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Grass v Grain: Food For Thought

Grass v Grain: Food For Thought

As Britain’s love of rabbits and guinea pigs continues to grow, Rosewood understands that good things often come in small packages, and pets are no exception!

This month sees the return of Rabbit Awareness Week, or RAW as it’s best known, and Rosewood want to tackle one of the growing issues associated with keeping rabbits and other fibrevores, namely poor diets and their associated health issues.

So, first things first. What is a fibrevore and why is their diet so important? Fibrevores are animals that graze little and often, on plants that are high in fibre and low in energy, such as rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas and degus.

You’ll notice that all these animals share something in common. They all have continually growing teeth, which allow them to grind down the tough cellulose material found in plants.

Fibrevores also have a specialised digestive system whereby much of their food is only partially digested by their foregut, and then fermented by essential bacteria – a process which provides the pet with key nutrients. To ensure correct gut function is maintained it’s therefore important to provide a diet relatively low in sugar, starch, fats and protein, whilst being rich in fibre.

Like a child in a sweet shop, rabbits and other small animals often prefer grains, which are sweeter, as they are rich in starch. Whilst this won’t do any harm in moderation, it does pose many disadvantages compared with a healthier, grain-free main diet. For example, pets could be more prone to obesity, as grain-based foods are rich in energy and easier to eat. Filling up on grains could also mean that your pet eats less hay and other plant life, resulting in a reduced intake of the fibre needed to keep the gut healthy.

What's more, grains do not have the same teeth-wearing abilities as grasses, which could lead to dental problems and costly vet bills.

Thinking about the way in which we offer our pets food also plays a vital role in their nutrition. It has been suggested that in the wild, rabbits have around 40 small meals a day, but with our hectic lifestyles we are prone to simply placing down one large bowl of food each morning. As grain-based diets are easier to eat, pets can then wolf this down, whilst hard pressed pellets made up of over 70% grasses and other plant life tend to be eaten gradually through the day: grazing not gorging! This is also why it’s so important to ensure fresh hay is always available for pets to nibble on throughout the day and night.

To maintain good health it’s important that the gut is made to ‘work’ for its nutrient reward. Just as with all the negative stories surrounding processed human foods, it’s also important that fibrevores have as much unprocessed food as possible. Grain-based diets are typically processed with heat which can both destroy some key nutrients as well as making foods too easy to digest. This is why cold pressing the ingredients into a pellet can be better – the gut has to work as it was designed to and fewer nutrients are lost.

It’s for this reason Rosewood decided that enough was enough and recently created a range of diets, called Meadow Menu. Not only is the range completely grain-free and cold pressed, but it’s also rich in meadow grasses and other plants, offering pet parents an alternative to grain-based pellets and mueslis. Just like the Naturals treat range from which Meadow Menu was born, these main diets are also made from 100% natural ingredients.

For more information on your pet’s diet head over to our Facebook and Twitter page where you can also be in with a chance to win some scrumptious Meadow Menu foods and Naturals Treats!

*If your pet has any serious dietary issues please seek the advice of your vet.

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