Ensure for guinea pigs?


Post   » Sun Apr 25, 2004 6:35 am

At our event today a cavy-savvy couple was telling me about the health battles that their cavies had won and lost over the years. They told me that their regular hand feeding regimen included adding Ensure to the Critical Care for extra calories if an anorexic pig is unable to put on weight because of recovery from illness.

Apparently they had great success with this tactic when one of their sows was sick, and it was recommended to them by a respected exotics vet in the L.A. area (I know him by reputation).

The plain Ensure was what the vet recommended
Nutritional Information

The first thing that strikes me is that it is high in calcium (300 mg per 8 oz container). The other is the sucrose/corn syrup thing but apparently the plain flavor does not have as much as the vanilla and other flavors.

I don't know how dangerous those above ingredients would be in the amount one would put in a meal of Critical Care (perhaps 1-2 oz?).

What does everyone think? I judged these people to be extremely knowledgeable-- in fact, the most cavy-savvy people I've met outside of this forum. So if their little trick works, does that outweigh the possible detractions of its contents?


Post   » Sun Apr 25, 2004 7:26 am

I personally have never used it, but know of many who do with great success.

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I gave AGAIN, dammit!

Post   » Sun Apr 25, 2004 9:03 am

My dad drank it several times daily during his chemo; it really kept his strength up as well as his weight. Ditto for an aunt who just went through chemo. I know it is highly recommended for keeping/putting on weight for people with serious health concerns. I would guess the benefits of the small amount required by pigs would more than outweigh any downside, especially if you're trying to save the pigs' life.

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Post   » Sun Apr 25, 2004 10:05 am

I would avoid it completely. I don't think it is suitable for guinea pigs and would expect it would throw their system out of wack and have other effects.

If you had an amount recommended, it would put it in more perspective. It would be useful to know the percentage of calories derived from it vs. more suitable foods.

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Post   » Sun Apr 25, 2004 11:44 am

I know a cat who did well on ensure as it got older and had problems with kidney failure. It is soy based and has no lactose in it. I am curious as to how much the piggies were fed at one time?

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Post   » Sun Apr 25, 2004 3:48 pm

My most trusted and respected vet also recommended Ensure for one of my piggies. I don't get the impression she recommends it across the board by any means.

It was specifically to try to pack in some dense calories for energy and possible weight. I did use some (very little as I remember) without any ill effects that I am aware of. It was for my terminally ill piggie.

I wouldn't jump to use it anytime a pig needed hand feeding. I'm sure it depends on what the issues are and what you are looking to achieve. With our pig, he had been anorexic a long time and was losing weight despite hand feeding. Since he was going to pass away regardless, I let him eat anything that ever held a moments interest (which hardly ever happened)! He wasn't so crazy about the Ensure past the first encounter, and we didn't end up giving him too much of it.

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Post   » Sun Apr 25, 2004 3:53 pm

The idea of using it kinda bothers me, especially with the high calcium content. They might as well pack it into the kidneys.

Even though most companies aren't perfect, I'd tend to trust the researchers at Oxbow, and the stuff they put in Critical Care. Maybe it's possible to e-mail Oxbow, and see if there is someone there that could shed some light as to why or why it shouldn't be used?


Post   » Sun Apr 25, 2004 5:19 pm

I don't think it is suitable for guinea pigs and would expect it would throw their system out of wack and have other effects.

Yes but I just told you that their pig rebounded and gained back her weight on it.

Mel, the Critical Care wasn't doing the trick. If Oxbow came out with a high-calorie supplement for guinea pigs (one that didn't cause bloat either), I'd run down and buy some.

But I agree about the calcium. Not good. And other ingredients aren't ideal. But if it gives a critically ill geriatric a little more quality time on earth, would it be worth it?

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GL is Just Peachy

Post   » Sun Apr 25, 2004 5:21 pm

What about plain soymilk? How dense is that, how much of it is protein, what else does it have in it?


Post   » Sun Apr 25, 2004 5:28 pm

Silk Soy Milk has added calcium carbonate:


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GL is Just Peachy

Post   » Sun Apr 25, 2004 5:43 pm

And it doesn't look very dense. The creamer would be nice if it only had some protein. Sheesh. How come it has almost the same ingredients list, is presumably thicker, and has no protein? I suppose it might be a rounding error since the serving size is 1/16 of the soymilk serving size but it still has 2/3 of its calories from fat.

What about putting tofu in a blender?


Post   » Sun Apr 25, 2004 6:04 pm

Not sure about the effect of tofu on guinea pigs. Gas?

Comparing product Percentages

Crude Protein (min) 16.00%
Crude Fat (min) 3.20%
Crude Fiber (min) 21.00%
Crude Fiber (max) 25.00%
Phosphorus (min) 0.25%
Calcium (min) 0.40%
Calcium (max) 0.60%
Phosphorus (min) 0.20%
Iron (ppm) 184
Copper (ppm) 5
Zinc (ppm) 64
Niacin (mg/kg) 42
Vitamin A (IU/kg) 12,000
Vitamin B12 (mg/kg) 50
Vitamin D (IU/kg) 660
Vitamin E (mg/kg) 110
Vitamin C mg/g 10



Post   » Sun Apr 25, 2004 6:06 pm


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GL is Just Peachy

Post   » Sun Apr 25, 2004 7:27 pm

Well, I assume a more calorie-rich supplement for guinea pigs would have to consist of plant protein. So far, I'm thinking of soybeans, seaweed, other beans, or gluten. What else could go into it?

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Post   » Sun Apr 25, 2004 7:33 pm

I'm e-mailing Oxbow.

Knee Deep

Post   » Sun Apr 25, 2004 8:27 pm

My vet has recomended mixing the critical care with the ensure, also. He's suggested two reasons behind it, to make the ensure more palatable? and to add some extra calories.

I've only personally done it once, before reading much about handfeeding here when Angel was very sick and had lost a ton of weight in August 2002. She didn't react badly to it, but I don't think it had much positive effect either.

Little Jo Wheek

Post   » Sun Apr 25, 2004 8:53 pm

I don't like feeding either soy or Ensure to cavies. I'd rather go with something more biologically appropriate that won't cause gas (like soy) or have the improper ratios of many nutrients (like Ensure).

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Post   » Sun Apr 25, 2004 8:54 pm

Mel, if you get a response, as kif you can reprint it on the forum. Dawn has given me permission before regarding some nutritional advice.


Post   » Mon Apr 26, 2004 1:18 am

Josephine, what would be biologically appropriate?

I spent some time in the health aisle at the grocery store today, contemplating different products and comparing. Still interested in hearing any expert opinions, but some people I think might be willing to try the unorthodox when they have a dying pig on their hands.

The two which I thought might be the least offensive/most palatable (see, covering all my bases here):

Ensure Plus

Lower in calcium than the other Ensures and higher in C. Also higher in Calories.

Naked Juice Protein Zone

Very high in C, but also higher in sugars that the Ensure. Lower in calories but the ingredients are more natural.

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Post   » Mon Apr 26, 2004 9:35 am

I'm not sure why you're looking at these alternatives when Critical Care would do a good job.

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