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The importance of hay

rodent

The main thing is hay

A lot of nibbling keeps your guinea pig fit
It’s important that small animals always have access to food, because the process of feeding causes previously eaten food to continue moving down the gastro-intestinal tract. If this doesn’t happen and there is nothing left to eat, or if an animal is suffering from a loss of appetite, bacterial cultures within the digestive system can mount up and threaten the animal’s life. That’s why you should always provide your animals with plenty of food at all times. This applies to rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas and degus alike.

Hay is an excellent staple food, which your small pets can really fill up on. It’s rich in fibre and therefore low in calories. This means that your favourite pet rabbits, guinea pigs and other small animals are sure to never get fat. Actually, the more they nibble away, the slimmer they will stay, since hay not only covers their daily energy needs, but keeps their digestion balanced as well. This in turn ensures that the “good” bacteria in the intestines retain the upper hand!

Handy hay

You cannot provide enough hay for guinea pigs. They love it as litter, starter, snack, main course, desert and bedtime sweets. Most importantly of all, it should be fresh, nice and green and sweet smelling. The piggies like the crispy stalks for breakfast – best served only with fresh water and a carrot and without green fodder. Otherwise, they ignore the hay and concentrate on the more tender green fodder. But they are supposed to chew a lot and produce saliva to stimulate their digestion. That is why hay is so important. It is best to put a large heap of hay in the middle of the cage so that stocks don’t go down that quickly. A little bit of straw can also be included: guinea pigs need something to chew all day long so that their permanently growing teeth wear down – and so that they have something to “work on”. But even after nibbling on loads of hay it’s important to regularly check the length of your pets’ teeth. If need be, your vet will have to shorten them so that your animals can eat freely again.  A popular occupational therapy is to also give fresh branches from untreated fruit and hazelnut trees weekly. Hard bread has too many carbohydrates and therefore is not a suitable chewing material. Leaves and branches from nature have to be clean and, if possible, not picked from the side of the road and have to be dry without raindrops or dew. Guinea pigs should get three meals a day. In nature, they are on tour all day long in the search of food. After a breakfast of hay and water, lunch should be green fodder. Vegetables and fruit should always be served washed, dried and at room temperature.

What to feed your furry friend

The menu includes fennel tubers, parsley, dandelion, lucerne, carrot leaves and nettles. In the evening, you serve some grains, carrot, a piece of sweet apple and hay again. Do not feed cabbage leaves, they cause flatulence. Guinea pigs should always have access to fresh, not too cold water, in a bowl which is rinsed daily without detergent. A salt and calcium licking stone provides minerals and trace elements to the animal. You must never change a guinea pig’s food suddenly. They can have terrible flatulence. You should therefore carefully introduce small amounts of the new food to the menu over several days. Loss of appetite is often caused by dental problems

Loss of appetite

An apparent loss of appetite in small animals is frequently due to dental complications. You will notice this if your four-legged friends suddenly start avoiding hay and switch over to eating softer foods. On the other hand, if your rabbit, guinea pig, chinchilla or degus shows  an interest in the food offered to him but still doesn’t eat, it’s time to have those teeth checked. Otherwise, the lack of food might cause the gastro-intestinal digestion to derail and let the “bad” bacteria outnumber the “good.” So give those little friends a whole lotta hay to keep their spirits high!

 

 

 

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