Archive for October, 2011


Friday, October 28th, 2011

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.

The Latest News at Caring Hands!

Wednesday, October 26th, 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.

Rabbit: Food for Thought!

Monday, October 17th, 2011

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.



Safety of Cuttlebone Use

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

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:–02-27–1237.aspx

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.