Pet rats have specific dietary needs that need to be followed to keep them healthy throughout their lives. Feeding them proper quantities of healthy food can actually help extend their lifespan.
Pet rats can eat mango. Feeding mango to your pet rat generally isn’t recommended, but it is doable. Mangoes contain a chemical called d-limonene that can cause cancer in male rats. However, a rat’s body can filter out the toxins in 48 hours. So, it’s nearly impossible for your rat to eat enough d-limonene to be harmed.
There are conflicting interpretations about the study that showed the chemical d-limonene to cause cancer in male rats. Continue reading to learn more about this chemical and why many people say you shouldn’t feed mangoes and other fruits with this chemical to your pet rats.
What Is D-Limonene?
You might get conflicting answers if you ask several people if it’s okay to feed mango to rats. This is why you need to have an understanding of what d-limonene is and why it’s said to be harmful to rats. You can make your own judgment call and decide what is best for your pet.
Limonene is something you might come into contact with every day. It’s the main ingredient of the oil that’s found in citrus peels. There are two different types of isomers:
- D-isomer: used in citrus fragrances, food flavoring, and in cleaning products
- L-isomer: used in mint oils and has more of a pine scent
The d-isomer is the more common one since it’s used commercially in products.
What Contains D-Limonene?
Citrus fruits, including oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruits. If you juice these fruits, the d-limonene can enter the juice while it’s being pressed. This is why many rat keepers will say not to let your rats drink orange juice.
D-limonene is also naturally found in black pepper, mango, nutmeg, cumin, and dill seeds.
Since d-limonene is often used as an additive in food, any foods that are flavored with citrus or mango or contain pieces of these fruits will contain the chemical, as well as anything seasoned with black pepper or nutmeg.
There are also non-edible products that contain d-limonene. Unleaded gasoline, copy machine toner, and air fresheners contain this chemical, too. If you spray an air freshener near your rat habitat, consider temporarily covering it or spraying it on the far side of the room.
Why Is D-Limonene Considered to Be Dangerous?
Male rats have a protein that’s created in their kidneys called alpha-2u-globulin. This protein is unique to the male rats; female rats and mice of either sex don’t produce this protein.
D-limonene can bind with alpha-2u-globulin and other chemicals and cause a build-up in the kidney. This build-up eventually develops into cancer. The build-up is caused by large quantities of d-limonene and can’t be achieved through diet. This will be discussed further in the next section.
The study people get their information from reports that they gave different groups of rats and mice various amounts of d-limonene five days a week for two years. The male rats who were given high doses developed lesions in their kidneys, but the females did not.
Because male rats can develop cancer, rat keepers advise against feeding your rat mangoes, citrus, and anything else that might contain the limonene. Female rats weren’t affected in the study, but rat keepers like to stay on the safe side and avoid feeding all of their rats these foods.
Why Do Some Say That D-Limonene Isn’t Dangerous?
There are some rat keepers that say it’s okay to feed your rat citrus and mango. Why would they say that if it’s been proven to cause cancer? They argue that the results of the study have been misinterpreted.
It’s actually quite possible that the results have been misunderstood. The amount of d-limonene a rat would have to consume for it to be considered carcinogenic is 204 mg. For comparison, a 6-ounce glass of orange juice contains about 5 mg of d-limonene. That’s a lot of orange juice for a rat, and it’s nowhere near close to the carcinogenic amount.
A whole mango contains about 10 mg of d-limonene. It’s still too small to be dangerous, and you most likely won’t feed an entire mango to your rat, so they’ll receive even smaller amounts of the chemical in a single serving.
But what about if a rat consumes d-limonene over time? Another study found that 800 mg of d-limonene is removed from the body after 48 hours. That’s four times as much as the carcinogenic amount that will be removed within two days.
Studies Are Exaggerated
It’s important to note that the studies that have been referenced are highly exaggerated for the sake of learning how rats react to a chemical. Since small amounts of d-limonene don’t harm rats and are filtered out in two days, researchers can’t really use small amounts to determine the long-term effects of the chemical.
In the first study that was referenced earlier, dosages of d-limonene were 150, 300, 600, 1,200, or 2,400 mg per dose, per day. A rat would have to eat about 15 mangoes to consume 150 mg of d-limonene, and this is still below the carcinogenic amount.
If a rat were to consume 150 mg of the chemical through mangoes, it would have to eat nothing but mangoes over a span of a couple of weeks. Fifteen mangoes is a lot for a little rat, and they should be eating a well-rounded diet that provides a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and grains, and protein.
Should I Feed My Rat Mango?
The small amounts of d-limonene in mangoes aren’t necessarily enough to worry about. But, if it makes you nervous, don’t feed it to your rat. Keep in mind that it’s only a potential problem in male rats, so your female rats will be safe.
If you’re unsure about if you want to feed your rat some mango, consider the other factors. A good diet for your rat will have a balance of vegetables, fruits, grains, fats, and proteins. Fruits should only be fed 2 or 3 times a week to your rat as a supplement.
Fiber is important to help remove waste from the body. A whole mango has 2.6 g of fiber. If you let your rat snack on some mango, it will be a source of fiber, although not much. You don’t want to give your rat too much fiber, though, because it could cause them to have diarrhea.
So, should you feed your rats mango? It’s ultimately up to you. D-limonene can harm rats, but it was great quantities that caused the harm. You most likely won’t be able to reach that level of the chemical yourself with the small amounts of food you give to your rat.
They also might cause your rat to consume too much fiber if you let them eat too much. If you feel you aren’t worried about feeding your rat some mango, then it will be fine to do. Just remember the potential risks as you would with any other food you feed them.
Mangoes can be fed to rats, but be aware that excessive amounts of a chemical called d-limonene can cause cancer in male rats. You most likely won’t be able to feed your rat enough mango to cause this to happen, however, because its body removes the toxins within 48 hours. You can choose to avoid feeding your rat mangoes if you have any concern about the possibility of them developing cancer.
- National Toxicology Program: Toxicology and Carcinogenesis Studies of d-Limonene
- Oxbow Animal Health: What Should I Feed My Pet Rat?
- Pets On Mom: Can Pet Rats Have Fruit?
- Rachie’s Ratirement Home: Dispelling the “Rats Can’t Eat Citrus” Myth
- Rat & Mouse Club of America: Medical Corner: Orange Juice, D-Limonene, and Cancer in Male Rats
- Rat Central: List Of Foods Not Suitable For Rats
- Wikipedia: Limonene