Fibre first – helping your small furries manage their delicate digestions
“At Burgess, we refer to rabbits, guinea pigs and chinchillas as fibrevores,” says Burgess in-house vet Dr Suzanne Moyes. “This is because fibre is by far the most important part of their diet and is essential for their gut and dental health.”
There are some rather intriguing reasons behind this, which, if you’re a small furries fan, are essential to understand so that you can help your small pets stay healthy and happy.
What do rabbits and guinea pigs need in their diet?
I like to move it, move it
Rabbits, guinea pigs and chinchillas need to keep their digestive systems busy with a mix of two kinds of fibre moving through the gut at all times. These types of fibre are called digestible fibre and indigestible fibre. They get this fibre mainly from good quality hay, such as Burgess Excel Feeding Hay.
These small pets perform a digestive process that might seem rather odd to us humans, bur for fibrevores, it’s all perfectly natural. Called caecotrophy, it’s a way that small furries extract as much goodness as possible from their food. Simply put – they eat their droppings (caecotrophs), allowing many important nutrients to be reingested.
This is how the process works:
- Indigestible fibre is moved through their digestive system and excreted as separate, rounded, hard droppings. This type of fibre keeps the digestive system moving and their appetite stimulated.
- Digestible fibre is moved up into an organ called the caecum – which is like a giant appendix. Good bacteria in the caecum ferment the fibre, making it easy to digest. This emerges in the form of clumps of sticky droppings, known as caecotrophs. Then, while this might seem rather off-putting to us, fibrevores re-eat the caecotrophs directly from their bottom. This enables essential nutrients to be absorbed when the digestible fibre passes through for the second time.
To support a healthy digestion in rabbits, guinea pigs and chinchillas, providing them with the right balance of hay, nuggets and a little fresh food is key.
WHY WE'VE GOT HAY FEVER! For lots of small furries, every day should be a hay day! And not any old hay will do – always opt for high-quality feeding hay to help your small pets stay healthy and happy – and now you can Subscribe and Save 10%!
Follow the 5-point feeding plan for your rabbits and guinea pigs
Dr Moyes advises: “If fibrevores don’t get the right amounts of both digestible and indigestible fibre, it can rapidly lead to serious health problems. At Burgess Excel, we call the correct ratio of these two types of fibre ‘Beneficial Fibre’. You can ensure your rabbits get the right amount of fibre in their diet by sticking to the 5-point Excel Feeding Plan which provides a perfect daily balance of fibre and nutrition.”
- Good quality FEEDING HAY or FRESH GRASS should make up 85-90% of your fibrevores’ diet. Burgess Excel Feeding Hays are made from dust-extracted, fresh Timothy hay, meadow hay and barn-dried grass. 100% natural, they're great sources of beneficial fibre to help maintain gut and dental health. There’s also a great range to choose from so you can mix and match to see what your small furries like best – from Green Harvest Hay, the extra green, first cut meadow feeding hay, or our tasty Hedgerow Herbs variety, to classic favourites such as Hay with Dandelion and Marigold and Long Stem Feeding Hay.
- Supplement this with a small portion of EXCEL NUGGETS for RABBITS, GUINEA PIGS or CHINCHILLAS, which have been specifically formulated to ensure that your small pets get all the vitamins and minerals they need.
- Add the occasional EXCEL NATURE TREAT. You can feed these by hand to help with bonding and training. You can also spread them around your pets’ housing to keep them occupied by encouraging their natural foraging behaviour. Bunnies will love munching on a Forage & Feast Bar with Cornflower, guinea pigs will have fun nibbling on Herby Hearts and chinchillas will adore snacking on some Luscious Leaves, a delicious mix of dried, green leaves.
- Plus a small handful of FRESH GREENS daily. For rabbits try broccoli, fennel, parsley and rocket. For guinea pigs, dish out half a curly kale leaf or a couple of dandelion leaves. For chinchillas, try a small cube of carrot, celery or sweet potato.
- Plenty of FRESH WATER.
Natural and nutritious are bywords for how we develop our range of petfood at Burgess, as Dr Moyes explains: “We think it’s really important that the food we create for our favourite fibrevores, such as rabbits, guinea pigs and chinchillas, should mimic what they would eat in the wild.”
The right diet for your rabbits
Wild rabbits eat leaves and shoots of a range of vegetation, including crops. In winter, grass, bulbs and bark. Pet rabbits need extremely high levels of fibre in their diet. High fibre foods help to keep their gut healthy and fibrous grasses help to prevent their teeth from overgrowing. This is why Burgess Excel Rabbit Nuggets are rich in grass and fibre.
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Well balanced nutrition for your guinea pigs
Wild guinea pigs, in their native habitat of South America, eats a variety of foods – from fruits to leaves and plants to root vegetables, but especially a lot of high-fibre grasses. That’s why, for pet guinea pigs, high quality feeding hay is such an essential part of their diet.
What’s more, guinea pigs, just like us humans, can’t make their own vitamin C so they need extra in their diet for healthy skin, joints and blood vessels. Burgess Excel has been specially formulated to have all the vitamins your guinea pigs need, including a protected form of vitamin C.
GUINEA PIG Q&A Are guinea pigs good pets for children? How long do guinea pigs live? What do guinea pigs like to do? What should you feed guinea pigs? How can you tell if your guinea pigs are happy? We’ve all the answers to these questions and more, which will help explain why these chatty little rodents deserve their status as one of the most popular pets.
A specialised diet for your chinchillas
Wild chinchillas who live on the rocky slopes of the Andes Mountains in South America, like to munch away on grasses, leaves, twigs, bark, roots, stems and seeds, holding the food in their forepaws. These shy, super furry animals also have a very sensitive digestive system, so, as pets, it’s essential that we feed them a high fibre, low energy diet that replicates what they would feed on naturally to help them stay happy and healthy.
Pet chinchillas are prone to selective feeding. So, when fed a muesli style diet, they pick out the sugary bits and leave behind the good fibre. Chinchillas are really sensitive to sugar, so this can lead to all kinds of health problems, including obesity. Feeding your chinchillas high fibre nuggets, instead of muesli, can help prevent these health issues.
CHINCHILLA Q&A With their beautiful soft fur and gentle ways, chinchillas are exceptionally appealing pets. But before you consider taking on these long-lived rodents, it’s vital you find out as much as possible about these active, agile and fragile animals so you can provide them with all the things they need to live their best chin lives.
Did you know that 92% of UK vets recommend our Excel range? What’s more, the grass used in our Burgess Excel Rabbit Nuggets, Guinea Pig Nuggets, Chinchilla Nuggets, Feeding Hay and Treats for small pets is sourced from the UK to meet our stringent specifications and is exclusive to Burgess. No other pet food manufacturer has access to our grass, and we are justifiably proud of its provenance. At Burgess, we have a long tradition of supporting British farmers. As part of our ongoing commitment, we actively source our ingredients as close to our mill as possible. Find out all the reasons why we’re proud of our grass >>
Got a question?
If you are at all unsure about the best way of feeding your small pets or have any concerns about specific nutritional requirements at different times of their life, ask your local veterinary practice for advice. You can also call our expert team on 44 (0)0800 413 969 who’ll be happy to help. They’re available 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday. Alternatively, you can use our online contact form to get in touch.
- You can also sign up to the Excel Bunny Base – a safe Facebook community for rabbit guardians that are looking for advice and friendly discussions from likeminded owners – and there are lots of cute bunny photos and videos!
- Or why not become part of the Excel Squeak Squad on Facebook? Join Berry & Bramble, our special G-force guinea pigs, on weekly missions and fun competitions.
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