May 27, 2021

Male vs. Female Guinea Pigs

Male vs. Female Guinea Pigs

If you’re thinking of bringing guinea pigs into your home for the first time, one of the questions you may ask is whether to choose male or female guinea pigs. The short answer?  It depends!  (And, there isn’t necessarily a right or wrong answer either way.) In this article, we’ll compare some of the differences between male and female guinea pigs and highlight some scenarios where one sex or the other may be a better fit for your family. 

Male guinea pigs may be slightly larger than female guinea pigs

If you are thinking of bringing younger guinea pigs into your home, just remember that these guinea pigs will be larger as adults. There are many factors that go into how large or small individuals will be, including genetics and nutrition. Click here to learn about the specific needs of guinea pigs at different life stages.

Generally speaking, male guinea pigs (sometimes called boars) tend to be a little larger than female guinea pigs (sometimes called sows). Weights for sows can range from 1.5 – 2.25 pounds, while weights for boars can range from 2 – 2.5 pounds. Depending on genetics, males can even weigh around 3 pounds in some cases. 

Male guinea pigs and female guinea pigs may have different social dynamics

If you’re hoping to have a larger herd, female guinea pigs may be more amicable to living in larger groups. Another option is to have one neutered male with one or more females. While sows may “bicker” a little more to reinforce their social standing with one another, guinea pig pet parents have relayed that female guinea pigs tend to have fewer fallouts that require separation.  

If you’re looking to provide a forever home to only 2 or 3 guinea pigs at most, an all-male duo (or on occasion a trio!) may be a better option. Anecdotes suggest that males don’t always do as well in larger herds, so having an all-male duo or trio will automatically limit how many guinea pigs you can welcome under one roof. This may especially be beneficial if you’re worried about a larger herd becoming too much work later on!  

Reading up on introductions and bonding regardless of your pet’s sex is beneficial, and even necessary in the eyes of some. It’s ideal for prospective pet parents who have never had guinea pigs before to adopt a duo or trio that has already been bonded. That way the guesswork and the intricacies that go along with the bonding process have been taken out for you. Working with a small animal rescue for future bonding needs e.g. the decision to expand your herd) can also yield great long-term results for the health and happiness of your pets.  

It cannot be overemphasized how important it is to provide adequate living square footage for your pets. If your habitat is too small, it will be more difficult for your guinea pigs to live together. Regardless of how much they may enjoy each other’s company, fallouts or fights due to stress are more likely to occur from small habitat sizes. 

Male guinea pigs are a little more confident than female guinea pigs

Generally speaking, guinea pig pet parents have found that male guinea pigs tend to be a little more confident or bolder than females. This can sometimes lead to training males and being able to handle them a little easier than their shyer counterparts. This may also mean that boars are more inquisitive and more willing to explore their surroundings than sows.  

Boars and sows have different health concerns, especially as they age

Unaltered male guinea pigs tend to deal with a condition called impaction more often than altered males or females. Impaction is essentially a build-up of fecal material in a guinea pig’s anal sack, as over time their muscles may weaken, making it harder to fully empty their bowels while defecating. With some additional maintenance on the part of the pet parent, impaction in older males can be a manageable condition, and male senior guinea pigs can otherwise live a normal life. 

On the other side of the spectrum, unaltered female guinea pigs tend to have a higher risk of mammary, ovarian, and uterine cancer than altered female guinea pigs. While this is the case in both male and female guinea pigs if they are kept in unhygienic conditions, sows appear to be at a slightly higher risk of developing urinary tract infections (UTIs) than boars. Learn about how to properly maintain your guinea pig’s enclosure here.

While spaying and neutering guinea pigs in the US is not as common of a practice as it may be in Australia or the UK, it’s still worth having a conversation about this type of surgery with your cavy-savvy vet—regardless of which sex you decide to bring into your home! 

Male guinea pigs are sometimes overlooked more at shelters and rescues

Some small animal rescues encounter the misconception that males guinea pigs are aggressive, which may lead some new pet parents to choose sows over boars. If this misconception is prevalent enough in a community, it can be more difficult to find forever homes for male guinea pigs.  

It’s important to remember that while males and females can and sometimes do have the different social dynamics mentioned above, this does not necessarily mean that males are more aggressive. This perceived aggression also is not usually directed towards humans. Male guinea pigs simply have different social needs that the pet parent should anticipate! 

While male guinea pigs and female guinea pigs have some different social and medical needs, pet parents of both sexes can agree that once guinea pigs are provided with everything they need to thrive, they can be incredibly loving and humorous characters. 

Learn More

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May 25, 2021

Oxbow Animal Health Introduces New Foods Packaging, EVERYBite™ Branding

Oxbow Animal Health has introduced new packaging for its Essentials, Garden Select, and Organic Bounty lines of fortified foods for small animals. The new packaging features new EVERYBite™ branding elements designed to emphasize how Oxbow foods are specially formulated to prevent unhealthy selective feeding behaviors.

“For more than 30 years, Oxbow’s complete, uniform foods have been the gold standard in daily nutrition - trusted by leading small animal veterinarians and dedicated pet parents alike to deliver complete nutrition in every bite,” said Melissa Ross, Oxbow’s Vice President of Marketing & Innovation. “Our new foods packaging highlights the key features and benefits that consumers have loved about Oxbow foods for years. Our new EVERYBite™ branding helps highlight how Oxbow foods are specially formulated to prevent unhealthy selective feeding behaviors commonly found with muesli mixes and foraging blends.”

Highlights of Oxbow’s NEW Fortified Foods Packaging Include:

  • New artwork with key features and benefits supported by consumer research.
  • New EVERYBite™ icon & call out emphasize how Oxbow’s uniform diets are specially formulated to prevent unhealthy selective feeding (i.e. “picky eating”) behaviors.

       

  • Updated Total Pet Health graphic incorporates the four pillars of enrichment (playing, chewing, hiding, and exploring) and communicates how Oxbow uniquely delivers the essential elements of animal health and happiness.

​          

 

​The Oxbow EVERYBite™ Difference

Oxbow EVERYBite™ foods deliver complete nutrition in every serving, eliminating unhealthy selective feeding behaviors commonly found with muesli mixes and foraging blends.

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May 10, 2021

Top 10 Toys and Accessories for Rabbits

Top 10 Toys and Accessories for Rabbits

Rabbits thrive on enrichment and need time to meet their most basic behavioral needs. Providing fun and safe opportunities for enrichment will help prevent boredom-based behaviors that can be not only damaging but costly as well. Key behaviors that rabbits are wired to instinctively take part in every day include:

  • Exploring – Not only does exploring offer mental stimulation, but it also promotes physical activity that can prevent obesity.
  • Playing  – Rabbits are not only intelligent animals but they’re very social as well. Playing with them can create a strong human/animal bond.
  • Chewing – Rabbits have open-rooted teeth, meaning that they continuously grow throughout their lifetime. By directing their attention to items that are meant to be gnawed on, you’re not only helping them maintain their dental health but you’re also diverting their attention away from less than ideal chewing fodder (like that 7th generation wooden rocker in your living room).
  • Hiding – House bunnies may be domesticated, but they still have their prey instincts! Providing hiding places for your little one throughout their habitat - and your home - is essential to help keep your pet feel safe and to reduce stress.

Check out our top 10 toys and accessories to help meet your bunny’s enrichment needs below!

1. Play Wall – Large

Great For: Exploring, Playing, and Chewing

 

Bunnies love to chew things. Baseboards, table legs, you name it. The Play Wall is the perfect way to focus your little one’s attention on chewing something safe, healthy, and won’t cost you a dime to repair! Bonus: The danglies are replaceable!

2. Crazy Hay Ball

Great For: Playing and Chewing

Whether they toss it, roll it around, or chew on it, your rabbit is going to have a hay-day (pun intended) with this great chew!

3. Play Table

Great For: Exploring, Playing, Chewing

If you haven’t introduced your bunny to the colorful world of danglies yet, now is the time! The Play Table not only promotes dental wear but is also customizable so you can feature your fur baby’s dangly of choice. PS. The dyes used are 100% natural and safe so your munchkin can chew away to their heart’s content!

 

4. Hide 'n Seek Mat – Large

Great For: Exploring and Chewing

It would be annoying if we had to search for our food every time that we wanted to have a nibble, but trust us when we say that rabbits love the challenge! The Hide ‘N Seek Mat is the perfect place to hide food and treats, encouraging your bunny to do a little digging and exploring. It’s also made with 100% Timothy hay and doesn’t feature any wire, strings, or threads.

Pet Tip

Speaking of Hide and Seek, did you know that there are other games that small pets can play with their owners? Check out our “Games with Pets” here.

5. Wobble Teaser

Great For: Exploring and Playing

What exactly is a Wobble Teaser? Picture a Weeble crossed with a food dish. Fun, right? That’s exactly what your long-eared companion is going to be thinking during mealtime. It features a clear design to entire your pet to interact and includes an adjustable opening to control flow.

Pet Tip

We know that we keep mentioning that it’s fun for pets to play with their food, and we mean it! It’s a terrific source of physical and nutritional enrichment for them and a great source of entertainment for their pet parents. Learn more about other fun ways to encourage your pet to play with their food here.

6. Hanging Mulberry Chew

Great For: Playing and Chewing

Mulberries aren’t just for cute nursery rhymes. Our Mulberry Chew is one of many hanging chew options and is ideal for attaching to the habitat or X-pen.  Doing so encourages your pet to explore their space vertically – a great way to encourage both mental and physical enrichment each day. 

7. Hay Corral

Great For: Exploring and Chewing

Contain your bun’s hay in a fun way with the Enriched Life Hay Corral. If your aesthetic is a little more boho/garden/Western, talk about a great option! Even if it isn’t, you can round up this cute corral and put it in your pet’s favorite hay nomming spot. Giddy up, partner!

Pet Tip

Looking to mix it up with a hanging hay feeder? Our Apple Stick Hay Feeder is an easy solution!

8. Celebration Cake

Great For: Chewing, Playing

 

Talk about combining the best life has to offer.  Cake?  Amazing.  Celebrations?  Awesome.  Sure, our Celebration Cake is almost too cute to shred to bits, but we’re yet to meet a rabbit with that level of self-control.  That why it’s made with a variety of natural, enriching papers custom made to gnaw until there’s nothing left but confetti.  Pair with a Celebration Pom Pom and Crunchy Carrot for a proper bunny party!  

9. Hideaway Dream Castle

Great For: Hiding

Your rabbit is royalty. They know it, you know it, we all know it. So they must have a castle (or 2, or 3, or 57). It comes complete with built-in hay feeders, allowing your little loved one to munch on their favorite forage in the comfort of their very own castle. You can even go one step further, buy a few, and create a proper fortress. What regal rabbit wouldn’t love that?

10. Play Garden

Great For: Exploring and Playing

Bring the outdoors inside with your rabbit’s very own Play Garden! Enriching, removable pieces are perfect for tossing or spinning on their pegs. Not only is it cute and colorful, but you’ll be adding hours of playtime and enrichment to your little one’s day!

View the Entire Enriched Life Product Line!

Do you want more fun and enriching toys and accessories for your bunny? View our full Enriched Life product line here.

Learn More

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May 08, 2021

How to Prepare for a Disaster with Small Pets

How to Prepare for a Disaster with Small Pets
By Dianne Cook LVT
 

Saturday, May 8th is National Animal Preparedness Day. Though it can be scary and uncomfortable to think about, disasters can happen at any time, often with little-to-no warning. In an emergency, when time is of the essence, it can be difficult and stressful to ensure your entire family (both human and animal) get to safety. To help limit chaos in the heat of the moment, is it best to prepare ahead of time by ensuring you have a well-thought-out disaster plan in place.  

What Counts as a Disaster? 

Disasters come in all shapes and sizes. Smaller storms can target individual neighborhoods, while larger events can be more widespread, affecting entire cities or counties. As we’ve all learned, health-related disasters, like pandemics, can impact an entire nation – or even the world. Though not an exhaustive list, the following emergencies should be considered when creating a thorough disaster preparedness plan. 

  • Tornados – One of the most destructive of all atmospheric storms, tornados are violently rotating columns of air extending from the clouds to the surface of the earth. Under the right conditions, they can occur anywhere in the world. 
  • Hurricanes – The name for tropical cyclones with heavy, sustained winds in the North Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and easter North Pacific Ocean. In the Indian and Western Pacific Oceans, this same tropical storm is known as a typhoon. 
  • Earthquakes – A trembling of the earth’s surface caused by a volcanic eruption or a collision between two sections of the earth’s crust. While some earthquakes are barely noticeable, others can cause significant destruction.  
  • Blizzard – A severe snowstorm characterized by low temperatures, strong winds, and significant snowfall lasting for a prolonged time. Visibility is often limited due to blowing snow.  
  • Landslides – Fast-moving soil, rocks, and water that flow down steep slopes and canyons during heavy rain. 
  • Floods – High water flow, often caused by an overflow of rivers or streams, during times of intense rainfall or substantial ice melt, or as the result of a failed dam or levy.  
  • Tsunami – A series of giant, fast-moving waves formed by an underwater earthquake, landslide, or volcanic eruption. Waves can reach several hundred feet high when they make it to shallow waters and hit the shore.  
  • Fires – House fires occur within a home and can be caused by internal or external factors. If living in a wooded or brushland area, especially in a time of drought, nearby wildfires may force you to evacuate your home, even if your house, itself, is not on fire. 
  • Serious Health Concerns – As the last year has proven, events like a nationwide pandemic can have a substantial impact on how easy it is to leave your home or purchase food and supplies for yourself and your furry friends. Along the same lines, a family emergency or personal illness/injury may take you away from the home unexpectedly, requiring you to find a haven until the situation improves.

What Can I Do to Prepare? 

In times of a disaster, if you must evacuate, your pets must evacuate as well. If you have to shelter-in-place, so must your pets. The following considerations are a great step toward creating a disaster preparedness plan, but it is always advisable to speak with a trusted veterinarian to ensure all considerations are taken to best meet the individual needs of your personal pets. It’s also best to educate yourself on what types of natural disasters are most prevalent in your area to make certain you are as prepared as possible.   

  • Pet Rescue Alert Sticker - These convenient stickers indicate there are animals within the home that may need to be rescued. They should be placed on the front door of your home, in a visible location, so rescue workers know how many animals are within the residence. It is best to indicate how many of each species there are so rescuers know what to look for (e.g. 2 rabbits, 3 guinea pigs, 1 dog, etc.) and can ensure the correct number of animals are safely removed. If you were able to evacuate your pets yourself, and if you have time, it is recommended to write “evacuated” across the sticker to alert first responders. 
  • Early Detection – Having a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) Weather Radio tuned to your local emergency station is one of the most accurate ways to monitor severe weather warnings in your area. Local news outlets, radio stations, and mobile weather apps are also great ways to access complete weather coverage.       
  • Evacuate Early – Whenever possible, do not wait for mandatory evacuation orders. Disaster conditions are often scary, loud, and hectic, especially if you’re rushing to get your animals evacuated after a storm has already hit. These intense conditions can cause additional stress to small mammals who are already especially sensitive to stressful situations.   
  • Emergency Kit – Keeping a fully stocked, grab-and-go emergency kit for your furry friends is one of the best ways to ensure you have all that you need to keep your pets healthy and safe should disaster strike. Read How to Build a Small Pet Emergency Kit to learn more. 
  • Designate a Safe Space – If you’re forced to leave your home, for whatever reason, you’ll want to find somewhere safe for your fur babies to stay until the threat passes.  
    • Friends and Family – Ask trusted loved ones if they are able and willing to take you and your pets in while things settle down. Talk with local friends and family, as well as those who live outside of your immediate area, so you can feel confident you have a safe place for your little ones regardless of how far you have to travel. It’s important to have these conversations in advance so you’re not surprising anyone with a frantic request.  

    • Find an Emergency Caregiver (or Two) – Not all disasters require you to evacuate your home, but some may make it difficult or impossible to get home. Dangerous road conditions, sudden hospitalizations, family emergencies, or any number of urgent, unanticipated scenarios can leave your furry friends’ home alone without care. Talk with trusted, small mammal-savvy neighbors, friends, and family members who live close by so you know you always have a backup plan in case you can’t make it home to care for your little ones.  

    • Hotels – One of the most straightforward options is to determine which hotels/motels in your area, or along common evacuation routes, have pet-friendly policies. Make sure to ask if they have discounted pet rates during emergencies or if they’re willing to waive their pet policy altogether during an evacuation. Keep a pet-friendly hotel list handy so you’re not scrambling to find it when a storm is approaching. 

    • Animal Care Facilities – While not as ideal as keeping your pets with you, consider including small mammal-friendly boarding facilities, animal shelters, and vet clinics in your search.  

    • Post-Disaster Emergency Shelter – During a widespread disaster, emergency shelters are often provided by the federal government or local/national charity organizations to give folks a place to stay throughout the clean-up and reconstruction phase. These shelters provide basic needs such as food, water, medicine, and sanitary facilities, but many are loud, overcrowded, and not animal friendly. Touch base with your local emergency management office to determine if any known emergency shelter sites welcome people and their pets (including exotic companion mammals).  

What If I Can’t Evacuate? 

Despite immaculate disaster planning, there are times evacuation won’t be possible. Extreme weather conditions can arise suddenly or worsen without warning. Similarly, there will be times that evacuation won’t be necessary, though safety precautions will still need to be taken. As a result, in addition to a steadfast evacuation plan, it’s equally important to create a shelter plan. 

Sheltering is appropriate when conditions require you to seek shelter in your home when emergencies arise. The length of time you are required to take shelter may be short, such as during a tornado warning, or for an extended period, like many have experienced during the COVID pandemic. In all cases, it is important that you stay informed and follow the instructions of local authorities. 

  • Designate “Safe Rooms” - Windowless rooms (such as utility rooms and bathrooms) and basements make great safe zones to guard against flying or falling debris. During a flood, seek out the highest location in the home or find a room with tall counters, cabinets, and shelves on which animals can safely stay within an enclosure or pet carrier until the threat passes. 

  • Prepare Your Home – If you’re facing weather conditions accompanied by high winds (like tornados) close all the doors and windows and ensure air vents and fireplace dampers are properly sealed. Turn off fans, air conditioning, and forced-air heating. Though they seem minor, these steps will help limit the amount of debris and aerosolized contaminants that enter the home, thereby protecting your furry friends’ delicate respiratory system. 

  • Consider a Generator – A quality generator is a major investment, but if electricity is lost, generators can help keep your home warm and well-lit until power is restored.  

  • Stock Up! – All well-equipped small mammal emergency kits should include a minimum 5 – 7-day supply of fresh hay, food, and bottled water for your little ones. If you live in an area that is especially susceptible to extreme weather patterns, it may be best to keep even more on hand as it can sometimes be difficult, if not impossible, to leave your home and buy more.  

  • Be Ready to Improvise – Unfortunately, local authorities may not have an immediately clear picture of what is happening, or how long it will last. As a result, it is often recommended to keep plastic sheeting, duct tape, and a hammer and nails handy to help patch up broken windows or to keep any drafts to a minimum. Space heaters, extra animal bedding and litter, garbage bags, and several gallons of drinkable water also tend to come in handy.  

Learn More 

Wellness Exam Checklist

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Fun Tips for Supporting Your Pets' Health and Happiness 

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May 05, 2021

Getting to Know Supplements: Natural Science Vitamin C

Getting to Know Supplements: Natural Science Vitamin C

by Dr. Cayla Iske, PhD

The next supplement we will discuss in our “Getting to Know Supplements” series is Natural Science Vitamin C.  

What Role Does Vitamin C Play in the Health of Pets? 

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin essential for synthesizing many important substances in the body, such as collagen in connective tissue, as well as to support key body functions including iron absorption for hemoglobin production.  

Most animals have an active enzyme (called gulonolactone oxidase) which converts glucose to ascorbic acid, otherwise known as vitamin C. Gulonolactone oxidase is not present or is inactive in humans and guinea pigs, making it impossible for them to create vitamin C on their own.  

 

Will My Pet Benefit From Natural Science Vitamin C? 

For species such as guinea pigs that cannot make vitamin C, adequate daily intake is essential to their overall health and wellbeing. Sadly, there are still cases of hypovitaminosis C, also known as scurvy, diagnosed by exotic veterinarians every year.  

 

Vitamin C in Guinea Pig Diets: Is It Adequate? 

Most high-quality, commercially available guinea pig foods contain added vitamin C, but this alone is not a guarantee that the food is an adequate source of vitamin C in your guinea pig’s daily diet.  

There are different types and qualities of vitamin C which need to be considered when evaluating foods, supplements, and overall vitamin C in the diet.  If you are unsure about the quality of vitamin C in your pet’s diet, consult your veterinarian for his or her expert opinion.  

Most required vitamin C should come from uniform, hay-based pelleted food, dark leafy greens, and veggies, but your vet may recommend additional supplemental vitamin C at certain times.  
 

What Are Some Signs That My Guinea Pig Might Not Be Getting Enough Vitamin C? 

Vitamin C deficiency can manifest in numerous ways.  Some signs your guinea pig might not be getting enough vitamin C include: 

  • Poor skin & coat quality 
  • Delayed wound healing 
  • Swelling or sores around the mouth 
  • Poor appetite 
  • Lethargy 
  • Impaired movement 
  • Slow or delayed growth and/or development  
     

Not All Forms of Vitamin C Are Created Equal 

Most vitamins are highly volatile and prone to degradation in food products. Factors like oxygen, moisture, humidity, and light can lead to loss of vitamins and potentially deficiency in foods. For this reason, it’s imperative to protect foods from these environmental factors by using shelf-stable vitamin forms when possible.  

On the label of Natural Science Vitamin C supplement, you will see “L-Ascorbyl-2-Monophosphate (Vitamin C)” listed in the ingredients. This fancy name indicates that the ascorbic acid (i.e. vitamin C) has been phosphorylated (a phosphate group has been added) at the 2 position of the molecule. This phosphorylated form of ascorbic acid helps protect vitamin C from oxidation, and, therefore, destruction. The ingredient was originally developed for the aquaculture market, so it was designed to hold up to more environmental stress, though it is still important to store food products properly for maximum shelf-life.  

Nutritional products that just list “Ascorbic Acid” in the ingredient listing are at high risk for degradation of the vitamin C which could lead to insufficient intake for your little one. Additionally, vitamin C supplementation in drinking water is never recommended due to its innate instability and difficulty when it comes to controlling intake. 

 

Do Species Other Than Guinea Pigs Benefit From Vitamin C Supplementation? 

Animals that create their own vitamin C (such as rabbits, chinchillas, and degus) can also benefit from vitamin C supplementation during times of stress, illness, or recovery as vitamin C exerts both anti-oxidative and immune-stimulating properties.  

Older animals may also benefit from supplemental vitamin C as its antioxidant function can help mitigate age-related health concerns and provide immune support beneficial to many older animals. For a more in-depth look at antioxidants and oxidative stress, take a look at our previous blog all about the role of antioxidants in small pet health.  

 

Do Omnivores Like Rats, Mice, Hamsters, and Gerbils Need Vitamin C? 

Small omnivores do not require vitamin C in the diet.  This is because they can make their own via metabolic processes. However, if your small omnivore is particularly stressed, ill, or recovering, Natural Science Vitamin C may be beneficial. If your veterinarian suggests that your pet may benefit from dietary vitamin C, our supplement can be a great addition to a balanced omnivorous diet.  

 

How Much Vitamin C Should My Pet Receive Each Day? 

Herbivores 

We recommend 1 tab of Natural Science Vitamin C per day for rabbits, guinea pigs, and chinchillas.   

Omnivores  

We recommend feeding 1/8 tablet daily for dwarf hamsters and mice and 1/4 tablet daily for larger species such as gerbils, Syrian hamsters, and rats. 

Vitamin C is water-soluble and excreted in the urine, but, as is the case with all vitamins, excessive vitamin C in the diet should be avoided and balance is key. As always, you should consult with your small mammal veterinarian before adding any supplement to your pet’s diet. 

 
Still Have More Supplement Questions? 

We know there are many factors to consider when adding a supplement to your small pet’s diet. It is important to factor in your individual animal’s health history alongside your veterinarian when evaluating short- or long-term use of supplements. To help facilitate this process, we’ve compiled some of the questions we get most frequently regarding our supplements into one easy to reference blog article. 

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