Blueberries are well-known as a superfood with lots of vitamins, paticularly vitamin C. But is what’s good for you good for your chinchilla, too?
Can chinchillas eat blueberries? They should not, as blueberries will cause diarrhea in large enough quantities. That’s because they contain lots of fructose which your chinchilla struggles to digest. They’re also highly acidic, contain lots of water and have low fiber, which all contribute to loose stool. Besides that, they don’t meet your chinchilla’s protein or fat requirements. So, feed a more suitable snack like sweet hay or herbs instead.
The guide below first looks at why chinchillas can’t eat blueberries, through reference to their nutritional values. We’ll explore exactly what makes them so likely to cause diarrhea, before making recommendations on how much they should eat (exactly none!)
Can Chinchillas Eat Blueberries?
Chinchillas shouldn’t eat blueberries. They can cause bloating, and could cause diarrhea through several means. Giving your pet one blueberry, once, might not cause these effects; but because there are many more suitable snacks out there, you should feed these instead.
Do Chinchillas Like Blueberries?
This is part of the problem! Chinchillas love anything sweet: any fruit, most kinds of vegetables, and definitely blueberries. But that doesn’t make them any less bad for your pet. As such, they’re comparable to something like candy or potato chips.
Why Can’t Chinchillas Eat Blueberries?
There are several core reasons why chinchillas can’t eat blueberries.
- They cause diarrhea. Their high water content, acidity, high levels of vitamin C, high levels of fructose, low level of fiber and incompatibility with your chinchilla’s gut all contribute to loose/runny stool.
- Your chinchilla doesn’t need as much sugar as blueberries contain. On top of contributing to diarrhea, excess sugar can eventually cause diabetes.
- Blueberries don’t have enough fiber, fat or protein. So aside from the bad effects they have, they don’t contribute positively to your chinchilla’s health either.
It’s the nutrients in blueberries that mean it isn’t suitable for chinchillas.
Nutrients in Blueberries
The table below has been assembled from data sourced at NutritionValue.org, and details each key nutrient. Alongside each figure for blueberries is the corresponding figure of how much chinchillas actually need. This data applies to all kinds of blueberries.
|Nutrients||Amount per 100g||Requirements|
The chinchilla’s precise dietary requirements aren’t fully understood. Different sources give different values that they believe are most appropriate. This one, for example, states that chinchillas need between 15-23% fiber in their diets. Another well-known source gives a figure of 30%. Whatever the precise optimal figure, hay seems to meet it perfectly, while fruits and vegetables don’t.
The first problem with blueberries is their high water content. Chinchillas do best on a diet of little water. That’s because they’re from a very dry part of the world, the mountainsides of the Andes; the nearby Atacama Desert is officially the driest place on earth, with some weather stations there having never seen rainfall since they were set up. While it’s not quite that dry where chinchillas live, it’s still a very arid environment. As such, they conserve whatever water they get.
When they eat foods with lots of water in them, they can therefore cause digestive problems. Water is absorbed through the colon, but if there’s too much water, it can’t all be absorbed. It therefore comes out as part of the stool, making it looser, even fluid.
Fiber, Acid, Fructose & Loose Diarrhea
There are several other factors that make diarrhea more likely and/or worse. These are the low fiber level of blueberries, fructose and the fact that they’re acidic.
Fructose is naturally-occurring fruit sugar. The table above shows that blueberries contain about 10g per 100g of pure fructose, which is more than chinchillas should eat of any kind of sugar. This is bad for your chinchilla’s blood overall health (and, yes, chinchillas can get diabetes).
But on top of that, they aren’t used to digesting fruit sugars as they very rarely eat them. According to recent scientific research, fructose that isn’t absorbed properly in the gut can cause bloating and diarrhea. That’s because it ferments in the colon before it can be properly digested, unlike other foods that your chin doesn’t have a problem with.
It’s also thought that acidic foods may contribute to diarrhea. As blueberries are acidic with a pH of roughly 4, they’re highly acidic (at least for a food). So they can cause diarrhea in several ways, all in combination.
Finally, chinchillas need lots of fiber in their diets. That’s because the foods they eat in the wild have lots of fiber, too, and their guts are set up to process fibrous foods. Blueberries contain 2.4% while chinchillas may need up to 30%, and not getting enough fiber makes the stool loose. While your chinchilla will still get enough from its hay, the diarrhea wouldn’t be quite so bad if blueberries were as high in fiber as they are in fructose.
Protein, Fat & Calories
On top of all this, blueberries don’t give your chinchilla the other nutrients it needs. No matter what diet you follow, your chinchilla shouldn’t cut out protein, fat or carbohydrates. It needs certain amounts to sustain its health, and blueberries offer roughly a tenth of the fat blueberries need, and nowhere near as much protein as necessary.
This isn’t as big a problem as the diarrhea and bloating blueberries could cause. But it is worth bearing in mind, especially because there are many snacks your chinchilla will enjoy that a) don’t cause health problems, and b) meet your pet’s nutritional requirements.
Vitamins and Minerals in Blueberries
The main reason people like blueberries is that they contain lot of vitamins and minerals. As a fact in isolation, it’s better for blueberries to contain lots of these nutrients than none of them. But as we’ll see, that isn’t necessary a ‘tick’ in the fruit’s favor.
|Vitamin/Mineral||Amount per 100g|
This is an impressive list. However, your chinchilla should have no need of blueberries or other supposed ‘super foods’ because they get all the vitamins and minerals they need from hay. This might be surprising, as we’re always told how a varied diet is better; but chinchillas don’t have the same nutritional needs as we do, and get everything they need from timothy hay and the occasional cuttle bone.
It’s the vitamin C content of blueberries that people especially know them for. While they don’t contain as much as other fruits, or even some vegetables like broccoli, they still contain a reasonable amount. But this vitamin C is no use to your pet, because chinchillas produce their own vitamin C inside their bodies. People are the exception rather than the rule, as most other animals can do the same.
If anything, a blueberry’s vitamin C content may contribute to the diarrhea that blueberries cause.
Are Blueberries Poisonous to Chinchillas?
Blueberries aren’t poisonous to chinchillas. But besides potentially causing diarrhea, they can also cause bloating.
This problem arises because your chinchilla’s gut is only used to certain kinds of fiber and certain kinds of sugar. While you may have heard of ‘soluble’ and ‘insoluble’ fiber, those are only classifications rather than kinds; there are dozens of different kinds of fiber that fit under each category. An animal’s gut can be used to digesting some of them but not others, which is largely dictated by the kind of gut bacteria it has. The exact same applies to sugars, of which there are many kinds.
When the gut can’t properly digest things, they ferment before they’re passed. Fermentation produces lots of gas, and because chinchillas can’t easily pass gas, it accumulates. This might be embarrassing if it happened to you, but your pet can get so much gas that the walls of its stomach or gut can rupture and kill it. This applies to many different fruits and vegetables.
Can Chinchillas Eat Dried Blueberries?
If anything, dried blueberries are worse than regular blueberries.
One advantage is that they don’t contain the same amount of water. Chinchillas digest drier foods better than they do wetter ones. But because most of the blueberry’s weight is water, when it’s gone, the primary ingredient is fructose! And because a small 5g serving of dried blueberries will contain far more fructose than regular blueberries, that’s bad.
How Many Blueberries Can Chinchillas Eat?
We would recommend against feeding your chinchilla any blueberries.
Even if you were to feed your chinchilla one small blueberry, that may be enough to trigger an upset stomach for your pet. That’s because on top of all the problems that blueberries specifically represent, chinchillas don’t take to dietary changes too well. Even switching from one kind of suitable hay to another suitable brand can cause tummy troubles, so it stands to reason that a blueberry could do the same, especially since they’re so perfectly wrong for your pet.
If you must insist on giving your chinchilla blueberries, at least do so safely by limiting the portion size.
How Often Can Chinchillas Eat Blueberries?
Again, we would recommend never feeding your chinchilla blueberries. Chinchillas can happily go their whole lives without ever eating snacks, and blueberries certainly shouldn’t be a core part of your pet’s diet. If a hypothetical scenario arose where you didn’t have any hay or hay pellets left, and you had to feed your chinchilla something from your kitchen, something like bread although not ideal would be a far better choice.
If you are going to feed your chinchilla blueberries regardless, we recommend limiting the frequency with which you do so. The more frequent you feed your pet blueberries, the more likely diarrhea and bloating become. A limit of once a week should be safe.
Should Chinchillas Eat Blueberries?
The short answer is ‘No’.
The longer answer is that blueberries don’t contain what chinchillas need. Some thins they have far too much of (water); others they have far too little of (fiber). And on top of that, the real risks of diarrhea and bloating shouldn’t be ignored. What makes it especially silly to give your chins blueberries is that there are many snacks which do meet your chinchilla’s nutritional requirements, and your pet enjoys them just as much. Examples include sweet hays, herbs and rose hips. We suggest feeding these instead.
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