Our son recently got a gerbil as a birthday gift from his favorite aunt, and the next morning he asked, can I give an apple to Alvin? He had named his pet after his favorite movie.
Naturally, we had to start looking for the answer since we had never had a gerbil in the house before, and here is what we found.
Yes, gerbils can eat apples. These rodents eat a wide range of fruits, and apples are definitely among them. Apples are found to be appealing to gerbils because of their smell and sweet taste.
In this article about gerbils and their diet of apples, we will talk about what type of apples is good for this pet and how often you can give them this fruit.
Keep on reading.
Why Are Apples Good for Gerbils?
Apples are a rich source of fiber, and trace minerals, including magnesium, potassium, and Vitamin A. the nutritional content of raw apples with skin, according to the USDA, per 100 gm is as follows:
Energy – 59kcal
Water – 85.3 g
Carbohydrate – 14.1 g
Protein – 0.27g
Sugars – 10.5g
Calcium – 6mg
Magnesium – 5mg
Phosphorus – 12 mg
Vitamin A – 3µg
Several other vitamins and minerals present in apples are great for a gerbil, including:
Fiber: Apples are rich in fiber, which helps a gerbil's digestion and keeps the alimentary canal healthy and active. Fiber also aids the gerbil in having healthy droppings.
Vitamin A: Gerbils also benefit from having a slice of fresh raw apple as it has vitamin A that helps improve vision and maintain a strong immune system.
Magnesium: Studies reveal that gerbils that have apples in their diet are less prone to seizures than gerbils that don’t eat any apples. This is according to the nutrient requirements of gerbils, a research paper published by the National Library of Medicine. It also means that apples in a gerbils diet can contribute to a healthy and long life.
Potassium and calcium: The high potassium and calcium content in apples can also help gerbils have a healthy bone and muscular system. These two important minerals in apples can also regulate blood pressure and promote a healthy cardiovascular system in gerbils.
Pectin: Apples also have an important probiotic – pectin, which promotes the growth of good bacteria in the gerbils' stomach and intestine. This trace mineral works in combination with the fiber in apples to keep your gerbil healthy.
Adding a slice of raw apples to a gerbils diet also has the benefit of filing down their teeth. Gerbils are also champion chewers so chewing on a fresh slice of apple provides them a chewing challenge.
However, apples in a gerbil diet should be in moderation because this fruit contains high water and sugar. Gerbils love the appealing smell of a fresh apple and its crunchy texture, so it is very easy for them to abandon other food items in their diet and miss the essential vitamins and minerals.
Can Gerbils Eat All Parts of The Apple?
While adding apples to your gerbil’s diet has a lot of benefits, it is not safe to give a whole apple to your pet. Some parts of this popular fruit are not safe for gerbils.
The seeds of apples have a compound called amygdalin. When a gerbil chews on the apple seeds and ingests them, the amygdalin compound converts to cyanide, a poisonous chemical that is very toxic to them.
Gerbils do not have the biological process to get rid of toxins in their body, meaning that eating apple seeds, especially in large quantities, can potentially kill your pet.
Leaves and bark
Apple bark and leaves are generally great for rodents, including gerbils. However, commercially grown apples are sprayed heavily with chemicals to keep rodents away. So unless the apple tree was grown organically, leaves and barks are not safe for a gerbil.
Apple skin is very nutritious, and gerbils love to chew on it. However, similar to the leaves and bark, it can harm your pet if it is not an organic apple. If your gerbil really loves to chew on apple skin, wash it thoroughly before adding it to its diet.
What Varieties of Apples Are Good for Gerbils?
Gerbils can eat all varieties of apples, including:
Red apples: Red apples have more sugar content than green ones, which is why gerbils love them.
Green apples: Green apples have a slightly tangy taste, so your gerbil might prefer the red ones over them. However, the nutritional content and the sweetness can differ from one variety to the other. So, if the apples are fresh, then it is good for a gerbil.
Dried apples: Dried apples have about 95% of the water content removed from them, making them a healthy choice for gerbils. However, dried or dehydrated apples have high sugar content, especially if they are store-bought, so be mindful
about not overfeeding them.
Cooked apples: Gerbils can also safely consume cooked apples, especially if they are below four weeks of age. Cooked apples, however, become a lot sweeter and more acidic than fresh ones, which can cause digestive problems in baby gerbils. So feed cooked apples to your baby pets in small quantities.
Adult gerbils can also benefit from cooked apples when they are recovering from illness or a health issue. In this case, cooking the apple without any ingredients is the best way to keep the apple suitable for your pet.
Also read: Can gerbils eat Grapes?
What Types of Apples Are Not Good for Gerbils?
Apart from fresh ones, apples also come in different preparation and types, and some are unsafe for gerbils. Any type of apple candy, jelly, or jam is not a safe treat for a gerbil.
The above apple food items have added sugar, preservatives, sweeteners, and artificial flavorings, which can be toxic for your pet rodent.
Apple juice and sauce are other food items that are not safe for a gerbil, even in small quantities. The chances of your pet rodent going crazy over this store-bought apple concoction are high.
But the added sugar and preservatives can create havoc with their digestive systems and overall health.
How Often Can Gerbils Eat Apples?
A treat of about 25 gm of apples 2 to 3 times a week is more than enough for a gerbil. If you have a pet gerbil that loves its daily dose of apples, keep it to about 10 gm per day.
Apples are a great snack for pets such as a gerbil, and a medium slice of this fruit will suffice. Gerbils belong to the desert and are not traditionally used to having fruits and vegetables in their diet, let alone a sugary treat like an apple.
Apples are high in nutrients; the sweet and crunchy tastes are an absolute delight for this small pet. The nutrients are a great benefit for your gerbil, and they can look exceptionally cute as they gain extra weight.
Excess weight gain is a commonly observed problem with pet gerbils. An overweight gerbil is prone to several health issues and even leads to premature death.
Feeding gerbils with the right doses of a sugary treat like an apple is important. But apples in a gerbil’s diet should be supplementary and not used as the sole food item.
Can Gerbils Overdose on Apples?
Apples are a fantastic and healthy treat for gerbils, but too much of it can cause a host of health issues with your pet rodent. Here is why:
Apples Have a High Water Content.
A fresh raw apple contains about 84% water. And as already highlighted above, gerbils are desert rodents, meaning they can survive up to a month without water.
These pet rodents cannot process a lot of water in their diet. So, frequent treats of apples in your pet's diet can increase the water to unsafe levels and result in diarrhea.
Apples Are Acidic for Gerbils.
fruits such as apples are not as acidic for humans but for smaller animals such as a gerbil, they can be too acidic. In addition, some apples, such as the green variety, have higher acidity than red ones.
The acidity in the apples can damage the mucous lining of a gerbil’s mouth and stomach, leading to painful ulcers. Moderate amounts of apples are not enough to cause severe damage to a pet gerbil, but if you add them frequently to its diet, it is not safe.
Apples Are Rich in Sugar.
A 25 gm apple contains 2.6 gm of sugar, which explains its sweet taste. A gerbil body is not made to process a lot of sugar in its diet, so frequent treats can make them sick.
Most notably, high sugar content in pet rodents’ diets can cause digestive problems and stomach aches.
Some Apples May Have Traces of Pesticides.
Commercially grown apples sold in stores have a high level of pesticide, which can be very toxic for gerbils. Traces of common pesticides such as diphenylamine and thiabendazole are very commonly found in apples.
These pesticides are sprayed on apple trees to keep them safe from rodents and other pests.
Ingested by gerbils regularly and in large amounts can cause several health problems.
How to Feed Apples to Gerbils
A failsafe way to feed apples to gerbils safely is to give them organic produce. Of course, you must remove the apple seed before giving it to your pet. Gerbils can also safely chew on the apple skin, bark, and leaves provided it is organic.
Organic apples are not readily available and can also be pricey, which means you will need to give store-bought applies to your pet. In this case, washing the apples thoroughly and removing the seeds before they reach your gerbil plate is important.
If you regularly feed your gerbils with store-bought apples, removing the skin of the fruit is also a way to reduce the chances of pesticide exposure.
If your gerbil is trying an apple for the first time, start with a very small slice. After it consumes the apple, wait at least a day to see how your small pet responds. If the gerbil does not show any signs of digestive distress, you can safely add this fruit to
your pet’s diet. You can also try giving your gerbil a variety of apples, such as green and red, to see which one it prefers.
Clean and slice the fresh apples and put them on top of your pet’s bedding. Gerbils have curious personalities, so they will check it out in no time and start eating it.
Keeping the apple treat small while giving it to a gerbil is important to prevent it from overeating it. Another reason to keep the apple slice small is to prevent your rodent pet from caching it.
Gerbils are natural foragers, so if they have extra food lying around that they can’t finish, they will try to store it away for later use. Leftover apples or any type of food in your pet gerbil’s bedding can breed bacteria and result in unsanitary conditions in its
Can You Give Apples to Baby Gerbils?
Baby gerbils above three weeks of age can have apples without it affecting their digestive system. However, you should consider whether the baby gerbil was born in captivity or bought from a pet store/breeder.
A pet store or a gerbil breeder sells pets that are above three weeks of age, so they can consume adult food, including apples, without any problems.
Baby gerbils born in captivity might need special care with their diet.
If you or your kid is a new gerbil parent, it is natural to ask whether it is safe to give apples to it. Generally, apples are a great treat for gerbils because of their nutritional content and health benefits.
The key to adding apples to a gerbil’s diet without making it sick is to use fresh raw ones as opposed to canned or anything with artificial ingredients. Keeping the sweet treats to about three times a week ensures your gerbil enjoys this sweet tropical
fruit without experiencing its negative effects.