All About Nutritional Enrichment For your Pet Guinea Pig or Rabbit

All About Nutritional Enrichment for Your Pet Herbivore

As pet parents, we provide our companions with the nutrition they require to thrive each day. Providing the right balance of daily nutritional enrichment for your pet helps to ensure they are happy & healthy.

Even with the right nutritional balance, however, you may find yourself wondering if there’s anything else you can do to make your pet’s mealtime routine more enriching.

Read on for some fun and easy ways to add enrichment to each of the core components of your pet’s daily nutrition.

Hay

High-quality grass hay is the cornerstone of every small herbivore’s diet. Among many benefits, hay provides the fibre that is essential to keeping small pets’ digestive tracts functioning properly.

So, what’s the simplest and most effective way to add nutritional enrichment to your pet’s daily diet? Variety! Benefits of consuming a variety of hays include:

  • Expands your pet’s palate by allowing him to experience multiple tastes and texturesNutritional enrichment for your pet rabbit or guinea pig - getting it right
  • Keeps mealtime interesting and encourages overall consumption of all-important fibre
  • Helps pets manage natural variability between different crops & prevents picky eating

 


Enrichment All-Stars: Botanical Hay & Harvest Stacks

For additional nutritional enrichment for your pet, when feeding hay, try Oxbow’s Botanical Hay or Harvest Stacks.

Botanical Hay consists of premium Western Timothy mixed with an enriching combination of fragrant herbs such as lavender, chamomile, lemon balm, and clover.

Harvest Stacks compressed hays invite interaction, adding a fun element of mental and physical enrichment to mealtime.

 


Feeding Tip: Location, Location, Location

Looking for ways to encourage your pet to consume more hay?

Place piles of hay in various locations throughout your pet’s living space, including inside the litterbox.

The more dining locations, the better!

 

 


Fortified Food

A measured amount of a uniform, balanced fortified food provides key vitamins and minerals small pets need to thrive.

Unlike with hay (where the more variety you can provide, the better) small pets should be provided with a consistent routine when it comes to the type and amount of food they receive each day. That doesn’t mean that foods can’t play a role in enrichment. Try moving your pet’s food dish around throughout his habitat from day to day. This simple and enriching act will challenge your pet spatially, requiring him to actively think about a part of his daily routine that may otherwise be taken for granted.

 


Nutritional enrichment for your petFresh Greens

Have you ever wondered what a rabbit’s daydream might look like?

We imagine it would involve a fresh field of greens, as far as the eye could see.

Fresh greens are a natural and nutritious source of daily enrichment that can benefit all pets. Greens provide important vitamins and minerals, in addition to helping keep pets hydrated.

As a general guideline, fresh greens should make up about 8% of a herbivore’s diet.

Consult with your veterinarian for a list of appropriate varieties. For rabbits, the House Rabbit Society offers a comprehensive list of appropriate greens at rabbit.org.

 


Accessories

Many small animals are prey species with natural instincts to run and hide when faced with stress. To support these instincts, it’s important to provide numerous spaces throughout your pet’s habitat for rest and relaxation.

Many hideout options exist, but some options are more enriching than others.

Hand-woven, all-hay habitats such as Oxbow’s Timothy CLUB accessories are 100% edible, making them an ideal choice if you’re looking for beneficial and innovative nutritional enrichment opportunities.

Oxbow Timothy Club Accessories for Guinea Pigs, Rabbits, Rats and other small animals

 


Treats

Treats are an important tool for strengthening the human-animal bond; just remember to feed them in moderation.

Healthy treats provide nutritional enrichment in the form of novel flavours and textures. From the sweet, vibrant flavours of freeze-dried fruit, to the hearty wholesomeness of baked treats containing veggies and herbs, many healthy options exist.

Use your favourite treat to reward and reinforce your pet’s positive behaviours.

 


Hide-And-Seek, Anyone?

Like any good reward, treats are even better when they’re earned!

For a fun and enriching activity, try hiding your pet’s favourite healthy reward in various locations, including his hay.

For even more of a challenge, stuff hay and a few treat pieces into an all-natural woven hay accessory (a Timothy CLUB Bungalow or Hideout works great for this)!

 


Supplements

Not all pets require nutritional support in the form of supplements, but many pets will benefit from the inclusion of a high-quality supplement in their daily routine.

Oxbow’s Natural Science supplements are available in seven varieties, providing support for the most common wellness needs experienced by small pets.

Try hiding your pet’s supplement in his hay (the same way you would a treat) to add an element of nutritional enrichment for your pet.

 


All About Hay and Your Pet’s Health

Key Benefits of Hay and Your Pet’s Health

As the pet parent of a small herbivore, you know that hay is important to your pet’s health, but have you ever wondered exactly how hay helps keep your pet healthy & happy?

Let’s take a closer look at some of the specific functions that hay provides to your pet’s daily health.

 

Digestive Health

The fibre in hay facilitates the constant digestive movement that small herbivores need to maintain digestive health.

Disrupting movement in the GI tract even for a short period of time can lead to a number of potentially life-threatening issues.

Providing grass hay most closely mimics the foraging activity small herbivores would perform in nature, making hay the ideal material to support digestive health.

 


Dental Health

Small herbivores require constant chewing of fibrous foods to provide proper, necessary dental wear. Hay is the ideal material to serve this important function.

The teeth of rabbits and guinea pigs never stop growing, making it critical to provide a proper diet centred around hay.

A diet with insufficient hay can lead to dental issues including disease, tooth elongation, & malocclusion.

 


Mental Health

Hay encourages the natural foraging behaviours of small pets, providing an essential opportunity for mental stimulation.

Access to a variety of high-quality hays provides different tastes & textures for your pet, keeping him active, engaged & healthy.

Place hay in as many locations as possible throughout your pet’s living space to maximize mental enrichment.

 

 


Tips for Preventing GI Stasis

Gastrointestinal Stasis is a serious condition that occurs when the digestive system slows down or stops completely. As a pet parent, there are key steps you can take to minimize the likelihood that your pet experiences this condition:

  • Feed a high fibre diet centred around unlimited grass hay (at least 70% of the diet)
  • Schedule regular veterinary check-ups for your pet (at least once a year for healthy pets)
  • Keep a watchful eye out for signs of underlying issues (e.g. visible pain, dental health issues, infections, etc.)
  • Make sure your pet gets plenty of exercise & has access to two sources of freshwater

 


Top 5 Reasons to Offer Your Pet a Variety of Hays

All pets benefit from some variety in their diet – especially when it comes to hay. There a number of important benefits to providing a variety of grass hays. Here are the top five reasons to offer a variety of hays for your pet’s health.

  1. Helps Prevent Picky Eating: Access to a variety of tastes & textures expands your pet’s palate & helps him manage the natural variability that can occur between bags of hay.
  2. Supports Key Nutritional Needs: Fibre is key to your small herbivore’s health. Having access to multiple varieties of hay encourages consumption throughout the day, making sure your pet consumes enough fibre to stay healthy.
  3. Keeps Mealtime Fun & Enriching: Eating the same meal day after day gets boring! Offer multiple varieties to keep your pet active, mentally stimulated, & enriched.
  4. Strengthens the Human/Animal Bond: Offering your pet a variety of tastes & textures is fun for pet & pet parent alike. Experiment with different flavour combinations to help discover your pet’s favourites.
  5. Encourages Natural Foraging Behaviours: In the wild, your pet would spend much of his day foraging for a variety of plant material. Offer multiple varieties of hay to encourage these healthy, natural behaviours.

 


Hay is Not Just for Herbivores

Hay is critical to the health & wellbeing of herbivores, but other pets benefit from this high fibre forage as well.

Hay is a great source of physical enrichment for birds, hamsters, gerbils, rats, & other small pets.

From bedding to burrowing to general exploring, these pets will benefit from access to hay in their daily routine.

 


 

What are “Open-Rooted” Teeth?

Rabbits, guinea pigs & other small animals have “open-rooted” teeth. This means that these teeth grow continuously throughout the animal’s life.

Without proper dental wear, serious issues can arise, including malocclusion (improper alignment of top & bottom teeth), tooth elongation, & dental disease.

Eating hay regularly provides your pet the necessary wear & helps ensure that teeth do not become overgrown.

 


DIY Enrichment

To make mealtime more mentally enriching for your pet, try stuffing hay into hideouts or other “safe to chew” containers, such as toilet paper or paper towel rolls.

For added enticement, bury a few of your pet’s favourite treats toward the back of the hay & watch him eagerly hunt for them.

 

 


Why Oxbow Hay?

  • Oxbow grass hay is grown & harvested by experts in ideal climates
  • Extensively quality tested – from plant to pet
  • Gently processed & de-dusted to remove fine particles
  • Carefully hand-sorted by dedicated experts
  • Supported by exceptional, caring customer service

 

Oxbow Grass Hays - Australian Distributor


Caring for Your Rabbit

This Caring for Your Rabbit guide from Oxbow Animal Health will teach you everything you need to know about keeping your pet healthy and happy.

CARING FOR YOUR PET RABBIT

Your rabbit is a herbivore, which means he eats only plant material.

Grass hay should be the high-fibre cornerstone of every rabbit’s diet. The fibre in hay helps meet the important digestive health needs of herbivores such as rabbits. A daily recommended amount of a uniform, fortified food provides essential vitamins and minerals not found in hay. Fresh greens are also an important component of a rabbit’s diet, and healthy treats can be beneficial when given in moderation.

HAY

Your rabbit should have unlimited access to a variety of quality grass hays. Among many benefits, hay helps prevent obesity, boredom, and dental and gastrointestinal disease. Since replacing the hay in your rabbit’s habitat can encourage picky eating, we recommend changing it only when soiled.

Young (less than a year old), pregnant, nursing or ill animals can benefit from eating alfalfa hay in addition to grass hay because of the higher nutritional elements. Otherwise, alfalfa should only be given occasionally as a treat.

Hay Selection

Keep in mind: Grass hay should make up the majority of your pet’s daily diet. Offer a variety of hay to your rabbit to promote optimum health. Since hay is a natural product, each bag will look and feel different. Use our Taste & Texture Guide located on every hay package to determine your pet’s taste and texture preferences.

We have many all-natural, farm-fresh hays to choose from including Western Timothy, Orchard Grass, Oat Hay and Botanical Hay. Also, check out our Harvest Stacks line of compressed hays for extra enrichment

Did You Know
Your Rabbits teeth never stop growing. Hay is essential because it stimulates normal chewing and dental wear patterns, helping decrease the risk of dental disease.

 

Fortified Food

Providing a daily recommended amount of a high-fibre, age-appropriate fortified food will help ensure that your pet receives essential vitamins and minerals not found in hay.

Pellet Selection

Always choose an age-appropriate pellet formulated specifically for rabbits. Our Essentials Young Rabbit Food is ideal for rabbits under one year of age. For adult rabbits, choose from one of Oxbow’s three premium adult rabbit formulas.

Avoid
Mixes with nuts, corn, seeds and fruit because rabbits have a tendency to select those tempting morsels over the healthy pellets.

 

Greens

Fresh greens are an important part of your pet’s daily diet. Greens contribute to hydration and provide important vitamins and minerals, as well as enrichment. For a complete list of appropriate greens, visit the House Rabbit Society’s website at rabbit.org.

Offer – Romaine, bib, and red leaf lettuce
Avoid – Leeks, chives and onions

 

Treats

Treats (including fruits and veggies) are great for encouraging interaction between you and your pet, but they should only be given after basic daily foods have been eaten. Offering too many treats can cause your rabbit to refuse his healthy, essential foods. It’s important to remember that not all treats are created equal! All Oxbow treat varieties are designed to be as wholesome as they are delicious.

Did You Know
By caring for your rabbit and with proper nutrition your bun may live ten or more years.

 

HOUSING YOUR RABBIT

As animals of prey by nature, all rabbits need a safe place to spend time and escape potential environmental stressors.

Choose a well-constructed habitat with a solid floor and set it up near household activities, but away from drafts. Your rabbit’s habitat should be outfitted with environmental essentials such as a space to hide (Timothy CLUB Bungalow or Tunnel), a litter box lined with litter and bedding (Pure Comfort bedding layered on top of Eco-Straw litter), some toys, grass hay, a food bowl, and two sources of fresh, clean water.

The confines of a habitat do not allow enough space for a pet’s exercise needs. All animals benefit from activity and love to move and explore; a play yard allows you to create a safe, secure exercise area for your pet.

 

YOUR RABBIT’S HEALTH

When caring for your rabbit, you should visit a qualified exotics veterinarian at least once a year for check-ups on your rabbit’s diet, behaviour, and health.

Be prepared for your pet’s visits by making a list of any questions or concerns you may have ahead of time. Ask your veterinarian to recommend an appropriate age to have your rabbit spayed or neutered; this will increase the chances of a longer, healthier life for your pet. Many rabbit health problems are preventable with proper diet and care. To locate a qualified exotics veterinarian near you, visit aernv.org.

 

Rabbits are inquisitive and curious by nature

REASONS TO CONTACT YOUR VET

  • Loose, soft or lack of stool
  • Small, dry, or infrequent stools
  • Blood in the urine breathing
  • Hunching in a corner or lack of activity (lethargy)
  • Overgrown front teeth
  • Sneezing or trouble front teeth
  • Observed difficulty with chewing
  • Bald patches in the fur
  • Sores on the feet
  • Abnormal eating or drinking

 

 

RABBIT BEHAVIOUR

Rabbits don’t usually like to be picked up or carried.

The best way to interact with your rabbit is to get down to his level and play with him on the floor. Be sure you are always with your rabbit when he is out for playtime; rabbits are curious by nature and could get into trouble if left alone.

Some rabbit behaviours can seem rather strange. For example, you may see your rabbit eat its own poop. This is a normal, healthy behaviour that provides essential vitamins and nutrients.

 

SUPPLIES FOR YOUR RABBIT

  • Fortified age-specific food: Oxbow Essentials Young Rabbit Food for rabbits under one year of age or one of Oxbow’s three premium formulas for adults
  • Two or more varieties of Oxbow’s farm-fresh hays
  • Oxbow treats for healthy bonding and enrichment
  • Water bottle and heavy water dish
  • Heavy food bowl
  • Large play yard for safe exercise outside the habitat
  • Large habitat with solid, non-slip flooring
  • Hiding space such as Oxbow’s Timothy CLUB Bungalow or Tunnel
  • Litter box
  • Litter and bedding material such as Oxbow’s Pure Comfort Bedding

Caring for Your Guinea Pig

Caring for Your Guinea Pig is a guide from Oxbow Animal Health, it will teach you everything you need to know about keeping your pet guinea pig healthy and happy.

 

FEEDING AND CARING FOR YOUR GUINEA PIG

Your guinea pig is a herbivore, which means he eats only plant material.

Grass hay should be the high-fibre cornerstone of every guinea pig’s diet. The fibre in hay helps meet the important digestive health needs of herbivores such as guinea pigs. A daily recommended amount of a uniform, fortified food provides essential vitamins and minerals not found in hay. Fresh greens are also an important component of a guinea pig’s diet, and healthy treats can be beneficial when given in moderation.

 

HAY

Your guinea pig should have unlimited access to a variety of quality grass hays. Among many benefits, hay helps prevent obesity, boredom, and dental and gastrointestinal disease. Since replacing the hay in your guinea pig’s habitat can encourage picky eating, we recommend changing it only when soiled. Young (less than six months old), pregnant, nursing, or ill animals can benefit from eating alfalfa hay in addition to grass hay because of the higher nutritional elements. Otherwise, alfalfa should only be given occasionally as a treat.

Hay Selection

Keep in mind: Grass hay should make up the majority of your pet’s daily diet. Offer a variety of hay to your guinea pig to promote optimum health. Since hay is a natural product, each bag will look and feel different. Use our Taste & Texture Guide located on every hay package to determine your pet’s taste and texture preferences.

We have many all-natural farm-fresh hays to choose from including Western Timothy, Orchard Grass, Oat Hay, Botanical Hay, and Organic Meadow Hay. Also, check out our Harvest Stacks line of compressed hays for extra enrichment.

 

Generally, your guinea pig should be eating a pile of hay twice the size of its body daily.

DID YOU KNOW
Your guinea pig’s teeth never stop growing. Hay is essential because it stimulates normal chewing and dental wear patterns healing decrease the risk of dental disease.

 

FORTIFIED FOOD

Providing a daily recommended amount of a high-fibre, age-appropriate fortified food with stabilized vitamin C will help ensure that your pet receives essential vitamins and minerals not found in hay.

Pellet Selection

Always choose an age-appropriate pellet specifically formulated for guinea pigs. Our Essentials Young Guinea Pig Food is ideal for guinea pigs under six months. For guinea pigs over six months, choose one of our three adult formulas.

Avoid
Mixes with nuts, corn, seeds and fruit because guinea pigs have a tendency to select those tempting morsels over the healthy pellets.

 

GREENS

Fresh greens are a vital part of your pet’s daily diet. Greens contribute to hydration and provide necessary vitamins and minerals, as well as enrichment. Check with your qualified exotics veterinarian for a full list of appropriate greens. A good starter list of varieties to offer and avoid includes:

Offer: Romaine, bib and red leaf lettuce
Avoid: Leeks, chives and onions

 

Guinea pigs are inquisitive and curious by nature

TREATS

Treats (including fruits and veggies) are great for encouraging interaction between you and your pet, but they should only be given after daily foods have been eaten. Offering too many treats can cause your guinea pig to refuse his healthy, essential foods. It’s important to remember that not all treats are created equal!  When caring for your guinea pig make sure you include Oxbow treats which have been designed to be as wholesome as they are delicious.

 

HOUSING YOUR GUINEA PIG

Guinea pigs need a safe place that allows enough room to climb, jump, and explore, as well as to escape potential environmental stressors.

Choose a well-constructed habitat with a solid floor and set up near household activities, but away from drafts. Your guinea pig’s habitat should be outfitted with environmental essentials such as a space to hide (Timothy CLUB Bungalow or Tunnel), a litter box lined with litter and bedding (Pure Comfort bedding layered on top of Eco-Straw litter), some toys, grass hay, a food bowl and two sources of fresh, clean water.

The confines of a habitat do not allow enough space for a pet’s exercise needs. All animals benefit from activity and love to move and explore; a play yard allows you to create a safe, secure exercise area for your pet.

 

SUPPLIES FOR YOUR GUINEA PIG

  • Fortified age-specific food: Oxbow Essentials Young Guinea Pig Food for guinea pigs under six months of age. For guinea pigs over six months of age, choose one of Oxbow’s three adult formulas.
  • Two or more varieties of Oxbow’s farm-fresh hay
  • Oxbow treats for healthy bonding and enrichment
  • Water bottle and heavy water dish
  • Heavy food bowl
  • Large habitat with solid, non-slip flooring
  • Large play yard for safe exercise outside the habitat
  • Hiding space such as Oxbow’s Timothy CLUB Bungalow or Tunnel
  • Litter and bedding material such as Oxbow’s Eco-Straw and Pure Comfort Bedding
  • Natural Science Vitamin C supplement, as needed*

*In times of stress, a guinea pig’s need for vitamin C can fluctuate. Supplement with Natural Science Vitamin C

 

GUINEA PIG BEHAVIOUR

Guinea pigs are most active at dawn and twilight, taking naps throughout the day.

Guinea pigs often show their affection through vocalizations. For example, you may hear a sound called “wheeking” when your pet is looking for a treat or purring when being held. Also, your guinea pig may “popcorn” – bounce excitedly and repeatedly to express happiness. The best way to interact with your guinea pig is to play with him on the floor. As creatures of habit, guinea pigs need to be introduced to changes slowly in regards to feedings and routines.

Some guinea pig behaviours can seem rather strange. For example, you may see your guinea pig eat its own poop. This is a normal, healthy behaviour that provides essential vitamins and nutrients.

 

YOUR GUINEA PIGS HEALTH

When caring for your guinea pig you should visit a qualified exotics veterinarian at least once a year for check-ups on your guinea pig’s diet, behaviour, and health.

Be prepared for your pet’s visits by making a list of any questions or concerns you may have ahead of time. Ask your veterinarian to recommend an appropriate age to have your guinea pig spayed or neutered; this will increase the chances of a longer, healthier life for your pet. Many guinea pig health problems are preventable with proper diet and care. To locate a qualified exotics veterinarian near you, visit aemv.org

 

REASONS TO CONTACT YOUR VET

  • Loose, soft or lack of stool
  • Small, dry or infrequent stools
  • Blood in the urine
  • Sneezing or trouble breathing
  • Hunching in a corner or lack of activity (lethargy)
  • Overgrown front teeth
  • Observed difficulty with chewing
  • Bald patches in the fur
  • Sores on the feet
  • Abnormal eating or drinking

 

For more information about your guinea pig’s nutrition and behaviours, visit www.oxbowanimalhealth.com


Caring for Your Rat

Caring for your Rat is an educational guide from Oxbow Animal Health will teach you everything you need to know about keeping your pet rat happy and healthy.

FEEDING AND CARING FOR YOUR RAT

Your rat is an omnivore, which means he eats both plant and animal material.

Your rat requires a simple diet composed of a complete fortified food, freshwater served in both a sipper bottle and tip-proof dish, and veggies, greens, and fruits in appropriate daily amounts. Like humans, rats are prone to eating when bored, so it’s important to provide healthy foods in proper amounts.

Fortified FoodD

Fortified food like Oxbow Essentials Adult Rat Food or Essentials Mouse & Young Rat Food is the best option for your rat. These specially designed foods are formed into the ideal shape for nibbling, which promotes healthy teeth.

Food Selection

Always choose an age-appropriate food formulated specifically for rats. Our Essentials Mouse & Young Rat Food is ideal for rats under six months of age, and our Essentials Adult Rat Food is recommended for adult rats.

Avoid: Mixes with nuts, seeds, and dried fruit because rats have a tendency to select those tempting morsels over healthy food pieces.

Did you know
Small amounts of high-quality seeds, such as oats, sunflower seeds, barley and cooked brown rice make great treats for rats.

 

VEGES, GREENS & FRUITS

Veggies, greens, and fruits are an important part of your rat’s daily diet. These items offer important vitamins and nutrients, contribute to hydration, and provide enrichment to your pet’s daily routine. Check with your qualified exotics veterinarian for a full list of appropriate veggies, greens, and fruit choices. A good starter list of varieties to offer and avoid includes:

Offer: Romaine, kale, parsley, apples (without seeds), strawberries, bananas, peas, and squash
Avoid: Leeks, chives and onions

 

HAY

Supply grass hay to stimulate natural foraging and nesting, which helps in the prevention of obesity. Many rats especially enjoy Oat Hay, which often contains tasty, immature seed heads.

Hay Selection

Use our Taste & Texture Guide located on every hay package to determine your pet’s preferences. We have many all-natural farm-fresh hays to choose from including Western Timothy, Orchard Grass, Oat Hay, Botanical Hay, and Organic Meadow Hay. Also, check out our Harvest Stacks line of compressed hays for extra enrichment.

 

TREATS

A part of caring for your rat includes treats.  Treats are great for encouraging interaction between you and your pet, but they should only be given after basic daily foods have been eaten. Offering too many treats can cause your rat to refuse his healthy, essential foods. It’s important to remember that not all treats are created equal! All Oxbow treat varieties are designed to be as wholesome as they are delicious.

 

Caring for your Rat

Rats are intelligent and social by nature

RAT BEHAVIOUR

Domesticated rats are clean, docile pets that rarely bite.

They enjoy socialization with both other rats as well as humans. In addition, rats are very smart and can be trained to respond to their names and clicker training, to “fetch” objects, use a litter box, and climb ropes.

Want to keep your pet rat busy for hours? Fill a box with one of Oxbow’s grass hays and hide your rat’s favourite treat inside. He’ll enjoy both the excitement and challenge of the treasure hunt!

 

YOUR RAT’S HEALTH

When caring for your rat, you should visit a qualified exotics veterinarian at least once a year for check-ups on your rat’s diet, behaviour, and health.

Be prepared for your pet’s visits by making a list of any questions or concerns you may have ahead of time. Many rat health problems are preventable with proper diet and care. To locate a qualified exotics veterinarian near you, visit aemv.org

 

REASONS TO CONTACT YOUR VET

  • Wet or soiled tail
  • Blood in the urine
  • Sneezing or trouble breathing
  • Hunching in a corner or lack of activity (lethargy)
  • Overgrown front teeth
  • Bald patches in the fur
  • Lumps or sores on the body
  • Sores on the feet
  • Abnormal eating or drinking

 

DID YOU KNOW
Rats cannot burp, because of this, avoid feeing gas-causing vegetables such as cabbage

 

HOUSING YOUR RAT

Rats require lots of space to foster creative living, playing, and burrowing.

Rats love to climb and explore, so choose a multi-level habitat for these athletic adventurers. Choose a wire cage with a solid bottom to accommodate bedding such as Oxbow’s Pure Comfort Bedding, places to hide such as Timothy CLUB Bungalow or Tunnel, cardboard tubes, ropes, an exercise wheel, grass hay for burrowing and nesting, a food bowl, and two sources of fresh, clean water.

Set your rat’s cage up near household activities, but away from drafts. Newspaper, paper towels, facial tissue, and old mittens or socks also make excellent nesting materials for rats.

 

Avoid: Aromatic cedar and pine shavings that may contain resin and could irritate your pet’s lungs and skin.

 

SUPPLIES FOR YOUR RAT

  • Fortified age-specific food: Oxbow Essentials Mouse &Young Rat Food for rats under six months of age or Oxbow Essentials Adult Rat Food for rats over six months of age
  • Variety of Oxbow’s grass hays for nesting
  • Oxbow treats for healthy bonding and enrichment
  • A mix of healthy veggies, greens, fruits, and seeds
  • Heavy food bowl
  • Water bottle and heavy water dish
  • Cage designed specifically for rats
  • Wheel, tube, and hay habitat such as Oxbow’s Timothy CLUB Bungalow or Tunnel for hiding and playing
  • Oxbow’s Pure Comfort Bedding

For more information about your rat’s nutrition and behaviours, visit www.oxbowanimalhealth.com


All About The Science of Hay

ALL ABOUT THE SCIENCE OF HAY

This guide from Oxbow Animal Health provides a closer look at the science of hay – how and where it’s grown, how it can vary based on factors of nature, the anatomy of a hay plant, and the essential role hay plays in the daily health of small herbivores.

Hay has been harvested for thousands of years, and it remains the cornerstone of small herbivore health. Hay offers many nutritional and health benefits, including the prevention of obesity and digestive issues and maintaining dental and mental health.

 

MAKING HAY WHILE THE SUN SHINES

The science of hay - a guide from Oxbow Animal Health


Hay Field as Eco-System

A hayfield is a very diverse eco-system. Throughout the growing season, a single hayfield can contain a number of micro-habitats that host a variety of insect and animal life. In addition to providing valuable food sources in the form of nectar and leaves, the dense canopy of a hayfield protects these organisms from predators.

Hay Harvest

Hay is harvested using a series of simple mechanical processes. These include: mowing, tedding, raking, and baling. Oxbow hay is mowed when it is determined that the nutrients are at optimum levels to support small animal health.

Mowed hay is organized into large swaths, or rows, in the field. Next, a process called tedding fluffs up the cut hay, promoting curing and drying. Once hay has been tedded and is nearly dry, it is raked (flipped over) to dry the underside and form a windrow.

The final step in the hay harvest process is baling. The baling process mechanically compacts hay into large bales.

 

Hay Anatomy 101

Seed

      • Soft and enticing to most pets – contains the most protein.
      • Typically eaten second, after leaves.
      • Size depends on the maturity of hay (smaller seed heads indicate more immature hay).

Stems

      • Supporting structure or “scaffold” of hay.
      • The coarsest part of the hay plant.
      • Contains the most fibre – 25% more than leaves & seed heads.
      • Provides the most beneficial dental wear.
      • Typically selected last to be eaten by pets, but very important.

Leaves

      • The softest, most enticing part of the hay plant.
      • Typically selected first by pets.
      • Beneficial source of fibre and protein.

 

Quick Tip: Mix it up! If you find that your pet leaves behind stems, don’t throw them out! Instead, mix them in with fresh hay to encourage your pet to eat these important fibre-packed pieces.

 

 


Mother Nature & Hay Variability

Hay is very much a “farm fresh” product. It is grown and harvested naturally, and minimally handled between the field and your pet’s preferred dining area.

As a product of Mother Nature, even slight changes in factors such as temperature, humidity, rain and wind will cause the taste, texture, colour and aroma traits of hay to vary slightly from bag to bag, it’s all about the science of hay.

However, it is important to note that a change in one of these traits does not necessarily indicate a change in quality.

Some common ways that your hay might vary from purchase to purchase include:

Colour

Beautiful green hay is everyone’s first choice, but it’s important to know that brown or sun-bleached hay is not “bad” hay. Hay becomes brown as it matures and less light reaches the lower leaves through the canopy. Hay loses some of its natural green colour while drying in the field. While hay with alternate colour attributes may not be as visually appealing, the nutritional profile of hay is not affected by colour.

Texture

Hay texture varies naturally between varieties. Orchard Grass, for example, is typically very soft, while other varieties such as Oat Hay are coarser by nature. You will naturally notice some variability between bags of the same variety. Generally speaking, texture is an indicator of maturity. The more mature hay is, the coarser the texture will be.  To help you choose your pet’s preference, every bag of Oxbow hay features a taste/texture guide ranging from sweet and hearty to soft and crunchy.

 


Whats in a hay bale - Oxbow Animal Health

What’s In a Hay Bale?

Considering the vast ecosystems contained within a hayfield, it’s inevitable that some bales will contain small artifacts of nature, including miscellaneous plant life, dried insects or small rocks or bits of soil from the field.

Purchasing hay from a trusted expert will help to significantly limit the amount of “foreign materials” encountered in the hay you purchase.

Oxbow has an extensive Quality Assurance program in place and is always making process improvements. Oxbow’s production team members are trained experts when it comes to sorting and evaluating hay.

 


The Importance of Hay in the Diet of Small Herbivores

 

Digestive

The fibre in hay facilitates the constant digestive movement that small herbivores require to maintain digestive health. Disrupting this movement can lead to a number of gastrointestinal issues, some of which can be life-threatening. Providing grass hay most closely mimics the foraging activity small herbivores would perform in nature.

 


Dental

Small herbivores require constant chewing of hard, fibrous foods (i.e. hay) to provide necessary dental wear. The teeth of rabbits and guinea pigs never stop growing, making it critical to provide a proper diet centred around hay. A diet with insufficient hay can lead to dental issues, including disease and malocclusion.

 


Mental

Hay is not just great for the body of small pets, it is essential to their mental health as well! Access to a variety of hay provides mental stimulation, keeping pets active, stimulated and healthy. To maximise this important mental stimulation, try placing hay in as many locations as possible through your pet’s living space.

 


 

 


All About Fortified Foods for Herbivores

All About Fortified Foods

 

Healthy balanced food should be a daily staple in every small pet’s diet. With so many options available in the food aisle, choosing one that’s best for your furry family members can be a confusing and intimidating process. Especially for new parents and long-time pet caretakers alike.

The following guide is designed to provide the basic information necessary to help you choose a food that meets the specific nutritional needs of your beloved pet.

 

Why Do Small Pets Need Fortified Food?

A measured amount of a uniform, balanced food provides key vitamins and minerals small pets need to thrive.

In the wild, your pet would consume a variety of plant material each day, receiving ample amounts of micronutrients (i.e. vitamins & minerals) in the process.

In captivity, it becomes your responsibility as a pet parent to provide these important components of nutrition.

 

How Much Should I Feed?

Daily food requirements vary depending on age, species, and additional factors specific to your individual pet(s). Young, growing, pregnant or nursing pets have higher nutritional requirements and will generally require a larger quantity of food than mature pets.

Always follow the feeding guidelines on your pet’s specific food package. Consult your veterinarian if you have questions about how much food your animal should eat.

HERBIVORES

For herbivores such as rabbits and guinea pigs, a uniform fortified food should make up 20% of the daily diet. The majority of the diet (70%) should come from unlimited fresh grass hay. The remainder of the diet should come from fresh greens (8%) and healthy, all-natural treats (up to 2%).

 


OMNIVORES

For omnivores such as rats, a uniform kibble should make up 75% of the daily diet. The remainder of the omnivore diet should come from a mix of fresh veggies, greens, and fruit (20%) and healthy, all-natural treats for bonding (up to 5%).

 


Premium & Nutritionally Correct Food Checklist

Uniform pellets = complete nutrition in every bite.

  • Species & Life-stage specific (Grass hay-based for adult, Lucerne-based for young, growing, pregnant & lactating)
  • Prebiotics to feed good bacteria
  • Chelated minerals (e.g. “proteinates”) for most efficient absorption
  • Natural Preservatives (Mixed Tocopherols, Rosemary Extract)
  • No refined sugars (e.g. glucose, dextrose sucrose, corn syrup)

 

All Oxbow foods are formulated with the guidance of leading exotics veterinarians and nutritionists Oxbow foods are uniform, complete, and species and life-stage specific to meet the specific needs of pets.  Learn more about Oxbow foods at OxbowAnimalHealth.com

 

CONCENTRATE SELECTOR

Rabbits, guinea pigs, and other small animals are classified as “concentrate selectors.” As prey species in the wild, these animals are wired to select and eat the most energy-dense plant materials available, as quickly as possible. For domesticated pets, these instincts are no longer tied to survival, but they are still likely to lead to selective eating. Choosing a uniform food helps prevent this potentially unhealthy behaviour.

TYPES OF FOOD

Uniform Pellets Vs. Mixes

One of the biggest differences you will notice when comparing options in the food aisle is the visual contrast between uniform and mix-based foods.

What are the primary differences between these food types and which is the best choice for your pet? Let’s take a closer look.

 

Mix-Based Diets

  • Contain seeds, nuts, fruits & miscellaneous pieces which are often high in carbohydrates & simple sugars.
  • Typically, lower in fibre than uniform pellets.
  • Come in bright colours to appear “fun” & appeal to young customers.
  • Can lead to obesity, selective eating & GI illness.

 

Uniform Pellets

  • Prevent selective eating common amongst small pets.
  • Provide complete nutrition in every bite.
  • Typically, higher in fibre than mixes.
  • Less likely to contain added sugars, artificial colours or flavours.

 

 

CHELATED MINERALS: A More Absorbable Source

Fortified Food - Oxbow Essentials - Adult Rabbit Food In the wild, small animals receive all the minerals they need from the variety of plant material they consume. As pets, it’s important that these animals have access to high quality, bioavailable minerals via their daily food. Some minerals can be more difficult than others for small pets to absorb. Through the process of “chelation” minerals are bound to amino acids or other organic compounds to form a more easily absorbable mineral complex. Chelated minerals are designed to survive digestion and are more readily absorbed than their nonchelated counterparts. Chelated minerals can be typically be identified by the suffix “-ate” following a mineral’s chemical name. Oxbow foods contain chelated minerals in “proteinate” form (e.g. zinc proteinate).

All Oxbow foods are made with chelated minerals to ensure maximin absorbability of important compounds

 

 

PREBIOTICS vs. PROBIOTICS

Prebiotics: are non-digestible ingredients that provide food for the good bacteria in your pet’s GI tract. Fermentation of prebiotics within the GI tract produces beneficial fatty acids which aid in the digestion process. Examples of beneficial prebiotics to look for in a high-quality food include inulin (chicory root), yeast culture and hydrolysed yeast.

Probiotics: are live bacteria intended to maintain healthy levels of good bacteria in the GI tract. While probiotic supplements are popular in humans and certain pet species, these bacteria have not been proven to survive the manufacturing process in conventional foods, nor the acidic environment of the stomach. Additional research is also required to understand which specific strains of good bacteria exist in the GI tract of different small animals. Avoid foods making health claims relating to probiotics.

 

 

YOUNG vs. ADULT

The Importance of Choosing Life-Stage Specific Food

Small animals have specific nutritional needs at various stages in life. For example, young, growing and pregnant or lactating animals have higher energy requirements and should be offered food that is specifically designed to meet these needs. A lucerne-based uniform pellet provides a more nutrient-dense diet that supports animals during these stages of life. For adult animals, grass hay-based food provides appropriate levels of protein and fat to meet maintenance.

 

 


5 Things Your Rat Wants You to Know

5 Things Your Rat Wants You to Know

 

  1. I love fresh veggies and fruit and sometimes even a crunchy bug.
  2. I am really smart so I can be trained and enjoy athletic challenges.
  3. Please don’t feed me with mixes of nuts, seeds and dried fruit.
  4. I’m an omnivore so I need to eat healthy protein and fats as well as fibre.
  5. I’m social so I’d love to share my home with another rat friend.

 

Your rat is an omnivore so he eats both plant & animal material. Most of a rat’s diet should include a complete fortified food/ pellets with veggies, greens and fruits offered in appropriate daily amounts.

Always ensure there is freshwater in both a sipper bottle and a tip-proof dish.

This nutrition wheel is a great guide showing how much and what sorts of food should be fed to your rat.

 

Did you know that mixes with nuts & seeds are not good for your rat? Rats tend to select those tempting bits over healthy food, and like humans, can overeat when bored. So it’s important to provide healthy foods in proper amounts.

 

Fresh vegetables, greens & fruits are an important part of your rat’s daily diet, as these offer important vitamins & nutrients, and also contribute hydration and enrichment to their daily routine.

 

Rats are super smart and can be trained to respond to their names, to fetch, to use a litter box & to even climb ropes! Choose a multi-level habitat with places to hide and play such as cardboard tubes, an exercise wheel, ropes and grass hay to burrow & nest.

 

Rats enjoy socialisation with both other rats & humans. Consider getting a de-sexed pair as companions. Rats need a cage with lots of space to play and burrow. Layer a solid bottomed cage (not wire) with soft bedding such Oxbow’s Pure Comfort which is ultra-absorbent and has minimal dust for your rat’s sensitive respiratory system. Avoid cedar & pine shavings which can irritate his lungs & skin.


5 Things Your Guinea Pig Wants You to Know

5  Things Your Guinea Pig Wants You to Know

 

  1. I need Vitamin C every day in my food.
  2. I am most happy when I am with a friend.
  3. I’ll live a lot longer if you don’t feed me grains, corn and seeds.
  4. My cage is my home, please keep it clean and safe from predators.
  5. I love lots of fresh hay.

Guinea pigs LOVE fresh hay, this should make up most of the food you give them.

Not only is hay good for your piggy, it’s very important to keep his tummy healthy and teeth strong.

This nutrition wheel shows how much hay and pellets should be fed to your pet.

 


Did you know that grains, seeds and corn are not good for your guinea pig? These might be good for you to eat, but your piggy struggles to digest starch and may become overweight if fed these foods.

 

Vitamin C should be given to your guinea pig daily to prevent them from getting Scurvy, which can be really painful. All of Oxbow’s guinea pig pellets are made with stabilized Vitamin C, but if your piggy is not on Oxbow pellets then it will be a good idea to give them a Vitamin C supplement. Try Natural Science Vitamin C tablets.

 

Your guinea pig is social and would love a friend to interact with while you are at school or work. Please just make sure the companion you choose is the same sex or de-sexed so that they don’t fight or have babies which also need to be cared for. There are lots of piggies in the world needing loving homes and we don’t want to add to the problem of unwanted guinea pigs who need to be rescued.

 

How and where you keep your guinea pig’s cage is very important in keeping happy healthy pets. Think carefully about choosing the right size cage, cleaning it once a week and placing it in a cool place where your guinea pig won’t overheat. Remember if keeping your pet indoors that they do benefit from time in gentle sunlight.


5 Things Your Bunny Wants You to Know

5 Things Your Bunny Wants You to Know

  1. If I am desexed, I will live a happier, healthier life.
  2. I can easily be litter box trained and live indoors with you.
  3. I’ll live a lot longer if you don’t feed me grains, corn and seeds.
  4. Please vaccinate me against Calicivirus & protect me from biting insects that can make me very sick.
  5. I need LOTS of fresh hay.

 

Bunnies should LOVE fresh grass hay and this should make up most of the food you give them.

Not only is grass hay good for your bun, but it’s very important to keep his tummy healthy and teeth short & strong.

This nutrition wheel shows how much hay and pellets should be fed to your pet.

Did you know that grains, seeds and corn are not good for your rabbit? These might be good for you to eat, but bunnies struggle to digest starch and often become overweight & unhealthy if fed these foods.

Bunnies are clever creatures that can be litter box trained and live indoors where they will be protected from dogs, summer heat and exposure to illnesses. Just remember to rabbit-proof your home (power cords, plants etc.) to protect your bunny and your belongings.

 

Oxbow / Specialised Animal NutritionThree Reasons to Desex Your Rabbit:

1.) It minimises unwanted aggressive and territorial behaviours.

2.) It reduces the risk of illnesses such as cancer of the womb in females.

3.) There are so many bunnies in the world needing loving homes, we don’t want to add to the overpopulation problem.

 

Calicivirus and Myxomatosis are two very deadly illnesses facing rabbits. You can get your bun vaccinated against Calicivirus, but there is no vaccine for Myxomatosis in Australia, so it is important that you protect your bunny from biting insects like fleas and mosquitoes, which carry this disease.


Use of Oxbow’s Critical Care with Ringtail Possums, Beverley Young, Sydney Wildlife

Sydney Wildlife is a volunteer organization which rescues and cares for native wildlife that is injured, sick or orphaned. Animals are rehabilitated and released to the wild. The organization specializes in the problems of urban native animals, its field covering the greater metropolitan area of Sydney. Public education, information and in-service training are part of its services. There is a 24hr. assistance line to the public which takes about 14,000 calls a year. Currently Sydney Wildlife has about 400 members.

There is a high concentration of Ringtail Possums in the northern districts of Sydney – some 600 coming into care each year, 400 of those are babies. The following notes are prepared by Beverley Young who has been the Coordinator for Ringtail Possums for 8 years and keeps detailed records of treatment and care. Continue reading


Using Critical Care for Herbivores in Common Wombats, Anne Fowler, DVM

Digestive Physiology of the Common Wombat

The Common wombat mainly eats a diet of grasses with a low nutritional value. The majority of this diet is indigestible fibre from the plant cell walls. The first part of the large bowel (proximal colon) has evolved into site where energy is taken from the grass fibre. The proximal colon of the Common wombat is so large it represents 68% of the total gut volume.

 

The grass fibre is broken down by bacteria. There are more bacteria in the colon than elsewhere in the gut.  These bacteria break down the fibre to create a source of energy for the wombat, permitting it to use low quality grasses and survive periods of food shortages that occur with drought.

The horse is the mammal with a similar digestive tract to the Common wombat. Although the Southern Hairy-nosed wombat has some subtle but significant differences in its grazing strategy and length of the proximal colon, its digestive tract is similar to the Common wombat.

Why Use Oxbow’s Critical Care for Herbivores?

Critical Care for Herbivores is a premium grass-based recovery food which can be given to herbivores that are unwilling or unable to eat their normal diet due to injury or illness. Providing an easily digestible source of fibre to promote the development of the normal bacterial population in the proximal colon seems prudent when the digestive physiology of the Common wombat is considered. As Common wombats eat grass, a supplement with finely ground grass, as the primary ingredient, is an appropriate addition to the diet.

The addition of high sugar or high fat ingredients to the diet of wombats may be detrimental in that it may favour the growth of less desirable bacteria that prefer those conditions, and not those adapted to a high fibre diet.

Uses for Oxbow’s Critical Care for Herbivores

In a healthy wombat:

Oxbow’s Critical Care for Herbivores can play a role in assisting the wombat at the age of weaning when the introduction of solid food takes place. By providing an appropriate fibre level, the normal gut flora can be established. This can be offered at the stage that the molars have erupted and grass is being introduced for the first time. This occurs from an Age Factor of 0.6 or approximately 1.2kg onwards.

In a sick wombat:

  1. Diarrhoea: Oxbow’s Critical Care has been successfully used in wombats with diarrhoea, together with medical therapy.  It has been used in cases with bacterial, fungal and protozoal diarrhoea. In these instances, Critical Care provides a source of fibre that can be readily converted into energy and helps the faeces to become firm.
  2.  Other diseases, for example cystitis or pneumonia: Oxbow’s Critical Care can be used as a supplement for energy during these illnesses. A grass-based diet can assist in the alkalinisation of urine. Care should be taken with offering any food item by mouth to a wombat with pneumonia to ensure that aspiration into the lungs does not occur.
  3.  Failure to thrive: Once it has been confirmed that there is not an infectious cause for failure to gain weight, by examination of the faeces by a veterinarian, Critical Care® may assist by providing a readily available source of energy. The protein levels are sufficient to meet the requirements of a growing wombat.

Instructions for Use of Oxbow’s Critical Care

Wombats may accept either the original (aniseed) or apple/banana flavour.

Making up Critical Care for Herbivores

Except in particular cases under veterinary care, Critical Care should not be added to the milk, but fed separately at the consistency of mousse or porridge. Addition to milk will result in less energy being offered to the wombat, and thus a greater volume will be required. As the wombat stomach is small, it is less likely to get sufficient energy before it feels full if added to milk.

Add 2 two tablespoons of pre-boiled warm water to 1 level tablespoon of Critical Care and mix well to a consistency that can be drawn up into a catheter-tipped syringe.  Although the mixture can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours, it is preferable to mix up fresh for each feed.

How to Offer:

Oxbow’s Critical Care should only be offered once wombats are warmed and adequately hydrated.  Giving food to a cold, dehydrated and shocky wombat means that the food will not be absorbed by the gut and runs the risk of aspiration of the food.

Wombats are fed in an upright position – i.e. not lying on their back like a kangaroo. Critical Care is offered using a 60ml catheter-tipped syringe.  The nozzle of the syringe is placed in the mouth behind the incisors and in front of the molar teeth.  Only 1-2ml per kg is offered at a time before the syringe is removed from the mouth and the wombat is permitted to chew and swallow for up to a minute before more is offered.

Amount to Offer in a Day

As wombats have a lower energy turnover in comparison to mammals, they only require 18 grams (2 tablespoons) of dry product per kilogram of body weight per day, if fed as a sole food.  This is not normally recommended as both milk and free access to grasses (if appropriate for the age) should be offered wherever possible.  What this does mean is that a small volume may be of benefit to the wombat. This amount may be divided into 2 – 3 feeds a day.  It can be offered after, or instead of a milk feed.

References

  1. Marsupial Nutrition. Chapter 4: Hindgut fermenters – the wombats. Ed:  ID Hume. Pub: Cambridge Press, 1999
  2. Life of Marsupials, Chapter 8: Wombats: vegetarians of the underworld, by H Tyndale-Biscoe, Pub: CSIRO Publishing, 2005.
  3. Fauna of Australia, Chapter 32. Vomatidae, by RT Wells. Available online: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/abrs/publications/fauna-of-australia/fauna-1b.html

 

 


Cedar Creek Wombat Rescue – Case Study

“Cheeky” an 11kg female wombat came into care after suffering head trauma probably from being hit by a car.  She had severe swelling to her nose making breathing through it impossible, a fracture cheek bone and a non-displaced fracture near the hinge of her jaw that was painful and prevented her from closing her mouth properly.  “Cheeky” was very distressed and had to be placed on oxygen to help her breath with less effort.  It really looked like she might not make it through the first night. Wombats are obligate nose breathers and only breathe through their mouths if forced to. When they breathe through their mouths it makes it difficult for them to eat.  This along with the injury to her jaw was adding to “Cheeky’s” distress.  After she was treated for shock, she needed nutrition to allow her to heal but obviously couldn’t eat grass or grain since she couldn’t breathe and chew at the same time and her jaw was painful even with pain relief.  A slurry of milk mixed with Critical Care was syringed into her mouth in small amounts every few hours.  Because she couldn’t breathe and swallow at the same time, she could take a little at a time.  Milk alone was not enough for a wombat her size and the added nutrition of Critical Care helped sustain her until after several weeks the swelling finally reduced allowing her to breathe through her nose and her jaw healed enough to allow her to start eating a little on her own.   She was continued on Critical Care for several months because it was a very long healing process before she was eating a normal diet or grass well enough to maintain her weight.

Roz & Kevin Holme

Mob: 0429 482 551

PO Box 538

Cessnock, NSW 2325

wombaroo10@harboursat.com.au