April, 2021

April 26, 2021

Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV2) - New Updates and Information for Pet Parents - 4 22 21

Micah Kohles, DVM, MPA
Vice President of Technical Services & Research
Oxbow Animal Health 

It's been a while since we've given you an update regarding the ongoing spread of RHDV2, and there's been some new information that we wanted to share.

Where Have the Latest RHDV2 Cases Been Reported in the United States?

First of all, the virus is, unfortunately, doing what we expect viruses to do. RHDV2 has continued to spread over the last couple of weeks. There have been newly reported cases in Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Oregon, as well as the first cases in 2021 in Texas.

At this stage, we can clearly see that the virus has really affected almost every state west of the Rockies. We don't expect that spread to slow down, so we want to make sure that we continue to be diligent and stay aware of where the virus is.

There was a case in Arkansas that was initially reported as positive. I’m happy to share that this positive report has since been retracted by the USDA. It's obviously a very good thing that the USDA is taking the additional steps and precautions to validate these positives tests, especially in new states.

Ongoing Research on Cross-Species Movement with RHDV2

As we’ve discussed in previous updates on the topic, while RHDV2 is fairly new to the United States, this is a virus that we've seen in many other countries worldwide for a couple of decades. Because of that, there's actually been a fair bit of research that's been done looking at this virus, its behavior in rabbits, and even some research that showed early on that this virus was found in other rodent species.

New Research Showing RHDV2 Replication in Eurasian Badger Species

This type of cross-species movement is not that uncommon in viruses, but what we do need to pay attention to is one specific paper that's recently come out of Europe that actually showed that a certain species of Badger not only became infected with RHDV2 but was actually able to replicate the virus.  This type of cross-species movement is certainly something that can be more concerning. And while we've not seen this type of behavior here in the United States, it's obviously something we want to stay aware of.

What Do These Updates Mean for Rabbit Owners?

We know the virus is continuing to spread and the single most important thing that I would ask of all of you is do not to let your guard down.
If you live in a state or a state that's adjacent to a state with positive cases, we really want to minimize any potential risk for your animal to come in contact with the virus.  Talk with your veterinarian. If you're thinking about travel, making sure that you're taking those extra precautions.
If you do live in a state where the vaccine is available, work with your veterinarian, provide your animal, that preventative care.

A Note on Loosened Restrictions in Relation to RHDV2 

Unfortunately, there are some organizations that have decided now is the time to loosen their restrictions in relation to RHDV2. That's actually the exact opposite of what we should all be doing. This is a virus that has a very severe, potentially lethal input to your animals. Continue to take the precautions we’ve discussed, continue to make smart decisions, and we here at Oxbow will continue to share information with you as it becomes available.

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April 13, 2021

How to Make Your Rat Happy with a Clean and Enriching Environment

How to Make Your Rat Happy with a Clean and Enriching Environment

by Dianne Cook

Though some people still view rats in an unfair light, more and more people are realizing what wonderful companions these special little animals can truly make. Because rats are so intelligent and agile, however, it is important they are provided with a clean, enriching environment that will not only keep them physically fit but mentally sharp.  

Home Sweet Home 

From the size of your furry family members’ enclosure to the bedding and enrichment items contained within, there are many things to consider when setting up and maintaining a rat-friendly environment.  

Creature Comforts 

It is important to provide rats with as large of an enclosure as possible. Rats are athletic, agile, and active creatures, and need plenty of room to run and jump. A high-quality, well-constructed wire enclosure with multiple levels is a must. The wire sides will not only make climbing easier for your little friends but will ensure proper airflow and ventilation, helping to prevent your kiddos from overheating.  

Despite their active nature, rats have a propensity for obesity and developing obesity-related health concerns (cancer, heart disease, etc), making it especially important for rats to have plenty of closely supervised time outside of their enclosure to run around each day.  
 
Oxbow’s brand new Multi-Level Habitat is ideal for rats and will be hitting shelves soon.  Check it all the great features here

Comfort Meets Practicality 

As with other small mammals, there are numerous bedding options for rats, each providing different benefits and challenges. Using a thin layer (approx. 1 inch) of a non-toxic, pelleted litter as an absorbent base, topped by a nice thick layer (approx. 2 - 3 inches) of paper bedding is a great bedding combination that works well for most rats. The pelleted bedding will not only provide traction but will absorb smells and wick away moisture, keeping the paper bedding dryer longer. The thick top layer will provide an additional moisture-wicking layer as well as a soft, enriching surface for digging and nesting.  

Keep it Clean and Tidy 

Though it likely goes without saying, keeping your rats’ living space clean is essential to their overall health and wellbeing. A clean, sanitary habitat will not only prevent excessive “pet smells” in the home, but it will also help minimize the risk of your fur babies suffering from a respiratory illness or other medical concerns that can result from a life in an unhygienic environment.  

Habitats should be spot cleaned daily and deep cleaned at least once a week. Using a pet care checklist is a great way to establish a consistent enclosure cleaning routine.  

Enrichment Essentials 

Rat parents are quick to point out how smart, inquisitive, interactive, and trainable these docile little rodents truly are. To provide them with the well-rounded care they deserve, it is essential to address their mental and social needs as thoughtfully as all other aspects of their day-to-day care.  

Social Butterflies Rats 

Rats are incredibly social creatures and should be housed in pairs or small groups whenever possible. Though same-sex siblings are generally the easiest for first-time rat parents to raise, many times rats from different litters and various ages can be safely introduced.  

The following article provides greater insight into rats’ important social needs, outlines ideal pairings, and provides tips and tricks for introductions and bonding: Does My Rat Need a Friend?

Supporting Mental Acuity   

It has long been known that proper nutrition is essential for our furry companions’ physical well-being, but even the most well-meaning pet parent can sometimes overlook their little ones’ mental health. As with other small mammals, life within the same enclosure day after day can quickly grow boring for rats.  

To limit boredom and the associated stress, it is essential that rats have access to a safe, rat-proof area outside of their enclosure to run, play, explore, and interact with their favorite humans. Providing a plethora of species-appropriate enrichment items both in and out of your rats’ enclosure is also necessary to ensure your little ones’ have a way to exercise their minds as well as their bodies.  

Though not an exhaustive list, the items below are just a few of Oxbow’s Enriched Life products that rats find especially enticing: 

  • Cozy Cave – These reversible fleece pockets provide a safe, cozy getaway for pets to rest and relax. They feature a bamboo ring and are completely machine washable.  
  • Woven Hideout – These bottomless hides are made from woven polyester rope, are machine washable, and make a comforting way to relax and get away from stressful situations.  
  • Barrel Roll – Made from all-natural, species-appropriate materials, these innovatively designed chews add visual and tactile enrichment to daily routines 
  • Apple Rounds – Crafted from two of rats’ favorite materials, apple sticks, and corrugated cardboard, these small chews are easily manipulated and are designed to roll, providing both physical and mental enrichment. 
  • Treasure Barrel – A perfect way to encourage foraging, Treasure Barrels are hollow on the inside and hook to the side of the habitat, making them a wonderful place to hide your rats’ favorite treats or healthy, species-appropriate supplemental foods. 
  • Forage Pot – These durable items are made from untreated wood and clay, and can be filled with pellets, treats, or even other enrichment items to support your rats’ natural playing, foraging, and chewing instincts. 
  • Flip and Roll – Made from high-quality, never-printed corrugate, these fun toys can be chewed on, flung, and rolled to provide countless hours of fun and engagement.  

Learn More 

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April 09, 2021

Ready to Enrich Your Pet’s Life Even More? Check Out Our Latest Enrichment Innovations!

Ready to Enrich Your Pet’s Life Even More? Check Out Our Latest Enrichment Innovations!

Daily enrichment is essential to your small pet’s health and happiness.  That’s because your pet is instinctively wired to interact with their surroundings in unique ways each day.  At Oxbow, we believe that supporting your little loved one’s instincts to explore, play, chew, and hide should be a fun and interactive experience for you both.  That’s why we’re so excited to reveal our latest enrichment innovations!  

Even More Natural Chews to Choose From!  

We all know daily chewing is essential to the dental health of small animals such as rabbits, guinea pigs, and chinchillas. And, the more chew options your pet has, the better! That’s why so we’re adding more than 20 new fun and innovative items to our lineup of natural chews. 

Timothy Hay Chews 

Timothy Hay is the go-to forage for small pets everywhere, and our Timothy-based chews are some of the most popular chews we offer.  To satisfy your Timothy-loving pet, we’re adding six brand-new options to our Enriched Life lineup.  

Our newest Timothy Chew innovations include: 

Enticing additions to several of these options include marigold, rose, and cornflower petals for your pet to enjoy as they munch!

Celebration Chews  

 

Let’s face it – every day is a celebration when you’re a pet parent!  To celebrate special and everyday occasions alike, we’ve expanded our ever-popular collection of Celebration Chews.  New additions include: 

Dangling Natural Chews

One of the best ways to enrich your pet’s world is to challenge them to explore all of the different parts of it!  An easy and enjoyable way to do this is by attaching enriching items vertically in the habitat.

Our Dangling Natural Chews were designed with vertical enrichment in mind!  This wide variety of items attach easily to the top or sides of habitat to compliment the chews you offer at floor level.  Our dangling chews are made from a variety of natural materials including apple sticks, mulberry, and sunflower.   
 
New Innovations Include:  

Looking To Customize? 
Our Natural and Color Kabobs feature removable ends to add or customize items.  Add your pet’s favorite greens or veggies to the skewer for a special treat!

Hooray For Engagement! 

As intelligent and curious creatures, small pets thrive when given opportunities to engage with their world in challenging and interactive ways!  Benefits of daily mental and physical engagement include: 

  • Provides entertainment to your pet and helps prevent boredom 
  • Adds visual and tactile enrichment to daily routine 
  • Encourages your pet to change and manipulate their environments in healthy, non-destructive ways  

In addition to supporting mental enrichment in new and innovative ways, our new engagement items are great for building the human/animal bond.

Support Foraging The Right Way

 

As we’ve discussed in a previous blog article, foraging is instinctual for small pets, but there are common misconceptions about how to foster this behavior in meaningful ways for your pets.  Muesli mixes and foraging blends proclaim to support these instincts but ultimately just lead to unhealthy selective feeding behaviors. 

One great way to inspire your rabbit, guinea pig, or other small pet to forage for their favorite healthy nutrition is to present it in fun and new ways, or simply to make them work a little harder to secure it.  With this in mind, we’re excited to introduce a number of new items that are designed to support foraging the right way.

Our Treat HouseGarden Variety RockerPull ‘N SeekHide N’ Wobble, and Garden Forage Puzzle are all great for hiding pellets, fresh veggies and greens, or healthy treats.  Meanwhile, our Rolly and Wobbly Teasers are designed to encourage your pets to work for their food or treats.  These items feature adjustable openings to control the flow of food and help prevent your pet from eating their food too quickly.

Puzzles for Small Pets? You Bet! 

Many first-time pet parents are surprised to learn how intelligent and inquisitive their pets are.  Keeping your pet mentally stimulated and engaged is essential to their wellbeing, and our new Play Garden and Wobbly Ring Stack are just the items to support this basic need!  These high-quality wood puzzles feature fun designs and bright colors that make an exciting addition to even the poshest of small pet habitats!

Time For A Little Rest & Relaxation  

Opportunities for a little R&R are essential for all prey species. By adding fun and innovative options for both inside and outside the habitat, we’re making it easier than ever for pet parents to rest and relax throughout the day.

Hay House

We’re in love with our new Hay House and we’re sure you and your pet will be as well!  This high-quality wood house is super easy to assemble and fits great inside or outside the habitat.   
 
With openings on both ends, your pet will have a blast crawling through the house or spending some time rest inside while she gets away from the busy world around her!   
 
Fill the hay house with your pet’s favorite variety of Oxbow hay and they can choose whether to dine inside or out!

Fleece Hammocks & Hideouts

No habitat is complete without one or more hideout options.  And, when it comes to comfort, there’s nothing quite like fleece for comfort and warmth.  Our new Corner Fleece Hideout is great for pets of multiple sizes and attaches ideally in the corner of a habitat or X-pen.   

 
For smaller, vertical-minded friends such as rats and chinchillas, our new Fleece Hammock is a must have.  For multi-rat households, our multi-level Honeycomb Hammock has room enough for several friends!

Stylish & Spacious - Corrugate Hides 

We couldn’t be more excited to introduce the latest rest & relaxation innovations we have for our rabbit and guinea pig friends.  Our new corrugate hides feature stylish, spacious designs and make the perfect getaway throughout the day.  Check out our Hideaway Hay Barn, Hideaway Dream Cottage, Hideaway Dream Castle, and Design Your Own Hideaway House to find the perfect design for your pet.   

Features Include:  

  • High quality, safe-to-chew corrugate 
  • Easy to assemble and can be stored when not in use  
  • DIY design option allows pet parents to color a custom design to match your pet’s personality 
  • Hideaway Hay Barn and Dream Castle feature built-in hay feeders  

Get Your Exercise Essentials!  

Your pet may be little, but she still needs plenty of daily exercise to physically fit and mentally enriched! Our latest additions to the exercise category are designed to encourage physical activity in fun and mentally stimulating ways for a variety of species.

Explore and Hide Customizable Mazes

 

Your pet will love the challenge of navigating our new Explore and Hide Mazes and you’ll love customizing the course and hiding their favorite noms throughout! 
 
Our mazes come in two sizes and can be purchased in multiples to create larger, customized layouts.  These easy-to-assemble mazes are made of safe-to-chew, untreated corrugate and come with a removable top.

Balls and Wheels 

Calling all dwarf hamster and mouse parents!  Our new Run Around Ball, 2-in-1 Fitness Ball, and Attachable Quiet Wheel are designed with the physical and mental health of your little loved ones in mind. 

Our new balls and wheels feature safe, feet-friendly surfaces and come in bright, lively colors to match the personality of your pet.

Climbing Rope 

As all rat lovers can attest, there’s nothing more enjoyable than watching ratties explore their surroundings.  Our new Climbing Rope attaches easily and securely to the habitat and be manipulated into an endless variety of shapes for your rat to explore.

Habitat Must-Haves  

Our new Multi-Level Habitat is the ideal habitat for chinchillas and rats.  Featuring multiple levels and sturdy metal construction, your pet is sure to feel engaged and at home inside.  Other features include:  

  • Front door opens to offer a sturdy perch where chinchillas can relax 
  • Litter pan pulls out for quick and easy cleaning  
  • All-metal splash guards are angled to keep the areas around the habitat dry and clean  
  • Ramps are feet-friendly, designed for comfort and to prevent injuries to toes and feet  
     

First time rat or chinchilla pet parent?  Check out our new Rat and Chinchilla Accessory Packs for all of your habitat essentials.

Care Essentials

A clean, well-groomed pet is a happy pet! New additions to our care category include our Rectangle and Corner Litter PansWood Brush & Comb, and fun Hay Corral

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April 08, 2021

3 Key Questions About Guinea Pigs and Hay

3 Key Questions About Guinea Pigs and Hay

As many guinea pig pet parents already know, hay is an integral part of their pet’s diet. As guinea pigs go through life, their personalities may change over time; things that your guinea pig may have enjoyed when they were young may no longer fit their personal preferences or needs anymore. Below are some common questions guinea pig parents may have about their pet’s hay usage, along with some suggestions. 

How can my guinea pig gain weight with hay? 

If your pet is older or has trouble keeping weight on, including more hay variety into their diet can help encourage your pet to eat more hay. The various tastes, textures, and aromas can all be new and enticing! 

Some hay varieties to explore include oat hay and alfalfa hay. The tasty seed heads in oat hay can be relatively calorically dense compared to timothy hay or orchard grass, helping to add a few extra calories into your pet’s diet while also ensuring that they are consuming that ever-important fiber.  

Alfalfa hay can be fed to pets who need to gain weight, but feeding alfalfa depends on the specific needs of the animal. If your guinea pig is predisposed to bladder stones or sludge, for example, this might not be an appropriate option for your friend. If you are thinking of feeding alfalfa hay as more than an occasional treat, first consult your veterinarian to explain your reasoning. They may be able to help you determine if the pros of weight gain outweigh the cons, or may have alternative suggestions. 

For some fun hay mix suggestions, check out our blog Fun Ways to Feed a Variety of Hays! 

How can I get my guinea pig to eat enough hay? 

Whether your pet is a picky eater, has a shy personality, or is aging, it can be especially distressing when they aren’t eating enough hay.  Here are a few quick and easy steps to consider if your piggie isn’t eating as much hay as normal.  

Switch up the physical presentation 

If your pet is not eating enough hay, first change how your pet is being presented their hay. If they are being fed hay with a feeder or holder of some kind that requires them to work for their food, opt instead for a feeder where they do not have to work. If they must stretch their neck to reach the hay, place the hay feeder so it’s lower and easier to reach.  

While this is not the case for all pets, older individuals may especially be affected by hay feeders. Underlying health conditions can sometimes cause moderate discomfort, leading pets to not want to expend as much effort to obtain their food, which can quickly snowball into larger issues. If you suspect your pet has an underlying condition, make sure to discuss this possibility with your trusted, exotics-savvy veterinarian—some conditions can be effectively managed with medication or modest lifestyle changes!  

Shy guinea pig? Think hideouts! 

In some cases when you’re experimenting with feeding methods, you may be able to forego a hay feeder altogether. While this may result in a messier habitat, you might find it increases how much hay your guinea pig eats because the hay is constantly accessible to your pet. If your pet is especially shy or is reluctant to leave their hideout, sometimes placing loose hay on the floor and adding a bottomless hideout over the hay can help ensure your pet eats enough. 

Hay variability and how it can affect your guinea pig  

Since hay is a natural product, there will always be some natural variability from bag to bag due to factors such as:  

  • when it was harvested within the growing season 
  • what the temperature was at the time of harvest 
  • weather changes that the hay experienced while it was growing

Some pets are not sensitive to this variability, while others are more sensitive to it. Particularly sensitive pets may turn up their noses at a perfectly good batch of hay because it simply doesn’t meet their personal preferences!  

If you have found this to be the case, trying a different bag of hay of the same variety can do the trick. Checking the lot numbers on the back of the bag of hay can ensure that you purchase hay that may have experienced different conditions. You can try mixing the less preferred hay with the hay that your pet prefers. In some cases, this may appease your little one. If you find they still will not eat the first bag of hay, the bag that is not wanted for eating can be used instead as a form of enrichment.

Keep a watchful eye out for changes  

It cannot be over-emphasized how important it is to be watchful and conscious of your pet’s behavior whenever they don’t seem to be eating enough. Not eating enough grass hay may result in gastrointestinal stasis, which is a painful condition that in some cases can even be life-threatening. If your pet is acting weak, lethargic, or is refusing all hay, it is important to get to an exotics veterinarian quickly to assess their condition. To learn more about GI stasis, visit our blog about it here.  

Why does my guinea pig waste SO much hay? 

Some guinea pigs are especially mischievous! They may pull hay out of their feeders and spread it around the floor. While we initially consider this a form of waste, it’s important to keep in mind that hay isn’t just for eating.  

Look at hay through your guinea pig’s eyes:  

  • Hay is always available to them. 
  • Hay can act as a very important form of enrichment particularly because of its abundance in the enclosure.  
  • It may even be your pet’s favorite toy! Guinea pigs may play with hay by tossing it around their enclosure or getting into a tug of war with their cage mate over a particularly delectable strand.  
  • Sometimes for guinea pigs, the very act of pulling hay out of a feeder as a way to manipulate the environment around them can be endless fun. They might also: lie on the hay, use it as an enjoyable and aromatic burrowing material (believe it or not, some guinea pigs love to burrow!), or use it as a bedding substrate and “go” on it.  

As long as you make sure to remove soiled hay from their habitat, hay spread around the floor of your pet’s enclosure may be a sign that they are living life to the fullest.  

If you get particularly frustrated with throwing out soiled hay, composting it all to create new soil may be an alternative. Check out our blog “Can I compost my guinea pig’s poop?”

Each guinea pig is unique and has their very own special quirks. While we hope these suggestions help pet parents, we also want to emphasize that getting to know your pet can be especially informative and take the guesswork out of some aspects of pet parenthood. Setting time aside every day to interact with your small companion can provide a wealth of information about their personality and preferences! 

Learn More

 

How Much Hay Should My Rabbit or Guinea Pig Eat Every Day?

Fun Ways to Encourage Pets to Play with Their Food

How to Make Sure Your Guinea Pig is Happy

...Read More

April 05, 2021

Which Small Pet is Right for You: Rabbits

Which Small Pet is Right for You: Rabbits

Have you ever wondered if a rabbit would make the perfect addition to your family? These adorable, whiskered herbivores are not only great companions but are intelligent and can have unique and wonderful personalities. Learn more about rabbit temperament and ideal living situations below.

Quirky Characters

There are as many rabbit personalities as there are rabbits. Some rabbits are easygoing and relaxed, while others are demanding and constantly on-the-go. Some seek affection and constant attention from their caretakers, while others tend to be independent, territorial, and haughty.

Even the most engaging bunny can be willful and picky at times. It’s part of their charm! Taking time to learn your rabbit’s unique quirks and temperament will ensure you can happily coexist with a complex companion.

Pet Parent Tip

Why do bunnies behave the way that they do? Learn more about rabbit behaviors and their instinctual origins here.

Social Beings

Despite generations of domestication, rabbits maintain a deeply ingrained need for the company of other rabbits. Though the bond between human and bunny is a wonderful, complex connection, it can never equate to the close attachment bonded rabbits share.

Bonded rabbits snuggle together, groom each other, dance, play, and have entire conversations in their own subtle language. Rabbits also tend to exhibit less boredom-based behaviors (like destructiveness and hyperactivity) when kept in pairs or groups.

Best Bunny Buddies

Though many rabbits can live quite happily in trios or small groups, most bunny parents find it ideal to share their home with a pair. Unless you are bringing home a pair of very young, same-sex siblings, it is strongly recommended to have both rabbits altered (spayed or neutered) before introductions.

Without that pesky preoccupation with procreation and the haughty temperaments that can result, rabbits tend to be much more amicable and friendly with one another, making the bonding process much easier. This is true whether you are introducing rabbits of the same or opposite sex.

Keeping this in mind, the following gender pairings are ideal:

  • Siblings: since they come from the same litter, raising a pair of sisters or brothers means the bonding has already been established before you even bring them home. It is still important to have both rabbits spayed or neutered to avoid the potential of hormonally-driven disagreements.
  • Male/female: it is often easiest to introduce girls to boys. Never try to introduce a pair when one rabbit is altered and the other is not.
  • Two unrelated females: will often become friends, but they will have to sort out a “pecking” order.
  • Two unrelated males: boys can often learn to get along, but it is important to ensure a female rabbit isn’t brought into the home, even if the boys have been neutered.

Bunny Bonding

Rabbits are sensitive, social animals and make wonderful companions for folks who take the time to understand, accept, and support their instincts and behaviors. Because rabbits are a prey species, it requires a patient, deliberate investment on the pet parent’s part to learn their rabbit’s unique language and work to build their trust. A rabbit may start as shy, aloof, or hesitant, but consistent, gentle, and positive interactions will soon bring them out of their shells.

Pet Parent Tip

Check out Breaking Down Bunny Bonding: 6 Tips and Tricks. 

Learn More

Oxbow Animal Health Rabbit Products

Rabbit Life Stages

Rabbit Noises and Their Meanings 

The Importance of Spaying or Neutering Your Rabbit

...Read More

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