FEEDING YOUR SMALL ANIMAL - THE IMPORTANCE OF FIBREBy Veterinary Nurse Niomie Rabbits and Guinea Pigs are both hind gut fermenters. This means that they process fibre generally in the form of grass in order to obtain essential nutrients from their diet. As pet owners we do not always have fresh grass easily accessible, so dried grass in the form of hay is fed. A good quality grass hay such as Burgess or Oxbow should make up 90% of their diet and be available at all times in unlimited amounts. Hay needs to be fresh, sweet smelling and dust free with no signs of mould. What does Fibre do? There are two types of fibre. Digestible and indigestible fibre. Digestible fibre helps keep the gut moving and indigestible fibre keeps the bacteria in the gut healthy. Without a diet rich in fibre rabbits and guinea pigs can suffer from severe health issues such as dental issues such as Malocclusion or gastrointestinal ileus. Keeping Hay in your pets environmentHay should be stored in a hay rack and kept off the floor. Wet hay can harbour bacteria and not be suitable for consumption. It is important that fresh hay is offered daily and old hay is removed to promote a clean environment. Hay can be stored in a plastic tub with adequate air flow, a cardboard box or a basket. Most hay companies will provide you with a sealable bag in which to store your pets hay. PelletsPellets should make up a small percentage of your pets diet but are still an important component. They should provide additional nutrients. Rabbit pellets should be fortified with a stabilised form of Vitamin D, as many rabbits are now being housed solely indoors. Guinea Pig Pellets should be stabilised with Vitamin C as they cannot manufacture this on their own. Pellets should be grass based, have no muesli, seeds or other choking hazards and preferably be a plain pellet. The fibre ratio should always exceed the protein ratio, an inverse ratio can cause digestive issues. All pellets should be offered in a clean, no flippable bowl and replenished daily. Guinea pigs need ¼ cup per guinea pig and rabbits depending on breed and size require on average ½ cup per rabbit. Ensuring that your small animal has a healthy diet rich in fibre is one of the most important aspects of owning these amazing animals. Offer fibre rich vegetables as well such as corn husks (strings removed, chicory and capsicum (seeds removed). For more information talk to us at Vet Central Animal Hospital, we have a wide range of small animal food to suit your pets needs.