November 20, 2019

Guinea Pig Life Stages

Guinea Pig Life Stages

At what age should your guinea pig start eating adult guinea pig food? When should your guinea pig start and stop eating alfalfa hay? If you've ever asked these questions, we're here to help!

Young Guinea Pigs

Guinea pigs are considered young from birth to about 6 months of age. Like many developing animals, young guinea pigs grow rapidly, and this growth requires additional calories and nutrients that adult animals often don’t need. To meet these needs, feed young guinea pigs a nutritionally complete, alfalfa-based, uniform fortified food. It is also recommended to offer them a free choice mixture of alfalfa hay and other grass hays such as western timothy and orchard to ensure they’re eating enough nutrients (especially fiber).  Appropriate environmental enrichment in a large pet-proofed space is a necessity to allow them to run, play, and safely explore.


Adult Guinea Pigs

Guinea pigs are typically considered adults from 6 months to about 5 years of age. Adults are no longer growing but still require macro-nutrients like fiber and protein, as well as micro-nutrients like the vitamins and minerals that are found in a timothy hay-based, uniform fortified food. Always have timothy hay and other grass hay varieties available to your companion (the more variety the better!), but only offer alfalfa hay as an occasional treat. Most adult guinea pigs will need to be encouraged to exercise, so make sure to set aside time daily to interact with your guinea pig and get them moving. This interaction, along with a diversity of ever-changing environmental enrichment, will all help support their overall quality of life.


Senior Guinea Pigs

Guinea pigs are usually considered seniors once they are more than 5 years old. Senior guinea pigs may have special needs that vary from individual to individual. It is important to have your senior pig evaluated annually by a qualified and experienced exotics veterinarian to ensure they are happy and healthy! If your senior pig develops disease or natural age-related challenges, such as joint, GI, or urinary issues, they may benefit from Oxbow’s hay-based Natural Science supplements. Senior guinea pigs need exercise like any other small companion, but their exercise may need to be curated to fit their abilities as they age. Be sure to set time aside daily for interaction and quick wellness checks when your guinea pig is in their golden years.

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November 19, 2019

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Fiber

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Fiber
Cayla Iske, PhD 

We have all heard that fiber is a very important dietary component for our furry little exotic mammals. But why? And what exactly is fiber anyhow? If you have ever pondered these questions during sleepless nights, you have come to the right place. 

What is Fiber? 

Fiber is commonly defined as indigestible dietary material. Because it is “indigestible,” it’s easy to assume it’s not important. Don’t we want our animals to be able to digest their food? On the contrary, fiber is hugely important; it’s just digested differently than most macronutrients.

How is Fiber Digested?

When protein, fat, or simple carbohydrates are consumed, they are broken down by digestive enzymes that the body produces and mostly absorbed in the small intestine. Fiber, on the other hand, cannot be broken down by these enzymes and passes through the small intestine relatively unchanged and into the large intestine or caecum. Within these sections of the distal gastrointestinal (GI) tract lives part of the microbiome. This massive biodiversity of organisms  (predominately bacteria) flourish and “digest” fiber through a process called fermentation.  

The Facts about Fermentation 

During fermentation, the enzymes produced by microbes break down fiber into simpler substances (short-chain fatty acids also known as volatile fatty acids) which are then used to fuel the microbes and maintain a healthy population. Some of those short-chain fatty acids are absorbed directly across the intestinal wall and provide the animal itself with energy. So, while fiber isn’t digestible in the typical sense, most herbivores and omnivores can yield energy from fiber.  

Not All Fiber is Created Equal   

Fiber can be classified in many ways, one of the more common being soluble versus insoluble. Soluble fibers such as pectin, oats, and barley dissolve in water to form a gel and are more fermentable. This slows movement through the digestive tract and makes you feel fuller longer which can lead to reducing food intake. Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, moves through the digestive tract, promotes GI motility, and adds bulk to stools. Hay and bran are examples of insoluble fibers.  

Fiber for Our Herbivorous Friends

Rabbits, guinea pigs, and chinchillas are made to utilize fiber. They need large amounts of fiber, particularly insoluble fiber, to stimulate proper GI tract movement (peristalsis) which supports proper function and a healthy environment for the microbiome. As dietary levels of fiber decrease, these species are at higher risks for obesity as low fiber diets often also contain elevated levels of more digestible carbohydrates (easy energy). These extra calories can lead to weight gain which can lead to many secondary issues.  

The other issue common with a diet lacking enough fiber is the increased potential for the animal to develop GI stasis or ileus (lack of proper movement of the GI tract). Very commonly, GI stasis is a multifactorial syndrome, but the single biggest potential contributor is lack of adequate fiber intake to stimulate proper peristalsis. Without this constant GI movement, the gut pH can change which leads to shifts in microbial populations and potentially increased gas production all of which contribute to a to a reduced appetite. The reduced feed intake only exacerbates these conditions and can even negatively impact microbe populations in the large intestine and caecum, reducing fermentation capacity.  

What About Omnivores? 

Fiber is also important for omnivorous species such as rats, mice, hamsters, and gerbils, but isn’t needed in as high of quantities. Fiber quality is also different in these diets, as more soluble fiber may be of particular benefit. Most omnivores do have fermentation capacity, so they can and do derive energy from insoluble fiber, but soluble fiber also hugely benefits these species by helping control feed intake and obesity as well as reducing spikes in glucose after eating which can help reduce insulin related issues (e.g. hyperglycemia, diabetes). Additionally, the fermentation of soluble fibers can help maintain a healthy microbiome and healthy colon.  

The Micro-What? 

By now, you’ve seen multiple references to the microbiome.  So, what is it?  The microbiome refers most basically to billions and billions of microscopic living things (e.g. bacteria, protozoa, fungi, etc.) which largely reside in the cecum. As mentioned, these microbes are responsible for fiber digestion but also have a myriad of other functions which are still being explored. Most recently, the microbiome has been found to contribute to immune system and central nervous control and much research is still needed to fully understand the breadth and depth of microbiome functions. This is particularly true for our exotic companion mammals such as rabbits and guinea pigs as we don’t fully understand “normal” microbial populations. This is sure to be an interesting topic in future research and highlights another role of dietary fiber. 

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November 15, 2019

Fun Tips For Supporting Your Pet’s Health and Happiness

Fun Tips For Supporting Your Pet’s Health and Happiness

We all want our furry friends to live the happiest, healthiest lives possible.  Providing optimum care for your small pet requires commitment and dedication, but it can be a lot of fun as well.  Here are some fun tips for supporting your pet’s health and happiness each day.

Establish Routines, But Don’t Forget About Variety

Most small pets appreciate and benefit from routine in the daily activities.  When it comes to daily feeding, for example, it’s important to keep amounts consistent and within the daily recommended guidelines.  But, this doesn’t mean you can’t get creative with how and where food is offered. 

Some great options for mixing up a pet’s daily feeding routine might include:

Speedy eater?  Slow things down with a forage bowl!

Some pets are espeically eager at mealtime.  Forage bowls are great for adding fun and enrichment to mealtime while preventing pets from eating too quickly. 

Make a treat “treasure hunt” by hiding healthy treats in with your pet’s food

Choosing a uniform, nutritionally complete food is the right choice at mealtime, but that doesn’t mean you can’t add a little fun every now and then.  Try mixing in healthy treat pieces or small amounts of your pet’s favorite veggies to add some excitement to mealtime. 

Unlike muesli or forage mixes which can be loaded with hefty amounts of unhealthy ingredients, adding small amounts of special ingredients yourself means you don’t have to sacrifice your pet's essential daily nutrition in order to add a little fun to mealtime.     

Mix it up when it comes to hay

Hay is essential to the health of small herbivores, including rabbits, guinea pigs, and chinchillas.  The daily diet of these fiber-loving animals should be centered around unlimited amounts of grass hay.  As a general guideline, your small pet should eat a pile of hay that’s twice the size of his body each day. 

Feel free to mix it up when it comes to encouraging your pet to eat hay all throughout the day.  All pets are likely to form their own unique preferences when it comes to their favorite tastes and textures.  Some pets fancy softer, sweeter hays such as Orchard Grass, while others like to keep it crunchy with Oat Hay.  One of the most important steps you can take in ensuring your pet consumes adequate amounts of hay is to mix and match varieties.  This exposes your pet to multiple flavors and textures and reduces pickiness. 

Check out these fun variety combinations for some inspiration.    

Quick Tip: Always mix between bags (even the same variety) to prevent picky eating.  This simple activity exposes your pet to subtle variability in taste, texture, and aroma that occurs naturally between bags of hay. 

Provide Fun Enrichment Every Day

If you already love buying chews and toys for your furry friend, we have great news – these fun accessories are essential to the health and happiness of your pet!  Instead of reserving chews and toys for special occasions, you should offer a variety and mix them up regularly to support the instinctual behaviors of your pet.  These behaviors include:

To take your enrichment and accessory game to the next level, be sure to read our blog on 5 ways to provide daily enrichment for your pets.   

Celebrate Special & Everyday Moments Alike!

Let’s face it – all pets are special, and they all deserve to be celebrated every day.  While it can be especially fun to celebrate important dates such as birthdays and Gotcha days, there’s no need to save the celebrations for just a few times a year.  Here are some great ways to celebrate every day with your pet:

Provide The Gift of Regular Veterinary Care

Quality care from a qualified veterinarian is one of the greatest gifts you can provide your pet.  You should visit your trusted veterinarian twice a year for checkups on your pet’s diet, behavior, and overall health.  You can prepare for your pet’s visits by making a list of any questions or concerns you may have ahead of time.  Many health problems seen in small pets are preventable with proper diet and care. 

In addition to scheduled checkups, there are some symptoms that warrant an immediate visit to the vet.  These include:

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

Check out these great care resources for more ideas on how to support your pet’s health and happiness each day.

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November 13, 2019

How To Support Your Rabbit or Guinea Pig’s Instinctual Playing Behaviors Video

How To Support Your Rabbit or Guinea Pig’s Instinctual Playing Behaviors Video

Playing is a fun and instinctual behavior of small pets such as rabbits, guinea pigs, and chinchillas. Watch as Dr. Micah Kohles of Oxbow Animal Health provides some quick tips on how to support your small pet's playing instincts.


Learn More

Five Ways to Provide Daily Enrichment for Small Animals

All About Nutritional Enrichment

Games with Pets

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November 08, 2019

Oxbow Awards $5,000 to Small Animal Rescues Worldwide Via “Nurture Their Nature” Campaign

Oxbow Animal Health has announced the winners of its “Nurture Their Nature” rescue donation campaign. A portion of all sales of Oxbow’s Enriched Life products made in August and September were donated to support rescues in need. The five winning groups will each receive $1,000 to support their organization’s needs. Winning organizations were chosen via public voting online.

The winning organizations of the Nurture Their Nature contest are:
• Noordhoek Bunny Rescue - Cape Town, South Africa
• Bunny Wonderland - Singapore
• House Rabbit Resource Network - Pflugerville, Texas
• Magic Happens Rabbit Rescue - Baton Rouge, Louisiana
• Wee Companions Small Animal Adoption, Inc. - San Diego, California

“We are so honored to recognize and support the winners of our Nurture Their Nature campaign,” said Melissa Ross, Oxbow’s Vice President of Marketing. “Daily enrichment is essential to the health and happiness of small pets, and we’re so excited to donate a portion of the proceeds from our Enriched Life sales to help rescues provide a happy, healthy, and enriched life for animals in search of their forever homes.”

“It is such an honor to receive this prize from Oxbow,” said the team at Bunny Wonderland in Singapore. “We have recently rescued a family of 12 rabbits and this amount will be applied towards their medical expenses as well as sterilization. This prize will change lives, for sure! Thank you once again to the wonderful team at Oxbow and this meaningful campaign!”

“We are humbled by the support of those who voted on behalf of our organization,” said Theresa Ransom-Nelson, Treasurer for House Rabbit Resource Network. “Affirmations such as this make our day! Oxbow Animal Health’s generosity enables us to continue providing the best of care for our shelter rabbits by means of spay/neuter, other veterinary care, food, housing, and behavioral enrichment.”

“This summer has been full of back-to-back intakes of medical cases, from abscesses and injuries to stubborn upper respiratory infections, all of which takes its toll on the savings account when it comes to medical care,” said Wendy Lincoln of Magic Happens Rabbit Rescue in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

“Financial assistance is few and far between for “the little guys” who rescue the castoffs that most rescue groups and facilities aren’t equipped to care for. We are so very appreciative for assistance like this from Oxbow!” “I don’t think we realized how much support and exposure Noordhoek Bunny Rescue would get from this competition,” said Director, Sian Christina Huyser. “The voting link was spread far and wide on Facebook pages, personal profiles, Whatsapp groups and websites! Apparently South Africans are quite competitive! Not only did we receive tremendous support, but also some incredible
press, with local newspapers and digital media picking up our story and running with it. Our prize money will go straight to cover our vets bills. We will also use some of the funds to finish up our sanctuary. Thanks again, Oxbow!”

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