Feeding your hedgehog the right foods is one of the most important things you can do to keep your pet healthy. But in addition to their normal food, many hedgehog owners want to give their pets a snack or treat every once in a while, which usually includes some kind of vegetable. One particular vegetable that you may be wondering about feeding to your hedgehog is spinach.
We know spinach is highly nutritious for humans, but what about hedgehogs? The answer is that hedgehogs can eat spinach in small amounts. Although some nutrients in spinach are beneficial to hedgehogs, there are others that can cause harm in large amounts. In this article, we’ll explain everything you need to know about feeding spinach to your hedgehog.
What Nutrients Are Found In Spinach?
Spinach is considered to be a leafy green vegetable, so it is in a family that is similar to kale, lettuce, arugula, etc. It is full of many of the same nutrients as other leafy green vegetables which is why it is such a healthy vegetable for humans and some animals to eat.
Before we get into the nutritional content of spinach, you should know that there are actually two types of spinach. Flat-leaf spinach (also called baby spinach) is typically what comes in bags or cans at the grocery store, while savoy spinach is sold in fresh bundles.
As far as humans (and hedgehogs) are concerned, there is very little difference in the nutritional content of these two types of spinach. But the types of spinach were worth mentioning to eliminate any confusion, and both types are safe for your hedgehog to eat.
Now to get into the specific nutrients found in spinach. It contains many vitamins and minerals that can benefit a hedgehog’s health and others that can’t. Some of the beneficial nutrients include Vitamins A, C, and K and minerals such as potassium, phosphorus, and iron.
What Spinach Nutrients Are Good for Hedgehogs?
Here are the beneficial nutrients found in spinach and how they help your hedgehog:
The problem with these nutrients is that even though they are beneficial in some amounts, it is possible to get too much of them. Just like humans can take too many vitamin supplements, eating too much of one type of food can cause health problems also.
Some vitamins cause more problems than others when too much is eaten, but you can’t pull individual vitamins out of spinach. If your hedgehog eats too much spinach, it could start to negatively affect his health or cause him to get sick.
You also have to keep in mind that a hedgehog is a lot smaller than a person. They require less of any particular vitamin than humans do. That’s why even though a little bit of spinach isn’t harmful to hedgehogs, it shouldn’t be fed to them too much.
What Spinach Nutrients Are Bad for Hedgehogs?
In addition to getting too many vitamins, there are some nutrients found in spinach that can harm your hedgehog if he eats too much. For starters, spinach is full of fiber. This is okay in normal amounts, but the problem is that your hedgehog is already getting fiber from his normal diet. Too much fiber can cause your hedgehog to have an upset stomach.
Spinach also contains calcium, which again, isn’t bad in small amounts. But calcium is another thing that your hamster should be getting from his normal diet, which is why you shouldn’t feed him too much spinach.
Getting too much calcium can cause a condition known as hypercalcemia. With hypercalcemia, your hedgehog’s bones may become weakened and he could even develop kidney stones. Kidney stones can be dangerous for a hedgehog due to their small size, especially if the stone is too large for him to pass on his own. If that happens, your hedgehog will likely need surgery.
Another nutrient found in spinach that is bad for hedgehogs is oxalic acid. Although this nutrient is found in a lot of vegetables, it is higher in spinach. Oxalic acid, also called oxalate, is actually an antinutrient. Antinutrients are hard for hedgehogs (and even humans) to digest because they interfere with the body’s absorption of nutrients into the digestive system.
Too much oxalic acid can cause a condition known as hyperoxaluria. As with getting too much calcium, too much oxalic acid can lead to kidney stones. Plus, oxalic acid can build up in other parts of the body as well which can lead to conditions such as bone disease. This is yet another reason why spinach should only be fed to your hedgehog in small amounts.
Will Hedgehogs Eat Spinach?
The important thing to know about hedgehogs is that they are classified as insectivores. Insectivores are animals that primarily eat insects as their main source of food. However, they may also eat snails, slugs, worms, fruits and vegetables, and even eggs.
With that being said, your hedgehog may or may not eat spinach if you try to feed it to him. Some hedgehogs do like spinach and others may not eat it at all. But even if you do feed your hedgehog spinach, it should only be given as a treat or snack.
Vegetables are not essential for a hedgehog’s diet, as they get most of their essential nutrients from hedgehog food. Nutrients such as protein, carbohydrates, and even vitamins and minerals are all found in hedgehog food, so they don’t necessarily need extra. That’s why vegetables should only be given occasionally.
It’s also worth noting that your hedgehog may have special dietary needs in which he can’t eat certain foods. But even if he doesn’t have any special dietary needs and you want to feed him spinach, it is always a good idea to consult with your veterinarian before feeding him anything that is outside of this normal diet.
How Much and How Often Can Hedgehogs Eat Spinach?
Hedgehogs should only eat spinach about once a week or less. If you do feed him spinach, you want to make sure that you chop the spinach up into small pieces. Usually, about ½ a teaspoon of spinach is enough to start out with, especially until you know if your hedgehog is going to like it or not.
Even if your hedgehog does like it, he should never be given more than one leaf of baby spinach at a time (or the equivalent size of savoy spinach). But again, it is a good idea to consult your veterinarian about how much spinach is safe to feed your hedgehog and how often.
How to Prepare Spinach for a Hedgehog
If you’re going to give spinach to your hedgehog, make sure that you prepare it properly so it doesn’t cause any harm. The first thing you’ll need to do is only feed him fresh spinach. Avoid giving him leaves that are yellow, brown, or don’t like they’re supposed to. If you wouldn’t eat a particular piece of spinach, don’t give it to your hedgehog either.
Next, make sure that you wash the spinach to remove any bacteria or dirt. Then, cut off the stem and cut the leaves away from the stem. The stem is too hard for your hedgehog to eat.
Then, you’ll want to boil the spinach. Not only will boiled spinach be easier for your hedgehog to digest, but boiling it can also help remove some of the oxalates. Let the spinach cool down, then feed it to your hedgehog in a bowl by itself or mix it with his normal food. Remove any uneaten spinach once he is done eating.
We hope reading this made you feel more comfortable about feeding spinach to your hedgehog. But whether or not you decide to is ultimately up to you. Always feed spinach to your hedgehog in moderation as a treat or a snack, never as his main source of food. Spinach is not essential to a hedgehog’s diet and eating too much can make him sick. Remember that you should always consult your veterinarian if you’re unsure whether or not something is safe for your pet,