October, 2021

October 25, 2021

Oxbow’s 2021 KINDSWELL Rescue Grants Award Nearly $50,000 to Small Animals in Need

Oxbow’s 2021 KINDSWELL Rescue Grants Award Nearly $50,000 to Small Animals in Need

Oxbow Animal Health has announced the recipients of its 2021 KINDSWELL Rescue Grants.  The eleven recipient organizations will receive funding and donations totaling nearly $50,000 for a variety of projects and programs that benefit the welfare of small animals throughout the United States and Canada. Grant winners are chosen for excellence in the areas of educational outreach, public awareness, and project impact. 

About Oxbow’s KINDSWELL Rescue Program

Through its KINDSWELL Rescue Program and Rescue Grants, Oxbow helps organizations that rescue, rehabilitate, and home small animals.  Some of the many forms of assistance include emergency and disaster relief, free and discounted product donations, and sponsorship of education, capital improvements and operating expenses to support rescues on a limited budget.  
 
The 2021 Oxbow KINDSWELL Rescue Grant Recipients are: 

  • Metropolitan Guinea Pig Rescue | Finksburg, MD 
  • Orlando Rabbit Care and Adoptions, Inc. | Longwood, FL 
  • Save-A-Bun Rabbit Rescue | Nampa, ID 
  • Small Mammal Shelter at the U. of Montreal | Montreal, QC 
  • Think Wild | Bend, OR 
  • Chattahoochee Nature Center | Rosewell, GA 
  • Foothills Animal Shelter | Golden, CO 
  • Hop On Home Rabbit Sanctuary Inc. | Ganesvoort, NY 
  • Kansas Humane Society | Wichita, KS 
  • Treasure Coast Wildlife Hospital | Palm City, FL 
  • Second Chances Animal Services, Inc. | East Brookfield, MA 

“With sincere gratitude, Oxbow is providing much needed support to the small animal rescue and wildlife rehabilitation communities through our KINDSWELL Rescue Grant Program,” said Deb Buhro, Oxbow’s CEO.  “Through KINDSWELL, we strive to make a positive difference that ripples outward and onward, and we can’t think of a community that makes a positive difference with greater passion, energy and focus than small animal rescues.  It is our privilege to support the work of these amazing people.” 

Hop On Home Rabbit Sanctuary Inc. | Ganesvoort, NY 

“We are beyond excited to receive a grant that will help fund a land and sky, predator free environment for sanctuary rabbits in our socialization yard,” said Shelby Wimet-Himelrick, President.  “Our socialization yard will allow bunnies to freely hop around in a safe environment as well as provide space for potential adopters to meet adoptable bunnies!” 

Metropolitan Guinea Pig Rescue | Finksburg, MD 

“MGPR is so pleased to have received this grant. It has value far beyond its monetary worth,” said Becky Wilson, Director at MGPR.  “The past 18 months have been very difficult to navigate for our rescue, but we managed to reinvent ourselves in record time to adapt and continue helping as many guinea pigs as we could. This grant feels like a “well done” by our community and we are so grateful for that. This grant will allow us to continue to offer our guinea pigs the very best nutrition, and veterinary care available.” 

Second Chance Animal Services, Inc. | East Brookfield, MA

"We are so excited, and honored, to receive an Oxbow Animal Health Rescue Grant for our new small animal area," said Sheryl Blancato, Founder & CEO of Second Chance Animal Services.  "This will be instrumental in our ability to now be able to take in small pets for adoption. We have been limited on this until now. This will mean more lives that we are able to save!"

The Small Mammal Shelter at the University of Montreal | Montreal, QC 

“The Small Mammal Shelter of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of Université de Montréal is thrilled to have been selected as 2021 Oxbow Grant Winner,” said Dr. Isabelle Langlois, on behalf of the team of staff and student leaders and volunteers at the shelter.  “With this amazing contribution, we will be able to take in more small mammals with special needs or those who cannot be cared for in other shelters. The clinical experience and teaching of our undergraduate and graduate students will be enhanced, an undeniable asset for them and the entire veterinary community.” 

Treasure Coast Wildlife Center | Palm City, FL 

“Treasure Coast Wildlife Center is honored to be selected as a recipient of the Oxbow Animal Health Grants for 2021,” said Jodi Riley, Development Director.  “Our bird of prey weathering yard is in desperate need of updating to a hurricane category 3 rating for the safety of our birds and we are so thankful that we now have the ability to make it happen! We rescue over 800 native Florida birds of prey each year and with the help of Oxbow, we can give them the best chance at recovery!”     

Save-A-Bun Rabbit Rescue | Nampa, ID 

“We’re blown away to receive this generous grant from Oxbow,” said Sophia Uhlenhoff, Vice President at Save-A-Bun.  “We’ll be using the funding to purchase Critical Care and rabbit pellets for our sweet bunnies. This could not have come at a better time as we’re trying to rescue 600 feral-domestic bunnies running loose in Boise and will need lots and lots of food for them.” 

Orlando Rabbit Care and Adoptions, Inc. | Longwood, FL 

“Orlando Rabbit Care & Adoptions is thrilled to receive the grant from Oxbow Animal Health,” said Kathy Harter, President.  “This grant came at the perfect time as it will help to cover the costs related to vaccinating our foster rabbits against RHDV2.  We LOVE all Oxbow products and the items will be shared with our foster families, who normally pay for their own supplies while caring for our bunnies.  Thank you, Oxbow!”  

Think Wild | Bend, OR 

“Think Wild is excited to be a recipient of an Oxbow Animal Health Rescue Award,” said Sally Compton, Executive Director.  “We will use the funds to buy formula and Critical Care for the injured and orphaned wildlife that we care for, which will help us get them healthy and back to the wild where they belong!” 

Chattahoochee Nature Center | Rosewell, GA 

We are honored and thrilled to be selected for one of the 2021 Oxbow Animal Health Rescue Grants,” said Kathryn Dudeck, Wildlife Director.  “Chattahoochee Nature Center’s Wildlife Department receives more than 300 injured birds of prey annually.  This grant will allow us to more effectively and efficiently begin the rehabilitation process for these animals.” 

Kansas Humane Society | Wichita, KS  

“The Kansas Humane Society (KHS) is beyond grateful to receive this generous funding from the Oxbow Rescue Grant,” said Haleigh Orand, Chief Development Officer.  “These funds will support renovations for our small mammal housing area at the shelter, which has been in desperate need of repair and renovation, directly impacting nearly 500 small mammals and birds that find themselves needing a second chance at our shelter each year. KHS is extremely honored to be included and considered in this support, we look forward to building this partnership for years to come.” 

Foothills Animal Shelter | Golden, CO  

“We are so incredibly grateful for the support of Oxbow Animal Health in the construction of our new small animal space,” said Kendall Eckman, Development Coordinator at Foothills Animal Shelter.  “We are very excited to fill the area with species-specific items such as kennels, toys, chews, enrichment, and more to ensure our small animals have the best stay possible!”

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October 19, 2021

Getting to Know Supplements: Natural Science Multi-Vitamin

Getting to Know Supplements: Natural Science Multi-Vitamin
by Dr. Cayla Iske, PhD

For the next and final installment in our Getting to Know Supplements series, we will be taking a closer look at Natural Science Multi-Vitamin.  In this article, we’ll cover the following topics:   

  • Why are vitamins important for small animals?  
  • Fat-soluble vs. Water-soluble vitamins  
  • Which pets can benefit from Natural Science Multi-Vitamin? 
  • Is Multi-Vitamin appropriate for omnivores? 
  • What are the ingredients in Multi-Vitamin and what are their functions?  
  • How much of the supplement should I give my pet daily?

Why Are Vitamins Important for Small Animals? 

Vitamins are an extremely important part of any animal’s diet but can sometimes be overlooked because they are needed in relatively small quantities. In the early 1900’s, vitamins were called “vital amines” in reference to their importance for life.  

Some species may require different amounts of each vitamin, and in some cases different species may require vitamins others don’t. A well-known example of this is the requirement of supplemental vitamin C in humans, primates, and guinea pigs, but not most other species.  

A diet imbalanced in any required vitamin can lead to very serious health consequences. For example, a deficiency in vitamin A can lead to impaired eyesight and even blindness while excessive levels or toxicity of vitamin A can result in rash, skin & coat issues, and even liver damage. Thus, it is imperative with any vitamin supplement that you consider your specific pets’ needs and consult with your veterinarian before adding a vitamin supplement to your pet’s diet. 

Fat-Soluble vs. Water Soluble Vitamins 

There are two broad categories of vitamins: fat-soluble and water-soluble.  

Fat-Soluble Vitamins

Fat-soluble vitamins (including A, D, E, and K) require fat or lipid molecules in the process of absorption and travel through the lymphatic system before being fully absorbed into the bloodstream. These vitamins can be utilized upon absorption or stored in the body and used when needed long after consumption.  

Water-Soluble Vitamins 

Water-soluble vitamins (such as vitamin C and the B complex vitamins) are absorbed more directly into the bloodstream and can be utilized immediately after absorption but cannot be stored in the body. For this reason, water-soluble vitamins have a lower risk for toxicity but are also required more regularly in the diet. As mentioned above, vitamins, while required in the diet of all animals, are only needed in very small quantities, therefore falling into a group known as micronutrients which also include minerals and other key nutrients.  

Animals (humans included) require vitamins to perform vital processes.  When vitamins are lacking or in excess, the body doesn’t function properly, so balance is key. This narrow range of what is healthy and what is problematic as well as the sometimes-natural instability of vitamins means it is best to leave the dosing up to professionals and commercially available products that have been rigorously tested for quality and nutritional accuracy. 

Could My Pet Benefit from Natural Science Multi-Vitamin? 

High-quality, commercially available foods should always be complete and fortified with all the vitamins an average animal needs to survive. However, there are still many low-quality foods on the market.  This, along with other issues such as underlying disease, can lead to nutrition-related issues in your pet. It is best to follow the guidance of your small mammal savvy veterinarian to determine when you might consider offering a multi-vitamin supplement in addition to complete pellets.  
 
A few common scenarios that could call for vitamin supplementation include: 

  • Housing multiple animals in the same cage and are not able to monitor individual food intake 
  • Animals that don’t consistently eat their pellets   
  • Pets suffering from environmental stressors such as:  
    • Moving 
    • New animals in the home 
    • New humans in the home 
  • Pets with underlying chronic health conditions 
  • Older animals 
  • Animals under physiological stress, including nursing or pregnant mothers  
  • If you’ve chosen to feed a pellet-free diet (not advisable)

Is Multi-Vitamin Appropriate for Omnivores? 

Small omnivores can also benefit from supplemental vitamins at certain times and Oxbow’s Multi-Vitamin was designed for most of these species as well. At the core of a small omnivore’s diet should be a uniform complete and balanced pellet or kibble, paired with a wide variety of other foods such as greens, veggies, grains, proteins, and fats. In partnering with your veterinarian, you may determine that adding Natural Science Multi-Vitamin would be beneficial for your small omnivore.   

Ingredient Functionality 

Natural Science Multi-Vitamin was formulated specifically for small mammals to contain proper proportions of stable and high-quality vitamins in a palatable and nutritionally appropriate format.  
 
Multi-Vitamin includes a full spectrum of vitamins to supplement any diet and boost intake of vitamins that may be deficient or those that may be beneficial in higher doses. 

Vitamin Key Functions
Vitamin A  Maintenance of vision; immune system support; cell growth; skin and tissue health 

Vitamin C (L-Ascorbyl-2-Monophosphate) 

Growth and repair of tissues; immune function; iron absorption; antioxidant 
Vitamin D3  Calcium balance; bone and muscle health 
Vitamin E  Antioxidant; immune system support 

Vitamin K  

(Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex) 

Proper blood clotting (prevents excess bleeding); bone health 
B-Complex Vitamins 
Thiamine (B1)  Carbohydrate metabolism; immune function; nervous system function 
Riboflavin (B2)  Proper metabolism of nutrients; red blood cell production 
Niacin (B3)  Proper metabolism of nutrients; nervous system health; skin health 
Pantothenate/Pantothenic Acid (B5)  Proper metabolism of nutrients; nervous system health; hormone synthesis 
Pyridoxine (B6)  Proper metabolism of nutrients; nervous system function; immune function 
Biotin (B7)  Proper metabolism of nutrients; hair, skin, & nail health 
Folic Acid/Folate (B9)  DNA synthesis; red blood cell production; cellular growth and function 
Vitamin B12  Nerve tissue health; DNA synthesis; brain function; red blood cell production 
Choline  Cell structure maintenance; fat metabolism 

Daily Feeding Recommendation for Natural Science Multi-Vitamin 

  • Herbivores (such as rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas): 
    • 1/2 to 2 tabs of Multi-Vitamin per day, depending on weight 
  • Omnivores (such as hamsters, gerbils, mice, and rats): 
    • Smaller species (mice, dwarf hamsters): 1/8 tablet daily 
    • Larger species (rats, gerbils, Syrian hamsters): 1/4 tablet daily 

Supplement FAQs 

Adding any supplement to your pet’s diet deserves a conversation with your veterinarian and evaluation of what is best for your small companion. Past health history, as well as current medications, should be factored into this decision and there are many additional questions that can arise during this evaluation.  

Whether adding Natural Science supplements to your pet’s short or long-term diet, we’ve addressed some frequently asked questions we get regarding our supplements to help facilitate the conversation.  

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October 15, 2021

What to Expect When Your Small Pet Is Expecting

What to Expect When Your Small Pet Is Expecting
by Dianne Cook, LVT

Everyone knows it is crucial for pregnant humans to take extra good care of themselves to ensure the best possible chance of a healthy baby and safe delivery. The exact same is true of our beloved small pets. Caring for a pregnant animal requires additional time and commitment as you tailor her diet, environment, and routine to her gestational needs. Though the information throughout this article is a great starting point, working with a trusted veterinarian throughout the pregnancy is always recommended.  

At What Age Can My Baby Have Babies? 

To ensure the survival of their species, many small prey mammals are quite prolific at procreating. Most species become sexually mature at a very young age and they can be re-impregnated shortly after giving birth, leading to multiple litters every year.  

The ages listed below are the average ranges during which most female individuals will reach sexual maturity. Just because your furry friend can have babies, though, doesn’t mean they should. In most cases, the mother should be a bit older to ensure she is healthy and strong enough to care for her babies.  

Regardless of your pet’s age, it is always best to consult an exotics-savvy veterinarian before breeding your little one to ensure she gets a clean bill of health and has the best possible chance of a safe pregnancy and delivering strong babies.                         

  • Rabbits: 3.5 – 4.5 months (varies a bit depending on breed) 
  • Guinea Pigs: ~ 2 months  
    • After 8 months of age, a female guinea pig’s pubic symphysis (the joint located between the two pubic bones of the pelvis) will start to stiffen. If she hasn’t had babies before this age, it will be difficult, if not impossible, for her to safely deliver a litter. If your piggy is older than 8 months, and you think she may be pregnant with her first litter, please consult a trusted veterinarian.  
  • Chinchillas: ~ 4 – 5 months  
  • Rats: 8 – 12 weeks 
  • Hamsters: as early as 3 weeks (depending on breed) 
  • Gerbils: as early as 9 weeks 
  • Mice: 6 – 8 weeks 

How Will I Know If My Pet Is Pregnant? 

While there are many thoughtful, responsible small pet enthusiasts who breed with careful intention, many pet parents find themselves in a situation in which their furry friend’s pregnancy is completely unexpected. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for small pets to accidently be misgendered and an intact female and male will end up sharing the same enclosure – resulting in a litter of tiny surprises a few weeks later.  

If you think your little one might be expecting, watch for the following signs. If any appear, make sure to reach out to your favorite exotics-savvy veterinarian as promptly as possible to verify the pregnancy and rule out other heath conditions that can lead to similar symptoms.  

Increased thirst and appetite – As with any pregnant being, growing babies require a lot of additional energy. The easiest way to meet these energy needs is to increase caloric intake. If your little loved one’s appetite suddenly ramps up, she’s drinking more water, and you’ve ruled out all other causes, it might be a sign she’s pregnant.  

Sudden weight gain – While there are many things that can lead to an expanding waistline, a brood of rapidly growing babies will result in a steadily rising number on the scale and will generally give your little lady a rotund, avocado-like appearance. 

Nipple changes – As mammals, each species of our furry exotic companions create milk to nourish their offspring. If you notice your pet’s nipples starting to look swollen or the hair around her nipples starts to thin, it may be a sign your little one’s body is gearing up for lactation. 

Behavior Changes – Pregnant females go through a lot of changes quite quickly. Not only do their bodies expand, but they must prepare a nest in which they can safely deliver and raise their babies. That’s a lot to do in a short amount of time! If your normally mild-mannered friend starts to become unusually moody and preoccupied with nesting (gathering bedding and other soft materials to make a cozy space for babies), take note and touch base with a trusted veterinarian.  

Faux Real? 

False pregnancies (also called pseudopregnancies) happen occasionally in all species of small mammals. When this happens, afflicted pets will express common pregnancy behaviors (like nesting, moodiness, and increased hunger) and may even begin to lactate, despite not being pregnant. The best way to know for certain if your furry family member is pregnant is to visit your veterinarian.  

How Long Is Gestation? 

In mammals, gestation is the time between conception and birth, and each species is a bit different. Unless you purposefully bred your female and the conception date is confirmed, it can be difficult (if not impossible) to determine exactly when she became pregnant.  

If you believe your little lady might be expecting, a skilled exotics veterinarian may be able to give you an idea of how far along she is. If you think your little one has gone over the typical gestation ranges for her species (see below), consult your veterinarian immediately! 

  • Rabbits: 31 – 33 days 
  • Guinea Pigs: 59 – 72 days 
  • Chinchillas: ~ 111 days 
  • Rats: 21 – 23 days 
  • Hamsters: 16 – 22 days, depending on breed 
  • Gerbils: 24 days 
  • Mice: 19 – 21 days 

Pregnancy Preparations

Once your veterinarian has confirmed your furry friend truly is expecting, it is important to make sure she has all she needs to finish the pregnancy and deliver her babies as safely and comfortably as possible. To do so, the following considerations regarding her diet, environment, and handling should be made. 

Cure Those Cravings 

Small Herbivores 

  • In addition to an unlimited volume of grass hays and access to fresh water every day, it is imperative pregnant small herbivores have access to a high-quality, fortified, alfalfa-based pelleted diet, and a variety of fresh, nutrient-dense greens and veggies.  
  • It is also recommended that she has access to loose alfalfa at all times. The additional protein and calcium found in alfalfa will be prioritized for growing healthy babies and preparing the mother’s body for lactation while preventing those important nutrients from being leeched directly from her body. It is important to transition gradually to both the alfalfa-based pellets and loose alfalfa, as an abrupt switch can increase the risk of soft stools and other digestive woes. It is always best to work with an experienced veterinarian to tailor your little one’s diet to her specific and individualized needs.   
     

Small Omnivores 

  • Throughout her pregnancy, a small omnivore will require a high-energy diet filled with plenty of lean protein, calcium, and healthy fats. Along with unlimited access to fresh water and her normal diet, increasing access to healthy supplementary foods (like kale, dandelion greens, hard-boiled eggs, cooked brown rice, boiled chicken, and sunflower seeds) will keep your expecting mamma’s immune system strong, and ensure she has the best chance of birthing strong, healthy babies.  
  • It is important to note that during pregnancy, small omnivores will often stash more food than usual to have available during labor and delivery. As with small herbivores, speaking with a knowledgeable veterinarian regarding your little one’s diet throughout her pregnancy is strongly recommended. 

Make Room for Babies

Small mammals should have access to a safe, quiet, comfortable environment in which to deliver and raise their babies. Our small furry friends tend to be fans of burrowing and nesting in general, but this is especially true when they are pregnant. Placing an enclosed, easy-to-clean nesting box in your little one’s enclosure will give her a cozy, protected space to prepare as she draws closer to delivery day. 

Materials such as hay, cardboard, paper beddingnesting disks, and tissue paper should be provided to give the expectant mother a variety of options for building her nest. Many individuals will also line their nests with their own fur as she nears delivery. 

Raising a litter of exotic mammals can also take up a surprising amount of room as multiple enclosures are often necessary. If both parents have been housed in the same enclosure, it is best to move the male to another enclosure. Not only will this limit mom’s stress and territorial behavior, it will also prevent her from getting pregnant again soon after giving birth.  

Many species can also deliver a surprising number of babies who will all need a safe place to stay until they go to their new homes. While female offspring can generally remain with their mothers, male babies will need to be removed as they reach sexual maturity to prevent squabbles and additional pregnancies.  

Keep Mama Happy 

While it is always important to minimize stress in the lives of our exotic friends, it is especially true when they are expecting. It is best to handle pregnant females as little as possible.  

If your little lady is receptive, you can still bestow love and affection on her through gentle pats and nutrient-dense treats (like species-appropriate greens and veggies), but the daily playtime and cuddle sessions you previously spent together is best avoided during her gestation period.  

If you must handle mom, pick her up gently, never putting any pressure on her abdomen. Pressing on her uterus can cause physical harm to both mom and her babies and may result in spontaneous miscarriage.  

Whether your little one has been bred intentionally, or the whole experience is a big surprise, caring for a pregnant exotic mammal takes extra work and dedication (not to mention additional space). Above all else, the safety and well-being of both the mother and her babies is paramount. Following the tips and suggestions in this article will help you prepare for the upcoming arrivals, but it is always best to work with a trusted, exotics-savvy veterinarian to confirm your pet’s pregnancy and establish the best gestational care plan possible.

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October 11, 2021

How to Create a Safe, Free Roam Environment for Small Pets

How to Create a Safe, Free Roam Environment for Small Pets
By Dianne Cook, LVT

All small mammal species, from the smallest hamster to the largest rabbit, benefit from time outside of their enclosure. The ability to roam freely around the home (or in designated spaces) allows these naturally curious species to express their inherent exploring behaviors and provides loads of mental and physical enrichment. Whether you have a furry friend that roams freely full-time or a little one that enjoys shorter bursts of supervised playtime, it is essential to consider the health and safety of your pet before giving them free rein of your home. 

Careful Consideration

Let’s face it, exotic companion mammals are notorious chewers and can be quite destructive when left to their own devices. Beyond their potential to chew up your home’s intricate moldings or your favorite pair of sneakers, many species can squeeze into tiny spaces and may find themselves in a dangerous predicament. As a result, it’s imperative you take the following considerations to heart. 

Supervision, Supervision, Supervision! 

While some small mammals can earn their pet parents’ trust and eventually live a full-time, unsupervised, free roam lifestyle, some species (and individuals) may never be able to go without constant adult supervision. Before letting your little ones out to roam, make sure you have the freedom to keep a close eye on everyone. Exotic species are quite curious and can quickly find themselves in compromising situations if not supervised closely.  

Roomy Accommodations 

The amount of space you provide your small pet will vary depending on their species, individual needs, and preferences. While many rabbit parents share their home with full-time free roam bunnies, for many species (and even some rabbits), it is not safe to allow unsupervised free roam access to large spaces. Instead, designating a specific room or setting up a large exercise pen will provide your furry friend with the room they need to explore while ensuring they can play safely under adult supervision.  

For especially small friends like hamsters, it’s best to provide them with a species-appropriate fitness ball that will keep them safely contained while still allowing the freedom to run around and scout out their environment.  

Make it Fun! 

Small mammals are intelligent, observant beings and will often get bored with the same environment day in and day out. If your little one doesn't have access to an engaging, stimulating area to roam, they will likely make their fun by chewing on anything they can get their mouths on. To limit destructive behaviors, provide a free roam space filled with species-appropriate chews and activity centers. Rotating enrichment items will also help to prevent boredom and will keep your little one engaged and mentally sharp! 

This is also the perfect opportunity to foster that oh-so-important human/animal bond. Sitting on the floor as your furry family members roam is a low-stress way to spend some quality time with your small pets. Keep a few healthy, species-appropriate treats or a few favored greens and supplemental foods close by to make the experience as positive as possible for all involved. 

Creature Comforts 

As prey species, exotic companion mammals need to feel safe and secure in their environment. As a result, it is essential to provide your small friend with a choice of comfortable, covered places for them to hide should they become frightened or overwhelmed while out and about. Also, make sure to provide a feeding station with plenty of food and fresh water. For small herbivores, a few piles of hay will not only act as a yummy fiber-packed snack, but many little ones also love to root around, burrow, or take a nap in their hay.   

Preparing the Space

Once you’ve determined the best space for your kiddos’ free roam adventures, it’s time to “pet-proof” the area. Look at the environment from your pets’ perspective. What items can be chewed on (and potentially ingested)? Is there any way for your little ones to make a grand escape? The following list outlines the most common household risks for free-roaming small pets and a few tips on how to secure them. 

Electrical Cords 

Exotic companion mammals are master chewers and can gnaw through an electrical cord in no time flat. This behavior can lead to potentially fatal electrocution, serious burns, and ruined electronics, not to mention a serious fire hazard. Luckily, there are a few tried and true ways to keep curious mouths at bay. 

  • Ultimately, it’s best to choose an area of the home with minimal to no exposed cords. If you’re unable to do this, try and rearrange your furniture and/or electronics to help limit the cords your little one may find. 
  • Use durable, chew-proof items to block access to cord bundles (like those often found behind televisions and computers). Panels from exercise pens, baby gates, room dividers, or wire grids can keep both your pet and possessions safe. 
  • Use PVC piping, cord concealers, or flex tubing to cover exposed wires that can’t be moved or kept out of reach. 

Baseboards 

Baseboards are installed at a tempting level for small mouths. Many styles also have edges that entice chewing. Not only can chewing on baseboards cause extensive damage and require expensive repairs, but it can also risk the health of your fur baby. Some baseboards are made from unsafe wood varieties, or they’re covered in paint that would be less than ideal if ingested. Help keep your roaming companion (and baseboards) safe using the following tips. 

  • Flexible, all-natural sisal cat scratchers can be wrapped around the perimeter of the room and provide a natural look that is a bit more attractive than other options. It is important to ensure they are firmly affixed and that you check on them regularly to make sure your furry friends haven’t chewed through any sections.  
  • Build a fence! Square metal grids are a great, inexpensive option. They can easily be set up, taken down, and moved around. It’s best to set them up a few inches from the wall to prevent small mouths from being able to reach your word work. 
  • Hard plastic or metal corner guards often work well to conceal tantalizing baseboards. Affixing corner guards with removable sticky pads makes them easier to move or replace, but make sure to watch your little one close to ensure they are unable to pull the covering off. For a more permanent and secure option, fastening the guards with hardware is suggested. 

Furniture 

Your beloved couch and your grandmother’s china cabinet may be among some of your most cherished possessions, but in the eyes of your furry friend, they’re just great big chew toys. To keep your furnishings safe, the following suggestions may prove useful: 

  • Using flexible sisal material or fencing can work just as well protecting furniture as they do to protect baseboards.  
  • If your little one isn’t interested in nibbling upholstery but goes straight for those wooden furniture legs, PVC piping or flex tubing often works well to protect them.  
  • If your furry friend has decided they enjoy digging at your furniture, covering your couches and chairs in moving blankets or heavy throws can offer quite a bit of protection. 

Carpets 

As burrowing animals by nature, small mammals also love to dig. They often target the corners of the room or confined spaces (like under couches and chairs). While this natural behavior should never be entirely discouraged, there are ways to protect your carpet from your little ones’ excavation attempts.  

  • Provide a dig box! Filling a large cardboard box or with a thick layer of paper bedding, shredded paper, pelleted litter, and hay can provide hours of fun for your small friend and supply a healthy outlet for their natural digging behavior. Hiding pieces of treats or favorite species-appropriate greens or veggies is also a great way to encourage foraging. 
  • If your kiddos are still digging at the carpet despite having access to a dig box, you can cover the area(s) with untreated, all-natural grass mats or ceramic tiles. 

Household Plants and Toxins 

Though some household plants are innocuous, it is always safest to assume all houseplants pose a risk to your furry friends. All household chemicals, even those touted as “pet safe”, should never be left in an area your pet can reach. Keep all plants well-trimmed and off the ground, and all household chemicals safely stashed on a counter or in a secure cabinet your pet cannot open by themselves. 

Clothing, Shoes, Important Documents, Etc.

Though it may go without saying, keep things you’d like to stay safe off the floor! This includes clothing, shoes, books, mail, etc. Very few objects are naturally safe from meddlesome mouths, so it is best for your furry friend (and your belongings) if their environment is free from temptation.   

Escape and Entrapment 

Make sure there are no small spaces or gaps your little companion could squeeze into and end up lost or stuck. If using a closed door as a barrier between a pet-proofed area and the rest of your home, make sure your pet cannot squeeze underneath or get stuck in a closing door as they try to follow you out of the room. It’s also a good idea to keep an eye on the space under rockers and recliners. This area is often dark and secluded, making it a great hiding spot, but it can be incredibly dangerous for your small pet if they should become entrapped in the gears of the footrest or under the rockers. Before sitting down (or getting up) make sure your little ones aren’t hanging out beneath.  

Other Household Pets

Social media is bursting with pictures and stories of cats and dogs living harmoniously with their small mammal housemates. While it is true that mutually beneficial inter-species friendships can (and do) develop, it is generally safest to keep your little furry friends separate from your larger furry friends while free-roaming. Even the most mild-mannered cat or dog is still a predator at heart, and the unpredictable movements of prey species can trigger these inherent behaviors. It only takes a second for a seemingly calm introduction to result in a tragic accident. Additionally, the stress of being in the presence of a predatory species can result in substantial health concerns for your small pet.  

Pet-proofing a free-roam environment for your furry family members does take extra time and effort, but the benefits are worth it. Small pets who free roam, even if not full-time, live happier, healthier, more enriching lives.   

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October 04, 2021

The Truth About Mixes And Selective Feeding

The Truth About Mixes And Selective Feeding

True or False: The mix only makes up a small portion of my pets’ diet.  If I provide other healthy foods such as hay there won’t be any negative consequences.

FALSE: Nutritional and behavioral impacts of muesli and foraging mixes have both short and long-term health impacts.  These impacts include:  

Mix-Based Diets Can Exacerbate Already Instinctual Selective Feeding Behaviors

  • Feeding mixes is dangerous because animals can be stimulated to become even more selective in their feeding as they start to prefer the softer, more palatable but less nutritious pieces of the mix and refuse foods that provide critical dental wear and fiber, such as hay.6

Decreased Hay and Water Consumption

  • Animals fed a mix consumed less hay and drank less water compared to those fed a uniform pellet.5 These two outcomes have huge implications as chronic, low-grade dehydration can be tied to several negative health outcomes including kidney function and anemia.21

Greater Potential for Gastrointestinal Stasis and Bladder Sludge  

  • Hay and fiber intake, as well as hydration, are also factors that impact two of the most common health issues in small herbivores, GI stasis, and bladder sludge. It has been shown that increased water intake is favorable in the mitigation of urolithiasis (bladder stone), as is greater hay consumption.22,23

True or False: I can just train my pet not to selectively feed and eat all of the mix for more balanced nutrition.

FALSE: You may have noticed many of the issues with muesli, foraging, and seed-based mixes revolve around selective feeding, which has been recognized in exotic companion mammals for decades. This is not an issue that can be conquered with training because it is truly a hard-wired survival mechanism that has evolved in these animals for hundreds of years.

Concentrate Selecting (i.e. Selective Feeding) in the Wild
Wild small mammals (both herbivorous and omnivorous) rely on selective feeding to survive, so it is deeply engrained in their genetics. Small mammals are prey in the wild and have a relatively low storage capacity for food in the stomach to make it easier to escape predators (think about trying to run after a big meal). So, to meet their nutrition and energy requirements, they select the most nutritionally dense foods.8-10 In this hunt for food, wild rabbits may spend up to 11 hours per day feeding and foraging while covering more than 5 acres of land in their home range.11-13

What Happens When “Wild” Becomes “Child”?
For wild animals, selective feeding is a means to survive but your pet sitting on the couch next to you is a different story. There’s no more food scarcity or daunting, predator-filled landscape to traverse for them in your home!  Unfortunately, the hardwired drive to selectively feed is still very much present and will lead them to select high starch, high sugar, high-calorie food items when given the chance.

Rabbits and guinea pigs will even select for the less fibrous portions of loose hay, and rabbits are even more selective than guinea pigs.14

In addition to selecting energy-dense foods, these species are also highly motivated by the palatability of different foods rather than their nutritive value.10

All of this to say, there is no way to prevent your small pet from selectively feeding, given the opportunity.  Instead, it is up to you to provide them with the best quality nutrition possible by removing the opportunity to selectively feed.


References

Harcourt-Brown, F.M. 1996. Calcium deficiency, diet and dental disease in pet rabbits. Veterinary Record 139.23: 567-571.
Lebas, F., P. Coudert, H. De Rochambeau, and R.G. Thébault. 1997. The Rabbit - Husbandry, Health and Production (2d edition) FAO publ., Rome, pg. 223.
Mullan, S.M., and D.C.J. Main. 2006. Survey of the husbandry, health and welfare of 102 pet rabbits. Veterinary Record 159.4: 103-109.
Meredith, A.L., J.L. Prebble, and D.J. Shaw. 2015. Impact of diet on incisor growth and attrition and the development of dental disease in pet rabbits. Journal of Small Animal Practice 56.6: 377-382.
Prebble, J.L., and A.L. Meredith. 2014. Food and water intake and selective feeding in rabbits on four feeding regimes. Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition 98.5: 991-1000.
Jekl, V., and S. Redrobe. 2013. Rabbit dental disease and calcium metabolism–the science behind divided opinions. Journal of Small Animal Practice 54.9: 481-490.
Prebble, J.L., F.M. Langford, D.J. Shaw, and A.L. Meredith. 2015. The effect of four different feeding regimes on rabbit behaviour. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 169: 86-92.
Miller, G.R. 1968. Evidence for selective feeding on fertilized plots by red grouse, hares, and rabbits. The Journal of Wildlife Management: 849-853.
Somers, N., B. D’Haese, B. Bossuyt, L. Lens, and M. Hoffmann. 2008. Food quality affects diet preference of rabbits: experimental evidence. Belgian Journal of Zoology 138.2: 170-176.
Gidenne, T., F. Lebas, and L. Fortun-Lamothe. 2010. Feeding behaviour of rabbits. In: Nutrition of the Rabbit, Eds: de Blas, C. and Wiseman, J. CAB International. Pgs: 254-274.
Mykytowycz, R., 1958. Continuous observations of the activity of the wild rabbit, Oryctolagus cuniculus (L.), during 24-hour periods. C.S.I.R.O. Wildl. Res.
Myers, K., and W.E. Poole. 1961. A study of the biology of the wild rabbit, Oryctolagus cuniculus (L.), in confined populations II. The effects of season and population increase on behaviour. C.S.I.R.O. Wildl. Res. 6, 1–41.
Gibb, J.A. 1993. Sociality, time and space in a sparse population of rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus). Journal of Zoology 229.4: 581-607.
Franz, R., M. Kreuzer, J. Hummel, J.M. Hatt and M. Clauss. 2011. Intake, selection, digesta retention, digestion and gut fill of two coprophageous species, rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) and guinea pigs (Cavia porcellus), on a hay‐only diet. Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition 95.5: 564-570.
National Research Council (NRC). 1977. Nutrient Requirements of Rabbits: Second Revised Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
European Pet Food Industry Federation (FEDIAF), 2013: Nutritional Guidelines for Feeding Pet Rabbits. FEDIAF, Brussels (Belgium).
Lowe, J.A. 2010. Pet Rabbit Feeding and Nutrition. In C. de Blas and J. Wiseman (eds.) Nutrition of the Rabbit 2nd ed.). CAB International. Pp. 294-313.
Gidenne, T. 2003. Fibres in rabbit feeding for digestive troubles prevention: respective role of low-digested and digestible fibre. Livestock Production Science 81.2-3: 105-117.
Rees Davies, R. and J.A.E. Rees Davies. 2003. Rabbit gastrointestinal physiology. Veterinary Clinics: Exotic Animal Practice 6.1: 139-153.
DeCubellis, J, and J. Graham. 2013. Gastrointestinal disease in guinea pigs and rabbits. Veterinary Clinics: Exotic Animal Practice 16.2.: 421-435.
Melillo, A. 2007. Rabbit clinical pathology. Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine 16.3: 135-145.
Clauss, M., B. Burger, A. Liesegang, F. Del Chicca, M. Kaufmann-Bart, B. Riond, M. Hassig, and J.M. Hatt. 2012. Influence of diet on calcium metabolism, tissue calcification and urinary sludge in rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus). Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition 96.5: 798-807.
Tschudin, A., M. Clauss, D. Codron, A. Liesegang, and J.M. Hatt. 2011. Water intake in domestic rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) from open dishes and nipple drinkers under different water and feeding regimes. Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition 95.4: 499-511.

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