January 18, 2022

Which Oxbow Fortified Food Line Is Best for My Small Pet?

Which Oxbow Fortified Food Line Is Best for My Small Pet?
by Dr. Cayla Iske & Dianne Cook, LVT

As pet parents, it is our responsibility to make sure our furry family members receive the most wholesome, well-balanced, species-appropriate diet possible. So, it’s no surprise that one of the most common questions we answer at Oxbow is, “Which of your diets is best for my pet?” 

The truth is that all Oxbow food lines have been formulated with the guidance of top exotic veterinarians and nutritionists to feature nutritionally correct, fortified, uniform nutritional profiles that are specially tailored to meet the unique requirements of their intended species and life-stage.  

So, while the simple answer to the above question is that all our diets are great for your small pet, there are certainly some differences. Keep reading to learn more about our full range of diets and what makes each line unique. 

If They’re So Similar, Why Do You Have So Many Options?  

As any experienced pet parent will quickly point out, every one of our furry little companions has their own unique personality, complete with individual needs, preferences, tolerances, and opinions! Similarly, each pet parent has their own specific priorities, lifestyles, and nutritional factors that are important to them.  

By offering multiple nutritionally complete premium diets, Oxbow is able to provide a diverse range of options and flavor profiles that speak to the specific preferences and tastes of as many pets and pet parents as possible while still ensuring your little one is receiving a delicious, complete, balanced, and species-appropriate meal.

Essentials 

Oxbow’s Essentials line-up is arguably our most recognizable, well-known food line and has been providing high-quality, well-balanced, species-specific nutrition for our exotic companion friends for more than 25 years. These tried-and-true formulas utilize traditional ingredients such as timothy, alfalfa, soy, and wheat products (depending on the species and life stage) to create a nutritionally balanced, complete diet. 

Additional Product Highlights  

  • Adult Rabbit & Guinea Pig 
    • Western Timothy Hay-based 
      • Calcium concentrations are 0.35% - 0.75%, finding themselves on the low end of most commercially available foods 
      • Optimal blend of healthy proteins and fats using soybean meal and soybean oil 
  • Young Herbivores 
    • Alfalfa hay as the primary ingredient to provide a high-fiber diet with optimal protein and calcium for healthy growth 
    • Wheat middlings, soybean hulls, and soybean oil balance phosphorus, fat, and additional fiber for a nutritionally complete food 
  • Chinchilla  
    • Features an alfalfa-based diet to meet the energy needs of chinchillas at any life stage 
    • Added fiber, protein, and fat with soybean ingredients and wheat middlings round out our original chinchilla food 
  • Small omnivore options for rats, mice, hamsters, and gerbils deliver optimal protein, fat, and energy sources when paired with species-appropriate supplemental foods 
    • Contain a variety of nutritious grains such as barley, oats, millet, and wheat 
  • Available in a full range of species and life-stages 
  • Comes in a variety of sizes, including bulk (15-25 lbs) 
  • Most readily available Oxbow diet – found in many brick and mortar retailers as well as numerous online pet specialty stores 
  • No artificial preservatives, flavors, or colors 
  • Contains prebiotics like yeasts (mannan-oligosaccharides (MOS)) to support digestive health 
  • Fortified with stabilized vitamins and chelated minerals 

Garden Select 

Garden Select formulas offer a “garden fresh” flavor profile that is particularly appealing to many picky pets. This diet boasts an enticing herbaceous aroma with ingredients that mimic those found in your very own garden. Our Garden Select line also offers certified non-genetically modified (non-GMO) formulas in every bag. 

Additional Product Highlights  

  • Adult Rabbit & Guinea Pig 
    • Three high-fiber grass hays (Timothy, Oat, and Orchard) are the base of these formulas 
    • Garden-inspired ingredients: Yellow Pea, Tomato, Rosemary, Thyme 
    • Like Essentials, Garden Select boasts a low calcium concentration of 0.35% - 0.75% 
    • No cane molasses, soy, or wheat 
  • Young Herbivores 
    • An optimal blend of timothy and alfalfa hay that provides the balance of fiber, protein, and calcium your little one needs 
    • Garden-inspired ingredients: Yellow Pea, Tomato, Rosemary, Thyme 
    • No cane molasses, soy, or wheat 
  • Chinchilla  
    • Contains three grass hays (Timothy, Oat, and Orchard) for a fiber and taste profile that is appealing to chinchillas 
    • Garden-inspired ingredients: Rosemary and Thyme 
    • No cane molasses, soy, or wheat 
  • Full offering for small omnivores (rats, mice, hamsters, and gerbils) containing the appropriate balance of protein, fat, and energy  
    • Nutrient-packed grains including oats, barley, and rice 
    • Garden-inspired ingredients: Yellow Pea, Spinach, Tomato, Banana, Carrot 
  • Often well-received by the pickiest of our little furry friends making for an easier diet transition 
  • Available in a full range of species and life-stages  
  • Many varieties come in numerous size options, including bulk 
  • No artificial preservatives, flavors, or colors 
  • Contains prebiotics like yeasts (mannan-oligosaccharides (MOS)) and inulin (fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS)) to support digestive health 
  • Fortified with stabilized vitamins and chelated minerals 
  • Certified non-GMO formulas 

Organic Bounty 

Organic Bounty diets are certified organic, making them perfect for pet parents who prefer offering an exclusively organic diet. These antioxidant-rich diets are made from a delectable array of ingredients including rosemary, cranberry, dandelion leaf, and blueberry. 

Additional Product Highlights 

  • A mixture of Timothy, orchard, brome, alfalfa, and clover grown naturally in the same field (Organic Meadow Hay) is the base of these formulas 
  • No cane molasses or soy 
  • 100% Certified Organic product 
  • Available in Adult Rabbit and Adult Guinea Pig formulas 
  • Available in 3 lb packages 
  • No artificial preservatives, flavors, or colors 
  • Contains prebiotics to support digestive health 
  • Fortified with stabilized vitamins and chelated minerals 

Simple Harvest 

Last, but far from least, Oxbow’s Simple Harvest line is comprised of “farm-inspired” ingredients such as canola, oat groats, and sunflower.  Simple Harvest diets are only available through farm and feed retailers such as Tractor Supply Company, Fleet Farm, and Rural King. We have partnered with these companies as a way to offer high-quality diet options for families with small mammals who may live in rural settings, or otherwise do not have convenient access to the larger or independently ran pet stores.  

Additional Product Highlights 

  • Adult Rabbit & Guinea Pig 
    • Western Timothy Hay-based 
    • Canola and Sunflower utilized as main protein & fat sources 
  • Young Herbivores 
    • Alfalfa hay-based followed by Timothy hay for a tailored nutrient profile fit for young, growing animals 
    • Canola and Sunflower added to provide optimal plant-based protein & fat 
  • Chinchilla  
    • Features a balance of alfalfa and timothy hays to provide adequate protein, fiber, and energy for chinchillas at any life stage 
    • Canola and Sunflower added to provide optimal plant-based protein & fat 
  • Small omnivore options for hamsters, gerbils, and adult rats 
    • Grain-based diets that deliver high-quality protein, fat, and energy sources as part of a balanced diet 
    • Contain a variety of nutritious grains such as oats, sorghum, wheat, and barley 
  • Available in a full range of species and life-stages (with the exception of Mouse & Young Rat) 
  • Available in various sizes, including bulk 
    • Bulk sizes excluded in young guinea pig and hamster/gerbil formulas 
  • Sold exclusively in the farm and feed channel  
  • No artificial preservatives, flavors, or colors 
  • Contains prebiotics to support digestive health 
  • Fortified with stabilized vitamins and chelated minerals 

So…How Do I Choose?  

At the end of the day, rest assured that there is no wrong choice with any of Oxbow’s fortified foods for you small pet. Every single bag of food is specifically formulated to meet the nutritional needs of each species at each life stage. The ingredients in each diet may be a bit different, but the end product is always one that provides the nutrients your little one needs to thrive.  

We recommend starting by choosing the diet that you feel most comfortable with, whether that is because of certain ingredients or certifications. Then, leave the choice up to your pet. If your pet loves your selected food as much as you, it’s a great fit! If they are indifferent or just not as enthusiastic as you’d like after completing a gradual diet transition, try another! As always, variety is the spice of life so don’t be afraid to try each line of Oxbow’s fortified foods. 

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January 17, 2022

All About Alfalfa

All About Alfalfa

For those of us sharing our homes with hay-hungry herbivores like rabbits, guinea pigs, and chinchillas, we’re likely somewhat familiar with alfalfa hay.  But, we know it can sometimes be confusing to know when alfalfa is appropriate for pets and in what quantities.   

Have you ever found yourself asking questions about alfalfa?  For example, how is alfalfa different from popular grass hay varieties like Western Timothy?  Can I offer alfalfa in place of grass hay, and vice versa?  If not, how much alfalfa should I provide my little loved one each day?  This article is designed to address these and other important questions designed to help you hone your alfalfa expertise!

What is Alfalfa, Anyway? 

Alfalfa is a perennial plant that has been grown, harvested, and consumed by herbivores for thousands of years (dating back to ancient Greece and Rome).  Unlike Western Timothy, Orchard, and other grass hay varieties, alfalfa is a member of the legume family.  Other members of the legume family include beans, lentils, chickpeas, peanuts, soybeans, sweet pea, and clover.     

What Are the Differences Between Alfalfa and Grass Hay?

Alfalfa and popular grass hay varieties share many similarities, including:  

  • Alfalfa and grass hay are grown and harvested in similar ways.  
  • Both look similar (though not exactly the same – more on that later) in their dry state.  
  • Both are high in fiber and provide important nutritional value to a variety of herbivore species  

For all their similarities, however, there are some notable differences between alfalfa and grass hay varieties like Western Timothy that are important for pet parents to understand when they’re putting together bunny or piggie’s mealtime shopping list. 

Alfalfa and grass hays at a glance: 

Alfalfa Grass Hay
Sweet smell & soft, leafy texture  Variety of smells & textures  
High in fiber  High in fiber 
Higher in protein & calcium  Lower in protein & calcium  
Ideal for young, nursing, and pregnant pets  Should be primary hay for adult animals  

Visual Differences Between Alfalfa and Grass Hays

While alfalfa and grass hays look similar from a distance, there are some noticeable visual differences between the two when inspected closely.  Unlike the long, narrow, blade-shaped leaves of most common grass hay varieties, leaves of the alfalfa plant are referred to as “trifoliate” and resemble clover.  
 
The flowers of the alfalfa plant are commonly purple and may appear in shades of white and yellow as well.  Depending on the maturity of alfalfa at harvest, you may notice the little purple flowers in the bag of alfalfa you purchase for your pets.      

Nutritional Differences Between Alfalfa and Grass Hays

Alfalfa is more nutritionally dense than grass hays like Western Timothy and Orchard Grass.  Specifically, Alfalfa contains more protein and calcium than its grass hay counterparts.  Because alfalfa is richer in nutrients like protein and calcium, it’s ideally suited for pets with increased nutrient and energy requirements, including young, growing, pregnant, and nursing pets.  Alfalfa can make a valuable addition to the diet of senior pets struggling to keep weight on for these same reasons.   

The Role of Alfalfa in Your Pet’s Food

Now that you’re familiar with the nutritional differences between alfalfa and grass hay, you might be wondering how this relates to the ingredient makeup of your rabbit or guinea pig’s fortified food.  Oxbow’s young rabbit and young guinea pig diets contain alfalfa, while our adult rabbit and adult guinea pig diets are grass hay-based and do not contain alfalfa.  The additional calcium, protein, and energy provided by alfalfa are beneficial to the daily nutritional needs of young, growing, pregnant/nursing, and some senior pets.   

Taste and Texture Differences Between Alfalfa and Grass Hays   

Alfalfa features a rich flavor, sweet smell, and soft, leafy texture.  No wonder most rabbits, guinea pigs, and chinchillas can’t get enough of it!  If your mature pet loves alfalfa but is less enthusiastic about grass hay, try offering a sweeter grass hay variety like Botanical Hay or Orchard Grass.  These sweet grass hays are highly enticing without the added nutrient density your pet may not need.    

How Much Alfalfa Should My Pet Eat Each Day? 

So, how much alfalfa does Fluffy need in his diet daily?  As you might imagine, it can really depend!  Every pet is different, but here are some general guidelines on how much alfalfa to offer your herbivore: 

Growing, Pregnant, or Nursing Pets

If your little loved one falls into one of these categories, feel free to offer an unlimited amount of alfalfa each day.  But, don’t forget to offer grass hays while you’re at it!  Eating a variety of tastes and textures will help prevent your pet from becoming a picky eater and will make it easier to scale back on the amount of alfalfa they eat as they grow older.   
 
Do you have a pregnant pet?  Learn more about what to expect when your pet is expecting.   

Can My Adult Pet Eat Alfalfa? 

If your animal is all grown up, he should no longer have unlimited access to alfalfa (no matter how much he might beg and plead)!  But, just because your beloved bun no longer has access to an “all you can eat” alfalfa buffet, that doesn’t mean he can’t enjoy alfalfa in moderation.  Just be sure to offer a smaller, treat-appropriate amount (just a pinch), and don’t forget that grass hay should be available at all times.        

What Will Happen if My Adult Pet Eats Too Much Alfalfa?  

It’s important to remember that all pets are unique and pet health is affected by many factors.  Some of these factors include:  

  • Age  
  • Activity level  
  • Genetics  
  • Overall diet 

Keeping these factors in mind, when mature pets are allowed to eat large or unlimited amounts of alfalfa, they run the risk of encountering a number of negative health issues.  These issues can include:  

Bladder Sludge 
The higher amounts of calcium in alfalfa can be a potential contributor to bladder sludge over time. 
 
Overweight & Obese Pets 
Protein is essential to pet health in the proper amounts.  The higher amounts of protein (and, therefore, energy) in alfalfa, however, can potentially contribute to small pets becoming overweight or obese over time.  

Kidney Health  
Consuming large amounts of protein and calcium-rich alfalfa over a long period of time carries the potential risk of putting extra strain on your pet’s kidneys.  
 
Unhealthy Picky Eating Habits   
If your mature pet has access to unlimited amounts of alfalfa, he’s less likely to show interest in more age-appropriate varieties of grass hay.  That’s why it’s important to remember to offer alfalfa to mature pets in small amounts, only as a treat. 

Learn more about picky eating habits in small pets.    

I Think I’ve Been Feeding Too Much Alfalfa!  Is it Too Late to Change?

If it’s occurring to you that you’ve been feeding your pet a little too much alfalfa, don’t despair!  It’s never too late to help our small pets develop healthy eating habits that meet their age-specific needs.  Instead of cutting your bunny off “cold turkey” from alfalfa, we recommend scaling back gradually over time.  This will make the transition to a grass hay-centric diet easier and likely more successful in the long run. 

Alfalfa is a rich, nutritious forage most herbivores go “gaga” over.  With its soft, leafy texture, sweet taste and aroma, and nutritional density, alfalfa is perfect for rabbits, guinea pigs, and chinchillas at key, nutritionally demanding stages of life.  For mature pets, alfalfa makes an ideal treat that’s sure to keep your pets hopping back for more!

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January 12, 2022

Why Does My Guinea Pig Run Away From Me?

Why Does My Guinea Pig Run Away From Me?

Few things can be more discouraging than reaching out to pet your guinea pig only for them to run and hide. You’re only trying to show them affection! In this article, we’ll cover some of the reasons why your guinea pig might be running away from you, and some suggestions on how to address this behavior. 

Reasons your guinea pig runs away from you may include:  

1) Your guinea pig is a prey species.

Your guinea pig’s wild ancestors evolved the behavior to run and hide at the first sign of a predator. This behavior kept them safe from being another animal’s dinner! Any guinea pig that had this behavioral advantage likely lived longer and could reproduce more often, passing on this behavior to their offspring.   

Even though guinea pigs have been domesticated for a few centuries now, as a species they have been hard-wired over time to run and hide when they’re uncomfortable or anxious. Any situation that feels unfamiliar to your pet can trigger the instinct to flee. A behavior that’s been passed on for countless generations can be hard to change! 

2) Your guinea pig isn’t used to affection.  

Whether your pet is young and needs some socialization, or your pet is older and didn’t receive enough socialization in their early years, one of the biggest reasons guinea pigs run away at the sight of hands is that they’re simply not used to them. It will take time on your part, but it is entirely possible to get your guinea pig used to being pet, and even being picked up. 

3) Your guinea pig may not entirely trust you.  

While this can be hard to hear, an important step to building a trusting bond with your pet is knowing that they don’t fully trust you at this moment. It could be because you haven’t worked with them enough yet to establish a strong bond, or maybe you have tricked or deceived them a few times (more on this in the second section!). 

4) Your guinea pig might be a bit of a diva.  

If you’ve had your pet for a long time and they aren’t always receptive to being pet, this isn’t necessarily a failing of yours. Some guinea pigs are more “sassy” than others, and will only allow affection on their own terms, and sometimes only from their favorite people.  

If your pet is a diva, rather than feeling frightened or unsure, they might not run away—your pet may simply dodge your hand by taking only one or two steps back, rather than hiding all the way in the back of their enclosure. Some guinea pigs with an independent personality just need their space, and that’s okay!  

Ways to work around this hard-wired behavior:

1) (Healthy) food is the way to your guinea pig’s heart.  

Guinea pigs are one of the most food-motivated animals out there. Especially if your guinea pig is a new member of the household, offering food to your pet multiple times throughout the day can go a long way to building trust.  

Each time you offer them food and the interaction is positive, the connection between “you” and “receiving food” is reinforced in your guinea pig’s mind. The food you give your guinea pig doesn’t have to be a treat, either—seed heads from hay can be a favorite offering. To accelerate bonding, you should set aside time every day to offer individual fortified food pellets by hand, rather than pouring their food into a bowl and leaving your pet to eat by themselves. Fresh greens that are appropriate for guinea pigs, such as cilantro, are also huge motivators.  

2) Keep an engaging, somewhat predictable environment. 

While new guinea pigs benefit from calm environments as they’re adjusting to their new home, guinea pigs that are more accustomed to their families can benefit from observing the regular activity of the household. Keeping your guinea pigs in a central area of the house, such as a family room, lets your pet learn the various sounds and smells of the home. This also gives them the chance to study their humans and their behaviors. While they may run away when encountering new stimuli at first, you’re likely to find that they’ll become accustomed to your daily schedule when they realize these regular sounds, sights, and smells don’t pose a threat. Your guinea pig’s improved acclimatization to the unfamiliar, paired with their new location in the house, makes it all the easier for you to give affection to your pet every time you walk by their enclosures. 

3) Don’t trick your pet!  

While it can be tempting to use food to trick your pet into picking them up, try to avoid doing this unless there’s an emergency such as a natural disaster.  

Providing food first, and then picking up your pet (something many prey species instinctively don’t like), will eventually change the association in their brains that food from you might mean an unenjoyable interaction is soon to follow. It takes lots of practice, but over time you will learn your pet’s specific idiosyncrasies, making it easier to pick them up. Always make sure that the unenjoyable interaction of being picked up comes first, with food provided after to make the experience end on a positive note. Learn about how to properly hold small animals here. 

As with all exotic species, the investment of your time is essential to building a healthy bond with your pet. Armed with the understanding of your guinea pig’s behavior, in the coming months you should see that your pet sticks around a moment for some affection. 

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January 04, 2022

How to Care for Senior Small Mammals

How to Care for Senior Small Mammals
by Dianne Cook, LVT
 

There are few things as rewarding as sharing your life with small mammals. Their quirky personalities, silly hijinks, and unconditional love fill our lives with purpose and companionship. As the years pass, however, and their little bodies age, it can be difficult watching our beloved fur babies face new hurdles and limitations. Fortunately, with a few tweaks to your kiddo’s diet and environment, routine senior well visits with a knowledgeable veterinarian, and loads of love and affection, you can ensure your petite pal remains happy, comfortable, and spry throughout their senior years. 

What is “Life Expectancy?” 

A pet’s life expectancy is dependent on a multitude of factors including (but not limited to) species and breed, genetics, diet, living conditions, and access to consistent, species-specific veterinary care. With proper nutrition and care, many small mammals are living longer, healthier, happier lives than was ever thought possible in generations past. It is important to remember, however, that just like humans, each animal is unique and may live much longer, or quite a bit shorter, than the ages outlined below.  

At What Age is My Pet Considered a “Senior?” 

  • Rabbits: 5+ years 
  • Dwarf rabbits may remain more active and “youthful” later in life when compared to larger or giant breeds 
  • Guinea Pigs: 5+ years 
  • Chinchillas: 7+ years  
  • With proper care, some chinchillas can live to be 20+ years old! 
  • Rats: ~ 18 – 24 months 
  • Hamsters: 18 – 24 months 
  • Largely dependent on breed 
  • Gerbils: 2+ years 
  • Mice: ~ 12 – 18 months 

Senior Well Visits 

While it should come as no surprise, our pets require additional health care as they age. As a result, most veterinarians encourage parents of senior small mammals to increase the frequency of checkups from once a year to at least twice a year.  

In addition to a thorough physical exam and any routine treatments needed (fecal exam, dental exam, etc), your veterinarian may suggest various tests to help screen for the common ailments listed below. These tests generally include lab work to check the blood and urine for any abnormalities, as well as imaging (x-rays, ultrasound, etc) to look for signs of organ enlargement, tumors, arthritis, and other age-related concerns.  

Maintaining consistent senior well-visits with your veterinarian will ensure your elder furry friend remains as healthy as possible and will allow your veterinarian the best chance at catching any age-related changes early. It is also important to continue conducting monthly, or even bi-monthly, at-home wellness exams so you can bring any changes to your veterinarian’s attention as soon as possible.   

Common Health Concerns in Older Animals 

  • Weight loss/decreased muscle mass 
  • Obesity 
  • Arthritis 
  • Dental Disease 
  • Skin/Coat concerns 
  • Kidney/Urinary Health issues 
  • Gastrointestinal Irregularities 
  • Heart and respiratory diseases 
  • Ovarian Cysts  
  • Especially common in guinea pigs 
  • Cancer  
  • Though any animal can get cancer, it is regrettably common in rabbits, rats, hamsters, and mice 
  • Diabetes 
  • Chinchillas and certain breeds of hamsters tend to be more predisposed to diabetes than other small mammal species, though it can develop in any species 

Caring for Senior Herbivores 

Diet 

As our beloved small herbivores transition from “whippersnappers” to “golden oldies,” one of the easiest and most important ways to help them remain in peak condition is to tailor their diet to their individual needs and known health concerns.  

Not unlike humans, many small herbivores tend to either gain excess weight or lose weight and muscle mass as they age. Though weight gain and weight loss can both be normal signs of aging, they can also indicate or exacerbate underlying health concerns. It is important to seek the advice of a trusted veterinarian to develop a suitable nutritional game plan to help your little ones lose, maintain, or gain weight as appropriate.  

The Benefits of Alfalfa for Senior Pets    

If your elderly herbivore is losing weight, and bloodwork doesn’t indicate a systemic issue, your veterinarian may encourage you to add some alfalfa back into your pet’s diet (either loose or via a species-specific young herbivore diet) or include supplemental Critical Care – Herbivore feedings. While the addition of alfalfa will provide your little one with extra protein and calcium to help maintain muscle mass and keep bones strong, make sure you get the green light from your veterinarian, especially if your little one has a history of urinary health concerns.  

If your older pet is getting a bit chunky, talk to your veterinarian about adjusting the ratio of hay, pellets, and fresh produce you offer. Often decreasing pellets, eliminating packaged treats, and increasing leafy greens (which can be used in place of treats) will help prevent further weight gain. It is important to ensure your little one is still getting an optimal balance of nutrients, however, so do not to make any adjustments without your favorite vet’s nod of approval. 

Grass Hay and Water – Everyday Essentials  

Regardless of your pet’s body condition, it is essential for small herbivores of all ages to have access to a variety of grass hays and at least two sources (e.g. bottle and crock) of fresh water every day. The high-fiber hay will keep your elderly friend’s teeth worn down and their digestive tract running smoothly while the multiple sources of water will help prevent dehydration. Your veterinarian may also suggest adding certain species-appropriate supplements for added anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties.  

Environment 

As small herbivores age, it can be a challenge to find new and interesting ways to keep them moving. Regardless of your pet’s weight or current health condition, encouraging exercise is vital to their overall well-being. Provide as large of an enclosure or living space as possible and make sure they have plenty of time in a safe, pet-proofed play area in which they can run around, play, and explore every day. Enrichment items that keep the brain sharp and encourage movement will promote mobility, sustain muscle mass, keep joints strong and healthy, and help your furry friend maintain their mental acuity.  

You may also have to get creative when it comes to helping your older herbivore get around. Slick floors and high shelves may be harder to navigate. Non-slip surfaces both within and outside of your pet’s enclosure or living environment will provide your kiddo with sure footing and prevent the potential of twisting the wrong way or exacerbating arthritic joints. Any shelves, platforms, or furniture to which your pet has access should include a secure, slip-resistant ramp to prevent any long jumps or potential falls. Additional layers of soft bedding are always welcome, especially when placed in your pet’s favorite napping zone.

Caring for Senior Omnivores 

Diet 

Senior small omnivores are just as susceptible to many of the same health issues as our older herbivore friends. Amongst these issues is difficulty maintaining a healthy weight. While many young and adult omnivores are pretty good at self-regulating their food intake, you may have to adjust the quantity of the fortified diet you feed your little one as they hit their sunset years.  

For kiddos who are on the scrawny side, your veterinarian may encourage feeding additional supplemental foods higher in healthy fat in addition to unlimited access to a high-quality, fortified, species-appropriate diet.  

For little ones with an expanding middle, greens and veggies may take center stage. It is essential to work with an experienced exotics veterinarian when adjusting your older omnivore’s diet, however, as certain foods (if fed in excess) can do more harm than good.  

Dental Challenges for Aging Omnivores  

As your tiny friend ages, they may also find it more difficult to chew their food appropriately. If you notice your kiddo is reluctant to eat their food, or they are dropping pieces as they eat, make sure to discuss this with your veterinarian. Small omnivores may develop malocclusions (teeth that do not line up properly) or their teeth may weaken as they age which can make it difficult for them to eat.  

While it is always preferable for your little one to have access to high-quality pellets, kibble, or lab blocks, not only as a source of nutrition but also a great way to help keep their incisors (front teeth) worn down, your veterinarian may suggest adding a small amount of water or other species-appropriate liquid to soften the diet to make it easier for your elderly friend to consume. 

Fresh water should always be available. If you happen to notice your pet is drinking more than usual, let your veterinarian know as soon as possible. 

Environment 

It is important to watch your little one closely as they navigate their environment to ensure their habitat remains safe as they age. Because older animals tend to slow down and have difficulty reaching areas they once could, you may find that your small herbivore is spending more time napping at the bottom of their enclosure versus exploring various levels and trying to scale the walls. Make sure multi-level enclosures are fitted with no-slip ramps for easy access. If your fuzzy little elder is arthritic or otherwise unstable climbing, discuss the potential of alternate enclosure modifications with your veterinarian to ensure you are providing the safest environment possible while simultaneously encouraging as active of a lifestyle as possible. 

Like humans, older animals tend to nap – a lot. Supplying additional layers of soft bedding and nesting discs will support your kiddo’s natural desire to nest and burrow and will keep their aging feet comfortable. Despite their affinity for slumber, it is still important to provide a plethora of enrichment items to encourage a strong body and bright mind. An option of hides will provide cozy napping nooks, while chews, activity centers, and a species-appropriate wheel will keep them occupied and active when they’re awake. Daily low-stress play and snuggle sessions outside of their enclosure are still strongly encouraged. 

Learn More

Rabbit Life Stages
How to Care for Young Small Mammals  
How Much Exercise Does Your Small Pet Need? 
Natural Science Supplements: Frequently Asked Questions  

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