June, 2019

June 28, 2019

Ideal Temperatures for Small Pets

Ideal Temperatures for Small Pets

Much like their human counterparts, small exotic animals are susceptible to summer heat. So how can you keep your pet small pet safe and comfortable during the warm summer months? Read on to learn more about best practices when it comes to ideal room temperatures as well as tip-top cool down ideas for small exotic pets. 

Ideal Temperatures for Small Pets

How cool or warm should you keep the space where your pet's habitat resides?

Rabbits and chinchillas thrive at 60-70º F (median 65º). Guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, do well in areas that are kept between 65-75º F (median 70). Similarly, ferrets are content at temperatures between 60-80º (median 70º). Rats, on the other hand, enjoy it to be a little warmer at 65-80º F (median 72.5º). Hedgehogs and sugar gliders enjoy even warmer temperatures ranging between 70-80º F (median 75º).


How to Keep Your Pet Comfortable in the Summer

Want to know some easy ways to keep your pet cool during the hot summer months? 

  • Provide a frozen water bottle for your pet to lie near when they’re feeling the heat. Monitor your pet for excessive chewing behaviors that require removal of the bottle.
  • Place an untreated stone tile in their habitat to stand on. Most pet stores sell tiles specifically for this purpose.
  • Provide a small snack of species-appropriate veggies from the fridge when daily temperatures are warmest.
  • Make sure your pet’s habitat and play area are out of direct sunlight.
  • Include an area in your pet’s habitat where they can escape any drafts or air flows they might find unpleasant (such as air from a fan, window, or A/C).
  • Always provide two sources of clean drinking water for your pet. Some pets might drink more water in warmer temperatures, so be sure to check water levels throughout the day.

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June 20, 2019

The Importance of Young Formulas for Small Animals

The Importance of Young Formulas for Small Animals
Written by Dr. Cayla Iske

Have you ever wondered why Oxbow offers different food formulas for young and adult animals?  Young and growing animals have significantly different nutrient requirements than mature adults. To put these requirements in context, think about how different an infant or child’s diet looks compared to yours. Because their little bodies are changing rapidly, their diets are composed of different concentrations of nutrients.

Young animals mature & develop each day, gaining muscle and growing bones while their brains and nervous system also develop. These processes require a high concentration of nutrients, specifically protein and calcium, in order to support this major transformation.

Until young animals are weaned, all of their nutritional requirements are met by their mother’s milk or a milk replacement formula. When transitioning to solid foods, it is important to find a diet and feeding regimen that continues to support proper growth and development. We recommend offering a young animal formula for rabbits under 1 year and guinea pigs under 6 months of age to support these needs.

Protein and Amino Acids

Most animals show extremely rapid growth in the first several months of life. For example, rabbits can more than quadruple their weight between 1 and 3 months of age (Masoud et al., 1986). In order to build muscle efficiently, their bodies require many nutrients but especially dietary protein. More specifically, amino acids, the building blocks of protein, are required by an animal.

A well-balanced diet will include a diversity of ingredients that provide protein and a specific amino acid profile. When consumed and digested, protein in the diet is broken down into individual amino acids in the gastrointestinal tract. Certain amino acids are required by animals to form proteins. For example, lysine is important for muscle growth and methionine is needed for development of a healthy coat, making these two amino acids essential in the diet (Carabaño et al., 2009; National Research Council, 1995).

A proper and balanced amino acid profile is extremely important for young and growing animals as imbalances or deficiencies can lead to reduced and improper growth. If the ingredients in the diet alone are not contributing adequate amounts of these amino acids, you may see them added individually in the ingredient list.

Calcium and Energy

Along with muscle comes bone growth and connective tissue formation in every young animal. Between the ages of 2 and 16 weeks, the length of a bunny’s femur bone will grow by 2.5 times (Masoud et al., 1986), requiring calcium in higher amounts (as compared to a fully-grown adult) to accommodate this rapid rate of growth. Additionally, proper formation of tendons and ligaments at this time is critical to ensure proper movement and stability of bone structures.  These processes also require calcium and amino acids.

Calcium is also required for a myriad of other essential processes in the body such as muscle, nerve, and immune system function. Given the body will naturally prioritize calcium for these highly essential functions, inadequate levels of calcium in the diet of young animals can lead to reduced growth, weak bones (which increase the risk of injury) or can adversely affect other calcium requiring processes. This need for higher calcium concentrations, as well as the elevated need for protein, is often accomplished by utilizing an alfalfa-based diet, as alfalfa contains naturally higher levels of both calcium and protein.

The growth process also requires a higher level of energy in the diet. Higher dietary protein will help contribute to this need, but slightly increased amounts of fat concentrations (as compared to adult formulas) are also useful to accomplish a higher energy density. Feeding directions can also accomplish greater energy intake by offering a greater volume or feeding an unlimited quantity.

What About Hay?

In addition to an alfalfa-based pelleted diet, loose alfalfa hay provides added vital nutrients in the daily diet of young animals.  In addition to alfalfa, it’s important for young animals to have access to a variety of grass hays.  Eating a variety of hays adds enrichment into the daily diet of young animals and will make more a much smoother transition to a grass hay-exclusive diet when animals reach adulthood and growth demands begin to slow. 

Can Young Animals Have Too Much Protein and Calcium?

If protein and calcium are so important to the growth and development of young animals, does that mean the more, the better?  Not necessarily. It is possible to provide too much protein and calcium to young animals, which may result in an animal growing too rapidly. This can not only put strain on bones and joints (which can grow too quickly to fully and properly develop), but also on organs such as the kidneys, which help metabolize protein.  It’s important to note that Oxbow’s young animal diets are formulated to provide an appropriate amount of protein and calcium, even when fed free choice.


A young animal has certain unique nutrient requirements to allow for proper growth which occurs rapidly in the first part of life. Generally, a growing animal requires higher concentrations of protein (amino acids), calcium, and energy in the diet to support basic physiological processes in addition to bone, connective tissue, muscle, and coat formation. Oxbow’s young animal diets are specifically formulated to meet these critical nutritional needs. 


Carabaño R., Villamide, M.J., García, J., Nicodemus, N., Llórente, A., Chamorro, S.,

Menoyo, D., García-Rebollar, P., García-Ruiz, AJ., De Blas, J.C. 2009. New concepts and objectives for protein-amino acid nutrition in rabbits: a review. Journal of the World Rabbit Science Association 17.1: 1-14.

Masoud, I., Shapiro, F., Kent, R., Moses, A. 1986. A longitudinal study of the growth of the New Zealand white rabbit: cumulative and biweekly incremental growth rates for body length, body weight, femoral length, and tibial length. Journal of Orthopaedic Research 4.2: 221-231.

National Research Council. 1995. Nutrient requirements of laboratory animals. National Academies Press.

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June 19, 2019

How to Clean a Guinea Pig Cage

How to Clean a Guinea Pig Cage

Maintaining a clean living space is vital to your guinea pig’s health. A sanitary habitat helps prevent respiratory illnesses that could result in expensive veterinary bills and possibly even a shorter lifespan for your pet. Read on to learn about some of the best guinea pig cage cleaning practices Oxbow recommends.

A guinea pig’s habitat should be completely cleaned at least once a week. This includes:

  1. Situating your guinea pig in a pet-proofed exercise pen with a hide,
  2. Properly disposing of all used litter and bedding in the habitat,
  3. Washing all hideouts and fabric-based items in your pet’s home,
  4. Using a safe cleaner to wipe down the habitat,
  5. Replacing fresh litter, bedding, and clean accessories into the habitat, and
  6. Setting your guinea pig back into their habitat.

This weekly cleaning routine should also include scrubbing the interior and exterior of all water sources (bottles and crocks) and food bowls to remove any food or bacterial build up.

In addition to cleaning your guinea pig’s habitat & accessories completely once a week, spot cleaning should be done daily. Spot cleaning can be done by removing soiled litter and bedding with a small food or litter scoop. Common areas that need to be spot cleaned in your guinea pig’s home are the corners of the habitat, and in or under any hiding spaces. Make sure to spot clean any other areas where your guinea pig tends to spend their time relaxing. After removing the soiled material, add new litter and bedding as needed.

The ideal cage cleaner will be marked as safe for small animals and will be free of any harsh scents. If you have trouble finding a cage cleaner, distilled white vinegar and water can be mixed into a clean spray bottle (1:1 ratio) and used in your guinea pig’s habitat. Use a spare washcloth to wipe down the habitat, then rinse the habitat with plain water to remove any remaining residue or smell. The habitat should be completely dry before adding new litter and bedding.

If your guinea pig has recently been sick, ask your exotics veterinarian what they’d recommend using to clean the habitat. This way you can ensure your pet does not get sick again or spread the same illness to other animals.

Spot cleaning and weekly cage cleaning should be part of your regular routine! You can include these tasks in a weekly planner or set reminders on your phone if you find you have trouble remembering. In addition to strengthening the bond between you and your pet, interacting with your guinea pig for at least an hour a day will also help you remember daily and weekly cleanings.

Excessive dampness?

If you find multiple damp spots in your pet’s habitat on cleaning day but already spot cleaned, that might be a sign that your pet’s habitat needs to be fully cleaned more than once a week. Check that your pet’s water bottle is not leaking, and monitor your pet’s drinking and urination habits; excessive water-drinking or urination could be a sign of illness that requires a vet visit.

Moisture Control + Comfort = A Happy Pet

Oxbow’s Eco-Straw litter is compostable! Simply dispose of soiled Eco-Straw in your own compost pile or in your commercial compost bin.

It’s great to have absorbent bedding, but bedding should primarily act as soft, relaxing nesting material for your pet. Ideally, a small animal litter that wicks moisture away from your pet’s bedding should make up the bottom layer of the habitat (approximately 1 inch thick), with approximately 2 inches of a safe bedding material placed over the litter.

Quick Tip: Upgrade!

  • Larger habitats provide more living space for your pet
  • A larger habitat + daily spot cleaning = less residue (and less elbow grease!)
  • Daily access to a pet-proofed exercise space is also essential

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June 17, 2019

A Side-By-Side Look at Oxbow Foods

A Side-By-Side Look at Oxbow Foods

Pet parents often ask us which Oxbow food line is the best.  The truth is that no one Oxbow diet is “better” than another.  All Oxbow foods are nutritionally-correct and uniform to meet the daily nutritional needs of pets.  All Oxbow foods are veterinarian-recommended, fixed formulas made with premium ingredients.  What makes each line special is that each features an ingredient profile that speaks to the specific preferences and tastes of pets.  Check out our foods infographic to learn more about the features that make our Essentials, Garden Select, and Organic Bounty foods special and unique.  

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June 05, 2019

How to Support Your Pet’s Instinctual Chewing Behaviors

How to Support Your Pet’s Instinctual Chewing Behaviors

Chewing is an instinctual behavior of rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas, and other small pets. The many benefits of chewing include healthy dental wear, mental stimulation, preventing obesity and boredom-based behaviors, and the opportunity to build the bond with your pet. Learn more as Dr. Micah Kohles of Oxbow Animal Health provides helpful tips on how to support the healthy chewing behaviors of your pet!

More Great Resources:

All About Chewing Handout
All About Playing Handout

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June 05, 2019

All About Chewing Handout

All About Chewing Handout

Whether nibbling on their favorite hay, munching on leafy greens, or chewing on their favorite toy, small pets are wired to chew all day, every day. As it turns out, chewing is an instinctual behavior with important benefits to your pet’s health and happiness. Read on to learn more about how to provide an environment that helps meet this basic need.

Why do Small Pets Chew?

The continuously-growing or “open rooted” teeth of rabbits, guinea pigs, and chinchillas are designed to keep up with the continual wear caused by the natural, high fiber diet of small herbivores. In the wild, your animal would munch on grasses, branches, bark, and any number of other hard, fibrous materials throughout the day. In captivity, it’s essential to provide ample materials to satisfy this instinctual behavior and prevent dental overgrowth.

Chewing Checklist for Your Small Pet 

High Fiber Hay 

Satisfying your pet’s chewing instincts starts with hay. Every small herbivore should have unlimited access to fresh, high fiber hay each day. Hay is the primary source of fiber in your pet’s diet; in addition to providing essential dental wear, the fiber in hay is responsible for keeping your pet’s digestive system healthy and moving. Without this constant motion, your pet’s digestive system can quickly fall into a dangerous state called gastrointestinal stasis.

Safe, Natural Chews 

Hay is great, but it’s essential to provide additional fun chewing options to keep your pet mentally stimulated and engaged. To accomplish this, provide a variety of safe, natural chews each day. Place these items in various locations throughout the habitat, rotating chews regularly to keep your pet mentally stimulated. Ideal materials for chews include untreated wood, hay, and natural fibers such as sisal and jute.

Woven-Hay Hideouts 

In addition to their chewing instinct, all prey animals are wired to hide away to escape stressors throughout the day. Every habitat should include at least one hide space to support this instinct. Choose a woven-hay hideout such as Oxbow’s Timothy CLUB Bungalow to make this experience even more enriching. In addition to a safe space to hide, Timothy Club Bungalows provide an ample supply of all-natural chewing materials.

Tips for Chew-Proofing Your Home 

Wires and cords

Electrical wires and cords pose a serious threat to the health of chew-happy animals such as rabbits and guinea pigs. Take special care to keep these items out of your pet’s reach. Exercise pen fencing makes a great barrier to areas where
cords and wires might be present. Plastic splitlength tubing is available at most hardware stores and makes a great protective cover for cords in areas where it might not be possible to eliminate your pet’s access.


By nature, your small pet will instinctively want to forage on any green, leafy material available, including houseplants. Some houseplants can be poisonous to small pets, so make sure to keep all plants elevated and out of reach. If you are concerned about whether any of your plants might be poisonous, be sure to check with your veterinarian.

Furniture, Carpet, Etc.

For rabbits, guinea pigs, and other small pets allowed to roam the house, it can be very difficult and frustrating to prevent damage to furniture, carpet, and other “tempting to chew” elements of home décor. The best way to prevent this type of damage is to offer better, more interesting options. Provide a variety of all-natural chews, toys, and play centers throughout your pet’s living space to help prevent destructive chewing behaviors.

Benefits of Chewing Include: 

  • Provides essential, beneficial dental wear
  • Offers mental stimulation throughout the day
  • Promotes play and activity that help prevent obesity
  • Prevents boredom-based behaviors
  • Helps build your bond with your pet 

Unique Features of Enriched Life Natural Chews 

  • Innovatively designed to meet chewing instincts of small pets
  • Designed to encourage mental and physical enrichment
  • Wide assortment of items provides fun and stimulating play
  • Safe, natural materials include hay, untreated wood, and natural fibers
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