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A suggested Assisted Feeding Handout
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A suggested Assisted Feeding Handout

Here is an example of an assisted feeding handout your could use in your practice. Please feel free to download and personalise as you wish.

Assisted feeding for your pet rabbit

It’s really important that rabbits and guinea pigs eat and digest food regularly throughout the day and night. Unfortunately if your pet is unwell, in pain, stressed or maybe just recovering from an anaesthetic or operation, they may be less keen to eat. It’s at this time that your help is needed, and where assisted feeding is key to preventing a problem. There are a variety of different foods available that are used when syringe feeding, including Excel DualCare.

Excel DualCare is designed for use in debilitated or sick animals and can be fed either in its dry form as a nugget, or can be softened by the addition of warm water to make a paste that can then be syringe fed using a wide tipped syringe. We recommend that good quality feeding hay is vailable at all times so that your pet can resume eating as soon as they feel well enough.

The product contains all of the necessary nutrients, vitamins and minerals required to meet the nutritional needs of both rabbits and guinea pigs. It includes elevated levels of vitamin C, in a palatable format, with additional benefits of long length digestible and indigestible fibre to aid recovery and recuperation.

To aid in recovery there are additional prebiotics to aid digestive function. Mild to moderately ill rabbits and guinea pigs are often syringe fed, and proper syringe-feeding technique is an essential skill in the care of the rabbit or guinea pig.

Gastrointestinal stasis is one of the most common medical problems often seen in debilitated or sick animals, and is caused by a multitude of conditions. To help prevent this, a food high in dietary fibre can be syringe fed to the pet.

What do you need?

  • Excel DualCare - you can buy this from the vet surgery
  • Towel - a clean, dry towel to wrap your pet
  • A hard, flat surface - such as a table or bench
  • A wide tipped syringe - ask your vet for the most appropriate syringe

Using Excel DualCare

Mix 50gms of Excel DualCare nuggets with sufficient warm water to produce a watery paste that can be passed through a wide tip feeding syringe. We recommend using 2 parts warm water to 1 part Excel DualCare, allowing the nuggets to soak for 3-4 minutes. Alternatively it can be offered in a shallow bowl or spoon for your rabbit or guinea pig to lick and lap. The consistency can be altered to suit the method of feeding and your pet’s preference.

As a guide you should aim to feed up to 10ml per kg body weight of the mixture, four times a day, though it’s important to be guided by your on pet as some won’t tolerate as much as this and should need to be offered smaller quantities more frequently. Always use fresh mix at each feeding.

Assisted feeding can often stimulate an animals appetite quite quickly, so don’t forget to offer whole DualCare nuggets and fresh leaves at the same time. The nuggets can be eaten dry as your pet recovers.

It’s important to realise that syringe feeding can sometimes be stressful, so stay calm and patient throughout.

How to syringe feed in 10 easy steps

  1. Prepare the product – check the mixing instructions, and work out the volume of food required. Follow the on pack directions and instructions since paste that is too watery may increase the risk of aspiration. Please ask us for help if you’re unsure.
  2. Use the best syringe – use a clean syringe with a wider opening. 5ml and 10ml syringes are easier to handle than 20ml syringes.
  3. Find somewhere quiet and comfortable –choose a room that is away from the noise and distractions. A rabbit or small pet that is calm and relaxed is more likely to eat.
  4. Wrap in a towel – place your rabbit or guinea pig onto a towel and gently wrap the towel under its chin, then fold over the body from both sides to create a swaddled comfortable pet.
  5. Keep your pet comfortable – don’t stress your pet by holding awkwardly. Keep them in a normal position on your lap and gently raise the chin. Gently tuck your pet against your side using your forearm, then hold the head, placing an index finger directly under the chin, and a thumb at the base of the skull. Place your remaining fingers on the chest to prevent your pet from moving forward. Although the head may be gently elevated, it is less stressful for your pet if you lower your head in order to look at the mouth and to monitor chewing.
  6. Insert the syringe – gently place the tip of the syringe between the lips, just behind the front incisors.
  7. Check for swallowing – only introduce a small amount of food at first, and make sure you see that the food is being swallowed. The first mouthful fed should be no more than 0.2 to 0.5 ml of the paste to make sure your pet actively chews. Never feed more than 1-2 ml of the paste at a time, and never dispense food while the animal is vocalising it may increase the risk of aspiration (the entry of the paste into the respiratory system).
  8. Go slowly – continue feeding small volumes of food (1ml at a time), ensuring its not just being held in the mouth. Don’t rush.
  9. Be patient – feeding by syringe can be messy and frustrating. It’s important to stay calm and persist.
  10. Flush afterwards – when you’ve finished feeding, feed a final small volume of water. This helps to ensure all the food is cleared from the mouth.

Are there any problems associated with syringe feeding?

The most important potential complication associated with syringe-feeding is aspiration. Depending on the volume inhaled, aspiration can result in critical issues such as acute airway obstruction, or aspiration pneumonia, which requires immediate veterinary attention and will complicate recovery. For this reason syringe feeding requires time and patience. After each 1-2 ml the rabbit or guinea pig should be given the opportunity to swallow with the syringe tip removed from the mouth. If you are concerned you should always ask us for advice.

For further information you can also contact Burgess Pet Care on 0800 413 969

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