We now carry oxbow brand hay and pellets at Caring Hands of Ashburn! We have both botanical hay and western timothy available as well as cavy cuisine and bunny basics.
Archive for October, 2011
So I thought I should update on how things are going at my practice. There has been alot of exciting changes. First, we are getting alot of new and helpful equipment. Ashburn is now equiped with an ultrasound which is so helpful. Although I still need to practice my knobology (the actual use of the machine knobs) and the systematic exam, it is such a great tool to have and hopefully my clients will let me continue to practice to improve my technique. The digital dental x-ray machine has been installed and is set up. This allows us to take radiographs (x-rays) before the dental cleaning to assess teeth and bone health. If there is a lesion, those teeth can be addressed and treated as needed.…this just adds a whole new level to the diagnostic and preventive treatment approach. This machine can also be used to take radiographs of really small patients as well. And very soon, we will be also getting in Digital X-ray equipment. Although our current standard developing system works very well and provides great results, the digital machine has the advantages of speed, ability to enlarge and change contrast as needed to assess lesions on the computer, and ease of sending films over the internet to other veterinarians for opinions and transfer of records.
On the avian/exotic front: we will soon be carrying Oxbow brand hays and products for sell as well as Harrison’s bird foods. These are two brands that provide high quality nutritional products for herbivores and birds, respectively. Once they are in, I will update the page and create a link.
So these are the highlights for now. As we continue to grow, I will keep everyone posted.
So I thought I should chat a little about rabbit nutrition. This is such an important aspect of rabbit health that it really deserves a blog. It is also fairly uncomplicated to provide a healthy diet. In fact, a simple diet is better.
This is what makes up a very good rabbit diet:
1) Free feed (always have available) a good quality grass hay such as Western Timothy or Orchard grass. Avoid legume hays like alfalfa for your basic healthy adult rabbit as this type of hay provides more calcium and protein than needed and in some rabbits cause weight gain as well as poorly formed stools and excess cecotropes. Cecotropes are the night feces rabbits deficate and then eat. Yes, rabbits eat some of their own poop and this is normal. However if they produce an excess or they do not eat them all, it clings to the rear ends, onto the tail, and the belly. It smells aweful, it is messy, and often people think the rabbit is having diarrhea. So balancing the diet is one step to helping this issue.
2) A grass hay–as stated above. Grass hays have multiple benefits. It keeps the teeth healthy because the rabbits have to really chew and grind the fibrous stalks. This helps the rabbits wear down the teeth as they chew. Rabbit teeth are continuously growing and without a good fiber diet, teeth can overgow and cause huge problems–requiring veterinary intevention.
3) Did I mention a grass hay? Hay is also extremely important for normal gastrointestinal (stomach and intestine) motility. In fact, lots of hay in diet can help prevent hairball obstruction in some rabbits as it keeps things moving through at a constant rate.
4) Lettuce such as Romaine, Green leaf, Boston, Bibb. These are good sources of fiber, moisture, vitamins, and a source of enrichment.
5) Theoretically, pet rabbits do not need pellets, however, they like them and owners tend to want to provide additional enrichment. It is critical to not overdo the pellets. Pellets are highly digestible food (hay that his been ground and pelleted) so it just adds more calories to the diet. Too many pellets can lead to excess cecotrophs as mentioned before. A good quality pellet will have just a timothy based pellet with no added crunchies, fruits, seeds, etc. Less then 1/4 cup of pellets is recommended and in dwarf breeds, less than 1/8th cup is recommended. Speak with your veterinarian to discuss specifics.
6) Other treat options that are ok include: A piece of baby carrot or a piece of apple (about an inch in size of each) a few times per week.
Treats and foods to avoid include:
Significant amounts of fruits and high carb veggies (a rabbit does not need a full sized carrot per day unless it is the size of the killer rabbit from Monty Python).
Honey sticks, crunchy treats, yogurt drops, cookies, or any other table treats. None of these are needed in a healthy rabbit diet.
Obviously daily fresh water is critical. You do not need to put any vitamin or mineral additives in the water, the diet will provide enough.
Rabbits do not need mineral or salt blocks. In fact these can lead to medical problems. I had one rabbit that had an unusual form of bladder stones. After surgery, we had these analyzed and they were the same composition as the mineral block that the owner was using.
Owners often are concerned about how to keep the incisors (front teeth that are most visible) healthy and prevent overgrowth. A rabbit with normal occlusion in which the teeth align appropriately, should not need more than a healthy diet with lots of hay. Providing rabbit chew toys can be good for enrichment since rabbits like to chew through items. Rabbit hemp rugs, rabbit chew sticks and wood products are fine for them.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Now before you make any major change in your rabbit’s diet, you need to consult your veterinarian. Some rabbits already have teeth problems and will not eat hay so you cannot just change the diet cold turkey. Rabbits will also get very annoyed and throw tantrums if they do not get all of the treats they are accustomed to so you may have to slowly wean down the snacks. Always make sure your rabbit is eating well and passing normal sized stools regularly during any food change.
So the take home message on rabbit diet is lots of good quality hay , minimize the high carb treats, and offer plenty of water and some good low calcium greens/lettuce. A few pellets and a little carrot and apple can round out the diet.
Wow! I am totally overdue for an update! So today’s topic is going to be…
Mercury in cuttlebone. A breeder/client/friend of my recently told me that people are discussing a concern of mercury levels in cuttlebone. Cuttlebone is the bone from the cuttlefish that is often sold in pet stores for use as a calcium supplement. There has been discussion of excess mercury levels in birds and this was traced back to the cuttle bone supplement. As I had not heard of this concern before, I posted this question to the veterinary experts available through a veterinary networking system that I belong to. Multiple experts in the field of avian medicine replied, which I was very appreciative of. In the opinion of all whom responded to my question, the answer was no…mercury levels in the cuttlebone are not high enough to be a concern. A couple of interesting points were brought up in the conversation.
1) Cuttlefish may eat mercury containing prey, however the majority of the mercury is located in the GI tract, and then possibly the muscle. The least amount available is in the bone.
2) Cuttlefish do not live long enough to accumulate enough mercury to be a concern.
I also found a good article online that has an complete analysis of cuttlebone:
I did a quick internet search just to see what the general public thought on this topic and it does seem to be a topic of interest. In two different online conversations, the thread was started by someone who has gone to a petstore and someone at the petstore suggested there was mercury in the cuttlebone.
After doing my research, I decided to find out if my laboratory tests for mercury. In the past, I have had need of lead and zinc testing, two common heavy metal toxicities seen in birds. But never mercury. The response was that they can test for it and they require 1 ml of whole blood for the test. That is a large amount of blood for most birds. I would not even be able to test a budgie or parrotlet for it as they only have approximately 3 ml of blood in their entire body. But it is good to know this is an option for larger birds if I ever think I am being presented with a mercury toxicity.