All About Fortified Foods for Herbivores

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.


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%).



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



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.


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: 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.




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.