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Small Mammals + Nutrition

    • Chinchillas require a high fiber diet and should be offered grass hay (such as Timothy hay or other low calcium hays such as orchard grass, oat hay, or meadow hay) free choice (available 24 hours a day). Hay should be the main component of their diet. Fresh clean water must be available at all times.

    • Ferrets are true carnivores and cannot handle a diet containing more than 4% fiber. There are several good commercial ferret foods available that are dry foods. Ferrets have a very quick gut transit time (the time from eating to defecating) of three to four hours, so they appear to eat and defecate constantly. Fresh water should be available all the time.

    • The preferred basic diet for guinea pigs is unlimited amounts of Timothy or other low-calcium hay, supplemented with smaller amounts of a commercial, high-fiber, Timothy-hay based guinea pig pellets. The diet should be supplemented with a variety of fresh, well-washed, leafy greens or colored vegetables; especially those high in vitamin C. Guinea pigs cannot manufacture their own vitamin C, therefore it is important that guinea pigs receive a vitamin C tablet or liquid vitamin C directly by mouth every day. Provide fresh clean water in a sipper bottle and check the tube for blockages each day.

    • All pet rodents must be fed a good, high quality rodent chow available at pet stores. Many veterinarians also recommend offering hay and fresh vegetables to rodents to encourage chewing and the wearing down of their continuously growing teeth. Diets containing seeds and nuts are not recommended, as they are high in fat and low in nutrition. Water may be offered in a bowl or in a sipper bottle. Seeds, nuts, pasta, unsalted popcorn, or a whole grain cracker can be offered as occasional treats. You can also feed your rodent fresh, well-cleaned vegetables daily and occasionally give a small amount of fruit. Unlike most pets, guinea pigs do not make their own vitamin C and should be fed a commercial high fiber guinea pig pellet with added vitamin C. Chew toys made from hard wood are commercially available in pet stores for rodents and should be offered to help prevent overgrowth of the incisors.

    • Rabbits are herbivores and are considered grazers. Rabbits should have a daily diet of mostly hay, a smaller amount of fresh vegetables, and a limited number of pellets. Hay is the most important part of a rabbit's daily intake. A common cause of obesity and soft stool is over-feeding pellets. Rabbits should be fed and provided with fresh water daily; hay should be available at all times. A pet rabbit’s diet should be supplemented with a variety of leafy green vegetables every day. The high sugar content in fruits (and even carrots) may upset the normal GI tract bacteria if given in excess. Rabbits engage in coprophagy, which means they eat their own feces at night. These fecal pellets are called cecotropes and serve as a rich source of nutrients, specifically protein and vitamins B and K.

    • Guinea pigs are generally hardy, healthy animals but are susceptible to certain diseases. They cannot make their own vitamin C and require supplementation or they may develop scurvy. Guinea pigs get various tumors, particularly skin and mammary tumors. Guinea pigs also get abscesses (accumulations of pus and bacteria) in lymph nodes, skin, muscles, teeth, bones, and internal organs. They are very prone to development of urinary calculi that form in the bladder, kidneys, or ureters which may become lodged, causing a life-threatening obstruction. In addition, guinea pigs often are affected by ringworm and can get fleas and lice. Barbering is a problem, usually associated with boredom, in which the guinea pig chews or barbers its own hair or the hair of its cage-mate. Pododermatitis, or bumblefoot, in which sores develop on the bottom of the feet from pressure, is common in overweight animals housed on wire-bottomed or dirty cages that abrade the feet.

    • In the wild, hedgehogs eat a diverse selection of insects as well as some plant material and very occasionally small or baby mammals (like pinkie mice). Hedgehogs usually eat at night.

    • In the wild, prairie dogs tend to eat grasses, plants, and leaves. As captive pets, it is essential to feed a diet that approximates what they eat in the wild in order to prevent dietary-related diseases such as obesity, malnutrition, and gastrointestinal disorders, which are among the more common health disorders in captive prairie dogs.

    • Sugar gliders are omnivorous in the wild. In the wild they eat the sap and gum of the eucalyptus and acacia tree plus pollen, nectar, manna (a sugar deposit from the sap oozing from wounds on tree branches or trunks), honeydew (sugar secreted by sap-sucking insects) and a wide variety of insects and spiders. Fruit is not a big part of their diet.