There’s so much to learn if you are thinking about getting yourself a hedgehog or if you are a brand-new proud owner of one. Getting the diet right is imperative, just like for any pet, but the hedgehog has particular nutritional needs. Since their diets are made up primarily of insects, you might wonder if giving your hedgie fresh fruit as a snack is okay. More specifically, are apples good for hedgehogs?
Apples are perfectly safe for your hedgehog to eat, but only in moderation. Apples are acidic and high in sugar, so while they are safe to eat, they aren’t exactly healthy.
Here, we look at the good and the bad of giving apples to your hedgies, how much is a safe amount to feed your hedgehog, and the best ways to prepare the apples.
A Hedgehog Diet
Hedgehogs are native to Asia, Europe, Africa, and New Zealand, and there are 17 kinds of hedgies. The four-toed hedgehog, or the African Pygmy, is the most popular of the domesticated hedgies.
Hedgehogs are insectivores, so they have specific dietary requirements. Insectivores are mammals, such as moles, shrews, and hedgehogs, that have a diet consisting predominantly of insects, earthworms, and arthropods.
Besides insects, hedgehogs eat lizards, amphibians, eggs, fish, snakes, mushrooms, carrion, berries, melons, and roots.
Pet hedgies are fed pellets made specifically for them in addition to earthworms, waxworms, and crickets. Hedgehogs definitely prefer catching live prey over anything else, so there needs to be a balance. If they are given too many live insects, they might become overweight, as this leads to an unbalanced diet.
The pellets and prey can be supplemented with a small amount of fresh fruit and vegetables, which can include apples.
A Little Bit About the Apple
Apples are definitely a healthy fruit but are they beneficial for hedgehogs?
The Downside of Apples for Hedgehogs
While apples are a great snack for us, they don’t provide any real health benefits for our hedgies.
Lack of Protein
Hedgehogs need a diet that is fairly high in protein (about 30% to 50%) and low in fat (about 10% to 20%).
The issue with apples is that while they are low in fat, they have no protein, so they don’t add any actual benefit to a hedgehog’s diet.
Beyond the lack of protein, there are a few other issues to be aware of.
High in Sugar
Apples may contain natural sugars, but these are still sugars, and apples have high amounts. One large apple can have 25 grams of sugar and is known to contain more sugar and carbs than most other fruits.
Too much sugar for your hedgie can lead to health problems such as dental disease and obesity.
Hedgies are quite prone to dental issues, including gingivitis, tartar, and periodontal disease. A diet high in sugar for hedgehogs can lead to a buildup of tartar, which can eventually lead to infections and abscesses, which will be painful for a hedgehog.
Hedgies are also prone to obesity, so you need to be careful to not overfeed your pet and ensure that they’re getting enough exercise. Wild hedgehogs have been known to run an average of 5 miles every night!
Calcium to Phosphorus Ratio
Hedgehogs are prone to metabolic bone disease (MBD), which is caused by an imbalance in the ratio of calcium to phosphorus in their diet.
A small apple has 6 mg of calcium and 10 mg of phosphorus, but what is necessary for a hedgie’s diet is a ratio of 2:1 or 1:1. This means the calcium should be the same or higher than the phosphorus, which is clearly not the case with apples. MBD is a serious disease that can lead to having the hedgehog put to sleep.
MBD isn’t always caused by the calcium to phosphorus issue, but it’s a key factor, so it’s important to ensure that your hedgehog has a healthy and balanced diet.
How Much Apple Is Okay?
Since apples shouldn’t be a part of the hedgie’s regular diet, they should only be given to them as an occasional snack. You shouldn’t give apples to your hedgehog more than three times a week, but once a week or less is probably fine.
You’ll want to aim for only about ½ a teaspoon at a time, and it’s recommended that you combine the apple with a fruit and vegetable mix.
What’s the Best Way to Serve the Apple?
You should start by thoroughly washing the apple. Combine 1 teaspoon of baking soda with about 2 cups of cool water and soak the apple for at least 15 minutes. This should remove any excess dirt, chemicals, and pesticides.
It’s generally recommended that you peel the apple before giving it to your hedgehog as the skin might get caught in their teeth. But otherwise, the skin is a healthy part of the apple, and it’s okay if you don’t peel the apple beforehand.
You can cut the apple into cubes or slices, but you should be sure to remove any apple seeds. Apple seeds contain amygdalin, which turns into cyanide when it is digested. It won’t cause your hedgie any harm if one apple seed is consumed — it’s more likely to be problematic if multiple seeds are eaten. The seeds can also pose a choking hazard, so it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your hedgie’s health.
Is Apple Juice Okay?
For the most part, no. Some apple juice is sweetened with sugar, which makes it far too sugary for your hedgehog. Even if the apple juice hasn’t been sweetened, it’s still concentrated apple in a glass, which is far more sugary than a few pieces of apple.
Apple juice also doesn’t contain the highly beneficial fiber of a raw apple, so just stick with apple slices and avoid the juice.
Apples make nice occasional treats for your hedgie, but only if your hedgie actually wants them. There’s always the possibility that your hedgehog might not even like apples — they tend to be rather particular creatures.
If in doubt, speak to your vet before introducing any new food or treats to your hedgehog’s diet. You are what you eat, after all, and you’ll want to keep your hedgehog in good health for its entire life.