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, pineapples are a tasty fruit full of vitamin C. But can gerbils eat pineapples, or are there better alternatives?

Gerbils should never eat pineapples, not even small pieces of pineapple. Pineapple is a fruit that has high acidity and contains the enzyme bromelain. High acidity combined with a high sugar and water content can cause health issues. For this reason, gerbils should never eat pineapples.

Fruit should never replace the main diet of gerbils. Gerbils are desert animals and they naturally feed on seeds and grasses. Specially formulated seed and pellet mixes contain all nutrients that your gerbil needs to live a long and healthy life. 

Many seed and pellet mixes contain a small percentage of fruits such as apples or bananas. Pineapples have a lot of nutrients but they are one of the few fruits that are not suitable for gerbils. They should never be given to gerbils. You can give far better alternatives to your gerbils.

Do Gerbils Eat Pineapples in the Wild?

Gerbils live in arid regions and Mongolian gerbils are no exception. Mongolian gerbils live in grassland, shrubland, and desert areas and are used to living with only a limited amount of water.

The temperatures in the natural habitat of these gerbils can get up to 50 °C (122 °F), although usually, the temperatures are lower. Water is scarce in this region and you would think that a pineapple plant wouldn’t grow well in this region.

Pineapple plant

Pineapple plants need water to grow and the desert doesn’t have enough water or rainfall to sustain pineapple plants. Only an oasis can sustain pineapple plants. Pineapple plants are best grown in tropical climates. The natural habitat of gerbils doesn’t fit this profile. This means that no pineapples are available in the gerbils’ natural habitat.

Mongolian gerbils will eat seeds, roots, bulbs, and herbs. When they’re available, gerbils will also eat fruit and insects, depending on the time of year and their region. Pineapples aren’t available to them but this doesn’t mean that a gerbil won’t try a pineapple if you leave it in its enclosure. We’ll discuss the reasons why you shouldn’t do this, in a few minutes.

Nutritional Value of Pineapples (Analysis)

You can find the nutritional value of pineapples on FoodData Central, a US Department of Agriculture database. Below you can find the most important data:

NutrientAmount (per 100 grams)
Water86 g
Protein0.54 g
Fiber1.4 g
Sugars9.85 g
Calcium12 mg
Magnesium7 mg
Phosphorus8 mg
Vitamin C47.8 mg

Fiber

Gerbils have a very simple stomach and don’t have a well-developed cecum and colon. According to the book Nutrient Requirements of Laboratory Animals, this suggests that they are adapted to mostly eat low-fiber foods such as seeds.

Fresh pineapples have around 1.5 % fiber per serving, while dried or dehydrated pineapples have around 4% fiber per serving. These percentages are similar to the fiber content of seed mixes and pellets for gerbils.

Minerals

Gerbils are prone to seizures and there is an elevated risk when gerbils are fed a low-magnesium diet. However, according to a study from Harriman in 1974, this risk was eliminated when magnesium was added to the diet at 1.39 grams per kilogram. Magnesium also plays a role in preventing alopecia and weight loss. The recommended dietary magnesium concentration is 1.5 grams per kilogram, while the minimum is 1.0 grams per kilogram.

Pineapples contain around 7 mg of magnesium per 100 grams, which equals 0.07 grams per kilogram. Most quality seed mixes and pellet diets will contain enough magnesium to keep your gerbils healthy. Pineapples won’t do too much but can add a little bit of magnesium.

Vitamins

Pineapples are rich in several vitamins and have a high concentration of vitamin C. Vitamins play an important role in keeping gerbils healthy and can prevent certain health issues.

Water

Gerbils don’t drink a lot of water, but they should always have access to water. They’re desert animals and can survive a long time without water. In captivity, you should provide fresh water daily.

A gerbil’s body isn’t adjusted to drinking a lot of water and pineapples contain approximately 86% of water. So when you give too many pineapples or give them too many times in a week, your gerbil can get health issues such as diarrhea.

Sugar

Fresh pineapples contain around 10% sugar per piece and dried or dehydrated pineapples even contain much more (70% or more). Gerbils aren’t used to eating many sugary foods and their sugar intake should be limited. Too much sugar is bad for your gerbil’s teeth and their body will have problems digesting it.

Calcium to phosphorus ratio of pineapples

The calcium to phosphorus ratio is a ratio between two minerals. It’s vital for bone growth and bone health in humans and rodents. According to the book Nutrient Requirements of Laboratory Animals, the amount of calcium that gerbils need is 5.0g/kg diet and the amount of phosphorus is 3.0g/kg diet. Based on this data, the correct calcium to phosphorus ratio for gerbils is around [1.7]:[1].

A pineapple’s calcium to phosphorus ratio is [1.5]:[1], which is a good ratio for gerbils. However, they are too acidic to feed to gerbils.

Acidity (pH scale)

According to Healthline, pineapples have a pH level of 3 to 4. This means that pineapples are highly acidic. In humans, they can cause reflux symptoms.

Bromelain

Pineapples contain the enzyme bromelain. Although bromelain is commonly derived from the stem of pineapples, it is present in all parts of the plant.[1]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bromelain The enzyme has some beneficial effects when dosed properly. It should be noted that the LD50 dose for rats has been determined at greater than 10 000 mg/kg body weight. [2]https://www.ema.europa.eu/en/documents/mrl-report/bromelain-porcine-species-european-public-maximum-residue-limit-assessment-report-epmar-cvmp_en.pdf These high amounts won’t be naturally ingested by gerbils when given an occasional (small) piece of pineapple.

Are Pineapples Bad for Gerbils?

Online resources

This post on ‘The Gerbil Forum’ mentions a list of safe and unsafe food and concludes that pineapple is a safe food. However, the author also mentions that citrus fruit should be limited because of its high acidic content.

According to the German website Gerbil Crossing, pineapples should never be given to gerbils because of the high acidic content.

According to this post on the community Renmaus.de pineapples should not be fed to gerbils. Members of the community do say that there are different opinions.

Gerbil Societies

The American Gerbil Society website teaches us that citrus fruit should be avoided. However, there is no detailed explanation for why they should be avoided. This is possible because of the high acidic content of citrus fruit, which can cause indigestion and other health issues in small animals.

The RSPCA doesn’t specifically mention citrus fruit. They even mention that fruit such as oranges can be given. Oranges are also a citrus fruit and they have a similar pH level as pineapples. They also contain roughly the same percentage of water.

WebMD mentions citrus fruit as a food to avoid for gerbils but also doesn’t clarify why citrus fruit should be avoided.

Why Gerbils Shouldn’t Eat Pineapples

The most obvious reason why gerbils shouldn’t eat pineapples is the combination of:

  • a high percentage of water
  • a high percentage of sugar
  • the acidity (pH level)

Although anecdotal evidence shows that giving small amounts of pineapples won’t cause harm to gerbils, it’s much better to give healthier treats that are more nutritional.

Healthy Treats (Alternatives)

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.

References

References
1 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bromelain
2 https://www.ema.europa.eu/en/documents/mrl-report/bromelain-porcine-species-european-public-maximum-residue-limit-assessment-report-epmar-cvmp_en.pdf

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