Healthy nutrition for guinea pigs and rabbits

Healthy nutrition for guinea pigs and rabbits Rabbits and guinea pigs are herbivores, i.e., they eat only plants. Pure herbivores belong to the animal group known as hindgut fermenters, i.e. their digestive system depends on a diet rich in crude fibre or roughage. These pets should be fed according to the diets of wild animals in order to avoid digestive ailments. Despite years of domestication, the digestive tract and metabolism have not changed at all.

Rabbits are flight animals which, in the wild, live together in burrows and are active during the day and twilight periods. The rabbit is not a rodent; it belongs to the order Lagomorpha and to the family Leporidae. Our pet rabbits originated exclusively from wild European rabbits. Rabbits that live in the wild eat mainly grasses and herbs, buds, fruits, blossoms, bark and roots. They rarely eat cereals, as these are only found in late summer and autumn. Accordingly, their digestive tracts will have sensitive reactions to being fed high quantities of grain.

The guinea pig is also a diurnal flight animal. It is a species of rodent. The domesticated guinea pig is a descendent of the wild guinea pig from South America. These animals live in family groups, with several females, one male, and their common offspring. They find shelter in burrows and stone caves. Wild guinea pigs are constant eaters. They eat primarily grasses with a relatively high vitamin content.

The digestive systems of herbivorous rodents and rabbits are very complex and, unfortunately, also very susceptible to intestinal problems. The stomach, which has only a weakly-developed muscle layer, contributes little to the passage of food. The animals require additional food that’s rich in structure to help pass food from the stomach to the intestines, which is why herbivorous animals should always have sufficient, high-quality base feed available at all times. The small intestine, connected to the stomach, is mainly for digestion and absorption of protein, fat and carbohydrates (starch) by the body's own enzymes. Food left undigested by these enzymes (such as cellulose, hemicellulose and pectins) pass through the small intestine and into the hindgut largely unchanged. If a lack of crude fibre prevents the further passage of the feed in the digestive tract, this can lead to life-threatening diseases.
Countless microorganisms live in the voluminous appendix, a part of the large intestine, which break down the crude fibre in the feed by fermentation. They form volatile fatty acids, lactic acid and gases and synthesise high-quality protein and vital water-soluble vitamins. These substances are absorbed via the intestinal wall and also excreted in faeces which the animals then consume. This enables the animals to produce essential nutrients and vital substances from feeds that are low in energy but rich in crude fibre.
The guinea pig is the one exception: as it lacks the ability to synthesize vitamin C, it must absorb vitamin C through its feed. They can get nourishment from fresh greens. Vitamin C deficiency, also called scurvy, manifests itself in spontaneous fractures, slow-healing wounds and diseases of the periodontium. Supplements of synthetically produced vitamin C is not necessary in a species-appropriate diet.
Too much can even be detrimental. A prolonged lack of food intake due to long feeding intervals and the feeding of inferior crude fibre or even starchy feeds (cereals) can lead to serious illnesses. These include digestive disorders (bloating), gastric ulcers, behavioural disorders, disturbed mating behaviour and urinary stones. Grain mixtures (also bread) and many unhealthy treats do not provide the animal with the opportunity to nibble and grind its feed. This results in inadequate tooth abrasion, causing the teeth to become too long which in turn leads to mouth injuries. Eating will then be associated with pain, resulting in the animal consuming very little food and losing a dangerous amount of weight. However, a starchy diet of cereals can also lead to serious disturbances in the hindgut, as the small intestine cannot thoroughly digest an excess of starches. This causes starches to enter the hindgut incompletely digested. It is difficult for the hindgut to digest starch because of the presence of bacteria designed for the digestion of crude fibre. These beneficial intestinal bacteria (especially cellulose-splitting bacteria) die off, causing an imbalance (dysbiosis) in the intestine and leading to digestive disorders. Essential metabolic products, for example vitamins, can no longer be sufficiently synthesized. The increased production of lactic acid is accompanied by a lowering of the pH-value into the acidic range (up to pH 4).
In addition to massive damage of the intestinal mucosa, the death of the bacteria in the large intestine causes the release of endotoxins, which can lead to serious metabolic problems. Feed that is rich in sugars and starches is therefore not species-appropriate and can be extremely harmful.

Agrobs makes crude fibre products for herbivorous rodents and rabbits. These healthy, high-quality base and supplementary feeds are adapted to the nutritional needs of herbivorous rodents and rabbits. They contain a unique combination of grasses and herbs harvested from the foothills of the Bavarian Alps. Our agricultural engineers inspect these meadows regularly so that they can be harvested at peak maturity. The grasses and herbs are gently air dried in a modern drying plant and without the addition of binding agents or flavourings, so that structure is maintained. This gentle and weather-independent processing gives the hay a quality exceeding that of any conventionally dried hay. It contains valuable trace elements and vitamin-rich components such as leaves, flowers and seeds. There is little loss from crumbling during the hay production. It also eliminates factors such as over-mature raw materials and poor processing, which cause high germ infestation and mould growth. Agrobs guarantees a crude-fibre product with a naturally high nutrient content and high digestibility due to its composition of highly digestible grasses and herbs, well-timed harvests and gentle processing. Agrobs products allow your animal to enjoy the advantages of the pristine plant diversity found in the Alpine foothills.

Wiesenheu, made from meadow grasses and herbs that have been dried by the sun and warm air, is a high-quality source of roughage and the basis for a healthy and species-appropriate diet. As a 100% hay substitute or hay supplement, Kräuterlinge delivers a multitude of natural vital substances and its complex structure promotes the long chewing activity necessary for tooth abrasion. Sensitiv is a suitable alternative for rodents and rabbits that tolerate little protein in their daily feed, are being treated homeopathically or show intolerances to certain herbs.

Agrobs supplementary feeds, with mixtures of herbs, grasses, flowers and dried vegetables, can be added to feed rations. Complementing the feed ration with twigs (from pome fruit trees) will help your pets lead a long and healthy life. Blütenmix contains a mixture of flowers, grasses and herbs and can be used as a single-component or supplementary feed for natural and healthy variety in your pet's diet. Grüner Hafer, a suitable hay supplement, is particularly rich in crude fibre and regulates metabolism.

Nagermenü is a supplement to roughage that covers your pet’s mineral and vitamin requirements. Nagerbits is made for animals that require more energy-rich feed. Nagerbits not only delivers energy and all important minerals, vitamins and trace elements, it also has high-quality fibre to help digestion. With Gartenschmaus you can enhance your pet’s daily feed with tasty, healthy ingredients such as flowers, root vegetables and leaves from raspberry and blackberry bushes.

All rodents and rabbits have aradicular hypsodont teeth; these grow back continuously and need to be worn down to be kept short and sharp. For this they need a base feed that is structured and rich in crude fibre. They use their incisors for nibbling and gnawing, and their molars for grinding their food. Dried branches from unsprayed apple and pear trees or from hazelnut and currant bushes also provide both a pastime and necessary dental abrasion.