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Can Gerbils Eat Lettuce and Do They Like It?

can gerbils eat lettuce

Of all the fearful veggies we have discovered on the planet, lettuce might just be one of the better ones.  We use it in various recipes like salads, veggie wraps, and the occasional weird juice concoction. Oh, how we suffer for health!

But what about your pet? Can Gerbils eat lettuce? Is it a delicious treat to add to their diet?

We’ve all come to the conclusion that gerbils have a high appetite, and will eat almost anything you put in front of them. Hide all the chocolates in the house people! This can harm your pet if they snack on it!

If you have lettuce stashed in the house and wouldn’t mind sharing some with your pet, read on to find out if it’s the best choice. 

Can Gerbils Eat Lettuce?

You’ll be happy to know that gerbils can eat lettuce and benefit from this leafy green as part of a varied diet. Just as with any other food, gerbils should eat lettuce in moderation and not too much.

According to Durham Veterinarian, gerbils should have fresh veggies and fruits as a part of their diet. This should be in smaller quantities than their regular pellet food. 

Do Gerbils Like Lettuce?

gerbil standing

Gerbils do love a variety of foods which makes it very easy to feed them. In fact, I think if they had a choice, they might ransack your entire house!

Veggies are a great source of nutrients and gerbils do enjoy them – especially because of the texture.  I don’t believe your gerbil will resist lettuce if you introduce it, as they are inquisitive little creatures and will try new things. 

Do Gerbils Eat Lettuce in the Wild?

Wild gerbils have access to seeds, grasses, and leaves in the wild and feed on these items primarily. Lettuce would not generally be available to gerbils in the wild, so they might not be used to it. However, once introduced to lettuce, gerbils should eat it readily as they are not picky eaters. Despite this, each gerbil is different and some may refuse to eat it.

Nutritional Value of Lettuce

According to the USDA nutrition base, lettuce contains the following nutritional values:

Energy 15 Kcal 1 %

Carbohydrates 2.87 g 2%

Protein 1.36 g 2%

Total Fat 0.15 g 0.5%

Cholesterol 0 mg 0%

Dietary Fiber 1.3 g 3%

Folates 38 µg 9.5%

Niacin 0.375 mg 2%

Pantothenic acid 0.134 mg 2.5%

Pyridoxine 0.090 mg 7%

Riboflavin 0.080 mg 6 %

Thiamin 0.070 mg 6%

Vitamin A 7405 IU 247%

Vitamin C 9.2 mg 15%

Vitamin E-alpha 0.29 mg 2%

Vitamin K 126.3 µg 105%

Sodium 28 mg 2%

Potassium 194 mg 4%

Calcium 36 mg 3.5%

Copper 0.029 mg 3%

Iron 0.86 mg 10%

Magnesium 13 mg 3%

Manganese 0.250 mg 11%

Phosphorus 29 mg 4%

Zinc 0.18 mg 1.5%

Carotene-ß 4443 µg

One thing that lettuce has a lot of is water. While hydration is great, especially for humans, gerbils don’t need a lot of it. They need a healthy balanced diet containing grasses, leaves, nuts, and seeds. Gerbils prefer a drier diet which they have access to in the wild.

Water should be provided to your gerbils each day through a clean water bottle and changed regularly. 

Health Benefits of Lettuce for Gerbils

Still, lettuce is a healthy choice all around. As shown in the table above, It contains vitamins, C, K, and A, along with Folate, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, and a host of other great nutrients

So, is lettuce good for gerbils?

These nutrients are great for your gerbil because they all play a part in keeping your gerbil healthy and happy.  Vitamin C is a fantastic antioxidant that will boost the immune system. Vitamin K can help strengthen bones which prevents fractures, and is beneficial as gerbils can have frequent falls.

 In tandem with this, calcium is essential for keeping bones strong, and if calcium is lacking, gerbils can suffer from calcium-phosphorus imbalances. Vitamin A acts as an antioxidant and is great for your gerbil’s eye health. Magnesium is a macro-nutrient that helps your gerbil maintain a steady heartbeat and supports muscle and nerve function. Phosphorus on the other hand is great for your gerbil’s bones and teeth, while potassium supports your gerbil’s bone and muscle strength. Finally, folate is super important and actually helps to make DNA. 

So as you can see, these vitamins are essential to a gerbil’s health and they should receive them regularly. 

Types of Lettuce to Feed to Gerbils

As you may already know, there are a variety of lettuce types out there. Some have different tastes and crunches that your gerbils will enjoy. These small rodents are chomping powerhouses that love to eat a variety of greens – lettuce included. 

The crunchy leaves help to keep your gerbil’s teeth filed appropriately and also keep them energized with the essential nutrients it provides. Also, the darker the lettuce, the healthier it is for your gerbil. 

Seeing that gerbils enjoy the crunchiness of lettuce, it can add some variety to their diet and is safe as long as it’s not overdone. It might also be fun for gerbils to crunch on lettuce as they seem to love crunchy foods. 

The following types of lettuce are safe for your gerbils to snack on:

  • Arugula
  • Kale
  • Chard
  • Romain lettuce
  • Lamb’s lettuce
  • Red leaf lettuce
  • Butter lettuce
  • Carrot tops
  • Spinach
  • Endive
  • Dandelion greens
  • Bok choy

Are There any Dangers of Feeding Lettuce to Gerbils?

Gerbil with buttercups

There can be complications in feeding your gerbil lettuce, depending on the type of lettuce or the amount.

As mentioned before, the water content in lettuce is high, so it should be fed to your gerbil in moderation.

A healthy diet for your gerbil involves rotating foods to be sure that she is getting a balanced diet.

Gerbils should drink around 4ml of water each day, much of which will be obtained through fresh water in a clean water bottle. A small gerbil can quickly surpass its daily water intake through veggies and fruits. Lettuce is one of these veggies with high water content. Therefore, it’s best to give your gerbil lettuce in small amounts.

What Happens if My Gerbil Eats Too Much Lettuce?

First, let me make it clear that lettuce is NOT unhealthy for your gerbil once taken in moderate amounts. However, you should take special care to keep note of how often your gerbil eats it to keep track of her diet and nutritional balance. 

That being said, too much water from lettuce can cause issues like:

Diarrhea: Too much water in your gerbil’s diet can lead to diarrhea. Gerbils are accustomed to a dry diet so this complication is not a good sign.

Dehydration: This can be caused by diarrhea and should be treated as soon as possible. 

Hyponatremia: This can result from your gerbil getting too much liquid which leads to the dilution of sodium and other electrolytes in your gerbil’s system. 

Excess Calcium: While calcium is a benefit for any pet, too much can cause a gerbil’s urine to thicken and lead to urinary infections. 

Each of these complications can lead to death if not dealt with quickly. If you notice that your pet is experiencing any of these issues, bring her to the vet as soon as possible!

How Often to Feed a Gerbil Lettuce

Since lettuce is not toxic to gerbils and they can eat it moderately, how much is too much? Lettuce has a high water content, so owners should give not feed their gerbils this item more than 2-3 times per week. This will be a small piece that they can nibble on, about the size of a large coin. 

Can Gerbils Have Iceberg Lettuce?

While gerbils can eat some lettuce, they should avoid Iceberg lettuce due to its high water content. A substance known as lactucarium is found in all types of lettuce. It can be harmful to gerbils in large amounts and lead to diarrhea. 

Iceberg lettuce contains more lactucarium than other types of lettuce and the substance is found in lighter-colored lettuce. As mentioned before, the darker the lettuce, the healthier it is for your gerbil. Iceberg lettuce contains little nutritional value, so your gerbil won’t really miss out.

Healthy Alternatives to Lettuce

Since lettuce is not the perfect snack for your gerbil, what other healthy options are there for your little friend? Gerbils are omnivores and can enjoy a variety of healthy snacks.

Healthy foods for gerbils include:

  • Oats
  • Bananas
  • Raspberries
  • Apples (remove seeds)
  • Peanuts
  • Carrots
  • Broccoli
  • Green beans

How to Prepare Lettuce for your Gerbil

This doesn’t take much effort and will require the same process as preparing lettuce for yourself. Simply chop the lettuce into small pieces and place it in a clean bowl. Your gerbil may or may not show interest in the lettuce, but if interested, he may sniff it and try a piece. You can also offer a piece to him if he shows signs of interest. If your gerbil likes it congrats! If not, give him one of his favorite treats!

Can Gerbils Eat Lettuce: Final Thoughts

Lettuce is a nutritious product that both humans and most animals can eat. For gerbils, some types of lettuce like Arugula, Bak Choy, chard, Romaine lettuce, and others, can be good snacks for your pet to eat from time to time. Gerbils have large appetites and will eat most of the food available to them, including lettuce.

However, as a loving pet owner, take caution and do not feed your gerbil lettuce more than 3 times per week. Also, you should avoid giving your gerbil iceberg lettuce because it contains high amounts of lactucarium which can affect your gerbil’s digestive system. 

All in all, always look for ways to give your gerbil high-quality food like gerbil pellet food and small amounts of fresh fruits and veggies.

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