March 25, 2020

COVID-19 and RHD - What Pet Parents Need to Know

COVID-19 and RHD - What Pet Parents Need to Know

COVID-19 is top of mind for all of us these days, but we've received some questions from rabbit owners about Viral Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHD) in recent days as well.  Join Dr. Kohles as he discusses key information relating to both COVID-19 and Viral Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHD).  

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March 24, 2020

Oxbow Animal Health: Covid-19 Update

Oxbow Animal Health: Covid-19 Update

Dear Pet Parent,  

I hope this message finds you and your loved ones healthy and safe. On behalf of the entire Oxbow family, I want to share heartfelt support as you navigate the uncertainty and stress brought on by the coronavirus. As a loving pet parent, you may be wondering how the pandemic will affect your ability to purchase the food and other products your pet needs. That’s why I want to update you on the things Oxbow is doing to manage through this challenge. 

At Oxbow, our purpose is to help pets and people lead healthy, happy lives. I can assure you we have never felt more dedicated to this purpose. As of today, we are still open for business. We continue to package and ship Oxbow products, and our Customer Care team is available to answer your questions. At the same time, we are working hard to protect the health and safety of our employees and their families. This is a balancing act we take very seriously.     

To protect Oxbow employees, we are heeding the advice and directives from the CDC and other public authorities.

We are enhancing companywide sanitation procedures, educating all employees, updating work processes, and providing comprehensive support for employees facing disruptions to their personal and professional lives. Some jobs are now being performed from employees’ homes, forcing us to re-think the flow of information and work. With every change, we look for ways to prevent disruption to customers.  

As our leaders closely monitor the evolving pandemic, we’re expecting Oxbow’s operations will need to adapt to changing circumstances. We will keep you informed of changes that could impact you. While we all face this uncertainty together, Oxbow is committed to doing everything in our power to take care of you and your pets.   

Some customers have reached out with questions regarding how to best care for their pets during this difficult time. We encourage you to read this article written by Dr. Micah Kohles, our Vice President of Technical Services & Research, regarding what you can do to support your pets in the face of COVID-19.    

For more than 30 years, it has been our honor to serve the needs of you and your furry family members.  The entire Oxbow family appreciates your support in these uncertain times. 

Good health and happiness to you and your pets,  

Deb Buhro, CEO  
Oxbow Animal Health  

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March 20, 2020

Common Chinchilla Health Issues

Common Chinchilla Health Issues

Did you know that National Chinchilla Day is March 23rd?  What better way to honor these unique little creatures than to discuss common chinchilla health concerns? Learning all you can about potential health issues will allow you to provide your chin with the very best care, ensuring you and your companion share as many years together as possible. Before we dive in, let’s celebrate by learning some fun facts about these incredible animals:

  • There are two species of chinchillas: short-tailed and long-tailed 
  • Chinchillas hail from South America and are commonly found in the Andes Mountains at altitudes 12,000 feet and above 
  • They are part of the rodent family 
  • They are hindgut fermenters and produce two different types of stool, one of which they ingest! 
  • Chinchillas were named after the Chincha people of the Andes 
  • Wild chinchillas are listed as an endangered species due to hunting and habitat degradation 
  • Chinchillas have the thickest fur of any land mammal with 60-70 hairs per follicle (humans only have 1 per follicle) 
  • They can jump 5-6 feet vertically 
  • Chinchillas should not get wet but bathe in fine dust/ash to clear away dirt and distribute their natural oils 
  • A domestic chinchilla’s lifespan can be 15-20 years 
  • They are scientifically the cutest exotic companion mammal (okay, this one is subjective but just look at them) 

Common Chinchilla Problems 

One characteristic that can set chinchillas up for a plethora of health issues is their highly sensitive digestive tracts. In their native, harsh habitat high in the mountains of South America, chinchillas largely consume hearty, fibrous vegetation that can survive the climate. This can include bushes, grasses, leaves, twigs, roots, and stems. Even the small amounts of native berries, flowers, and fruits they may find and consume in South America tend to be more fibrous and contain far less sugar than the commercially available fruits we are used to. For these reasons, their digestive tracts are not equipped to properly digest high levels of starch and sugars. Compared to their native diet, the most nutritionally akin food we can and should provide is a diversity of grass hays, which should always be the staple of a chinchilla’s diet. Pairing free choice amounts of grass hays with controlled amounts of appropriate pellets as well as limited amounts of greens/veggies is the best way to ensure a balanced diet and a happy, healthy fur baby. Treats are not necessary nutritionally but can help to form the human-animal bond. If offering treats, be sure to provide them in small amounts and keep in mind these animals’ sensitive digestive tracts when selecting treat options. When diets deviate from high fiber and lean towards more simple carbohydrates (sugars and starches), several health issues can arise.

Dental Issues 

Chinchillas’ teeth are all open rooted which means they are continuously growing and need substrate to wear them down. Lack of fibrous foods and appropriate enrichment chew items may result in abnormal growth of teeth, malocclusion (imperfect positioning of the teeth), and potentially other types of dental diseases. If this occurs, animals may not be able to chew properly which can lead to changes in eating patterns and in severe cases even complete anorexia. The constant intake of fiber is essential for the gastrointestinal (GI) tract of chinchillas and if dental disease negatively affects this, it can lead to a life-threatening issue known as GI stasis. For more in-depth information on dental issues in chinchillas, refer to our previous Dental Disease blog.

Gastrointestinal Stasis 

Beyond the physical ramifications of a diet lacking in dietary fiber, serious physiological issues can arise from these inappropriate diets. The GI system of chinchillas is designed to process high levels of fiber which are not calorically dense nor highly digestible. In order to meet their energy requirements, the high fiber food material moves through the system relatively quickly to make room for more consumed food. This constant movement of the GI tract and the cycle of ingestion and defecation is key to chinchilla health. Fiber ensures proper GI movement and is also key to keeping the microbiome happy and healthy. The microbiome refers to billions and billions of microscopic living organisms (e.g. bacteria, protozoa, fungi, etc.) that reside throughout the intestines and contribute to hundreds of processes in the body, including fiber fermentation in the hindgut.  

When a chinchilla’s diet is lacking adequate fiber and/or includes too many simple carbohydrates, the natural “good” bacteria are compromised, opening the door for growth of potentially dangerous bacteria. This imbalance of bacteria or disruption of the microbiome is referred to as dysbiosis and can have numerous negative effects, including alteration of fiber digestion. Whether through reduction of peristalsis (physical movement of the intestines to push food material through via contraction and relaxation) or dysbiosis, lack of dietary fiber is closely linked to GI stasis.  

Signs of GI stasis should be heavily monitored for at all times. Any change in routine ingestion patterns or behavior even as short as one day can be detrimental. When the movement of the GI system slows or ceases (stasis), painful gas can build up further impeding intestinal movement. Because chinchillas cannot vomit or eructate (belch), any gas that builds up in the GI system must continue to move throughout the entire system to be alleviated at the rectum. Signs and symptoms of GI stasis may include lack of appetite, reduction of water intake, reduced activity, lethargy, hunched posture, abdominal stretching, and any changes in feces size or amount. Though these symptoms are not exclusive to GI stasis, if you observe any of the aforementioned changes, your trusted vet should be contacted immediately.  


Dysbiosis associated with low fiber and/or high carbohydrate diets can also lead to diarrhea. Simple carbohydrates are highly fermentable in the hindgut which leads to the formation of a concentration gradient and influx of water into the colon, resulting in loose stools. As diarrhea indicates a disruption in the microbiome and inhibits cecotrophy (the ingestion of cecotropes or “night stools”), it is highly concerning. No matter what the cause, if your animal has diarrhea or even loose “cow pie”-like stools, they should immediately be taken to your veterinarian as this can quickly lead to dehydration which increases the risk of stasis and many other health issues. It is worth noting that any kind of sudden dietary change can lead to diarrhea or stasis as well. When changing hay, pellet, or greens/veggies types, or introducing a new treat, a slow, planned transition is always recommended to allow the intestinal tract to gradually adapt and adjust.  

Bladder Sludge/Stones 

Like rabbits and guinea pigs, chinchillas are prone to the development of bladder sludge or bladder stones. In the wild, these species naturally ingest more moisture and live a highly active lifestyle which reduces chances for bladder sludge formation compared to domestic chinchillas. While less is known about specifics in chinchillas, it is thought they also absorb nearly all calcium in the diet. One key difference between chinchillas and rabbits/guinea pigs, though, is that chinchillas excrete excess calcium via the feces rather than the urine. However, they can still develop urinary issues, so it is important to be aware of this and consider actions to avoid or alleviate sludge and stones. There is some debate about a genetic component that may predispose chinchillas to sludge or stone development, but this has not been scientifically validated. Signs of bladder sludge can include blood in the urine, frequent urination, painful urination, or visible crystals in the urine. Any of these signs, again, warrant a trip to your trusted veterinarian.  

Heat Stroke  

As mentioned before, chinchillas originate from the Andes Mountains of South America where temperatures are between 35 – 45°F (2 – 7° C). Their dense fur allows them to thrive at these lower temperatures but this lush fur and inability to sweat also causes them to be fairly intolerant of warmer temperatures. Domestic chinchillas tend to do best when the house is kept between 55 – 70°F (13 – 21°C) and household temperatures should never exceed 80°F (27°C). Humidity should also be kept low (40 – 60%) to keep chinchillas comfortable. If your chinchilla is exposed to sunlight, whether indoors or out, they should always be given access to shade as high temperatures or humidity can lead to heatstroke. There is ample physical and mental enrichment benefit to providing your chinchilla with outside time, but this should always be supervised and account for appropriate environmental factors such as temperature and humidity. Signs to watch for include panting/open mouth breathing, high body temperature, and inactivity. If your chinchilla is experiencing these issues, notify your vet right away and take measures to reduce environmental temperature and/or humidity. 

Respiratory Issues 

As a rodent species, chinchillas are obligate nasal breathers with sensitive respiratory systems, putting them at risk for infections which can be caused by many factors - from dusty bedding to bacterial infections. Upper respiratory issues or infection may manifest as sneezing, nasal discharge, difficulty breathing, watery eyes, or reduction in activity and food intake. While these symptoms may not seem serious, they are not to be taken lightly. If left untreated, respiratory concerns can lead to pneumonia and are frequently contagious to other chinchillas.  

Skin and Coat Issues 

The dense, lush fur of chinchillas is perhaps their most notable quality but can also lead to issues if not properly maintained. Because chinchilla fur is so thick, any moisture their body comes in contact with can become trapped at the skin and unable to properly dry. This can lead to pyoderma (infection of the skin) and/or dermatitis (inflammation of the skin) so it is important to never let your chinchilla get wet. Instead of traditional soap and water baths, allow for proper dust bathing to facilitate natural cleaning. Too much dust bathing, however, can dry out a chinchilla’s skin, so limit baths to 2-4 times per week. For more tips on dust bathing check out our Dust Til Dawn blog. You will also want to take note of any alopecia (hair loss or bald patches) in your fur baby’s luxurious coat. In the wild, chinchillas employ a mechanism to escape from predators called “fur slip” in which they can release part of their fur. In a domestic setting, fur slip might result from improper handling or highly stressful events. To avoid this, be sure to always support your pet’s body when handling and never grab them by the tail, fur or skin. Chinchillas are also common carriers of fungal ringworm which, as a zoonotic organism, can be transferred to humans and other animals. Ringworm can cause hair loss and scaly skin. If any bald patches are observed, contact your veterinarian right away to determine the cause of hair loss and ensure proper treatment. 

Chinchillas are amazing pets and unique companions, but they do require tailored care. Being aware of the signs or symptoms of their most common health concerns is half the battle! As with any pet, it is important to monitor chinchillas daily so you can recognize when they deviate from normal. With proper husbandry and diet, chinchillas can be wonderful companions that will be part of your family for many years.  

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March 18, 2020

Pet of the Month March 2020

Pet of the Month March 2020

Congratulations to March's Pet of the Month, Newt Scamander!

How old is Newt?

10 months

What are his favorite Oxbow product(s)?

Newt only gets Oxbow products but his very favorites are Oat Hay, Enriched Life Flip & Roll, and Garden Select food.

How long has Newt pet been a part of his family?

8 months


Fun Newt Stories

Newt tries to be stealthy and steal his pet parents' slippers to chew on but he always gets caught.

What are Newt's favorite pastimes?

Newt loves to run through and hide in his tunnel and jump on the back of the couch. He is the best snuggle bunny.


Would you like your pet to be considered for Pet of the Week? Follow Oxbow on Instagram or Facebook and follow the instructions on our Pet of the Week posts to submit your photos! We select our Pets of the Month from our Pets of the Week submissions.

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March 18, 2020

Five Steps for a Successful Small Animal Foster

Five Steps for a Successful Small Animal Foster

You have made the commitment to foster small animals. Congratulations!  But, now what?  Here are five tips from an experienced fosterer to help ensure a successful foster experience for everyone involved.      

1. Choose a shelter 

Follow up on that research and make the commitment to a shelter that you feel is mutually beneficial to the animal and your situation.  It’s key to know the shelter’s expectations for fostering an animal.  Who is responsible to provide the habitat, food and supplies for the animal?  Are you expected to have potential adopters visit the animal in your home?  Will you have the pet until it’s adopted or just until there is room in the shelter?     

2. Prepare your home 

Many animals entering a new environment will be timid and shy.  It’s best to set up an area in an unused room or in a less frequented part of the home at first.  But, just because they are shy doesn’t mean they can’t get into trouble.  It’s very important to survey the entire surroundings to ensure they are not exposed to small objects on the floor like paper clips, staples or rubber bands.   All animals are curious and small animals are no exception.  They love fun things to chew like electrical cords and even base boards.  A good rule of thumb is be safe and put it away or protect it.  

3. Have supplies ready 

Most foster programs include supplies like habitats, food and care items, but most small animals love fresh veggies too.  Make sure you know the best treats to provide (insert link 1) and the correct quantity and frequency.  These small treats increase the animal’s trust and go a long way with socialization.  Being able to pass on this information to their future pet parents is fantastic as it will aid in the bonding process in the new home.   

4. Prepare the family 

It’s fun to introduce a new pet in the family, even if it’s just temporary.  Provide clear communication with children on the foster program and their potential roles with feeding, cleaning up after, and socializing the animal to get ready for a new home.  Kids love to learn about animals; have them read up on the foster pet and how to support the health and happiness of the animal. (insert link 2)  

5. Build a routine  

Establish a routine!  Most animals thrive and at times demand consistent feeding schedules. Make this a time for socializing and quick wellness checks.  Create a frequent cleaning schedule and incorporate variety and enrichment into their lives daily.  All the planning and preparation will make for a happy foster pet and family relationship.


Learn More

What Are the Best Kinds of Treats for Rabbits, Guinea Pigs and Other Small Pets?

Fun Tips for Supporting Your Pet's Health and Happiness

Five Ways to Provide Daily Enrichment for Small Animals

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March 17, 2020

Coronavirus and Small Pets: What You Need to Know

Coronavirus and Small Pets: What You Need to Know
Dr. Micah Kohles, DVM, MPA

We have all been affected by the recent and worldwide Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic. Many pet parents have reached out to us to ask about the risk to your pets, so we wanted to take some time to address questions and concerns surrounding the Coronavirus and COVID-19 while providing some valuable information from various sources, including the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association). 

What is Coronavirus/COVID-19? 

COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus that causes respiratory disease in humans. There are many types of coronaviruses that have been identified in a diversity of species including dogs, cats, birds, and others, but COVID-19 is a new strain different than others.  Because this is a new strain, there is less known about it and because it has the potential to cause severe illness in people, many people are naturally concerned about their pets as well.   

Is Coronavirus/COVID-19 a threat to my small pets? 

We do not definitively know if COVID-19 can infect pets and be spread by pets to other animals, including people. That being said, currently, there is no evidence that pets can become sick with COVID-19. Historically, coronaviruses have been species specific, only infecting one group of animals and not crossing species lines and COVID-19 appears to follow suit. 

Can my pets carry Coronavirus and transmit it to people? 

COVID-19 appears to be primarily transmitted by contact with an infected person’s bodily secretions, such as saliva or mucus droplets in a cough or sneeze. COVID-19 might be able to be transmitted by touching a contaminated surface or object (i.e. fomite) and then touching the mouth, nose, or possibly eyes, but this appears to be a secondary route.  

Smooth (non-porous) surfaces (e.g. countertops, doorknobs) transmit viruses better than porous materials (e.g. paper money, pet fur), because porous, and especially fibrous, materials absorb and trap the pathogen (virus), making it harder to contract through simple touch.  

Because your pet’s hair is porous and also fibrous, it is very unlikely that you would contract COVID-19 by petting or playing with your pet. However, because animals can spread other diseases to people and people can also spread diseases to animals, it’s always a good idea to wash your hands before and after interacting with animals; ensure your pet is kept well-groomed and regularly clean your pet’s food and water bowls, bedding material, and toys. Infectious disease experts, as well as the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and WHO (World Health Organization), indicate there is no evidence to suggest that small animals such as rabbits, guinea pigs, or chinchillas can be a source of infection with COVID-19, including spreading COVID-19 to people. 


What should I do as a pet parent to protect myself, my family, and my pets? 

Preparation and education are key to ensuring the health and safety of you and your loved ones during any emergency situation, and the current COVID-19 pandemic is no exception.  From a preparation standpoint, there are some basic steps you can and should take to make sure you and your pets stay safe during the weeks ahead.   

  • Wash your hands frequently (for more than 20 seconds) Frequently washing your hands with soap and water for more than 20 seconds is one the most important measures you can take to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  If soap is not available, use hand sanitizer frequently.  Avoid touching your face (including eyes and mouth) as much as possible.   
  •  Clean and sanitize surfaces, including your pet’s habitat As we mentioned, smooth, non-porous surfaces transmit viruses such as the COVID-19 more effectively than others.  With this in mind, it’s important to clean and sanitize surfaces that are touched or handled on a daily basis.  This includes your pet’s habitat and the accessories within (e.g. toys, water bottles, food bowls, etc.)     
  •  Limit travel and social activities We’re currently experiencing closures and cancellations at a scale that most of us have never experienced.  These cancellations are taking place in the interest of “flattening the curve” of infection, which will help greatly when it comes to not overwhelming our country’s healthcare system.   We should all be doing our part by social distancing as much as possible during this critical time. We know that one of the many joys of pet parenting is the social aspect – taking our pets to the store with us, taking part in monthly social events at our local pet store, and more.  Fortunately, there are ways to remain social during this time of social distancing.  For example, thanks to the internet, pet parents are able to share photos, videos, and other media that celebrates the joy of the bond with our pets – all without leaving the home and risking the spread of infection.      
  • Stock up on food and other essentials supplies We’ve all heard (and likely experienced) the horrors of toilet paper hoarding and other bizarre buying behaviors during the pandemic.  Rest assured there are much more important supplies to keep stocked up on during this time – including food, hay, medications, and other essentials for your pet.  At this time, we suggest stocking up on at least one month’s worth of these essentials.    
  •  Don’t panic during this stressful time Remaining calm and practicing self-care are essential during times of stress and anxiety.  As pet parents especially understand, our animals are extremely adept at sensing when we’re stressed, anxious, sad, or scared.  For this reason, it’s important to remain calm and measured in the face of the many stresses caused by the pandemic.  When it comes to self-care, the good news is that our pets provide positive daily benefits by nature, just by being themselves.  While you find yourself spending more time at home, take time to practice your favorite relaxing exercise or activity (e.g. yoga or meditation).  You may even find that your pets enjoy experiencing these activities with you.          

I’m currently experiencing a food shortage in my area?  What should I do?  

As previously mentioned, stocking up on at least one month’s worth of your pet’s food and medications is advised at this time. If you cannot find your pet food stocked on store shelves, try looking and ordering online or using Oxbow’s store locator to find other local options. 

In you find yourself in an extreme situation where you cannot find an adequate supply of fortified food for your small pets, please contact your trusted veterinarian right away for their recommended guidance for your particular animals.  Depending on the species of your pet(s), they may help you formulate a plan for temporarily and slightly reducing the amount of pellets you provide while increasing the quantity of other essentials (e.g. leafy greens and hay in the case of herbivores).  A drastic measure such as reducing food quantity should only be taken under extreme circumstances with the guidance of your trusted veterinarian.

For more tips on what greens, vegetables, and other foods to feed your little ones, visit: 

Rabbits & Guinea Pigs

Hamsters & Gerbils

Rats & Mice

Where can I learn more about Coronavirus/COVID-19? 

Here are some useful links to help you learn more about the Coronavirus/COVID-19: 



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