If you walk into any store that sells food for rabbits and guinea pigs, you will probably find shelves full of grain, hay and muesli mixes. Often these foods are labelled as rabbit AND guinea pig foods, but many people do not realise that rabbits and guinea pigs, although both herbivores, have very different dietary requirements. Therefore, mixes that claim to cater for both species are just not suitable and can lead to dental disorders, incorrect bone development (for growing animals) and digestive malfunctions!
What you need to know about hay:
Hay should be fresh and available 24/7. There are many different types of hay and they all have a purpose. It is important to know what to feed, and when to feed your pet.
Rough, high fibre hay is great for maintaining teeth and encourages natural behaviour like foraging and chewing. High fibre hay is also critical for a healthy and functional digestive system. Fibre Rich Fescue replicates the type of food rabbits eat naturally.
We recommend Fresh Cut Lucerne for guinea pigs as it is higher in protein and calcium than fescue. Lucerne is also more suitable for growing animals, pregnant or lactating mothers and those animals with a medical requirement for higher protein.
What you need to know about pellets:
Quality pellets that are specifically made for guinea pigs or rabbits, like Rabbit and Cavy Origins, are important in every stage of your pet’s life. Pellets should only make up 20% of the diet and overfeeding pellets in both rabbits and guinea pigs can lead to obesity and other medical conditions.
Lastly, but most importantly:
Fresh, clean water should be available at all times. Vetafarm recommends sanitizing water containers, food bowls and hutches. They should be cleaned and then sprayed with a disinfectant, like Vetafarm Hutch Clean at least once a week.
Worms. A word that should send shivers down the spine of ANY bird keeper. Getting rid of or better yet preventing worms in birds is really easy. You just need to have the right information.
So let’s cut straight to it.
What birds can get worms?
There are many opinions on this topic and we’ve heard them all. Things like “cement floors will prevent worm infestations in aviaries” and “if you only have one bird it can’t get worms”. Wrong. While there are measures that reduce the risk of worm infestation, there still remains some risk. While some species of birds and environmental factors reduce risk. The fact is if it has a gut, it can get worms, no exceptions.
So how does a bird end up with worms?
It occurs very easily. Round Worm eggs are spread through the droppings of birds already carrying a worm burden. Worm eggs shed into the environment are incredibly tough. They require 14 days in the environment before they become infective and can then remain infective in the right circumstances for years afterwards, simply waiting for a new host to infect. Birds usually ingest worm eggs while foraging in an infected area, but there is always the chance that the infected area will be brought to them, in the form of branches, feather or dropping dust, wild birds or even a new cage mate. These parasites are experts of infiltration.
So why should you care about worms?
Well, different worms cause different issues. If your bird has made contact and ingested Roundworm eggs, they quickly hatch, the emerging larvae taking a tour of the bird’s body, actually moving through the tissue on their way to the birds gut. Sounds traumatic right? Well, in large numbers it can be.
But you see the real problem caused by Roundworms happens when the larvae reach the gut and then mature into adults. At this point, each worm becomes an egg producing factory sucking up nutrients that your bird needs and increasing in numbers as the life cycle continues now your birds are in serious trouble.
What are symptoms of worms?
It’s a tricky thing to know what to look for if your bird has worms. Birds can carry a large number of worms in their stomach without showing any outward symptoms. Then in the right conditions, for example, your bird becomes stressed; this existing large worm population can explode in numbers causing immediate implications and even death. Some of the symptoms that are common with worms with birds include weight loss, poor feather condition, lethargy, sleepiness and ruffled feathers. In breeding birds you may also see a reduced activity particularly in the egg production. Adults carrying worms also pose a risk to their developing babies. The big problem is that these symptoms are not specific to just worms and the majority of them occur when the birds are very sick, with just about any disease. Waiting to treat worms until you see these signs a very bad idea.
How do we stop a worm infestation?
The only way is to establish a regular worming schedule. Vetafarm recommends that all birds, whether they are breeders or pets, inside or outside birds, are wormed four times a year. Prevention is key to stopping worm infestations. Some people find it easy to remember by worming at the start of every season, this ensures you are up to date with your worming treatments.
Worm infestations in young birds are a real issue and cause a large number of deaths every year. Bird breeders need to be especially vigilant with their worming schedules. Worming just before breeding season and again after the chicks fledge is absolutely crucial. It is much easier to worm adult birds before breeding season than to run the risk of baby birds picking up worms and then trying to treat the problem.
Now we have the background story on worms and we have a schedule to control them, we need to make a decision on which wormer to use. There are many worming treatments available on the market so it’s really important to choose a product that is going to treat all types of worms in your birds and just as importantly is safe.
You need to pay attention to your active ingredients in your selected wormer. Piperazine is safe as a bank but is an old remedy and many worms are now resistant. This should not be your first choice. Levamisol is another option and is very effective, however overdoses are common and this active can be toxic. Ivermectin is often touted as the perfect wormer but there are downsides. Ivermectin does not treat tapeworm and is very unstable in water. This means once added to water Ivermectin immediately begins breaking down and its ability to actually do the job becomes questionable. When treating worms you don’t want questionable, you want a sure fire solution. Vetafarm recommends using Wormout Gel to worm all types of birds. The active ingredients are Praziquantel and Oxfendazole, both have been proven to be safe at up to ten times the recommended does rate. It will treat and prevent all types of worms and can be administered either in water or via a crop needle and either method is safe and effective.
If you choose to treat in water, here are a few tips to help you get the job done right:
• Avoid medicating on generally cold days and damp days. A bird’s water intake will generally be less on days like these and birds will drink water off the wire of their cages before touching medicated water. Likewise, avoid medicating on extremely hot days as a bird’s water intake can be double or triple what it would usually be.
• Worming solutions can be quite bitter and often birds will refuse to drink medicated water adding a small amount of orange juice to sweeten the water will often help with these fussy drinkers.
• Also make sure you remove all other types of water and wet food whilst medicating. Birds will choose to eat things like fruit or sprouts to get moisture rather than drink their medication.
Measuring the medication is really easy – 1 pump is equal to 1ml. We recommend using a jar with a secure lid for mixing Wormout Gel as this provides a much faster way to achieve an evenly mixed solution. So two pumps of Wormout Gel into 160ml of water, pop on the lid and shake well. All these directions are also on the reverse of the product label. If you’re adding orange juice, just remember to supplement 40mls of water with your 40mls of juice.
You need to provide the medicated water for 2 days and replace with fresh solution every 24 hours. We find it much easier to make up two days worth of medication, use half on the first day and put the other half in the fridge to be changed out on the second day. You will need to ensure that it’s mixed through properly as the gel will settle to the bottom of the container after a period of time.
While anyone can treat worms using Wormout Gel in water, it is also designed for direct administration using a medication or crop needle in birds in emergencies or in any circumstance that a bird’s water consumption is in question.
It is only recommended that you attempt this if you are familiar and confident with the technique of using a crop or medication needle. If you would like to find out more about how to crop needle, check out our You Tube video, or consult with your local veterinarian.
Worms must be taken seriously. If left untreated, there is a significant chance of death in your birds. Australian natives, and in particular princess parrots, are especially at risk but exotics are also susceptible. Keep on top of your worming schedule and you will have healthy and worm- free birds.