Can Gerbils Eat Avocados? (Toxicity of Persin to Gerbils)

Gerbils love to eat all kinds of seeds and need a balanced diet to keep them healthy. However, an occasional (healthy) snack can bring a little bit of variation in the diet. For example, avocado is a popular fruit that many people love to eat. But can gerbils eat avocado, or are there better alternatives?

Gerbils can’t eat any part of the avocado. This is because the avocado contains the chemical persin in the plant’s fruit, pits, leaves, and bark. Persin is toxic to small rodents such as gerbils and can potentially cause death or severe health issues even when you give a small amount.

Persin is present primarily in the leaves, the skin, and the seed of the avocado. But the fruit itself also contains small amounts of persin. Because the well-being of your gerbils is your highest priority, you should never give them any part of the avocado.

If you want to give a snack, you can provide a lot of other safe fruit that won’t cause health issues (when given in moderation). The most common fruit that people give to gerbils are apples, strawberries, and bananas. You can also provide commercially available treats such as crocks.

Why Is Avocado Dangerous for Gerbils?

What is persin?

Persin is a so-called fungicidal toxin. Although it is present in the seed of the avocado, the toxin also permeates into the rest of the fruit. The low concentrations of persin in the fruit are generally harmless for humans. However, smaller animals such as dogs and rodents can be poisoned, even in lower concentrations.[1]

Avocado fruit

Symptoms of persin toxicity

The symptoms of persin toxicity depend on the dose and not all animals seem to show the same symptoms. However, generally, the following symptoms have been detected:

  • lethargy
  • weakness
  • depression
  • agitation
  • difficulty breathing
  • liver and kidney failure

If the dose of persin is high enough or if there are complications from other health issues, persin can cause death.

To give you an example of the consequences of persin toxicity in other animals, you can find a table with them below, based on the MSD Veterinary Manual:

AnimalSymptoms of persin toxicity
Birdsincreased heart rate
myocardial tissue damage
death (high doses)
Lactating rabbits & micemastitis
Rabbitscardiac arrhythmia
submandibular edema
death (high doses)
Cows & goatsmastitis
Micenon-fatal injury to lactating mammary gland
necrosis of myocardial fibers
death (high doses)

How toxic is persin to gerbils?

No research published online has determined the lethal dose (LD50) of persin in gerbils. Therefore, it is difficult to determine the health issues gerbils will experience when given persin. However, persin toxicity and its symptoms have been determined in many other rodents.

What to Do When Your Gerbil Eats Avocado?

When your gerbil has eaten avocado it’s important to seek the help and advice of a vet. Since I’m no vet I can’t give any further advice.

If you haven’t already done so, find a vet in your neighborhood that’s specialized in gerbils and write down their number. Put it down on a piece of paper and keep it close for emergencies. Also, locate the nearest pet hospital and do the same.

If you live in the USA you can find emergency vets and pet hospitals on and

What Treats Are Safe for Gerbils?

So, gerbils shouldn’t be fed avocado but what can they eat? There are a lot of safe and healthy treats available for gerbils:

  • seeds
  • nuts
  • fruit
  • vegetables
  • plants & herbs
  • mealworms
  • crickets
  • scrambled or boiled eggs
  • unsweetened breakfast cereal

If you want to give ready-to-go snacks to your gerbils I would recommend the following snacks:

Want to Learn More?

If you’re interested in learning more about gerbils as pets, please read the following articles:

If you’re interested in getting gerbils as pets, you should read our beginner’s guide to keeping gerbils as pets and our gerbil care guide.



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