Gerbils need healthy, fresh food to survive in the wild. If you feed your gerbil food mix, it’s usually dry and processed. You might think your pet needs fresh berries and fruit, like blueberries.
Blueberries are non-toxic, but aren’t healthy for gerbils. When your gerbil eats too many blueberries, they cause diarrhea. They aren’t nutritious, and don’t have the vitamins/minerals that gerbils need.
Your gerbil’s diet should consist almost entirely of a food mix instead. Vegetables are far better for a gerbil than fruits. They contain more vitamins and minerals than blueberries, and aren’t as sugary.
Can Gerbils Eat Blueberries?
Gerbils can eat blueberries with few side effects. They will enjoy the taste and texture of them, and will readily eat them whenever offered.
The fact that a gerbil will eat something doesn’t mean it should. While eating blueberries isn’t as bad as ingesting plastic, they still aren’t the healthiest snack.
Fruit contains lots of water. By weight, it’s mostly water, to the exclusion of anything nutritious like carbohydrates, protein, or fat. That’s not a bad thing in itself, but it does mean that the nutritional capacity of fruit is limited.
Also, not all fruits’ vitamin and mineral contents are equal. Again, it’s true that many fruits do contain lots of vitamin C. But you can get vitamin C in larger quantities from other foods, like leafy greens. And other foods contain many things that fruit doesn’t, like vital minerals.
How Many Blueberries Should You Feed Gerbils?
You can feed your gerbil almost any kind of fruit. The question is, how much? You can give each gerbil half a blueberry a week. Any more, and you may be feeding it too much.
This might seem like a tiny amount, but that’s because your gerbil doesn’t need to eat blueberries. And while they may seem small, the biggest blueberries can be the size of a gerbil’s head.
When your gerbil eats too much of any fruit, it can have side effects. So, avoid giving your gerbil any more than this. It’s better for your pet, though, if you feed it vegetables rather than fruit.
How Often Should You Feed Gerbils Blueberries?
Blueberries should only be offered to gerbils as a rare treat. They don’t contain enough nutrition to replace the other foods that gerbils should be eating, like grains. There’s also the issue of feeding your pet things it isn’t used to.
This is the case for anything other than basic gerbil food mix. Specialist food mixes are prepared in such a way that they contain everything a gerbil needs. So, a mix will contain:
- Lots of carbohydrates
- Small amounts of protein and fat, which is all that is required
- Minerals like magnesium and calcium which are essential for gerbil health
Your gerbil will have all of its needs met by a high-quality mix. So, if you feed your gerbil a good food mix, you don’t ever need to feed it blueberries.
If you do still want to, that’s fine. Doing so won’t have any negative effects unless you do so too often. So, limit the number of blueberries your gerbil eats as per the section above.
Health Benefits of Blueberries for Gerbils
According to Nutrition Value, blueberries are like most other fruits. They are mostly water. Other than liquid, of every 100g of blueberries, 14g is carbohydrate, of which 10g are sugar. This is a normal amount for a fruit or vegetable.
For gerbils, this is fine. Most of the foods that gerbils eat are high in carbohydrates rather than proteins and fat. It’s not an issue for them to have lots of carbs to the exclusion of other things.
However, where blueberries aren’t so great is their vitamin and mineral content. Compared to better snacks like nuts and seeds, blueberries contain almost no vitamins. Compare them to sunflower seeds, for example:
- Where sunflower seeds have 35mg of vitamin E per 100g, blueberries only have 0.57mg
- Where sunflower seeds have 1.345mg of vitamin B6, which is a lot, blueberries only have 0.052mg
- Where sunflower seeds have 1.48mg of vitamin B1, blueberries only have 0.037mg
The same applies to minerals like copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium and zinc. Each of these minerals can perform vital functions in the body. Sunflower seeds have lots of each, while blueberries have practically none.
One thing that blueberries do have is lots of water. This can be good for gerbils. In the wild, gerbils get almost all of their water from the foods they eat. In the wild, they have access to water bottles. But watery foods allow them to fulfill their needs naturally.
What Nutrients Are Found in Blueberries?
Blueberries contain small amounts of fiber. Fiber promotes good gut health by encouraging your gerbil’s stomach and intestines to work harder. This keeps the gut healthier for longer. This is counterbalanced by the negative effects of highly acidic foods, like fruits, on the gerbil’s gut.
Blueberries also have some vitamin C, albeit not as much as other foods. Vitamin C is good for people in lots of ways, but isn’t required by gerbils. A gerbil that doesn’t eat much vitamin C won’t experience negative effects.
As you can gather from these points, the benefits of blueberries are outweighed by their negatives. That’s why you shouldn’t feed blueberries to a gerbil, or other rodents.
Are Blueberries Poisonous to Gerbils?
Blueberries aren’t toxic for gerbils. You can feed your gerbil as many blueberries as you want, and it won’t die. There are still adverse effects which they can cause, though.
Many fruits and berries are poisonous. That’s why you shouldn’t eat berries you find while walking, unless you can identify them with 100% certainty as non-toxic. However, the precise berries which are poisonous depend on the species eating them.
So, for example, grapes can be poisonous to many animals. Gerbils shouldn’t eat grapes because their seeds may be poisonous. Other rodents experience the same effects. Blueberries, though, don’t have any toxic effects on gerbils.
The other half of the issue is that your gerbil’s digestive system isn’t used to lots of fruit. Have you ever eaten a new kind of food, only for it to leave you with gut issues? That’s something that affects other animals as well as us.
The problem is that the gut gets used to processing certain things. When you give it something new to digest, your body can react as if it’s bad for you. Over time, you can get used to it, but at first, it causes pain and wind.
The same applies to your gerbils. Your pet may experience gut problems if it has too much of any new food, such as blueberries. This doesn’t mean the food is poisonous, but it’s not a pleasant experience for your pet.
Side Effects of Eating Blueberries for Gerbils
The blueberry itself doesn’t cause any negative side effects. When fed in moderate amounts, your gerbil will enjoy its food and it won’t cause any problems. It’s when the food is fed in significant amounts that you may notice diarrhea.
There are two reasons for this. The first is that blueberries, like most fruits, are acidic. According to Food Chemistry, the average pH of a blueberry’s juice is 3.6. This is highly acidic; the stomach’s hydrochloric acid, for comparison, is between 2-3.5 pH.
An animal’s digestive system relies on acidity to break down food. So, when too many acidic foods are ingested, this can cause digestive issues.
The second reason is that blueberries are so full of water, that it makes your gerbil’s stool less solid. All animals can experience this same reaction if they eat too much fruit.
Gerbils with Diarrhea after Eating Fruit
If your gerbil eats too many blueberries, it can cause diarrhea. This applies to most other fruits, too. Fruits like apples are acidic too, as are strawberries, peaches and bananas, all of which people may offer to gerbils. These fruits all cause the same digestive issues.
Diarrhea won’t kill your gerbil. However, it can have severe effects in certain ways:
- Diarrhea contains lots of bacteria, which can infect your gerbil’s bedding and toys. This can cause infections and sepsis.
- Diarrhea prevents your gerbil from absorbing nutrients. Your gerbil will get rid of lots of valuable food that was in the process of digesting.
If your gerbil were to continually experience diarrhea, it would slowly starve. While you would notice the issue before it got to that point, diarrhea is best prevented entirely anyway.
As such, you should avoid fruits unless given in very small amounts. So, the issue isn’t that blueberries are bad. The issue is that fruits aren’t ideal food for gerbils.
Effect of Acid on The Mouth
The acid in blueberries has another effect. It can damage the sensitive lining of your gerbil’s mouth. This can cause your pet pain, although it’s not likely to cause anything worse than that.
Have you ever eaten too much of an acidic fruit like blueberries or pineapple? You may have noticed that the lining of your mouth feels painful and sensitive. In places, it may even be peeling away. That’s the effect of the acid in the fruit.
The same can happen to your gerbil if it overeats acidic fruit. Like when it happens to you, this can be painful.
Beyond that, acid can cause or exacerbate ulcers. These are even more painful, and can become infected if severe and left untreated. In the worst-case scenario, this could cause sepsis and death. If you were to feed your pet nothing but fruit, this would be a problem.
And according to the Annals of Medical & Health Sciences Research, the acid also causes stomach ulcers. But the occasional snack won’t cause these issues. Alongside other, less acidic foods, your gerbil won’t get enough fruit to cause significant damage.
Should Gerbils Eat Fruit?
Gerbils can eat fruit in moderation. Once a week is a good amount, but twice or even three times a week shouldn’t hurt. It’s when you start feeding that much that you have to think about your gerbil’s overall nutrition. When a gerbil is eating blueberries, it could be eating something more nutritious.
And when considered against other foods, there’s little reason to feed gerbils fruit. Blueberries are packed full of sugar, while being low in other nutrients. They’re highly acidic, and aren’t crunchy, which helps a gerbil’s teeth. This is the case for most fruits.
If you do want to feed your gerbil fresh foods, consider vegetables. Vegetables are similarly seen as ‘healthy,’ and in lots of ways, they are. They contain similar beneficial vitamins and minerals to fruit. However, vegetables beat fruit because:
- Vegetables are largely water like fruit, but don’t contain as much sugar
- Vegetables are more similar to a gerbil’s natural diet (like the plant roots they eat)
- Vegetables like carrots are even crunchier than fruit, which is good for a gerbil’s teeth
So, if you do want to feed your gerbil fruit like blueberries, consider vegetables instead. Even then, though, almost all of your gerbil’s diet should consist of a gerbil food mix.