The care and keeping of hedgehogs is something that every hedgehog owner should be well versed on. That includes knowing how to feed them properly. A well-balanced diet for hedgehogs is an important part of keeping them healthy for their lifespan. But what about adding some treats like mealworms to the diet plan?
Mealworms are actually not good for hedgehogs to have on a regular basis. Eating mealworms can cause obesity in hedgehogs because of their high-fat content. It can also cause serious metabolic bone disease by removing the calcium from their bones.
Mealworms seem to be a common thing that owners of many different animals feed as treats. They can also feed them as a major part of their diet. As part of this article, I did research on how often you can feed your hedgehog mealworms. Not only that but I also looked into other animals that should not have mealworms often, if at all.
Why are Mealworms Bad for Hedgehogs?
While it is true that hedgehogs are insectivores and need to get protein from them to be healthy, mealworms are different. They are actually very low in protein with high-fat content. This is bad for hedgehogs, wild or pet.
Mealworms fed too often can cause the hedgehogs to become obese. It is easy to hedgehogs to gain weight and become so fat that they are unable to get around well. Which is why a low-fat diet is more beneficial for them. Mealworms can also remove the calcium from their bodies by causing a metabolic bone disease.
This disease can rob them of their ability to walk. Hedgehogs may look like a ball but they need to walk to move around. A well-balanced diet that is high in protein and low in fat will help make sure they can get around on their own.
A treat in moderation every now and then is fine. But there is not much nutritional value for hedgehogs in mealworms. It is comparable to humans having a handful of cupcakes every day. We would love it because it tastes delicious but it wouldn’t be good for us. We would gain weight along with other health problems.
What is a Mealworm?
The name is deceiving because mealworms are not actually worms. These treats that your pets love, but tend to be fattening, are actually the larva of the darkling beetle. This beetle goes by many names but is most commonly known as the darkling or flour beetle.
Because the larvae are baby beetles they have a high-fat content for energy use. This normal and natural for the mealworm but can cause health problems if you overfeed your mammals, reptiles, or birds.
How Often Can Hedgehogs Have Mealworms?
This is actually a topic that tends to be controversial in the hedgehog community. There are people that actually don’t think hedgehogs should have mealworms at all. However, giving your hedgehog the occasional treat of a few mealworms will not harm their health. There isn’t a guideline that says how often but most can agree that it shouldn’t be daily or even weekly.
What if a Hedgehogs Needs to Gain Weight?
There are times that a hedgehog is underweight and will need to put on some extra pounds to be healthy. Even in times likes these it isn’t wise to feed mealworms daily. There are healthier ways to put weight on your hedgehog.
Abodeforpets.com has a couple of recommendations when it comes to how to make your hedgehog gain weight. One of those is to feed kitten food to your hedgehog. It is higher in calories than some hedgehog food but does still have the nutritional value needed to keep them healthy.
Some hedgehog owners will also give baby food but this is more of a treat and shouldn’t be fed daily. Some baby food can be too rich for a hedgehog to process so proceed with caution. Cat treats are a good option if you want to give your pet a well-balanced treat that is nutritious.
You can also try to minimize activity until they have gained weight or increase the amount of food that they get to encourage weight gain. There are hedgehogs that are very active and burn off everything they eat very quickly. In this case, it might beneficial to add a meal or extra treats.
Why are Mealworms Bad for Birds?
Mealworms are actually not bad for birds. Most birds really enjoy these delicious treats but that is all they should be, treats. Much like it is with hedgehogs, mealworms do not provide complete nutrition for birds and need to be paired with fruits, nuts, and other foods.
Wild birds enjoy having these in the bird feeders especially when food is scarce or there are babies in the nest. However, you may want to feed these with caution to your pet bird. They typically do not get as much activity as the wild birds and can’t burn the fat as quickly.
Feeding mealworms to birds can be good and beneficial but the key to this is moderation. However, there are things that can be fed at treats and enrichment activities that would be healthier for pet birds. If you can avoid feeding mealworms to birds that are already at a healthy weight then that would be ideal.
Why are Mealworms Bad for Dogs?
It probably isn’t a good idea to encourage your dog to eat mealworms or any other kind of worm but they aren’t bad for them. There are bugs and worms that are can hurt dogs and for this reason, you should discourage consumption. Once dogs think that one type of worm or bug is good for them they will try to eat them all.
This could put your dog at risk accidentally. IF you are concerned that your dog might eat a bug or worm that they shouldn’t then you may not want to start feeding mealworms as a safety precaution.
With that being said, safe worms and larvae such as mealworms, are a good alternative source of protein for your furry friend. Just keep in mind that they are very high in fat and these should not replace well-balanced food sources. Just like with birds and hedgehogs, these should be more of a controlled treat.
Why are Mealworms Bad for Leopard Geckos?
Feeding leopard geckos looks a little different than feeding the other pets and animals that we have talked about. What is similar though is that they need a well-balanced and nutritionally complete diet to stay healthy. While mealworms seem to be a pretty popular larva to feed different animals, it is just not balanced. This is why mealworms are bad for leopard geckos.
It isn’t bad to feed them to your gecko as a treat in moderation but they are not a good everyday meal option. Unlike the animals that we have already talked about, there is another reason why mealworms are not the best food for leopard geckos.
Crickets are the best food source for leopard geckos because they are balanced nutritionally and their exoskeleton is easy to digest. This is not true for mealworms. The exoskeleton of a mealworm is very difficult for a gecko to digest which can cause health problems.
Geckos also like to hunt their prey so to speak which is another reason crickets are great. They are very stimulating for pet leopard geckos. Mealworms don’t move much. This does not give the gecko enrichment opportunities or practice catching prey like they would in the wild.
Mealworms can be a great treat for your hedgehog every once in a while. But it is not good to give as a meal or even every day. Remember that your hedgehog needs a balance low-fat diet to be healthy.