Should I Feed Hedgehogs Mealworms?

Should I Feed Hedgehogs Mealworms?

More people are now adopting hedgehogs as pets. Their spiny body and cute face are hard to resist. Moreover, taking care of such a small mammal is easy.

However, you need to remember that hedgehogs are insectivores. In the wild, they mostly eat insects, so they prefer meat.

An insect’s exoskeleton contains chitin, which hedgehogs can easily digest. This is necessary for their diet because it helps them keep their spine firm.

This brings up the question: What kind of insects do hedgehogs eat? The list is long, but one species most pet owners are concerned about is mealworms.

Though you can feed mealworms to your hedgehog, you must do it in moderation. You should only give it on special occasions as a treat.

The reason is that mealworms are hedgehog junk food. The more you give them, the more you risk making them unhealthy.

How Is Metabolic Bone Disease in Hedgehogs Connected to Mealworms?

Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD) is a common health problem in reptile communities and birds. Its discovery in hedgehogs is relatively new.

They are usually at risk when their diet contains less protein and more calcium and phosphorus. This imbalance in their body gives them a slow death.

Foods that cause MBD include mealworms, peanuts, oats, and sunflower hearts. The following chart shows the calcium to phosphorus ratio in different foods you can and cannot give your hedgehog:

Food TypeCalcium: Phosphorus
Puppy Food1.5:1 (A slight increase in calcium is good for bone development)
Wet Dog Food1.2:1 (Good)
Wet Cat Food1.1:1 (Good)
Dry Cat Food1.1:1 (Good)
Earthworms1.0:1 (Good)
Mealworms1.0:15 (Bad)
Sunflower Hearts1.0:7 (Bad)
Peanuts1.0:6 (Bad)

MBD Symptoms in Hedgehogs

  • Disturbance in calcium metabolism 
  • Joint abnormalities
  • Weak bones
  • Reduced nerve transmission
  • Blood may lose the ability to clot
  • Tremors in the heart
  • Weakened muscle contraction
  • Paralysis, cardiac arrest, and seizures

MBD Causes 

  • Calcium/phosphorus imbalance 
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Underlying illnesses
  • Lack of exercise

Amongst these, the main culprit is the calcium/phosphorus imbalance. You can easily rectify it by giving your hedgehog a balanced diet with more protein.

You might find yourself saying, “But my hedgehog loves mealworms.” However, you must stand firm on your decision. Hedgehogs love munching on anything sweet and salty. They are complete Homer Simpsons! The problem is that too much of mealworms are bad for them. They don’t know it, but now you do.

Mealworms Nutritional Value

  • Protein 19.06%
  • Fat: 17.7%
  • Fiber: 2.6%
  • Phosphorus: 2370 mg
  • Calcium: 177 mg
  • Thiamine: 0.6 mg
  • Calcium: Phosphorus Ratio: 1:13
  • Moisture: 57.9%

As you can see, mealworms don’t have any nutritional value. They contain too much phosphorus, which makes them sort of a candy for hedgehogs.

Since hedgehogs are insectivores, they easily get addicted to these insects.

Some might argue that at least they are getting chitin, but the amount is so insignificant that you end up harming your hedgehog.

Mealworms Are an Addiction

The taste of mealworms is so addictive that when you start giving them to your hedgehog, they always want it.

They will stop eating other food and starve themselves until you give them their favorite treat.

So, what makes them so heavenly?

Mealworms are fatty, and they taste and smell delicious to a hedgehog. This tiny mammal has a small stomach and no sense of how much it should eat.

As a result, you need to monitor your hedgehog while it is eating because it can choke to death.

In the case of mealworms, hedgehogs keep eating even when full once they get a taste, which can cause obesity.

How Many Mealworms Can I Give to My Hedgehog?

Four, weekly.

If you keep a bowl full of mealworms in front of your hedgehog, you will see them consume it in a matter of a few minutes.

As you can guess, this can lead to overconsumption. Don’t be alarmed if your hedgehog spikes up when you try to take their treats. They really do love mealworms!

Are Dried Mealworms Good for Hedgehogs?

So, you can’t find any live mealworms. You decide to get some frozen treats for your pet. Not a good idea! Frozen mealworms don’t contain any nutritional value.

All your hedgehog will be consuming is empty calories that will make it put on some weight.

Storing Live Mealworms

You need to be extra careful when storing live mealworms. It’s important to refrigerate, or they will turn into beetles.

The cold will prolong the larvae stage, allowing you to feed them easily to your hedgehog.

Let’s take a look at the bugs and insects you can and cannot give your hedgehog:

Safe Insects for Hedgehogs

  • Grasshoppers
  • Crickets
  • Dubia Roaches
  • Wax Worms
  • Hornworms
  • Snails
  • Maggots (Spikes)
  • Pinkies
  • Darkling Beetles
  • Calci Worms
  • Isopods (Woodlice)
  • Butter Worms
  • Nightcrawler
  • Slugs
  • Phoenix Worms
  • Blackworm
  • Silkworms
  • Bloodworm

Insects to Avoid

  • Morio Worms
  • Super worms
  • Dried Mealworms
  • Voles
  • Earthworms
  • Flies
  • Termite
  • June Bugs

Insects on the “No” List

  • Ants
  • Spiders
  • Mosquitoes
  • Millipedes
  • Snakes
  • Centipedes

Letting Your Hedgehog into the Garden

Your garden is full of yummy insects, and letting your hedgehog out in the open is like giving them free rein to eat whatever they want.

The more insects they consume without supervision, the more likely they are to eat the ones that cause deficiencies in their body.

So, when you bring a hedgehog into your home, the first thing you should do is give it wet cat food.

It contains enough protein to improve your hedgehog’s digestive system. You can then slowly introduce them to different, safe insect treats.

Things to Remember

  • You must feed your hedgehog a diet that monitors their phosphorus and calcium ratio.
  • Treats must be used as a supplement and not a part of a diet. It’s not a healthy source of nutrients.
  • Though mealworms are addictive, you can give them to your hedgehog in moderation.
  • Hedgehogs love to forage, so turn it into a game instead of just giving them the treat. This will add a daily dose of exercise to their routine.

If you have adopted a wild hedgehog, avoid giving it mealworms for a couple of worms. Your new spiny friend has probably eaten a lot on their own.

Feeding Wild Hedgehogs

When it comes to feeding wild hedgehogs, it’s important to remember that they primarily eat insects and worms in the wild.

While it’s okay to feed them supplemental food, it’s best to avoid feeding them too much or too often. Overfeeding can lead to obesity and other health problems.

If you’re providing food for wild hedgehogs, it’s important to keep water available as well.

Hedgehogs need access to clean water to stay hydrated and healthy. You can provide a shallow dish of water near the food source, making sure to change it regularly to prevent bacteria growth.

It’s also important to be mindful of the types of food you’re offering. While mealworms can be a treat for hedgehogs, they should be fed in moderation.

Too many mealworms can lead to high levels of phosphorus, which can cause calcium deficiency and other health issues.

If you’re unsure about what to feed wild hedgehogs or how much to offer, it’s always best to consult with a veterinarian or wildlife expert.

They can provide guidance on the best types of food and feeding schedules to ensure the health and well-being of the hedgehogs.

Overall, providing supplemental food for wild hedgehogs can be a great way to support their health and survival.

Just remember to offer food and water in moderation and seek expert advice if you’re unsure about how to proceed.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, mealworms are addictive to hedgehogs. If you cannot take care of your hedgehog because of your hectic work schedule, it’s better to avoid giving them mealworms altogether.

Since you won’t be able to play with them, they won’t receive any exercise.

As a treat, four mealworms weekly (one a day) is the ideal amount. Yes, mealworms offer chitin and protein, but in very few amounts compared to phosphorus.

The imbalance in your pet’s body will slowly start with weight gain and progress to weak bones and, eventually, death.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

As we explore the topic of feeding hedgehogs’ mealworms, we have compiled a list of frequently asked questions to help you better understand the topic.

Can hedgehogs eat mealworms?

Yes, hedgehogs can eat mealworms. In fact, mealworms are a favorite snack of hedgehogs and can be given as a treat.

However, it is important to note that mealworms should be given sparingly as they are not nutritionally complete and can lead to health problems if given in excess.

How many mealworms can I give my hedgehog?

It is recommended to give hedgehogs only a few mealworms at a time, generally 2-4 per serving.

Overfeeding mealworms can lead to obesity and other health issues. It is also important to note that mealworms should not be the sole source of nutrition for hedgehogs.

Are there any risks associated with feeding hedgehogs mealworms?

Feeding hedgehogs too many mealworms can lead to health issues such as metabolic bone disease, which can cause bone density loss and weaken the hedgehog’s bones.

In addition, mealworms are high in phosphorus, which can leach calcium from the hedgehog’s bones and teeth. It is important to give mealworms in moderation and as part of a balanced diet.

Can I feed my hedgehog other insects besides mealworms?

Yes, there are other insects that hedgehogs can eat, such as crickets, waxworms, and silkworms. However, it is important to research the nutritional content of these insects and feed them in moderation as well.

How often should I feed my hedgehog mealworms?

Mealworms should be given as a treat and not as a regular part of a hedgehog’s diet.

It is recommended to give mealworms once or twice a week at most. It is important to provide hedgehogs with a balanced diet that includes a variety of foods.

In summary, mealworms can be given to hedgehogs as a treat, but should be given sparingly and as part of a balanced diet.

Overfeeding mealworms can lead to health issues, so it is important to give them in moderation.

Hedgehogs can also eat other insects, but these should also be given in moderation and as part of a balanced diet.

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