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Is Ink Poisonous to Gerbils? What You Need To Know

One of the recommendations for gerbil bedding is to never use shredded printed paper as gerbil bedding because of the ink on it.

So is ink poisonous to gerbils? If so, what makes it poisonous?

In this dedicated article, we will answer these questions and explain whether ink is poisonous to gerbils and what you can do when your gerbil ingests ink.

Is Ink Poisonous to Gerbils?

Writing ink in pens and print paper is generally non-toxic, however, ingestion of large quantities makes ink poisonous to gerbils as small animals because of its chemical components. The quantity of the dose makes the poison. 

A lethal dose is measured from a given weight of an animal and because gerbils are small animals, ingestion of a small amount of ink can qualify as an exceptionally large dose for a gerbil which is fatal.

What Makes Ink Poisonous?

Inks are composed of a blend of pigments, dyes, solvents, alcohol, water, and chemicals called glycol ether or glycol. 

Glycol ethers and glycols are components that make ink poisonous. They are found in small quantities in ink however they can be toxic when ingested in large amounts which causes ink poisoning.

In humans or larger animals ingestion of large amounts of ink can cause poisoning however this rarely happens

This is because the ink used today is non-toxic and the number of chemicals in writing pens, markers, or printed papers are very small and insignificant to cause toxicity. 

When ingested in large quantities, the effects of ink poisoning might take time to occur in humans and large animals but in small animals like a gerbil, the effect of the poisoning can progress quickly following ingestion. 

The Environmental Health Review has published several case reports explaining that using newspapers around food, whether to wrap or store, has been linked to chemical contamination. 

Some reports state that some chemicals used in ink have been linked to bladder and lung cancer in humans and because gerbils are small, they’re even more susceptible.

What Are The Clinical Signs Of Ink Poisoning

The clinical signs of ink poisoning include:

  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Diarrhea
  • Mouth irritation
  • Disorientation

Depending on the amount consumed by your gerbil, the symptoms of ink poisoning occur after a short period.

Are Shredded Newspapers Ok for Gerbil Substrate?

Because of the potential harm posed by ink when consumed in large amounts by a gerbil, shredded newspaper is not ok for a gerbil as a substrate. 

Shredded newspapers have the risk of causing ink poisoning. Avoid providing your gerbil with this type of bedding. 

Provide your gerbil with safe bedding for sleeping on and burrowing. Also because they sometimes chew on their bedding, safe bedding substrates do not cause harm when ingested.

What kind of ink do newspapers use?

In earlier years, ink was usually composed of toxic materials such as lead and cadmium. Due to the toxicity of these materials, the Newspaper Association of America has found a solution to this-soy ink.

Is soybean oil-based ink also harmful?

Soy can potentially be toxic to small animals depending on the concentration of soy. For example, some pet foods contain soybean, but you would not want to feed a small animal a pure soybean.

Although this will not be as harmful as other inks, the only way to tell what kind of ink a newspaper is using is to test it.

What alternative bedding can you use?

There are so many other options other than material containing ink! Gerbil owners can use aspen shavings, timothy hay, and even corn cob.

It is important to note, however, that some pet owners do say that some gerbils have allergic reactions to aspen shavings. This depends on the gerbil, and if you notice anything of the sort, just change out the bedding!

What can you give your gerbil to chew on?

Gerbils will often chew on objects, and you don’t want to give them anything with ink, such as newspaper or cereal boxes that contain potentially harmful inks. 

Instead, you can give them the following:

  • Hay pellets
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Toilet paper rolls
  • Corrugated cardboard 

What Should I Do If My Gerbil Swallows Ink?

Ink poisoning is not something to worry about if your gerbil is not exposed to ink, print paper, or writing pens. 

It only becomes a problem when they have access to it and consume a lot of it which results in poisoning.

Gerbils are known to sometimes eat their bedding therefore this might happen if they have shredded printed paper as their bedding.

If your gerbil has consumed ink contact your veterinarian immediately or the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Poison Control Center (ASPCA) which has a 24-hour hotline to help if your pet has ingested something toxic

Final Thoughts

Although many inks are made with mostly non-toxic substances such as vegetable-based oils these days, there is no telling what type of ink the specific newspaper, box, or documents you have on hand have used. 

Some ink used in newspapers, cereal boxes, and other objects some pet owners use as bedding and chew toys contain multiple chemicals, making them toxic to gerbils. 

Owners should beware and should not use any objects that could potentially contain harmful chemicals.

The safest bet for your pet is to stay away, and instead turn to other ink-free objects to use as their bedding and chew toys.


Ink Poisoning

Glycol Ethers

Hazard Summary of Glycol Ethers