All ADULT prairie dogs be fed a strict diet consisting of 98% timothy or other grass type hay and 2% treats until they reach geriatric age. Limited quantities of chemical-free grasses mixed with daily hay are also encouraged when they are in fresh supply as long as they do not interfere or replace normal water intake when grass isn't available. Adult prairie dog should also have a very limited protein supplement once a week, be it one or two pieces of high quality dog kibble, a SMALL fist-sized portion of alfalfa hay, or a teaspoon of some form of bugs. Some prairie dogs prefer live bugs, others prefer them dead and crunchy, and whichever they choose as their personal preference. Spring and summer are typically peak months when two pieces of dog kibble should be given weekly due to rut season.
Treats should consist of various types of vegetables and some of the supplemental products referenced here that your prairie dogs enjoy. Once a consistent diet has been established with your pet, try to stick to it. Their digestive tract can be sensitive to a highly varied and inconsistent routine over time. If you must make dietary modifications due to weight, or for any other reason, do so slowly over the course of many weeks, supplementing a few pieces of the new food in every few days while removing the unwanted item gradually so you don't shock their system. Overnight changes can be awful.
Any pelleted type of feed, developed with prairie dogs in mind, is suitable as a treat but should never be considered a complete diet, regardless of its grass content. This is important to note as pelleted feeds do not enable a prairie dog to replicate the type of chewing necessary for proper tooth wear as they chew grasses and hays differently than they chew pelleted feed or other non-grass treats. Even tooth wear and overall mouth abrasion from hay or grass is essential in long term tooth maintenance and to avoid the possibility of odontoma. Some vegetables to stay away from include dried corn (small pieces of fresh can be given a couple times a year as a very special treat), spinach (it interferes with calcium absorption), and iceberg lettuce. Otherwise, be smart and only feed treats in quantities that make sense for your pet's size. For instance, giving an entire leaf of romaine lettuce can almost be the equivalent of a human eating an entire head of lettuce. The results of that could be disastrous! Some people have noted that broccoli can cause gas in their PD. I've never known that to be the case if feeding in small quantities, again, this is a treat, not a meal!
Geriatric prairie dogs are generally those that are around 6-8 years and up. They have a higher protein requirement and should be given protein more often than a young adult. Geriatric conditions in prairie dogs are best judged on an individual, case-by-case basis as different factors contribute to their overall age. Contact the website manager for more information if you feel your prairie dog needs intervention.
Some of the companies listed here will offer you tips and advice on prairie dog care. Keep in mind that many of these companies do not actually keep prairie dogs as pets. They do not have educational backgrounds specializing in their captive care and may not make the necessary adjustments for what may be acceptable in wild settings with the work they perform versus captive pets. They also do not account for those whose nutritional needs are somewhat varied, so getting care advice may not be a wise choice. Plus, they are trying to sell their product. Many, but not all of these companies advice come from limited research, not from years of exposure to captive pets or actual experience. A good rule of thumb is to listen to everyone and filter out what works for you, as there is always something new to learn every day, even if you don't use the information yourself. Anyone making claims that they are EXPERTS on prairie dog care, run the other way! It is one thing to have lots of experience, education, and exposure to prairie dogs, but no one is an expert as learning is a continual process that is never finished. To sum it up, be careful!
Do not feed seeds and nuts because their fat and oil content are too high for your pet's long term health unless they are given as a very rare treat such as special occasions or major holidays, 3-4 times per year. Prairie dogs that are given seeds and nuts often as treats may not suffer initially, but long term many report fatty, sebaceous cysts and other health matters from trying to process too much oil that is not natural to their diet.
Do not provide branches, wood, or plastic items for chewing to wear down their teeth. Proper tooth abrasion and even wear throughout the mouth can only occur with a plentiful diet of hays and grasses that wear the entire mouth. Prairie dogs have suffered dental abscesses, splintered wood fibers imbedded in the gut lining, and other long term health complications from chewing wood and other materials in the name of tooth maintenance. Respiratory concerns also arise because you cannot get urine and other matter removed from wood safely.
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