Critical Care for Herbivores – Information for Pet Owners

Dear Pet Owner,

Your veterinarian recommends using Oxbow’s Critical Care™ for your pet. Critical Care™ is a superior pet food which can be given voluntarily or by syringe feeding to herbivores which are unable to eat their normal diet due to illness or surgery. The special composition of this high-fibre timothy hay based product ensures an improved physiological gut environment and aids proper digestion.

How do I prepare Critical Care for Herbivores?

Mix one part of the powder with 2 parts of warm water. Please ensure Critical Care is fed at room temperature or warmer.

Critical Care should ideally be prepared fresh for each feed. If necessary, the powder when premixed with water can be refrigerated up to 24 hours.

If the consistency of the prepared feed is too thick, you can add water at any time until you have the desired consistency. (Remember if you increase the water content in the preparation of Critical Care™ for a thinner liquid consistency, you will also need to increase the total volume of the meals to ensure the animal’s energy and nutrient requirements are met.)

What methods of feeding are there?

  1. Place the prepared feed in a bowl.
  2. Offer the feed on a small spoon.
  3. Administer using a syringe in small amounts between the lips. Not too much or your pet could choke. Special syringes from your vet will facilitate this type of feeding. Often it will be necessary to take the plunger out of the syringe and scoop the feed into the back of the syringe. Insert the plunger and the syringe is ready to use. The product cannot be siphoned up through the tip unless a catheter tipped syringe is used.
  4. In special cases, your veterinarian can administer Critical Care™, prepared with more water, with special feeding tubes.
  5. Form into small balls for the transition period from the liquid to a staple diet. This is done by using less water during preparation.
  6. Sprinkle a little of the powder as a top dressing on normal food to improve the taste. You can also mist your animal’s hay with water and then sprinkle the powder onto the food, giving the powder better adherence.

How much do I feed and when?

The required amount of Critical Care™ for each animal depends on a number of factors, such as animal type, age, weight, and clinical condition.  The daily amount for any particular animal may be adjusted based on veterinary recommendation.

Generally, for a herbivorous mammal, the amount is 3 tablespoons of dry product or 50 ml of mixed product daily per kilogram of body weight.  A weaker animal should often be given more frequent, smaller meals.

The following table provides information on how much to administer at each feeding.

Body Weight Amount Per Day No. of feeds per day with feeding amounts
3x 4x 5x 6x 7x
0.5 kg 25 ml 8 ml 6 ml 5 ml 4 ml 3 ml
1.0 kg 50 ml 17 ml 13 ml 10 ml 8 ml 7 ml
1.5 kg 75 ml 25 ml 19 ml 15 ml 13 ml 11 ml
2.0 kg 100 ml 33 ml 25 ml 20 ml 17 ml 14 ml
2.5 kg 125 ml 42 ml 31 ml 25 ml 21 ml 18 ml
3.0 kg 150 ml 50 ml 38 ml 30 ml 25 ml 21 ml
3.5 kg 175 ml 58 ml 44 ml 35 ml 29 ml 25 ml
4.0 kg 200 ml 67 ml 50 ml 40 ml 33 ml 29 ml

Although Critical Care™ contains all the essential nutrients for a complete on-going diet, it is intended for short-term assistance before returning the animal to its regular staple diet. As soon as your pet starts to eat normally, the Critical Care™ ration is reduced gradually day by day.

Fresh water should be available at all times. Weak, dehydrated animals may also require additional fluids to be administered by a veterinarian.

How do I get started when syringe feeding?

Often when syringe feeding, it is not the food that deters the animal from eating, but the procedure of restraint. So it’s very important that the caregiver remains calm and relaxed. Slow and deliberate movements with frequent breaks will decrease the stress for both the animal and the caregiver.

Tips:

  • Take a deep breath and relax
  • Get on the floor or in a location where the animal is comfortable
  • Give a syringe of water to the animal prior to feeding
  • Stroke or massage the animal
  • Feed in small amounts between the lips

Instructions for Species

Guinea Pigs

Guinea Pigs with a poor appetite particularly benefit from the Critical Care™ nutrition. The product contains proper quantities of stablised Vitamin C, which is critically important for these animals. Their Vitamin C requirement increases as much as 10 times when under stress.

Feeding directions for a guinea pig weighing 1 kilogram: Feed 50 ml of Critical Care™ prepared with water daily over the course of several meals. Depending on the situation, this could be comprised of 3 meals of approximately 17 ml, or 5 meals of 10 ml.

Guinea pigs need fibre rich nutrition several days after birth. Critical Care™ can be used as a rearing feed for orphaned young.

Rabbits

A sick or post surgical rabbit or any rabbit with deficient intake of nutrients also benefit greatly from Critical Care™. Remember that rabbits are easily stressed by change or when syringe feeding. Therefore the feed should be administered as carefully and calmly as possible. Ideally rabbits should be fed Critical Care(TM) every 3 to 4 hours. If this causes the animal too much stress, limit the feed to 3 times daily.

Feeding instructions for a rabbit weighing 2 kilograms: The daily ration consists of 100 ml of mixed Critical Care™ mixed with water. Feed several small meals per day. See the feeding chart for specifics on meal sizes.

Other Herbivores

Herbivorous reptiles, birds, and larger mammals (including macropods), can also be fed Critical Care™ when required. The estimate given above for feed recommendations of 50 ml Critical Care™ mixed with water per kilo or body weight is not the same for all animal species. To ensure an appropriate supply in individual cases, please refer to your veterinarian for specific caloric needs.

How do I evaluate successful feeding?

Look for normal appearing faeces – round and consistent; the animal gaining weight; the bowel movement normalizing and bloating decreasing; after a few weeks there may also be an improvement in hair and skin.

What do I do if my pet does not like Critical Care™?

Most animals enjoy eating Critical Care™. But some animals are accustomed to a certain taste and some are so weak that they refuse everything.

Here are a few helpful suggestions in this situation:

  • Always prepare the feed fresh.
  • Make sure that you use warm water to intensify the product’s natural aroma.
  • Initially give a very small amount so the animal can get used to the taste.
  • Try again a little later.
  • For syringe feeding, please use an oral or catheter tipped syringe from your veterinarian.
  • If necessary you can optimize the taste for your pet by temporarily mixing in a small amount of a highly palatable treat, such as a grated apple. [NOTE: sugary fruits and vegetables (apple, banana, carrot) can result in abnormal digestion in rabbits and guinea pigs, so ensure that these items are a very minimal part of the diet.]

Remember that if you are upset and stressed in an assisted feeding situation it can upset the animal. Be calm and patient and take a break if the meal is becoming a battle for either of you. Try again a little later. Or call your vet and discuss the situation.

Why Critical Care™?

Our goal at Oxbow is to provide the very best nutrition products for small herbivore pets and the very best nutrition education for their owners.

We created Critical Care™ based on vet requests at the 1999 International Conference on Exotics. These exotic animal vets needed a high fibre, specialised feed to assist them in treating small herbivores and returning their digestive systems to a healthy state after illness. Critical Care™ has now become the industry standard across Asia, Europe and North America for syringe feeding rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas, and many other herbivores.

Our many happy customers around the world report that Critical Care™ has a profound effect on the recovery of their precious little friends. We hope that you and your pet have the same wonderful outcome.