Gut-Loading Feeder Insects: What It Means

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One of the significant areas of concern for reptile owners and breeders is how to provide apt nutrition to the pet reptiles. After all, every reptile is different and it can be difficult to make sure they get all of the proper nutrition that they need. This has made a process known as  gut-loading a popular concept in reptile husbandry. 

Gut loading involves fortifying the meals of your pet reptiles; these meals include feeder insects rich in nutrients. Gut loading aims to raise and nourish an animal’s prey so that the nutrients are passed on to the animal when it eats its prey. Famous for reptile pets, it includes the preparation of insects such as crickets and mealworms or mice with a high-quality diet for your pet’s dinner. As a result, it makes the meal more nutritious for the predator. 

Reptile pet owners adopt specific diets with the optimal fusion of combinations of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber to attain a complete nutritional diet. It would help if you understood that your pet’s instinctive and dietary need is wild organically; therefore, you need to mimic and replicate an ecosystem that allows them to thrive. They need the perfect amount of ultraviolet light, heat plants, and food as Mother Nature provides them. All reptiles are different, and they have diverse biology and supplementary needs 

Let’s take a closer look at what it means to gut load your feeder insects.

What Does “Gut-Loading Insects” Mean?

In the simplest of terms, gut-loading your insects is literally the process of making sure your feeder insects are packed with vitamins and minerals that will be beneficial to your pet reptile. 

The feeder insects become a carrier of the nutrients absorbed in the pet’s digestive tract when consumed. Although the markets are full of commercially available gut-loading feeder insects, they are not satisfactorily nutrient-balanced for insectivorous pets. They mostly have low calcium and vitamins D3, A, E, and B1 counts, a crucial mineral for pet reptiles. It has been observed that insects that were well fed for week-long periods are healthier and richer in color than the commercial market costly feeder insects.

Benefits of Gut Loaded Insects for Your Pet

Gut loading aptly fulfills the nutrient requirements in your pets. It has been evident in research that studies the calcium content in gut loading feeder insects; that diets rich in calcium by 4% to 9% are loaded to increase calcium minerals. The gut-loaded insects must have regular nourished diets that boost the health and lifestyle of the insectivore, but one should not confuse gut loading with the usual diet. It provides a near-to-reality experience for the pet reptiles as it imitates the consumption and existence of nutrients that would have been in the digestive tract if consumed naturally in the wild. A blend of dark, leafy vegetables; fruits; squash; and grains should be included in the diet, powered by protein-loaded tropical fish flakes, cat food, prepared reptile foods, and bee pollen. 

It is vital to protect your pet amphibians and reptiles from many health concerns such as:

  • Nutritional Secondary Hyperparathyroidism or the metabolic bone disease that is caused due to lack of calcium and vitamin D3 to keep the bones strong
  • Hypovitaminosis occurs due to low levels of vitamins present in the body, low vitamin D counts can result in bone diseases, and inadequate vitamin A can cause skin disorders, fatigue, and appetite loss

How to Gut Load Feeder Insects

Now comes the most critical part: how to gut load insects; feeding the pets with gut-loaded insects is imperative to make them fit and substantial. However, another area of concern is the optimal frequency and duration of gut loading. 

Studies have shown that the feeder insects should be allowed to gorge on between 24 and 72 hours before feeding the insect to your pet. During this, you should let the gut-loaded feeder insects completely gobble down food when gut-loading and serve it to your pet before the insect passes the waste. It somewhat gives a window of 24 hours to gut load the feeder insect. You should maintain supplementation schedules to prevent overfeeding or underfeeding the insects with the quantity of vitamins and minerals.

Gut load food is broadly categorized as dry and wet. Wet food contains food that has moisture and will hydrate the feeder insects. Dry foods can be the grains and oats and even the supplemental powders of vitamins and calcium that are used to dust insects to attain complete nourishment

The carbohydrate-rich grains such as baby rice cereal, Wheat germ, and Alfalfa will help enrich them with the calorie quotient and raw materials essential for flourishing; a portion of oats and wheat will also equip them with fiber, while the fruits and vegetables will provide all sources of minerals and vitamins. It is also vital to make sure that the insects are hydrated. A dehydrated insect can dehydrate your pet animal too. To ensure that the feeder insects are hydrated, feed them fresh produce, hydration gels, and fresh water. 

Fruits and vegetables are filled with water to boost hydration; oranges are specially provided for this particular reason. But be careful with the water content; too much moisture can rot the insects or drown them. Instead, add bright-colored food to your insects’ diet, including the greens such as collard greens, kale, mustard greens, romaine lettuce, and other bright-colored produce such as carrots, potatoes, apples, squash, and sweet potatoes. Once your feeder insects are engorged with nutritional value, serve them tempting to your pets. Being a reptile pet owner requires strict care and knowledge in taking care of your pet, but don’t worry, as you can find the compendium of pet care at Reptile Habitat.

Conclusion: Should You Be Gut-Loading Your Feeder Insects?

Overall, gut-loading your feeder insects is a great way to pass nutrients onto your pet reptile or amphibian. And in general, the process is rather simple and cheap. If you’re worried that your pet isn’t getting all the proper nutrition they need, then we would highly recommend trying gut-loading.

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