Spinach is a superfood. While captive gerbils primarily eat high-quality dry food, adding fresh greens to their diet is a good way to provide them with additional vitamins and minerals.
Spinach is safe for gerbils to eat. It contains nutrients such as magnesium, fiber, potassium, folate, and vitamins K and A. Spinach is also a valuable source of protein and iron. While spinach is a good way for gerbils to hydrate, they shouldn’t eat too much, as excess water causes diarrhea.
Spinach is commonly contaminated with pesticides, which can be harmful. It also contains oxalates, which inhibit the absorption of calcium and iron. These are things to watch out for when feeding spinach to your gerbil.
Can You Feed Gerbils Spinach?
Gerbils can eat a variety of fruits and vegetables once or twice a week. Not only does a varied, balanced diet provide gerbils with the nutrients they need to stay healthy, but it prevents them from getting bored with their regular everyday food. Spinach is a great source of:
- Vitamin K
- Vitamin A
So, are gerbils allowed to eat spinach? Yes, but there are things to watch out for, including the acidity, water content, oxalates, and pesticides.
Do Gerbils Like Spinach?
Gerbils are omnivores, so they eat a varied diet containing insects, fruits, vegetables, and leafy greens. That means many gerbils enjoy the taste of spinach. Though it’s not the most flavorsome vegetable in the world, gerbils are hard-wired to eat what they can find, as they experience long periods of not eating in the wild.
Of course, not all gerbils take to spinach – it all depends on the rodent’s individual taste preferences. There’s no harm in trying your gerbil with a few leaves to see how it gets on.
Spinach Nutritional Information
According to the U.S Department of Agriculture, 100 g of spinach contains:
|Amount Per Serving
Are Spinach Leaves Good for Gerbils?
Spinach is a superfood that’s rich in essential nutrients gerbils need. This includes:
Gerbils require calcium for strong bones. Without it, they’re at risk of developing weak, brittle bones and injuries. It also keeps their teeth in optimum condition. This is vital, as their teeth continuously grow throughout their life.
Gerbils benefit from vitamin K because, as described by the Indian Journal of Experimental Biology, vitamin K is a natural antidote to rodent poison and can reverse the effects, reducing the chances of mortality.
While captive gerbils aren’t at as much risk from rodenticide, wild gerbilsare fine with ample amounts of vitamin K in their bodies.
Vitamin A benefits the eyes. It prevents gerbils from developing night blindness, allowing them to see in the dark.
Vitamin A also boosts the immune system, produces healthy white blood cells, and maintains strong bones. That’s why it’s one of the most important vitamins for gerbils.
Spinach is famed for its high-protein content. Growing gerbils need approximately 15-16% of their diet to be made up of protein-based foods to be healthy, so spinach leaves can help boost their nutrient levels.
Adult gerbils need slightly less protein, but pregnant rodents need more to ensure their bones and organs develop properly during pregnancy.
Spinach is an excellent source of iron. Iron makes hemoglobin, which delivers oxygen to the body. It also removes carbon dioxide. Without enough iron, gerbils appear weak, lethargic, and tired.
If your gerbil exhibits these symptoms, consider adding spinach leaves and other iron-rich food sources into its diet.
Spinach is a valuable source of magnesium. According to the Journal of General Psychology, a study found that gerbils deprived of magnesium suffered more seizures than those who ate loads of it.
Gerbils are prone to seizures, so spinach leaves are a healthy addition to their diet and can help reduce the effects of epileptic fits.
Spinach provides a small amount of fiber, which keeps the digestive system healthy by encouraging the stomach and intestines to work harder. This also ensures gerbils produce healthy, firm droppings. The fiber requirements for gerbils at each stage of their life include:
- 0.6 months: 10-15%
- 6-24 months: 8-10%
- 2-6 years: 8-10%
Fiber requirements are relatively consistent throughout a gerbil’s life, so ensure yours gets the fiber it needs by adding the occasional spinach leaf to its diet.
Potassium deficiencies are common amongst gerbils. However, it’s one of the most crucial nutrients, as it helps to:
- Activate enzymes
- Develop muscles
- Maintain osmotic pressure
- Maintain water balance
- Metabolize carbohydrates and proteins
- Regulate heartbeat
- Regulate neuromuscular activity
Potassium is also essential for proper cell function. Gerbils need approximately 3.6 g of potassium for every kilogram they weigh, meaning spinach is a good way to ensure they get enough.
Spinach contains high concentrations of folate. Like all mammals, gerbils need folate to make healthy red blood cells. If gerbils don’t have enough, their bodies make unusually large red blood cells. These don’t work properly and increases the risk of anemia.
Each spinach leaf contains water. This is both a good and a bad thing for gerbils. In the wild, gerbils consume the water they need through food. While captive gerbils have access to a water bottle, they prefer to hydrate while eating.
However, as desert animals, gerbils don’t naturally drink a lot of water. They can’t process too much of it, so if you overfeed your gerbil spinach, it’s likely to develop diarrhea. That’s why you should be careful with how many spinach leaves you feed your pet.
Are Spinach Leaves Bad for Gerbils?
Sadly, spinach isn’t all good news for gerbils. While it contains far more health benefits than downsides, you must watch out for the following things:
Spinach has a pH range of 5.1 to 5.7. This makes it a slightly acidic food. While it’s not as acidic as apples and berries, the acidity might be too much for your gerbil. If you provide your gerbil with too much spinach at once or frequently in a short period, it may harm its mouth’s sensitive lining.
In severe cases, spinach can cause painful mouth and stomach ulcers. Although, the gerbil would need to eat a lot of spinach for that amount of damage to happen.
Spinach is highly likely to be contaminated with harmful pesticides. The most common toxin found on spinach is permethrin, which is a neurotoxin that destroys nerve tissue. Gerbils that accidentally ingest pesticides show the following signs:
- Loss of appetite
- Physical pain
- Incoordination and unsteadiness
- Labored breathing
To prevent your gerbil from consuming pesticides, wash the spinach thoroughly first or choose an organic brand.
Spinach is high in oxalate, which is a compound that prevents the body from absorbing calcium. That’s why you must be careful with how much spinach you feed your gerbil. You should also incorporate other calcium-rich foods into your gerbil’s diet, such as broccoli and lettuce.
Oxalate also binds with iron, blocking its absorption. While iron is a healthy, essential nutrient, the oxalates largely cancel out its effects, rendering spinach an ineffective source.
Can Gerbils Eat Cooked Spinach?
We’ve looked at how oxalates hinder the absorption of calcium and iron. However, cooking spinach reduces the oxalate content by up to 40%, allowing the body to absorb calcium and iron much better. That’s because oxalates break down under high temperatures. Cooking also increases the levels of vitamin A, protein, fiber, zinc, and thiamin.
The best way to cook spinach is to blanch a fresh bunch of leaves in boiling water for one minute. Then, plunge them into ice-cold water for a couple more. Drain the leaves and feed them to your gerbil whole so that it can nibble on the leaf.
This also helps to remove the pesticides, though you should wash the leaves before boiling them to be extra sure that all chemical traces have been removed.
Can Gerbils Eat Raw Spinach?
Unlike many other vegetables, raw spinach is surprisingly not as healthy as the cooked kind. However, folate, niacin, riboflavin, and potassium, and more readily available in raw spinach.
What you choose to feed your gerbil all depends on whether your gerbil needs a boost of specific nutrients. For best nutritional results, opt for cooked spinach.
Can Gerbils Eat Baby Spinach?
Baby spinach is simply young spinach. It’s harvested 15-35 days after planting, giving it a sweeter flavor than mature spinach. It contains all the essential nutrients of older spinach, making it a healthy and safe treat for gerbils.
There’s no harm in adding new foods to your gerbil’s diet. Spinach is packed with nutrients, but it can cause problems if you overfeed it to your gerbil. As a rule of thumb, provide spinach alongside other fresh fruits and benefits so that your gerbil can enjoy a balanced nutritional diet.