Peanut butter is often a household favorite.
Lovely, creamy and nutty. Most people would be very happy with some peanut butter spread on their toast.
But is peanut butter a food we can share with our pets?
In this article, I’ll look at whether gerbils should eat peanut butter and whether there are any health risks for gerbils eating peanut butter.
Gerbils can eat peanut butter. However, most peanut butter will have added ingredients that are not very healthy for gerbils. Whilst more natural peanut butter is technically safe, you should take caution if you’re planning to feed it to your gerbil as there are still health risks due to the high-fat content.
Before we look at some frequently asked questions about gerbils and peanut butter, it’s worth taking a look at a sweetener called Xylitol that has a bad reputation in the pet world.
Is Xylitol safe for gerbils
You will find Xylitol in many sugar-free variations of peanut butter, whilst little evidence supports Xylitol being bad for gerbils, it is known to cause harm to dogs.
Xylitol is an artificial sweetener and completely harmless to humans but in dogs ingestion of Xylitol can cause a rapid release of insulin, leading to a rapid decrease in blood sugar levels.
This condition can actually be fatal if left untreated, as a result, Xylitol has a pretty bad name in the world.
Having said that, these negative effects of Xylitol do seem to be very exclusive to dogs.
Of course, Xylitol is perfectly safe for humans to eat, I can find no conclusive proof or study to show that Xylitol is harmful to gerbils in the same way as it’s harmful to dogs.
It seems like gerbils would be perfectly fine to eat Xylitol; however, a large part of me thinks “what’s the point of taking the risk”.
It’s not like there are lots of studies on the effects of Xylitol for gerbils, so whilst there is no evidence that Xylitol is dangerous for gerbils there also isn’t much evidence to say that it’s safe either.
In my view, if there is even the slightest risk that Xylitol could harm (or even kill) your gerbil, I think it’s best not to feed your gerbil any product containing Xylitol.
As Xylitol is proven to be extremely dangerous to dogs I would recommend you avoid feeding it to any pet, including gerbils.
Luckily, not all peanut butter does contain Xylitol, so let’s take a look at whether your gerbil should be eating those varieties.
Should gerbils eat peanut butter
There is no clear answer to this question.
Different peanut butters contain vastly different ingredients.
As a general rule, you should only give the most natural peanut butter you can find to your gerbil.
Let’s take a look at added ingredients found in some peanut butter which aren’t particularly good for your gerbil’s health.
The levels of these ingredients will usually be far too high in commercial peanut butter to give to your gerbil.
Salt is often added to peanut butter.
Salt and peanuts are a classic combination, and although gerbils do need a certain amount of salt it is only really a very small amount.
If you think about how hard salt is to come by in the wild (except for perhaps at the coast) then you will start to understand how little salt is actually required for a balanced diet.
The likelihood is that your gerbil will get enough salt from their normal daily food.
Having too much salt in a gerbil’s diet could lead to sodium ion poisoning so it is best to avoid foods with added salt in general.
It probably comes as no surprise that too much sugar will be bad for your gerbil’s health.
When a gerbil ingests excess sugar which it can’t turn to energy, lots of it will be stored as fat, as a result, your gerbil may experience weight gain and higher blood pressure.
Most commercial peanut butters will contain lots of sugar, making them unsuitable as a treat for your gerbil.
Many peanut butters use hydrogenated oil to bind the mixture together.
The fat contained in hydrogenated oil is very difficult for your gerbil’s body to utilize, it just takes too much energy for the body to convert these fats.
It is known as stubborn fat, this has a double negative effect as the body uses a large amount of energy trying to break down these fats, increasing the internal temperature of the stomach which can create health issues of its own, then once the fat has failed to break down it is store in the gerbil’s body, creating weight gain and all the associated health issues.
Hydrogenated oil is bad news for your gerbil, so avoid peanut butter that contains it.
Natural products are the best option
Most commercial peanut butter contains lots of added ingredients that can cause an imbalance in your gerbil’s diet.
They should generally be avoided, but a more natural peanut butter may not be too bad for your gerbil.
If you do want to feed your gerbil peanut butter then the best option would be to choose as natural a product as possible, with no sweetener and little to no added sugar, salt or hydrogenated oil.
There are generally going to be quite premium brands of peanut butter, they will cost more but I would not recommend you treat your gerbil to any other commercial peanut butter other than these premium ones.
They will also be better for your health too!
Another alternative is to make your own peanut butter at home.
That way you know exactly which ingredients are going into the mixture and you can exclude anything which might be harmful to your gerbil.
Can gerbils eat peanuts
Gerbils can eat peanuts.
Just be sure to stay away from salted and roasted peanuts as the added salt and sugars will create an imbalance in your gerbil’s diet.
You should only feed your gerbil plain, ready peeled peanuts.
They are also extremely high in fat, so your gerbil should only have peanuts in small amounts.
However; there are some benefits to feeding your gerbil peanuts:
Nuts are known for their high protein content and this can be great for your gerbil.
Protein helps to maintain and repair cells and other tissues, it helps support the immune system and it aids in generating hormones, antibodies and enzymes.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps to neutralize ‘free radicals’, these are atoms that can cause harm to other cells in your gerbil’s body.
It also aids in keeping a well functioning immune system and good skin health, keeping your gerbil’s fur nice and shiny.
This vitamin helps maintain red blood cell generation and good nervous system function, as well as keeping a strong immune response in the gerbil.
Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
Vitamin B3 has many health benefits for your gerbil, including the breakdown of fatty acids which helps maintain an effective metabolism, maintain good cognitive function and ensure a healthy digestive tract.
Health risks of peanuts for gerbils
The main danger of peanuts is their extremely high-fat content. Peanuts contain around 49% fat.
A gerbil should eat no more than two to five peanuts every three days, and they should have plenty of exercise when they do to ensure any excess fat is burned off.
But there are also other risk with eating too many peanuts.
Peanuts are so highly packed with protein, vitamins and minerals that it doesn’t take too many to start causing an imbalance in your pet’s diet.
Peanuts are extremely high in protein. As I’ve discussed above this can have many health benefits for your gerbil and protein is a vital part of a balanced diet for your gerbil.
However, as peanuts are so high in protein it can be very easy for a gerbil to have too much.
Ultimately, when too much protein-rich food is digested by a gerbil only a certain amount can be digested and absorbed to perform all of those health-beneficial tasks such as muscle repair.
The remaining protein will either be broken down and used as energy or stored as fat.
Peanuts are so high in protein that if you give your gerbil too many, the majority of the protein will end up being stored as fat.
How much peanut butter can my gerbil eat
Try to source the most natural products you can with little or no added salt, sugar or hydrogenated oil.
Even better would be to make the peanut butter yourself using only ‘gerbil-friendly’ ingredients.
If you can’t do that then personally I would recommend that you don’t feed your gerbil any peanut butter.
But if you can get hold of natural peanut butter then the amount you give your gerbil should still be very small.
Peanut butter should only be a treat for your gerbil, so only given them of a teaspoon of peanut butter at most once a week.
The same goes for raw peanuts themselves, a gerbil should only have between two and five peanuts every three days, assuming they aren’t having other treats too.
Remember how small your gerbils are compared to you. If you saw a peanut the way a gerbil does it would be the size of a football!
So keep in mind that peanuts and peanut butter should be fed as a treat only and not as a standard part of their diet.
Gerbils don’t need to eat many peanuts before they will visibly start to gain weight.
So keep the amounts low and make sure they are taken out of their cage daily to get plenty of exercise and burn off that extra energy.