With ‘Rabbit Awareness Week’ just around the corner, we are looking more closely at the right way to feed your favourite Fibrevores.
Did you know that Fibrevores have very specific dietary needs? Feeding the wrong thing can lead to fatal heath issues so it is very important that the correct diet is offered.
First things first, what is a Fibrevore?
We have all heard of an Omnivore, Herbivore and a Carnivore but the word Fibrevore is relatively new.
Fibrevores are animals such as rabbits, degus, chinchillas and guinea pigs. They eat a plant-based diet but the one thing that is by far the most important about this diet is fibre.
The digestive system of a Fibrevore is designed to be constantly active. In the wild they will eat little and often on grass, twigs, plants and bark. These don't sound like highly nutritious foods although they are high in fibre which is very important.
The digestive system of the Fibrevore relies on this fibre and is specially designed to process it and unlock the much-needed nutrients it holds.
Why does the Fibrevore need Fibre?
Fibrevores are quite similar to cows in the fact that they ferment fibre to be able to benefit from the nutrients in their food. Although, where a cow has a number of large stomachs, the Fibrevore does not, and they are also a lot smaller in size! Because of their small size and limited digestive space, their digestive systems need to be fed little and often and have developed a way to efficiently process their food whilst keeping everything moving which is very important.
When food such as grass, hay or bark is eaten, the fibre is divided into two different types in the Fibrevores body: digestible and indigestible.
When eaten, this is passed through the digestive tract to an organ called the “caecum”. This organ ferments the fibre with the use of bacteria. After fermentation the fibre is now formed into “caecotrophs”, these are sticky in texture and usually clumped together when excreted. This process makes the nutrients more accessible to the rabbit. Caecotrophs are then eaten, usually at night, and the nutrients are processed whilst it passes through the digestive system for the second time.
The role of this fibre is to stimulate appetite and ensure that the digestive system remains constantly active. When indigestible fibre is ingested it makes its way through the digestive system and is excreted as separate round, hard droppings. It is important to monitor your Fibrevore's droppings as a change in shape or texture could signify a digestive issue or poor diet.
What can you do to ensure you are feeding the right things?
Because of the importance of the correct diet for Fibrevores we suggest you follow the favoured Excel Five-Stage Feeding Plan (a bit of a tongue twister)! In choosing Excel's feeding plan, you can prevent selective eating habits that can develop with other mixed or hay foods.
Like many of us, animals are also known to have eating preferences. Some have what is known as a ‘sweet tooth’ and can pick out their favourite pieces in a mixed food - leaving the rest. This can lead to an unbalanced diet and cause health problems. It can also produce a lot of waste. With Excel's feeding plan you can have peace of mind that it will maintain dental and digestive health and prevent waste through selective eating. Let’s take a closer look...
The Excel 5-Step Feeding Plan
1. Excel Herbage & Forage:
This hay not only aids vitally important digestion but also helps keep your pet’s gnashers in good condition! All small animals have teeth that are constantly growing and that become overgrown if they are not kept in check. The gnawing action needed to eat Herbage and Forage helps to wear the teeth down to prevent this. Herbage is a sweet-scented combination of Timothy Hay, Dandelion and Marigold and is an excellent source of natural fibre - 63% to be precise. Dandelion aids the urinary tract and Marigold helps to maintain a healthy immune system. Suitable for all rabbits, guinea pigs and chinchillas. Forage is cut in the fields and taken straight into the barn to dry. Composed of 100% natural high- fibre grass (which is dust extracted to prevent respiratory issues) it’s slightly lower in natural fibre than Herbage, at 55%. Ideal for gut health and digestive upkeep with the added benefit of being a great boredom breaker. Suitable for all rabbits and can be used as enrichment to prevent boredom and encourage natural behaviours.
2. Excel Tasty Nuggets:
These nuggets hold beneficial fibres to maintain a healthy and efficient digestive system and are also packed with all the vitamins and nutrients needed to optimise health. Junior and Dwarf Rabbit does exactly what it says on the pack! Ideal for dwarf rabbits from 1 week old and junior rabbits from 1 week to 16 weeks of age, contains 36% fibre for digestive health, formulated especially for faster metabolisms, natural prebiotics, antioxidants and vitamins and minerals for healthy eyes and skin and a silky coat and mint for extra flavour. Adult Rabbit with 39% fibre to aid in healthy digestion, contains natural prebiotics, antioxidants and vitamins and minerals for healthy eyes and skin and a silky coat. Suitable for all adult rabbits up to 5 years old. Mature Rabbit with Cranberry and Ginseng with 38% natural fibre, prebiotics, antioxidants and vitamins and minerals for healthy eyes and skin and a silky coat. Glucosamine for joint care and mobility, ginseng to boost vitality and added antioxidants in the form of cranberry. Suitable for all mature adults 5 years and above.
3. Excel Nature Snacks:
Apple Snacks are healthy snacks made of 99% air dried apples and 1% Parsley Stalks cut into perfectly proportioned snacks. Suitable for all rabbits and guinea pigs and can be used to maintain emotional health and prevent boredom.
4. Fresh Greens:
Can be fed to offer additional nutrients although be careful that you are feeding the right ones.
What to Feed:
Basil, Chicory, Dill, Fennel, Mint, Oregano and Parsley. Asparagus, Cauliflower Leaves, Celery, Green Peppers, Kale, Red Leaf Lettuce, Romaine Lettuce, Savoy Cabbage, Spinach, Turnip, Watercress and Dandelion leaves
What Not to Feed:
Apple pips, whole Carrots, Cucumber, Potatoes, Rhubarb (leaves or stalks), Tomato Leaves, Beans and Iceberg Lettuce to mention a few. There are many more, so we would advise you to seek advice from your Vet before feeding anything new or, if unsure, just don't feed it.
5. Fresh Water:
All living things need water to survive! Don't forget to always offer fresh clean water every day and possibly more than once a day when the weather is hot.