Micah Feeding

Vet Speak

In this section, Dr. Micah Kohles, Oxbow’s Director of Veterinary Science and Outreach, answers all of your animal health related questions.  If you have a question for Dr. Kohles regarding the health or behavior of your small animal, send it to web@oxbowanimalhealth.com.

I've been told by chinchilla breeders/rescuers/friends that sugar is bad for chinchillas because it causes digestive problems, yet Oxbow makes treats for chinchillas containing various sugars (molasses, fruits, etc). Is there evidence that sugar-containing products are not harmful?

Sugar (a carbohydrate) is something we need to be aware of with all small herbivores. In general, we want to avoid simple sugars with these species, but sugars (carbohydrates) are an important part of every animal’s nutrition. In my evaluation, I try always to look at the type of sugar. It is first important to look at the amount of sugar and secondly the type. For example, cane molasses is utilized in very small amounts in Oxbow pellets to help with the pelleting process. Cane molasses, while a sugar, is an unrefined sugar which the body cannot digest and absorb as quickly as a refined sugar like corn syrup.

All fruits contain varied amounts of natural sugars, as do (to a lesser degree) veggies and greens. The key, again, is the amount and type. Feeding small amounts of fresh or freeze-dried fruits, veggies and larger amounts of fresh greens a nutritionally correct way to increase your little one’s diet diversity, as well as stimulate them with new smells, textures and tastes.  It's important to note that freeze-dried fruits do not include any additional sugar.  Dried fruits, on the other hand, frequently include a considerable amount of added sugar and should be avoided. 

Sincerely,

Dr. Micah Kohles, DVM, MPA
Director of Veterinary Science and Outreach
Oxbow Animal Health