Facts about feeding muesli foods to small animals

Discussion in 'JungleAquatics.NET BLOG' started by bryan, 4 Dec 2014.

  1. JungleAquatics

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    6 May 2007
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    Facts about feeding muesli foods to small animals

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    There is a problem in South Africa where many pet stores, breeders and pet owners don’t realize that muesli food for rabbits, guinea pigs and chinchillas is dangerous. Their attitude is that they have been feeding these foods for many years and their pets seem to be healthy. They seem to turn a blind eye to any new scientific research or recent changes in feeding guidelines announced by animal welfare organizations. The biggest mistake is that these foods contain ingredients which form a balanced diet. These food recipes were originally developed for companies that bred rabbits and chinchillas for the meat and fur industry and pet stores are still selling it today. These foods lack the most important component, ie Long Fibre. Rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas and degus have very similar digestive systems where they have to consume incredible amounts of fibre in their diet. This is why they are now called Fibrevores. In the wild they will eat grass, shrubs, bark from trees, vegetation that is quite fibrous and dry, not lush and juicy. Grass in reality is not very nutritious because its low in protein and vitamins, but these small animals have evolved to extract nutrients from it, through their unique digestive system. They have to keep their digestive systems busy by eating a mixture of two kinds of fibre – digestible and indigestible –moving through the gut at all times. Fibrevores can’t get enough nutrition from fibre as it first passes through the gut. So they pass it through the gut again. Indigestible fibre is moved through their digestive system and excreted as separate, round, hard droppings. This acts to keep the digestive system moving and to stimulate appetite. Digestible fibre is moved up into an organ called the caecum – this is like a giant appendix. Good bacteria in the caecum ferment the fibre (making it easy to digest) which then emerges in the form of clumps of sticky droppings – called caecotrophs. Rabbits, guinea pigs and chinchillas then re-eat the caecotrophs and their systems extract essential nutrition as the digestible fibre passes through for the second time. Failing to provide adequate portions of the right kind of fibre can rapidly lead to illness or death. At Burgess Excel, they call the correct ratio of these two types of fibre ‘Beneficial Fibre’. To simulate their diet in the wild, we have to provide them a diet of 80% fresh grass and/or hay. 10% leafy green vegetables and 10% dry food/pellets/nuggets. But because grass/hay does not appeal to us, we have decided to feed dry food mixtures (muesli) which is more exciting and tasty for our small pets. Some foods are even labeled as complete or balanced diets which makes it very confusing. The problem is that these dry foods are heavily packed with proteins and nutrients, but lacks beneficial fibre. And remember Crude Fibre is not the same thing as Beneficial Fibre. Also many of these dry foods are loaded with sugar (molasses) and some form of artificial or natural preservatives (corn). On the outside we see our pets put on weight and their fur looks healthy, but on the inside their digestive systems begins to slow down, they develop poor immune systems, develop dental disease and all sorts of digestive problems. The more dry food mixtures you feed, the less hay your rabbit, guinea pig or chinchilla will consume. This in turn causes them to consume less water which makes them vulnerable to urinary tract problems. This is why you rarely find rabbits older than 7 years in South Africa, whilst pet rabbits in UK easily live to 17 years. Vets have been fighting this for decades and now that scientific research proved that were right, there are still many pet stores, breeders and pet owners in South Africa that are stubborn. I don’t know if its ignorance or simply they don’t care because muesli foods are cheap. Another mistake is that rabbits, guinea pigs and chinchillas are fed large bowls of muesli food. Any type of dry food fed in large amounts is bad , including pellets, etc. Commercial food should only constitute 10% of the diet. This is why all animal rescue services such as RSPCA recommend you feed a small measured quantity each day, no more, no less. If your pet is still hungry he must eat more hay. If you can manage to do this, then your small furry will live a healthy long life. The grass/hay is the main diet and the small portion of nuggets is the dessert with benefit of added vitamins and nutrients.

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