July, 2020

July 30, 2020

DIY Snack Wreath

DIY Snack Wreath

Are you looking for a fun and delicious DIY project you can create for your guinea pig or other small pet? With some Oxbow hay, natural string, and the yummy greens of your choice, you can create this fun and enriching Hay Snack Wreath!

DIY Wreath Instructions

Materials:

  • Your pet’s favorite Oxbow hay (Orchard Grass is used in the video)
  • Untreated paper string (or other natural fiber, such as jute)
  • Scissors
  • Pesticide-free, washed greens that are appropriate for your pet’s species (dandelion and white clover are used in the video)

Instructions:

  1. On a clean table-top, form a loose wreath shape with fresh hay.
  2. Wrap and knot the string around a small bundle of hay toward the top of the wreath shape.
  3. Pick up a portion of hay near the knot and wrap the string around the handful. The wrapped string should be tight enough to bundle the hay.
  4. Continue wrapping the string around hay to form bundles one handful at a time. This should be forming a long, continuous hay bundle. There might be some thin spots, but that can be fixed later.
  5. When you’re ready, combine the two ends of the long hay bundle to each other. Tousle both ends while combining, so the hay strands can catch on each other and hold the shape of a ring.
  6. Wrap the string around the combined area of the wreath. This should be a well-wrapped area to make sure the ends don’t come undone.
  7. Working in the same direction as you constructed the wreath, fill in any thin spots with more hay, wrapping with string to secure it.
  8. When you’re happy with the overall shape of the wreath, cut the string and knot it onto some of the loops close by.
  9. If desired, trim any loose hay strands. Make sure to not cut too close to the wreath!
  10. Secure your pesticide-free, species-appropriate greens and flowers onto the wreath by tucking them underneath the string. Long stems might have to be wrapped to the back of the wreath and secured behind string again.
  11. Give the wreath to your pet, and enjoy some supervised playtime together!

 

Other Fun DIYs

DIY Pot O' Gold Hay & Treat Holder

DIY May Day Basket

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July 29, 2020

Introducing Our New, More Sustainable 90 Ounce Hay Packaging

Introducing Our New, More Sustainable 90 Ounce Hay Packaging

In the coming weeks, you will begin to see a familiar but updated presence on the shelf at your favorite pet store.  We are excited to share that our 90 oz Western Timothy and Hay Blends – Western Timothy + Orchard Grass hay packaging is in the process of receiving an exciting facelift.  In addition to an updated look, the new 90 oz packaging offers some meaningful features that are worth highlighting:  

Now Easy-To-Recycle!

We receive regular feedback from customers who want what’s best for the environment – both in the products they purchase and the material in which they’re packaged.  We recognize that taking care of the environment is a shared responsibility and are happy to announce a significant improvement in the recyclability of our 90 oz hay packaging.  Our new packaging is now symbol 2 recyclable, making it easy to recycle through many conventional recycling programs.            

Less Packaging Material = Less in the Landfill

When you purchase Western Timothy 90 ounce in the new packaging for the first time, the first thing you are likely to notice is that the package looks and feels a little smaller and more compact than before.  By compressing your favorite hay slightly more within the bag, we have been able to reduce the amount of packaging material used for our 90 oz Western Timothy and Hay Blends – Western Timothy + Orchard Grass by 17%.  

Wait – You’re Not Changing the Product Itself, Are You!?!

Absolutely not!  Rest assured that you’ll be receiving the same premium Oxbow hay you’re used to – just in a smaller, easier-to-recycle package, leading to a lessened impact on the environment.  How much of an impact, you ask?  The reduction in packaging material, coupled with improved recyclability, will help us divert more than 105,000 lbs of packaging from the landfill on an annual basis!

Updated Look with Improved Graphics

We know it always pays to look your best, so we’ve taken the opportunity to freshen up the look of our 90 oz hays!  The biggest differences you’ll notice on the new package are the addition of some key product features and logos called out on the front panel.  Feature call outs include:

Grown Specifically for Small Pets

We work with our family of farmers to grow hay that meets the preferences of small pets.

High in Fiber for Digestive and Dental Health

Oxbow’s early cut hay provides the high fiber your pet needs to be healthy and happy.

Premium Oxbow Quality

Using our exclusive process, we grade, de-dust, and hand-sort our hay. 

Hay is essential to the health and happiness of your small pets, and we are proud to provide the highest quality hay to meet the taste and texture preferences of your beloved fur babies.  We hope you enjoy our new 90 ounce hay packaging and invite you to check out these great resources to learn more about the important role hay plays in your pet’s daily diet:  

The Expert Guide To Selecting Fresh Hay Your Pets Will Love
Fun Ways to Feed a Variety of Hays
Top 5 Reasons to Offer Your Pet a Variety of Hays

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July 27, 2020

How to Make Sure Your Guinea Pig is Happy

How to Make Sure Your Guinea Pig is Happy

For decades, pet parents across the globe have understood the important role proper nutrition plays in helping guinea pigs (and other small mammals) maintain physical health and minimize the risk of preventable health concerns. While the importance of a high-quality, nutritionally appropriate diet cannot be downplayed, even the most well-intentioned pet parent sometimes overlooks their fur babies’ needs for physical, mental, and nutritional enrichment. By creating a stimulating environment that encourages your piggies to express their natural behaviors, you can ensure your little ones are living their best enriched lives while simultaneously strengthening that ever-important human-animal bond.

Socialites  

In order to provide the most enriching life possible, it’s important to understand guinea pigs’ unique needs as a species. As herd animals, guinea pigs are incredibly social creatures and tend to best thrive when living in pairs or groups. Though guinea pigs can, and do, form strong bonds with their pet parents, as humans it is nearly impossible to interact with our piggies on the same level as a fellow pig. It is also important to remember that you will not always be home or able to interact with your pets, meaning a solitary guinea pig would likely spend at least a few hours of each day alone. As much as our piggies appreciate our attempts to fulfil their social needs ourselves, we can never truly take the place of having a constant companion who speaks the same language.  

Building the Bond 

Even though humans can’t provide the same level of companionship as a fellow guinea pig, we can still establish a close human-animal bond through thoughtful, species-appropriate interaction. As sensitive prey animals, it takes time, patience, and understanding to earn your little ones’ trust. Speak softly, engage in daily play, and take the time to figure out your piggies’ unique likes and dislikes. When at all possible, don’t force interactions with your guinea pig when they aren’t feeling up to it. If you happen to have an especially fearful piggy, or one who is taking a little bit longer to warm up, the assistance of offering a high-quality, all-natural treat, or a few small pieces of their favorite greens or herbs, can also go a long way to establishing trust. Though these may seem like simple steps from a human perspective, your time and patience (not to mention treats) will establish you as a welcome source of positive interaction. 

Comfort Food 

While it’s true most guinea pigs love a snack, treats should make up a very small fraction (1% - 2%) of a piggy’s overall diet. Though the bulk of your guinea pigs’ menu should be composed of an unlimited supply of grass hay, it is important to ensure their diet is as varied as possible. Our cavy’s wild cousins used to scurry around eating a wide variety of fresh vegetation daily. In stark contrast, our domesticated piggy friends are often only offered a bowl of pellets, one type of hay, and a limited variety of fresh greens/veggies. Though it is not recommended to routinely change your pets’ pelleted diet, by feeding a variety of grass hays and fresh produce we can provide a substantial amount of mental and nutritional enrichment by stimulating the natural foraging behavior still ingrained in these animals’ DNA. While some piggies are pickier than others, through gentle patience and persistence you can usually expand your guinea pigs’ menu to include a wide variety of hays and species-appropriate produce. Not only will the variety mix things up, it will also provide your small friend with essential macro- and micronutrients, helping ensure they are living the healthiest life possible. 

Room to Roam 

Let’s be honest: guinea pigs tend to be a bit lazy. While piggy parents far and wide understand the heartwarming splendor of gazing upon a lounging guinea pig, chronic inactivity can quickly lead to obesity and other health concerns. In order to encourage a healthy, physically enriching lifestyle, it is important guinea pigs are provided with a spacious enclosure and daily access to a large, “piggy-proof” play area.  In addition to the benefit of a trimmer waistline and better overall health, providing ample living and play space will help limit boredom-based behaviors by providing more room to roam, run, and explore.  

Playtime 

While a large enclosure and play area are ideal, spending the majority of your life in the same room would not be the most enriching experience. To avoid the boredom and monotony of exploring the same habitat day after day, it’s important to fill these areas with species-appropriate enrichment items that will satisfy your guinea pigs’ instinctual behaviors: exploringplayingchewing, and hiding. Simple actions such as switching out hides, rearranging their enclosure, or adding a cardboard box can pique a piggy’s interest, as can the addition of new chew toys. As with anything your guinea pigs come in contact with, it is important to ensure any chew or activity center you provide are made from species-friendly materials that have not been treated with any chemicals, preservatives, or artificial colors or flavors.  

As pet parents, we all want to do what’s best for our fur babies. Though love and affection go a long way, it is important to consider the unique physical, mental, and nutritional enrichment needs of these special little animals. Through thoughtful daily interaction, appropriate husbandry, and a healthy, varied diet, you can help foster a meaningful bond while also helping your guinea pig live a long, happy, healthy life.  

Learn More

Wellness Exam Checklist 

Spending Time Outdoors with Your Small Mammal 

Guinea Pig Life Stages

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July 23, 2020

Pet of the Month July 2020

Pet of the Month July 2020

Congratulations to our Pet of the Week, Leo! This sweet little bunny is a fan of Western Timothy Hay, Garden Select Adult Rabbit Food, and jet setting! Thank you for being a fan, Leo! You can check out Leo’s Instagram feed at https://www.instagram.com/leothebunny2019/.

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.

...Read More

July 20, 2020

RHDV2 - What Oxbow Is Doing To Keep Your Hay and Rabbits Safe

RHDV2 - What Oxbow Is Doing To Keep Your Hay and Rabbits Safe

The continued spread of Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV2) in the United States is a serious concern for every rabbit pet owner.  At Oxbow, we have implemented special precautionary measures to minimize the risk of this virus being spread via our hay and hay-based products.  These measures have been implemented in addition to the extensive, long-standing quality processes practiced on all Oxbow hay.  Measures specific to RHDV2 include:  

Grower Education and Native Population Reporting

We have partnered with all Oxbow hay growers to provide education about RHDV2 and its effect on native and domestic populations of rabbits.  Our growers are closely observing the native populations in their area and will be reporting any irregularities or concerns regarding population health.  To date, no irregular behaviors have been reported across the Oxbow family of farms.  In the event of a future report, we will facilitate timely communication with the state veterinarian of the state in question to ensure a proper investigation takes place.   

Hay Quarantine  

Any Oxbow hay grown and harvested in a county with a confirmed case of RHDV2 will be isolated and quarantined for a minimum of 3 months from the time of baling.  This hay will be isolated and stored in a location away from the field to minimize potential exposure to native populations of rabbits.   
 
Only after 3 months of quarantine can hay from a positive test county be shipped to Oxbow where it will then go through our standard quality control procedures.  Additionally, we have updated our standard quality systems to further minimize any potential spread of RHDV2.     

Positive Case Data 

Up-to-date information regarding positive test cases from the USDA can be found here.  Oxbow’s Vice President of Technical Services and Research (Dr. Micah Kohles) and Food Safety Quality & Research team monitor this data and are in communication with federal, state and NGO organizations regarding the disease on a regular basis.  To date, Oxbow has not sourced in hay in the 2020 season from a county with a known positive RHDV2 case.    

Additional Measures      

Dr. Kohles and Oxbow continue to participate in multiple task forces at the forefront of evaluating and monitoring RHDV2.  Key partners in these efforts include the Association of Exotic Mammal Veterinarians (AEMV) and the House Rabbit Society.  Additionally, we are partnering with veterinarians in multiple states to assist with the importation of the RHDV2 vaccine, as well as working with state veterinarians and the USDA to best understand the etiology and movement of the virus that causes RHDV2.   
 
From the beginning of the outbreak, we have been providing timely updates regarding RHDV2 via our blog.  We will continue to provide these updates as the situation evolves and we encourage all pet parents to check back regularly to stay up-to-date with the latest information and recommendations.    
 
We would like to thank all rabbit pet parents for the concern, safe practices, and continued vigilance as the community deals with the RHDV2 outbreak.  If you have any additional questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out.     

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July 14, 2020

The Scoop on Small Pet Poop: Normal, Abnormal, and Everything in Between

The Scoop on Small Pet Poop: Normal, Abnormal, and Everything in Between

Let’s face the facts, we all poop…every animal does. Some species, like rabbits and guinea pigs, just do it a lot more! While far from a glamorous topic, your pet’s poops can tell you an awful lot about their overall wellbeing and what’s going on inside their body. Having an idea of your pet’s normal fecal characteristics and consistently monitoring stool production is a great tool for proactively keeping them healthy. A change in stool is often one of the first clinical signs that your pet may be having some type of health issue. Any change in the size, shape, color, or frequency of stool output should be noted. While you might not be able to tell what the issue is right away, any change warrants a call to your veterinarian, and prolonged abnormalities in stools should always lead to a veterinary visit and consultation. Here are a few things to keep an eye out for. 

Types of Stool 

A very important distinction to be made when talking specifically about small mammal droppings is that most species produce two kinds of stool. While there is still some debate on the exact mechanism between species, hindgut fermenting herbivores such as rabbits, guinea pigs, and chinchillas produce their typical fecal pellets as well as a second type of stool called the cecotropes. While fecal pellets are typically small, firm, individual balls that are low moisture and appear dull, cecotropes (also known as cecals or night stools) are larger, soft, shiny, and cluster-like (think the appearance of a blackberry or cluster of grapes). A majority of cecotropes are actually ingested directly from the anus. Typically, this occurs late at night, early in the morning, and overnight so in a happy, healthy animal you might never actually see it occurring. This also means you will rarely see the cecotropes in your little one’s cage, but don’t panic if you do see one from time to time. Reingestion of the cecotropes allows these little guys to be efficient at utilizing the nutrients in their fiber-rich diets as they, in effect, recycle their food and get a second chance to absorb the nutrients and energy it contains.  

Cecotropes contain a large diversity of essential nutrients including vitamins, minerals, short-chain fatty acids, and amino acids. They also contain healthy microorganisms that are naturally shed from the gut, making them high in protein and B vitamins. Re-ingesting these nutrients helps small mammals meet their dietary nutrient requirements. Because the healthy production and consumption of cecotropes serve such an important nutritional purpose, if you suddenly notice a lot of them remaining in the cage you should call your vet straight away. 

While less understood, omnivores such as rats, hamsters, and gerbils also produce poop that is re-ingested. These little guys practice coprophagy, or the act of consuming their own feces, but are not cecotrophic like rabbits and guinea pigs, meaning their re-ingested stool is not produced via a separate mechanism than the regular poop. It won’t look as distinct as an herbivore’s cecotrope, so you likely can’t tell a difference with the naked eye. Coprophagy is thought to be especially apparent during times of improper or inadequate nutrition. Like herbivores, this second pass of nutrients allows for more complete digestion and absorption of nutrients such as protein, vitamins, and minerals.  

What’s Normal? 

To know what’s abnormal we need to first define what is normal. Healthy small herbivores on a balanced, high fiber diet defecate a large number of small, individually formed fecal pellets. While the exact shape and form will depend on the species, and sometimes even the individual, normal poops should be uniform in shape and consistency. These small mammals rely heavily on fiber to keep the digestive tract moving, so in general, the more poop the better if they are in good form. As a reference, rabbits will typically excrete hundreds of fecal pellets every day. Color is normally medium to dark brown but can vary by animal and diet, so establish a baseline for your little one. While rabbit fecal pellets should be round and resemble peas, guinea pigs, chinchillas, rats, mice, hamsters, and gerbils often excrete more of an oval-shaped pellet that can be slightly longer. 

Abnormalities 

When talking about poop in any species, fiber is often one of the first dietary factors to consider and is especially important in small mammals. Fiber is an extremely complex nutrient, but one main classification of fibers is soluble vs insoluble. Soluble fibers (such as oats and barley) dissolve in water to form a gel that slows movement through the digestive tract, making you feel fuller, longer. Insoluble fiber (such as hay and bran) pushes through the digestive tract promoting motility (peristalsis) and increasing defecation frequency. Herbivores (i.e. rabbits, guinea pigs, etc.) and omnivores (i.e. rats, hamsters, etc.) both need soluble and insoluble fiber in their diet, but herbivores require more insoluble while omnivores benefit from more soluble fibers. A balance of fiber types ensures proper fecal bulk and a healthy digestive tract. For more on this and to answer other burning questions about fiber, check out our fiber 101 blog.  

Clusters 

It may not seem like a big deal to see two or three fecal pellets clumped together (snowman type structure), and it might not be, but it could also be a very early sign of a much larger problem. Anything besides single fecal pellets can suggest a problem in the gut and may indicate the gastrointestinal (GI) tract is slowing down. There are a huge number of potential factors that could lead to this but some of the more common include reduced food intake, disruption of the bacterial flora in the GI tract (dysbiosis), improper insoluble fiber, or stress. If you notice these clusters continuing over several days, contact your vet. It will hopefully be nothing but could be an indication of a bigger issue.  

Abnormal Shape 

Elongated (egg-shaped) or teardrop-shaped poops can indicate a slowing of gut motility often caused by inadequate insoluble fiber, changes in GI function, or other factors. In some cases, larger than normal egg-shaped poops can indicate a rare but very serious genetic disease called megacolon in rabbits. Fecal pellets that are connected by fibers or hair, often called “string of pearls” can occur during periods of heavy shedding, especially in long-haired breeds. Be sure to groom your animal appropriately and provide plenty of fiber and fresh water to keep the digestive tract moving and processing. 

Abnormal Color 

Some foods contain unique pigments that can cause your pet's feces to temporarily change colors, but you should always monitor these changes. Dark, almost black, poops can indicate excessive protein levels in the diet and in rare cases could indicate blood in the feces. If you ever observe dark stools or anything that appears to look like blood in your pets’ poops call your veterinarian immediately as there could be an obstruction, inflammation, ulceration, or laceration somewhere along the digestive tract. 

Small Pellets 

Small and/or dry looking fecal pellets can indicate dehydration or that your animal isn’t eating enough (specifically not getting enough insoluble and/or soluble fiber). If you observe smaller, dryer than normal poops try stimulating water intake in any way possible including offering multiple sources of water (bottle and crock) and slightly increasing intake of appropriate greens. It is also essential to ensure unlimited access to high-quality grass hay for herbivores and the bigger the variety the better! Specific to omnivores, if you are seeing smaller stool size (especially if it is linked to weight loss or lack of growth), adding a controlled amount of appropriate grains can help bulk up stools. As always, if smaller than normal fecal pellets persist more than a few days, give your vet a ring to discuss. 

Slimy Stools 

Mucous in your pets’ stools can occur for a variety of reasons but is more common during or after a course of medications (e.g. antibiotics) or as your pet is passing larger pieces of improperly digested food. Anything that irritates the GI tract, especially the large intestine, may stimulate the body to produce more mucous than normal to support its passage or soothe inflammation of the GI tract. Gastrointestinal parasites or abnormal physiology of the hindgut leading to impacted material in the cecum can also lead to mucous in the stools. If you notice more than a few poops covered in mucous its always best to get your vet’s advice. Strange as it may sound, bringing in a sample of the stool or snapping a photo may help them identify the cause and course of action.  

Soft or Unformed 

This type of feces can clump together and are often softer than normal stools. Soft and unformed stools also tend to be significantly more aromatic than usual. Poops can become too soft due to excessive intake of sugary, high carb foods (even from veggies such as carrots) and/or not enough fiber (soluble or insoluble) in the diet. It can also be caused by non-dietary factors such as changes in the physiology of the GI tract, stress or, if your animal is older, may simply be a part of the natural aging process. If you observe soft, unformed stools, try to increase the fiber in the diet and cut back on high carb veggies and treats. If the problem persists, it’s always best to contact your veterinarian before it gets worse. 

Diarrhea 

Diarrhea has no form or structure and often appears like a cow pie or may be liquid and watery. There are many potential causes of diarrhea, ranging from an improper diet lacking fiber to parasites or infections. No matter what the cause, diarrhea always necessitates immediate veterinary attention as it can cause (dehydration, GI stasis) or is the result of (infection, parasites) major issues and can be detrimental after just 24 hours. 

It may seem strange to be so in tune with your fur baby’s bowel movements, but it is one of the best ways to monitor their health and stay abreast of changes and potential ailments. Any shift in normal defecation patterns should be noted and discussed with your veterinarian. Developing a healthy baseline for your individual pet is key and knowing what potential abnormalities to look for makes it easier and more effective to monitor and communicate to your veterinarian if necessary. As discussed above, many of these fecal abnormalities can be caused by improper nutrition so it is essential to provide a nutritionally balanced diet to ensure pristine poops and a long, healthy life for your little one.  

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