The dangerous pet products readily available in pet stores and supermarkets

In pet stores and supermarkets across the country, items are for sale that could be dangerous for any animal using them.

It is advised before buying or adopting a pet, owners should research its care needs before accidentally purchasing products.

New Zealand Veterinary Association said buying the wrong product for an animal could have adverse consequences.

"Products can result in reduced health and well-being, for a variety of reasons," said chief veterinary officer Dr Helen Beattie.

She used the example of foods that do not provide for animals' nutritional needs, or items that could lead to injuries like broken teeth.

Pet food is a great example of this,and in supermarkets and on mixed muesli mix is marketed towards rabbits and guinea pigs.

The food contains seeds, which isn't advised for rabbits, and both species have quite different diets, so should not eat the same foods.

It also feeds into the idea that rabbits and guinea pigs can be housed together, which animal welfare organisations like the SPCA advise against.

"The nutrients they require from their food is quite different and feeding the wrong diet can result in medical conditions, such as scurvy," it's website states

"For this reason, rabbit and guinea pig food pellets are formulated specially for their species only. Rabbits also eat much more than guinea pigs, so may hog all the food!"

A rabbit.
A rabbit. Photo credit: File

Newshub contacted the stores selling the mixed food. Foodstuffs, which owns New World and Pak'nSave refused to comment, saying questions should be put to the manufacturer, as well as the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Countdown said it would speak to the supplier about the food, and also suggested Newshub contact MPI about it, according to a spokesperson.

A spokesperson for the Ministry for Primary Industries told Newshub owners should be confident the food they're buying is fit for use and contact a vet if they're worried about their animals health.

The spokesperson also said pet food is subject to the Agricultural Compounds and Veterinary Medicines (ACVM) Act 1997 and importers need to ensure the food is fit for purpose or labelled appropriately.

Newshub contacted VitaPet, which manufactures the food sold in New World and Countdown, but did not receive a response.

Housing a pet could also cause problems for pet owners, as some available pet housing isn't big enough, or could cause health problems for the animal.

"Bumblefoot" is a condition where pet rats or mice get painful swelling on their feet due to standing on wire platforms.

Despite this, a lot of the cages sold in commercial pet stores have wire platforms, which will cause or exacerbate the problem.

"To prevent 'bumblefoot', you should look for an enclosure that has a solid surface floor," the SPCA says on its animal care website.

"If you have an enclosure that has wire shelves or ramps, you can cover some or all of them with a solid surface to help protect your rat's feet."

Size could be another issue. Enclosures for sale for small animals like guinea pigs or rabbits are smaller than suggested size in guidelines.

Rabbits need a hutch that allows them space to hop around, as well as stand up on their hind legs. Rabbits perform a small hop or "binky" to express happiness and some hutches prevent them from doing so.

Fish tanks of less than 20L could also cause problems, as goldfish being kept in small tanks can lead to poor water quality, and then stunted growth or premature death.

Tropical fish can do well in smaller tanks though, as long as the water is kept at the right temperature.

Animates, which sells the wire bottomed cages, as well as the small hutches and fish tanks, told Newshub the company has made changes to ensure animal welfare, but is also focussing on training and education.

Marketing manager Jacqui Baigent told Newshub the company is currently considering other options for rabbit hutches, although the cost could be prohibitive.

"We're really advocating that [the hutches] should be really for sleeping only and looking at other alternatives about what time and enrichment they have outside of these enclosures," she said.  

As for fish, the company hasn't had fish bowls, which are too small and do not allow for adequate filtration or heating, on the market for more than a decade now.

"We've gone through some really firm training standards in place for things around what, specifically goldfish as well, what type and size tank or aquarium they should have," Baigent said.

A goldfish in a bowl, which is not good for them.
A goldfish in a bowl, which is not good for them. Photo credit: Getty

Newshub contacted PetStock, which also stocks the small hutches, wire bottomed cages and mixed rabbit and guinea pig food, but did not receive a response.   

In 2013 Trade Me banned small aquariums on advice from the SPCA.

The company told Newshub it "may move to ban or restrict" sales of other items "that we think our members strongly object to", but has not had any complaints so far.

"We work closely with the SPCA and if we have any concerns about an animal or any animal items we will get in touch with them," said trust and safety team leader James Ryan. "Likewise, they will contact us if they see anything of concern."

Pet owners are also being warned that some toys and treats marketed to pets are unhealthy.

The American Kennel Club advises rawhide treats, which are sold in pet stores and supermarkets, can be dangerous for dogs if they break into small pieces and become a choking hazard.

It says if you are going to feed a dog rawhide treats look for high quality thicker ones. Otherwise use other dog chew toys available on the market.

Animates has small animal treats, such as Trixie drops, which contain dairy that should not be fed to rabbits.

Despite this, the items packaging prominently shows a rabbit and guinea pig.

"The rabbit treats with the milk [trixie drops],  that's actually in play already with us. We have asked that particular supplier to change their packaging," Baigent said.

"We've actually given them a deadline, otherwise we will de-range that particular product line."

Dr Beattie said it's important for people to be aware around the safety of toys and ensure whatever you give to your animal is appropriate.

"It's not possible to identify a specific product, as this will also depend on the animal that is engaging with the product.

"As an example, toys may be size specific so a chew toy for a Chihuahua, is a mere mouthful for a Great Dane - this may not be safe if ingested whole."