Feeding the Hospitalized Small Mammal

Providing nutrition to the hospitalized small mammal is a fairly straightforward process (Table 1). Encourage owners to bring their pet’s diet to minimize the risk of food refusal or gastrointestinal upset (Fig 1).

gpigs sharing Ryan Roberts

Figure 1. Offer familiar, healthy treats to hospitalized small mammals. Photo credit: Ryan Roberts via Flickr Creative Commons. Click image to enlarge.

Also consider keeping the following food items available:

  • Ferret food
  • Rabbit or guinea pig pellets
  • Grass hay (i.e. timothy, orchard grass)
  • Alfalfa hay
  • Fruit and vegetable baby food

If you do a grocery store run, go for favored herbs like cilantro and Italian parsley or carrot tops for rabbits and herbivorous rodents as well as fresh fruit and vegetables for omnivores.

Table 1. Food items to offer hospitalized small mammals
Nutritional strategy Species Syringe or tube feeding Solids








Guinea pig
Prairie dog 


Emeraid IC Herbivore

Emeraid Sustain Herbivore

Ground pellet slurry*

Oxbow Critical care products

Visit Syringe Feeding Herbivorous Small Mammals for technical advice.


  • Pelletsa
  • Hay
  • Greens:  Soak greens first to increase water provided
  • Select vegetables with a low-calcium content for rabbits
  • Carrot tops


















Fennec fox











Emeraid IC Carnivore

Meat-flavored baby food (preferably chicken)

IAMS Maximum-Calorie

Prescription diet a/d

Oxbow critical care
Visit Syringe Feeding the Ferret for technical advice.




  • Formulated diet: High-quality cat food for ferrets, high-quality dog or cat food for the fox
  • Supplement Fennec fox diets with fresh fruits and vegetables, crickets, and mealworms














































Emeraid Omnivore + Emeraid Herbivore (Go to the Emeraid Intensive Care Basic Use Guide for more information).

Bird formula

Baby cereal

Baby food




  • Pellets or rodent block
  • Produce
  • Bird food mixture**
















75% Emeraid Omnivore + 25 % Emeraid Herbivore (Go to the Emeraid Intensive Care Basic Use Guide for more information).




  • Hedgehog/insectivore diet or reduced-calorie cat food or insectivore diet)
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables: apple, pear, berries, banana, grape, leafy greens, peas, tomato, squash, beans, cooked carrots)
  • Mealworms and crickets
  • Meat baby food
  • Hard-boiled egg


Sugar glider








Emeraid IC Omnivore








  • Nectar
  • Crickets, mealworms
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables:apple, apricot, banana, melons, cherry, date, fig, grape, persimmon, pineapple, plum, prune, raisin, strawberry, asparagus, beans, beet, broccoli, carrot, cauliflower, celery, chives, cress, dried lentils, greens, tomato
  • Baby food
  • Seeds, nuts**


*Mix with water or vegetable baby fooda

Chinchilla pellets are longer than rabbit pellets so they may be grasped by the forefeet.

**Sunflower seeds are not recommended as part of the maintenance diet, but may entice a partially anorectic animal to feed. Consider offering hulled seeds to weak individuals.

Remember to also ask owners if their pets drink from a water bottle or a bowl since hospitalization is not the time to introduce a novel watering system!




Banks RE, Sharp JM, Doss SD, Vanderford DA. Exotic Small Mammal Care and Husbandry. Ames: Wiley-Blackwell; 2010.

Johnson D. Fennec foxes. Exotic DVM 5(4):42-45, 2003.