources. This means that even the high vitamin C content of snacks like apples or broccoli is useless for your chin.
Is Cucumber Poisonous to Chinchillas?
Cucumber isn’t poisonous, but fed in large enough quantities, it could kill your pet.
That’s not because it’s toxic; it’s because vegetables give chinchillas dangerous bloat. Bloating is where large amounts of gas form in your chinchilla’s gut. You can tell it happens because your chin’s belly becomes swollen and taut, and your pet will be in obvious pain.
For us, bloating might be embarrassing. But chinchillas can have trouble passing gas, and it can build up to such a degree that it ruptures the wall of the stomach or the intestinal lining. This can kill your pet. This might seem odd, because chinchillas are so used to digesting hay, which is even higher in fiber than vegetables. So why do vegetables cause this problem, but not hay?
The reason is that there’s far more than just two kinds of fiber. The two terms you’ll already be familiar with, ‘soluble’ and ‘insoluble’, aren’t the only two kinds; they’re categories under which dozens of types of fiber fall. And each of these types of fiber may be digested in a different way to another. Examples of soluble (digestible) fiber include beta-glucans, inulin, wheat dextrin, oligosaccharides and many more. There are similarly many kinds of insoluble fiber.
What’s happening is that your chinchilla’s guts are perfectly set up to digest what they find in hay. They have just the right kinds of gut bacteria to digest it, and even the digestive process itself (of producing, then eating, cecotropes) is tailored to digesting hay. Any kind of dietary change can produce gas, and when that dietary change involves vegetables which already cause gas, the problem is magnified.
Can Chinchillas Eat Pickled Cucumber?
The same problems that apply to regular cucumber apply to pickles, too. If anything, pickles are even more watery than regular cucumber, and cause gas more easily. So, avoid pickles too.
How Much Cucumber Can Chinchillas Eat?
We would recommend not feeding your chinchilla any cucumber at all. It serves no nutritional need, and there are snacks like rose hips, herbs and sweet hay which your chinchilla will enjoy just as much, but aren’t bad for it. As cute as it might be to see your chin gnawing on a tiny stick of cucumber or some other vegetable, it’s your job to be a responsible chin-parent, so you should only feed it suitable foods.
If you do insist on giving your chinchilla cucumber, only give it tiny amounts. A slice the size of your pinky fingernail won’t cause your chin any harm, so long as you don’t feed it regularly. But it would be better if you chose other snacks.
How Often Can Chinchillas Eat Cucumber?
We recommend against feeding your chinchilla cucumber at all, so the ideal frequency is ‘never’. The more regularly you feed your chin cucumber, the more likely and the more severe bloating becomes.
As such, if you do insist on feeding cucumber, do so only once. If for whatever reason you must feed your chinchilla cucumber, feed it at most once per week, and monitor your chinchilla’s health if you do.
Should Chinchillas Eat Cucumber?
The short answer is, no, chinchillas shouldn’t eat cucumber.
The slightly longer answer is that the problems cucumber causes can all be easily avoided with other, more suitable snacks. What’s even better is that your chinchilla will love the taste and variety they get from these snacks just as much as it would enjoy cucumber. These snacks include rose hips, sweet hays and herbs. Feed these instead of cucumber, or any other vegetable.