During the fall, a lot of leaves fall to the ground. These leaves create such beautiful colors in the environment.
Nature paints everywhere with natural colors. For pet owners whose pets are herbivores, like the guinea pig, this could seem like good news. You may be thinking that this adds a whole new variety to the diet of your pet.
The willow is one of those trees whose leaves fall a lot during this period. Have you considered feeding the guinea pigs with it?
Can guinea pigs eat willow tree leaves? Yes. Guinea pigs can eat willow tree leaves. They are entirely edible and safe for your pet.
Now, let us explore more on the subject.
What Are Willow Tree Leaves?
The willow trees are also called osiers or sallows. They thrive on wet soils in the temperate parts of Europe and America. Willows have a bark that is full of sap. This sap contains a lot of salicylic acids.
The roots are healthy and do not die off quickly. The leaves usually are long, but they can also be oval or round with the edges serrated. Willows feed a lot of other organisms.
Lepidoptera species larva uses the willow as food. Wood ants and wasps are common insects you can find on the willow. They come there to eat the aphid honeydew.
Australians have been using the willow to control erosion, even though it has become an invasive plant. The invasive nature of the willow is most prominent when the tree is standing on dry land. This causes the roots to be aggressive while searching for water.
There are a lot of pets that plague the willow. One major pest it has is the aphid. They leave on the plant and suck their juices. The willow bug comes second.
It is the commonest willow in the North American region. The third is the Melampsora, fungal rust: the chief damager of the willow tree leaves. It feeds on the leaves and fills them with yellowish-red spots.
Ancients use boiled water with willow tree leaves to treat fever and aches. They use it as an analgesic. Science has also supported the claim since the mammalian body breaks down the salicin in willow leaves to salicylic acid. Pharmacists use this salicylic acid is to produce aspirin.
Humans have been using willow to do many other things like baskets, wattle fish, etc. Humans use willow woods to make cricket bats, brooms, dolls, furniture, tannin, paper, veneer, wand, ropes, whistles, poles, etc.
Willows have nectar that attracts bees. The bees use the nectar to make honey. The bees also pollinate the willows quite early. Earlier generations used the willow to make willow catkins.
You can get charcoal you can use as a pencil. Sculptors use the tree stems and branches to create live sculptures.
Willow, like other woods, is a source of fuel. It is also used for slope stabilization, soil building, and biofiltration.
Read Also: Is Apple Tree Leaves Safe for Guinea Pigs?
Can Guinea Pigs Eat Willow Tree Leaves?
Guinea pigs can eat willow tree leaves. They can also eat many other types of leaves like pear, apple, citrus, sunflower, mango, pumpkin, banana, grape, raspberry, cauliflower, corn, and mulberry. However, it is best to avoid feeding your guinea pig an unidentified leaf.
It is also okay for your guinea pig to feed on some tree branches like cherry, plum, hazel, apple, pear, spruce, ash, maple, juniper, poplar hawthorn.
Health Benefits of Willow Tree Leaves
Willow tree leaves pack lots of nutrients and vitamins for your pigs. They are one of the best vegetables to feed your guinea pigs. Read further as we outline the healthy benefits of feeding your guinea pigs with willow tree leaves.
1. Willow tree leaves helps to improve guinea pig immune system
The willow tree leaves are stocked with useful vitamins and minerals, not to mention anti-oxidants. These will improve the functioning of the immune system of your guinea pig.
They will fall sick less often, their coats and fur will be shiny, fresh, and healthy, their appetite will be healthy, and the risk of infection from other guinea pigs or even the environment reduces.
2. Electrolyte balance
The willow tree leaves contain enough potassium, which maintains the balance between water and salts in the body. When the body has too much water and little electrolyte, fatigue, dizziness, and low blood pressure sets in.
When a body has too many electrolytes and little water, high blood pressure sets in. We do not need a soothsayer to tell us how dangerous and scary that can be for our guinea pigs.
3. Preventing scurvy
Guinea pigs cannot synthesize all the vitamins that their body needs. An example of such vitamin is vitamin c. This makes the guinea pig prone to a scurvy-a deficiency disease.
The willow tree leaves have enough vitamin c for your guinea pig. Lack of vitamin c will cause the following issues for your guinea pig: internal bleeding, swelling of joints, the roughness of fur or coat.
4. Supply of energy
The minerals, vitamins, and proteins in the willow tree leaves have boosts that will energize your pets.
5. Formation of healthy blood
The willow tree leaves contain iron, and this is instrumental in the formation of healthy blood. It also reduces the risk of guinea pigs suffering from anemia.
6. Improves oral health
The guinea pig is a rodent, and they have characteristic big teeth. These teeth grow all through their lives. If the teeth keep on growing, they will cause discomfort to the pig because it is a painful process, not to mention that it will make feeding hard.
To prevent this, the guinea pig has to chew or gnaw constantly, and what better way to avoid continuous teeth growth than with willow leaves. You get double the advantage. Normal teeth size. Plenty of nutrients to go with it.
How Much Willow Tree Leaves Can Guinea Pigs Eat?
Firstly, not all willows are safe for your guinea pigs. Some have high salicin content. The body metabolizes the salicin into salicylic acid. An example of willow with high salicin content is the white willow.
Therefore, you must feed your guinea pigs with willow leaves with low salicin content. Even at that, you should not give the guinea pig willow leaves to eat for more than two times in a week.
Humans take aspirin-which is made from salicin- as a drug, and they suffer from the side effect when they take it too much. The same thing happens when guinea pigs take willow leaves too much. Overeating willow leaves may cause ulcers for your guinea pigs.
Also, remember that guinea pigs have a sensitive digestive system, so a lot of willow leaves will only cause stomach upset for your cuddly pet.
Lastly, salicin does not go well with steroids. Vets sometimes give guinea pigs steroids to help them through the pain. Steroids plus salicin is a bad combination. It will have a devastating effect on your guinea pig’s digestive system.
If your guinea pig eats the willow leaves in excess, they will also develop urinary issues. Leaves contain calcium in small quantities, and they do no harm when the guinea pig eats a few of them.
But when the guinea pigs eat much, calcium piles up in the urinary tract and cause kidney or bladder stones. And those can lead to kidney failure or even death in severe cases.
What Willow Tree Species Can I Feed My Guinea Pigs?
The weeping willow and the goat willow are the two safe willows for your guinea pigs as they have little amounts of salicin.
How do I identify the weeping willow leaves?
The weeping willow has yellow flowers. Their dangling leaves and branches that face the earth are the reason for the name “weeping willows.” their leaves are elongated, and their branches are dropping.
On the other hand, the goat willow has a grey-brown bark, which develops smooth twigs with time. The upper part of the leaves is hairless, and unlike other willows, goat willow leaves are oval and pointed at the end.
Can guinea pigs eat willow tree leaves? Yes. Guinea pigs can eat willow tree leaves. They are healthy and nutritious and not to mention that guinea pigs as herbivores love some willow tree leaves in their diet.
As we mentioned earlier, all willows contain salicin though in varying quantities. It would be best if you only fed the guinea pigs with the ones recommended above.
For many things the guinea pigs eat, we should be more concerned about the quantity consumed. The consumption of anything in excess amount is not right, whether the food is healthy or not. Willows leaves are suitable for your guinea pigs, but moderation is wise.
When you notice that the guinea pig is showing signs of discomfort due to overeating willow leaves, give them enough water to drink, and then contact the ASPCA for help. You can also take your pet to the vet so they can check your guinea pig out.