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Professional Version

Nutrition in Insectivores, Edentates, and Aardvarks


Joeke Nijboer

, PhD, Nijboer Consultancy

Reviewed/Revised Aug 2020 | Modified Oct 2022

Most shrews, hedgehogs, tenrecs, and moles can be fed frozen cat food supplemented with mealworms, earthworms, crickets, and mouse pups. Ground meat fortified with minerals and vitamins, canned dog food, cooked egg, and small amounts of fruits and vegetables also are readily accepted by many species. Bacterial hazards have been associated with the feeding of raw, meat-based diets to some species. Carnivorous and insectivorous small mammals appear particularly susceptible, and septicemia and deaths have been reported. Canned, meat-based products are a safer alternative.

Armadillos will eat frozen feline diet, moistened dry cat food, canned dog food, or ground meat fortified with minerals and vitamins. Milk, chopped egg, cooked sweet potato, diced banana, and other fruits also are consumed. Vitamin K supplementation of armadillos has been recommended to help prevent hemorrhages: 5 mg of menadione sodium bisulfite/kg dry diet should be adequate. Sloths can digest fiber, but if they are kept in an environment that is too cold, their digestion rate will be very slow. Their diet should consist of a mixture of primate and high-fiber primate diets and some green, diced vegetables and preferred leaves. Food pans should be placed in such a way that the animal can hang from a perch while feeding.

In captivity, aardvarks, lesser anteaters, and giant anteaters readily accept semiliquid diets instead of termites, ants, and other natural foods. Artificial diets typically consist of milk, water, ground meat, and/or meat-based product such as frozen feline diet, mink chow or dry dog food, hard-boiled egg, protein powder, baby cereal, and a mineral-vitamin supplement. All ingredients are mixed in a blender to the consistency of a thick gruel. Loose feces may develop when a semi-liquid diet is fed. If this occurs, milk and water can be withdrawn gradually from the formula. As a precaution, vitamin K often is added to all edentate diets. For adult anteaters, armadillos, hedgehogs, and lesser anteaters, commercial pellets or powders are available.

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