Feeding Your Pet Bird
To ensure that a bird stays healthy, feed it a
proper diet. A balanced diet contains ingredients from all the major
food groups. Adjust quantities of different foods so that your bird
samples everything and doesn't fill up on just one preferred food.
A seed-only diet is deficient in many nutrients and leads to
malnutrition, poor feathers, increased susceptibility to illness,
and a shortened life. Processed pellet foods, fruits, vegetables,
cereals, breads, and proteins like beans, eggs, or meats should be
offered to provide a well-balanced diet. Birds are one type of pet
where we encourage the feeding of people food.
Clean, fresh water always must be available.
Nutritional and vitamin supplements can be used under the guidance
of your veterinarian. Birds, like people, frequently have strong
preferences for certain foods. Even if they are stubborn, we should
not give up on getting them to eat what is best for them. If you
notice a sudden decrease in appetite, contact your veterinarian-
it could signal an illness requiring medical care.
Feeding Rats, Mice, Hamsters,
Whereas owners of pet rabbits have ready access
to quality pelleted, commercial rabbit feed, owners of small rodents
must obtain feed from the array of colorful boxes of food and
supplements at the pet store. Included among these feed may be seed
mixtures, seeds mixed with vitamin and mineral pellets (often
ignored by the pet), hay cubes, pelleted complete diets, salt
blocks, pieces of chewable wood, and a variety of treat foods that
lure the unsuspecting buyer because those treats resemble the snack
foods preferred by pet owners.
Of most pet rodent feeds available, only the
pelleted, complete diets (with at least 16 percent quality protein)
have use as primary diets. The standard pelleted, complete diets may
be fed to the Old World rodents: hamsters, gerbils, mice, and rats.
The recommended diet for these pet rodents, therefore, is a
reasonably fresh pellet incorporating essential nutrients,
containing at least 16 percent crude protein, with the box labeled
"meets NRC requirements" or a similar message.
Conventional (natural ingredient) pet animal
diets produced by reputable companies usually contain adequate
balanced nutritional components, but even those diets can be altered
by damp, heat, oxidation, and vermin contamination. Owner-compounded
diets, on the other hand, are more likely than are commercial
products to lack certain trace nutrients, to be unbalanced, or to be
contaminated with bacteria or mold.
Pelleting involves heat, moisture, binder,
hot-air dry, and compression in a shaped mold. This form usually is
well received (at least by rodents old enough to gnaw the hard
pellets), and little is wasted. Powders and meals are wasted: the
dust can collect around mouths and in noses and predispose a pet to
medical problems. Water is best provided in bottles with,
preferably, metal sipper tubes. Hamsters may gnaw or break plastic
or glass tubes. Having fresh water available is critical, as many
pet rodents presented as "sick" are in fact dehydrated.
Supplementation of standard feed with fruit,
vegetables, hay, and preferred feed is done often with pet rodents,
but the balanced diet should not be diluted by more than 10 percent
except in older animals, in which case dilution to perhaps 25
percent with fiber may retard obesity.
Feeding Green Iguanas
If you own a green iguana, no doubt you've seen
lots of information about what to feed your pet. Unfortunately, much
of the information that is on the market is misleading. Green
iguanas have fairly specific nutritional needs, and winging it can
put your dear pet in danger of illness. In fact, many problems that
veterinarians see in exotic pets are caused by poor at-home care,
including poor nutrition.
If you do not already have one, find your pet a
veterinarian who treats iguanas. Not all veterinarians do, so it may
take some work on your part. But it's well worth it.
Iguanas in the wild are strict herbivores. They
tend to eat many small meals throughout the day, and their natural
eating habits lean toward a diet of fiber and plant protein, with
very little fat.
When choosing food for your iguana, it's
important to select different kinds of plant-based food in the right
proportions: 90 percent should be vegetables and 10 percent fruits.
While iguanas do enjoy the sweeter fruit choices, fruit doesn't have
the same mineral and vitamin content as vegetables. To avoid getting
your pet hooked on just a few foods, be sure to feed a wide
selection of appropriate foods in the right proportions. In these
cases, fresh foods are best, with frozen coming in second and canned
coming in last.
Here is a list of some appropriate vegetables to
feed your iguana. It's best to serve them raw; just be sure to wash
- Dandelion greens (unsprayed, if from your yard)
- Collard and mustard greens
- Turnip tops and greens
- Green beans and peas
- Timothy hay
- Swiss chard
- Shredded squash
- Shredded carrots
The following flowers are also OK for your pet. Be
sure they have not been treated with chemicals or fertilizers.
- Dandelion flowers
- (Avoid azaleas because they are toxic!)
Appropriate fruit selections include:
Nutrition and the
A rabbit's digestive tract is very different from
that of a dog or cat. A rabbit has an active cecum that allows it to
digest hay. Many nutrients are made available by digestion that
occurs in the cecum, which is located at the origin of the large
intestine. In order to allow absorption by the small intestine, the
rabbit "recycles" these nutrients by eating their own
pellets. Rabbits even make a different type of pellet, called a
"cecotrope," that has more nutrients. This behavior
usually happens at night and is often unnoticed by the owner.
The balance of bacteria and other organisms in
the rabbit's digestive tract must be just right to maintain normal
motility, digestion, absorption, and elimination. We know that fiber
is an essential aid to this process. Many cases of diarrhea are due
to an adverse change in the balance of organisms in the digestive
tract. Proper nutrition plays an important role in this balance.
Older practices of feeding just alfalfa pellets
and treats leave a rabbit prone to a variety of ailments such as
obesity, foot problems, hairballs, diarrhea, etc. Grass hay is very
important to a healthy digestive tract. Alfalfa pellets have too
much calcium and the fiber is not coarse enough for a rabbit's
needs, although feeding alfalfa pellets as part of a balanced diet
is okay. Even alfalfa hay, though, is not ideal.
An example of a proper diet for a rabbit is:
- Free choice grass hay (oat or timothy; not alfalfa)
- 1/4 cup alfalfa pellets per 5 lbs. of rabbit per day
- 1 cup leafy dark green vegetables per 5 lbs. of rabbit per
day (dandelion greens, kale, mustard greens, romaine, endive,
carrot tops, parsley, etc.)
- Treats: 1 level teaspoon per 5 lbs. of rabbit per day
(banana, apple, carrot, papaya)
- Avoid processed sugars, bread, cookies, etc.
- Free choice water
Salt licks and vitamins are unnecessary. The food
should be provided in heavy crocks or hoppers to avoid tipping.
Water can be supplied in a clean drip bottle. As you can see, the
"treats" are a very small part of a rabbit's diet.
Hay is available in manageable quantities at many
pet stores, feed stores and other locations. It can be stored in a
wicker basket or cloth sack. A pillow case works well.
Proper eating habits and exercise will lead to a
happy, healthy, and long-lived rabbit.