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September 10, 2020

How to Syringe Feed Your Rabbit, Guinea Pig or Other Small Pet

It's every pet parent's worst nightmare; you notice your beloved pet isn't eating their hay or food like they normally do, or, worse, you can tell they're visibly ill with your own, perceptive eyes.  You take your fur baby into your trusted veterinarian right away and they are able to successfully diagnose the underlying issue that has lead to your pet's symptoms.  The great news is that your pet is going to make a full recovery back to their happy, healthy selves (thank goodness!), but, you're going to need to help their recovery along by hand feeding them in the meantime. 

When it comes to preparing and hand feeding a recovery product such as Oxbow's Critical Care, we know that the process might seem daunting and more than a little stressful at first.  However, with the right preparation, some practice, and plenty of patience, you will be confidently and successfully hand feeding your rabbit, guinea pig or other small pet in no time.  

Which Oxbow products are designed for hand feeding?  

Critical Care Herbivore, Carnivore, Omnivore, and Herbivore Fine Grind are designed to support exotic pets unwilling or unable to eat enough food on their own. Critical Care Herbivore and Critical Care Herbivore Fine Grind are designed for rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas, tortoises, iguanas and other herbivorous species. Critical Care Omnivore is designed for chickens, rodents, hedgehogs, and bearded dragons and other omnivorous pets.  Critical Care Carnivore is designed for ferrets, cats, and other carnivorous pets. 

When is hand feeding a recovery nutrition product such as Oxbow's Critical Care appropriate and beneficial?

There are a number of clinical applications or issues your pet may experience that could lead your veterinarian to recommend a recovery product such as Critical Care.  Some of these applications might include:

  • Gastrointestinal stasis
  • Appetite stimulant 
  • Severe weight loss
  • Age-related needs
  • Dental disease 
  • Medication carrier 
  • Pre-dental and post-dental procedure 
  • Pre-surgery and post-surgery

Where can I buy recovery products such as Oxbow's Critical Care?

Due to the nature of the product and intended uses, Critical Care should only be prescribed and purchased through your trusted veterinarian.  In most cases, Critical Care is intended to be fed over a limited time period, as your pet recovers from an underlying health condition, surgery, etc.  For this reason, it's important to determine if and when Critical Care is appropriate and beneficial for your furry family member.

How do I prepare a recovery product for my pet?

Some pets will eat Critical Care products directly from a dish, but for most, hand or syringe feeding is the best option.

Steps for preparing Critical Care include:

  • Mix products as directed on the product label.
  • Use the included scoop or measuring spoon.
  • Mix well and mix fresh at every feeding.
  • The dry powder formula gives your veterinarian the flexibility to advise more or less water.   
  • If at any time the solution seems too thick, just add a little more water.  
  • There are a variety of different syringe types available; in most cases, long tipped hand-feeding syringes work the best.  

How should I prepare my pet before attempting to hand feed?

  • Some pets enjoy hand feeding, while some do not.
  • Sometimes it’s easiest to wrap the pet in a towel or get a helper to assist you. This works especially well in prey species like rabbits and guinea pigs.
  • Place the towel on a table, and place the rabbit in the middle of the towel.
  • Tuck the towel under the chin and cover the front feet.
  • Wrap each corner like a burrito, and have your helper to hold the burrito close to their body.
  • Ferrets often can be gently held by the scruff.  

How do I feed Critical Care to my pet?

  • Introduce the tip of the syringe gently into the side of the mouth.
  • Deliver a very small amount at a time, insuring that the pet swallows before offering more product.  
  • Feeding too much or too fast could result in aspiration of food into the lungs.
  • In most cases, it is beneficial to feed small meals, multiple times throughout the day. 

The amount of formula to feed is calculated based on calorie and fluid needs. Be sure to follow your veterinarian’s instructions.

Pets are usually hand fed until they are able to eat on their own. 

What other factors should I consider before hand feeding my pet for the first time?  

Hand feeding can be stressful for pets and pet parents alike.  Be calm and patient throughout the process. Also, be flexible; what worked well for one feeding may not work so well the next.

Note that sometimes it helps to take the pet into an unfamiliar room, to help them focus on hand feeding, and not be distracted by wanting to return to familiar surroundings.

Whether pets require syringe feeding or prefer to eat Critical Care formulas on their own, be sure to follow your veterinarian's instructions to help your pet recover and return to health as quickly as possible. 

If, at any time, your pet’s condition worsens, or you are unable to feed them as directed, call your veterinarian right away.

Frequently Asked Questions about Critical Care Products:

Does the product need to be refrigerated before opening?

Unopened product does not need to be stored in the refrigerator but just make sure to store unopened bag of Critical Care in a cool, dry location.  

Does the bag of powder need to be refrigerated after opening?

Yes – once opened, use the included scoop or sanitary utensil of your choice to remove the necessary product, then squeeze as much air out as you can, seal tightly and then refrigerate or freeze the sealed package between uses.

How long is the product good for?

Oxbow guarantees the Critical Care product UNOPENED for 2 years (based on the best by date on the package).  Once OPENED, the product is good for 30 days.

Oxbow can no longer guarantee the freshness and stability of the product beyond these time periods.  Therefore, we do not recommend using the product past these dates. 

Can the dry powder be frozen?

Yes, the dry powder can be either refrigerated or frozen. Either option is fine!