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Care & Advice - Small Animals

Habitat

Your pets should have plenty of space to move around and an opportunity to exercise; this will help them maintain a healthy body weight.

Bedding needs changing frequently to keep living area clean and healthy.

Feeding

Remember, when feeding with dry food you must always provide fresh water alongside it. (For rabbits and guinea pigs, hay is important too)

Be careful not to overfeed and if you do find that your pet is beginning to put on too much weight, cut back on the amount of food you are giving them.

Make sure you change your pets food or introduce any new foods into your pets diet gradually over a period of 7 - 10 days to avoid digestive upset. Particular care should be taken with rabbits as they have sensitive digestive systems.

In addition to a varied diet, clean fresh water should be provided every day for all pets.

Rabbits and guinea pigs appreciate fresh washed greens 2 - 3 times a week and should have plenty of hay to eat. Carrots contain a high level of natural sugar so feed carrot in small amounts as a treat.

Rabbits and guinea pigs also like to chew on small twigs and branches from trees such as apple and hazel, as this helps to keep their teeth in good order.

Socialising

Guinea Pigs are social animals and are much happier kept in pairs. Solitary guinea pigs can become stressed and lonely. Guinea pigs of the same sex and from the same litter should live happily together.

It is not recommended to house rabbits and guinea pigs together as they have different dietary requirements. Also guinea pigs are often bullied by rabbits.

Rabbit body condition score

Making sure your rabbit is at an optimal body weight is really important when maintaining good health. The following Body Condition Score chart is based on a 1-5 point scale (1 = very thin and 5 = obese). This chart is a useful technique to assess the condition of your rabbit but it is only a guide and if your rabbit does not fall into the ’ideal’ range then consult your vet for further advice.

1. Very Thin
Hip bones, ribs and spine are very sharp to the touch. Loss of muscle and no fat cover. The rump area curves in.

2. Thin
Hip bones, ribs and spine are easily felt. Loss of muscle and very little fat cover. Rump area is flat.

3. Ideal
Hip bones, ribs and spine easily felt but are rounded, not sharp. Ribs feel like a pocket full of pens! No abdominal bulge. Rump area is flat.

4. Overweight
Pressure is needed to feel the ribs, spine and hip bones. Some fat layers. The rump is rounded.

5. Obese
Very hard to feel the spine and hip bones - Ribs can’t be felt! Tummy sags with obvious fat padding. Rump bulges out.

Getting hands on is key to this simple system. Whilst the pictures above will help, judging whether your pet is the right weight purely by sight alone has its difficulties. A long coat can disguise ribs, hip bones and the spine, while a short coat can make a rabbit’s appearance more irregular and highlight these areas. You will need to gently feel your pet which can be a pleasurable bonding experience for both of you!