WELCOME TO STAHL EXOTIC ANIMAL VETERINARY SERVICES
*HERBIVORE DENTAL DISEASE*
Cage – Minimum of 2×3 feet for small breeds and 3×4 feet for large breeds. Cage bottom should be SOLID plexi-glass, hard plastic, or stainless steel. If the cage has a wire mesh bottom, cover half with a solid surface to prevent pressure sores on the feet. Some people are able to keep their litter box trained rabbit in a secure pen as an alternative. Line the bottom with newspaper and/or towels, as rabbits feel insecure and can injure themselves on slippery floors.
Cagemates – Rabbits should be housed separately or carefully paired with another rabbit. Not all rabbits get along, and un-bonded rabbits may fight and injure one another. If you are considering a companion for your rabbit, we recommend that you contact a local rabbit adoption society that will allow you to bring your pet for short visits, or “dates”, with suitable contenders.
LITTER BOX TRAINING AND BEDDING
The basics – A litter box should be available at all times. Encourage your rabbit to use it by putting a few fecal pellets inside, and then placing the box in the rabbit’s favorite place to eliminate.
Bedding/litter – Use only paper pulp products (i.e. Carefresh, Yesterday’s News), newspaper, or computer paper in the litter box and cage. Clay/clumping cat litter and natural wood shavings can cause eye, skin, and respiratory problems. Many people use towels/cloth as an alternative bedding/liner in the cage – just be sure your pet isn’t eating them. The cage and litter box should be kept clean, with feces and dirty/wet bedding removed daily.
Cleaning – In addition to removing waste and dirty/wet bedding daily, more thorough cleaning of the enclosure should be performed daily to every few days, depending on the size of the enclosure and your pet’s personal habits. Your rabbit should be moved to a separate location, and the cage components washed with hot soapy water or dilute bleach (approximately 1:30 bleach to water ratio). Rinse everything well before returning your rabbit to his/her enclosure. Contact with waste and associated aerosolized debris can cause skin and respiratory tract irritation, therefore keeping your pet’s enclosure clean is vital to promoting his/her health.
Timothy Hay – Offer as much as your pet can eat (free choice). Orchard grass, oat hay, or meadow grass can be offered as alternatives for pickier rabbits. Avoid alfalfa and other hays high in calcium in animals over 6 months, as these may predispose to development of bladder stones.
Pellets – While not strictly necessary, timothy hay-based pellets may be offered to supplement the diet of hay. Avoid alfalfa-based pellets or pellets mixed with seeds (high in fat). The following are guidelines for feeding, and may be adjusted based on your pet’s exercise level/body condition:
Daily pellet ration (based on pet’s healthy weight):
5-7 lbs………..1/4-1/2 cup
8-10 lbs………1/2-3/4 cup
10-15 lbs……….3/4-1 cup
Fresh greens – Offer 1-3 cups daily. Good choices include the following: romaine lettuce, red/green leaf lettuce, escarole, watercress, clover, Swiss chard, bok choy, endive, and turnip tops. Avoid dandelion, collard greens, spinach, turnip greens, mustard greens, kale, and broccoli due to their high calcium content, which may predispose to development of bladder stones. A good rule of thumb is that darker greens tend to have higher calcium levels and should be avoided.
Water – Offer access to fresh water at all times in either a bottle or spill-proof dish/bowl. Change the water daily. Water bottles should be checked often for continued function, as they can easily become jammed or stop working.
Dishes and water bottles should be cleaned with hot, soapy water, dilute bleach (1:30 bleach to water ratio), or in a dishwasher daily to every other day.
Playtime – Rabbits should be allowed supervised time out of the cage daily both for exercise and to interact with family members.
Safety – Supervise your rabbit when it is outside of its cage, and do not allow your rabbit to chew on household items, such as carpeting, furniture, or wires. Safe items, such as cardboard, unvarnished baskets, safe wood, etc., can be offered to encourage healthy chewing.
HEALTH AND PREVENTATIVE CARE
It is recommended that all newly acquired pet rabbits receive a complete physical examination by an exotic animal veterinarian. Thereafter, you should have your pet examined by a veterinarian every 6-12 months or anytime signs of illness/disease are noted. Beginning at the age of three years, annual blood work is recommended in order to assist with early detection of disease. Early treatment of disease processes is essential to promoting a long and healthy life.
COMMON MEDICAL CONDITIONS
Changes in appetite / G.I. Stasis – Reduced appetite/anorexia or reduced/no feces is usually considered a same day medical emergency in rabbits. There may be a primary GI tract problem or an underlying disease or issue, such as molar overgrowth or an infection. If not addressed in time, GI stasis can lead to hypothermia (low body temperature), severe dehydration, or even death.
Cecotrophs - These soft, mucus-covered bowel movements are also known as nightime or first pass feces. Rabbits usually eat these soft pellets directly from their rear, allowing the digestive tract the opportunity to break down plant material with more complexity the second time through. Cecotrophs provide essential proteins, vitamins, minerals, and also help replenish normal bacteria flora. Overweight or arthritic rabbits often cannot reach their rear in order to eat cecotrophs, which can in result in matting / fecal pasting of the fur on their hindquarters. Other rabbits will neglect to eat their cecotrophs when they are ill. A physical exam is recommended in any rabbit with hygiene issues.
Urine – Normal rabbit urine contains a lot of sediment (mostly calcium), and the color often varies from white to light brown. Under certain circumstances, such as when stressed, sick, or receiving medications, the urine may appear orange or red-tinged (sometimes mistaken for blood) due to the excretion of a normal pigment. Because rabbits can develop urinary tract infections resulting in blood in the urine, it is recommended that you contact your veterinarian to perform a urinalysis in any situation in which blood is suspected.
Preventing Heat Stress – Temperatures over 85 degrees Fahrenheit are uncomfortable to rabbits and may result in overheating. Because of the climate in this region, we recommend that all rabbits be kept indoors. Signs of heat stress include increased respiratory rate/effort, ever, lethargy, etc. If you suspect heat stress in your rabbit, contact your veterinarian immediately.
Dental Disease – Drooling, spitting out food, pickiness, and/or weight loss are signs that may indicate dental problems. Dental Disease can lead to ulcers, infection/abscesses, or reduced appetite and GI stasis if not appropriately addressed. Molar overgrowth/malocclusion is often a recurrent issue requiring regular anesthetize dental trims.
REASONS TO VISIT A VETERINARIAN
Healthy annual examinations
Not eating/defecating (>8 hrs)
Itchiness and/or hairloss
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Guinea Pig Care
Cage – Minimum of 2×4 feet for each guinea pig. Cage bottom should be solid Plexi-glass, hard plastic, or stainless steel. Wire mesh bottoms should NEVER be used for guinea pigs due to the risk of feet becoming trapped and subsequent injury. Cages can be purchased online or in pet stores. Popular and functional chloroplast/cube cages can be seen at www.guineapigcages.com.
Substrate – Bedding should consist of a paper pulp product (e.g. Carefresh, Yesterday’s News), newspaper, computer paper or fleece. We DO NOT recommend using natural substrates (i.e. wood shavings) or granular litters.
Behavior – Guinea pigs generally have social and vivacious personalities. They can be kept in pairs or small groups or singly with adequate human socialization. When pairing guinea pigs, take into consideration that unneutered males will often fight once sexual maturity is reached. We recommend keeping unaltered male/female groups separate to prevent unwanted births.
Handling – Always use two hands and be very gentle, supporting the body so your pet feels secure. Avoid excessive noise, needless excitement, and over handling as they are easily stressed. Only allow children to handle with adult supervision. Have children sit on the floor with the pig in their laps to avoid accidental falls.
Timothy Hay – Offer as much as your pet can eat (free choice). Orchard grass, oat hay, or meadow grass can be offered as alternatives for pickier animals. Avoid alfalfa and other hays high in calcium in animals over 6 months, as these may predispose to development of urinary bladder stones.
Pellets – While not strictly necessary, pellets may be offered to supplement the diet of hay. Use a timothy hay-based pellet, such as Cavy Cuisine by Oxbow (oxbowhay.com) or Supreme Selective brand pellets. Avoid pellets mixed with seeds, as many pigs eat the high fat seeds and leave the pellets. Offer no more than about 1/8-1/4 cup pellets total daily.
Fresh greens – Can be offered daily. Good choices include the following: romaine lettuce, red/green leaf lettuce, escarole, watercress, clover, Swiss chard, bok choy, endive, and turnip tops. Avoid dandelion, spinach, collard greens, turnip greens, mustard greens, kale, and broccoli due to their high calcium content, which may predispose to development of bladder stones. A good rule of thumb is that darker greens tend to have higher calcium levels and should be avoided. Small pieces of carrot, bell pepper and other high vitamin C foods can be offered as occasional treats in small amounts. We do not recommend supplementing vitamin C in the diet solely though vegetables (i.e. large amount of bell peppers) as it does not provide enough and, in large amounts, may cause GI upset.
Vitamin C Supplement – This is a necessary part of every guinea pig’s diet as they require approximately 50 mg of vitamin C daily, which often cannot be provided through diet alone. This can be satisfied by giving a liquid oral Vitamin C supplement or a high quality chewable supplement. Do not add the vitamin C to the water, as this promotes bacterial growth and is not a consistent way to dose your pig. Vitamin C also breaks down quickly when exposed to light. Vegetables high in Vitamin C, such as red, orange and green bell peppers, can be offered as an additional source of Vitamin C, but are not recommended as the sole source.
Water– Offer access to fresh water at all times in either a bottle or spill-proof dish/bowl. Change the water daily. Water bottles should be checked often for continued function, as they can easily become jammed and stop working, especially if they are dirty.
EXERCISE AND SOCIALIZATION
Behavior – Guinea pigs generally have social and vivacious personalities. They can be kept in pairs or small groups or singly with adequate human socialization. When pairing guinea pigs, take into consideration that unneutered males will often fight, once sexual maturity is reached. We recommend keeping unaltered male/female groups separate to prevent unwanted births.
HEALTH AND PREVENTATIVE MEDICINE
It is recommended that all newly acquired guinea pigs receive a complete physical examination by an exotic animal veterinarian. Thereafter, you should have your pet examined by a veterinarian at least once a year. If you notice any changes in appetite, behavior, etc., please contact SEAVS immediately. Early detection and treatment of disease processes is essential to promoting a long and healthy life.
We sometimes see complications during birth in guinea pigs older than 6 months, if they have not previously had babies. If having complications, the guinea pig may need a C-Section.
Malocclusion of premolars and molars: This is very common in guinea pigs and can be linked to genetics. Most commonly these pigs become picky about what they eat or stop eating and may drool or slobber. They may also have drool on their front paws from wiping their mouths. Weight loss is also common. Treatment includes sedation to trim the molars when it is determined they are stable for anesthesia; a veterinarian will discuss this if applicable to the patient. This is often a recurrent problem, but a long term plan is determined based on the individual.
Vitamin C deficiency: Guinea pigs require vitamin C every day to survive. Symptoms of deficiency may include inappetence, swollen or painful joints and ribs, reluctance to move, poor bone and tooth development, spontaneous bleeding from the gums, crustiness around the eyes and respiratory disease.
Upper respiratory infection/Pneumonia: This is one of the most common bacterial diseases of pet guinea pigs. Symptoms may include labored and/or rapid breathing, discharge from eyes and nostrils, lethargy, inappetence and sometimes sneezing and/or coughing. It is commonly seen in newly acquired guinea pigs. If your pig is exhibiting any of these symptoms, have a vet examine it immediately. Pneumonia develops very quickly and can rapidly lead to death.
Lice and mites: Lice and mites are common skin parasites in newly acquired animals. Symptoms may include itchy and/or red skin, hair loss, and irritability. Treatment for both lice and mites include a monthly topical medication.
Cage – Minimum size of 2×4 feet. Additional space is necessary when keeping multiple ferrets together. Many cages have several levels to provide more surface area to climb and play.
Litterbox – A litter box should be provided in one corner of the cage. Use low dust litter, such as those made from paper pulp – Carefresh Bedding and Yesterday’s News both work well. Ferrets tend to move litter boxes around, so you may want to secure the box in the corner. We DO NOT recommend cat litter due to risk of illness if consumed.
Bedding – Sleeping areas should be provided. You can offer towels or old t-shirts along with you “ferret hammocks.” Check bedding daily for signs of ingestion/chewing, especially in young ferrets. Bedding should be replaced/cleaned frequently to keep clean and prevent ingestion.
Commercial Food – We recommend feeding a high protein and low carbohydrate commercial ferret food, such as Evo, Wysong, Marshalls, Totally Ferret, or 8-in-1. Any dietary changes should be made gradually to prevent GI tract upset.
Laxative – Laxatone/Ferretone can be given to your ferret 2-3 times a week to help prevent hairballs, which are more common during shedding season.
Treats – Treats can be important for training and rewarding good behavior. Avoid sugary treats, fruits/vegetables, and high carbohydrate table scraps, as ferrets are mostly carnivorous and not adapted to processing such foods. Select treats that are primarily meat-based. Small amounts of plain chicken or eggs can be offered on occasion.
Allow your ferret supervised time out of the cage every day. Ferrets are generally playful and interactive family members, but are notorious for getting into trouble if allowed to freely roam. It is essential that you always supervise your ferret when outside of the cage. Ferrets love to play in boxes, run through tubes, and hide under blankets. Sturdy rubber dog toys intended for small breed dogs or toys with squeakers, usually appeal to ferrets. Supervise your ferret closely to be sure it doesn’t consume toy parts.
Nails – Ferrets need their nails trimmed regularly. You can learn to do this at home or bring your pet in for technician appointments to have the nails trimmed.
Bathing – You may bathe your ferret with pet-safe shampoo about once a month. Bathing more often will remove natural oils from the coat and may cause dry, itchy skin.
Ear cleaning – You will likely need to clean your ferret’s ears on occasion. You can do this at bath time, drying them gently with a cotton ball. Cotton swabs/q-tips are not recommended due to risk of damage to the ear drum.
Teeth cleaning – Like cats and dogs, ferrets get tartar build-up on their teeth. If you accustom your ferret to having its teeth brushed (with a pet-safe toothpaste) at an early age and brush the teeth regularly, you can help prevent tarter build-up and the need for more aggressive dental cleaning procedures later in life.
lnitial Exam – An initial physical exam should be performed on any newly acquired pet. During the exam, the doctor will check the teeth, eyes, ears, heart, and lungs, and will palpate the abdomen. Your new ferret may need to finish the initial vaccination series started by the store/breeder, which typically includes a rabies vaccine and distemper vaccine boosters. It may also be recommended that your pet be checked for internal parasites (fecal exam) and ear mites (ear smear).
Annual Exams – Your ferret should return yearly for routine physical examinations, vaccine boosters as appropriate (discuss benefits and risks with your veterinarian), and bloodwork as needed.
Senior Ferrets – Beginning at the age of 3 years, it is recommended that yearly blood work be completed at annual exams to better evaluate health and screen for common diseases. Your veterinarian may also recommend bringing your ferret in every 6 months for exams because of the high risk of certain genetic diseases in older pet ferrets.
Foreign Body – Signs/symptoms include vomiting, retching, reduced or absent appetite, and straining to defecate or not passing stool. Ferrets tend to eat things that they shouldn’t, especially when not supervised. The intestinal tract may become fully or partially blocked, causing a serious medical emergency that could require surgery. The most commonly ingested foreign bodies are remote control buttons, felt or rubber padding, rubber-soled shoes and shoe linings, small plastic toys and their parts, pencil erasers, foam or stuffing from stuffed animals/pillows, hairballs, and cherry pits.
Influenza – Signs include sneezing, coughing, fever, and lethargy. There is no treatment for the virus, but very young or very old ferrets may benefit from supportive care while the virus runs its course. Treatment may include antibiotics (for secondary infections) and fluid therapy/assisted feeding if the ferret has stopped eating. This flu virus is considered zoonotic, which means that it can be caught from people or contracted by human family members.
Epizootic catarrhal enteritis (ECE) or “Green Slime Disease” – Signs include explosive diarrhea (possibly green), anorexia, and lethargy. This viral disease is extremely contagious between ferrets, and usually coincides with the introduction of a new ferret in the household. Treatment is entirely supportive, and includes fluids, anti-diarrheal medications, and antibiotics. This virus can be extremely dangerous in very young and very old ferrets, and usually requires medical attention.
Adrenal Gland Disease – Signs include hair loss over the tail and pelvis/hip area of the body, dry itchy skin, a swollen vulva in female ferrets, and difficulty urinating (due to enlargement of the prostate gland) in male ferrets. Although confirmatory lab tests are available, presumptive diagnosis is usually by observation of characteristic signs on physical exam. Treatment for adrenal gland disease involves either surgical removal of the affected adrenal gland or hormonal injections/implants.
Insulinoma – Signs include lethargy, hind end weakness, decreased appetite, chronic weight loss, difficulty waking the ferret after sleep, drooling, pawing at the mouth, seizures, coma and sometimes death. Signs are caused by low blood sugar due to overproduction of insulin. Insulinoma is often diagnosed with yearly screening bloodwork in middle-aged to older ferrets. Treatment includes oral medications for the rest of the ferret’s life or surgical removal/debulking of the mass. Surgery, although usually successful, may need to be repeated in the future since these masses have the propensity to rapidly regrow.
Dental plaque – Build-up of dental plaque is very common in ferrets. Some ferrets will tolerate regular teeth brushing with a pet-safe toothpaste. Veterinary dental cleaning may be recommended in some animals with plaque build-up. It is usually performed prophylactically (preventatively) to avoid severe periodontal disease. Ferrets must be anesthetized for this procedure to allow for thorough cleaning.
Skin tumors – Skin tumors are fairly common in older ferrets. Although they tend to be benign, it is recommended that you bring your ferret in for assessment of any skin tumors. Depending on their appearance, location, etc., either surgical removal or at-home monitoring may be recommended.
Caging –Wire mesh cages may be used, but a solid floor must be provided to prevent foot pad injuries. Shelves should be provided to allow for exercise Glass aquariums or solid walled plastic containers should be avoided due to poor ventilation. Wooden cages should be used with caution as Chinchillas like to chew and may escape. Paper based bedding is recommended as a floor covering.
Bathing – Dust baths should be provided several times a week to remove oil and dirt from the fur. There are many types of commercial chinchilla dust available. The dust bath should only be left in the cage for 15-20 minutes, as excessive use may lead to eye problems/injury.
Group Housing – Chinchillas may fight when housed together, with the females being the more aggressive gender. Solitary caging is typically recommended, but a slow introduction could help pairs live peacefully together.
Temperature –Chinchillas do not tolerate heat or humidity well. They should be kept in a cool, dry, well lit area with adequate ventilation. The optimal temperature is between 60-75 F. They can not be kept outside in the Northern Virginia climate.
Chinchillas are easily restrained and rarely bite. Care must be taken to avoid injury like ‘fur slip,’ which is the patchy shedding of fur as the result of rough handling or tension on the skin.
Dental malocclusion – This condition is sometimes referred to as “slobbers.” It is characterized by excessive drooling or accumulation of food material under the chin. A decrease in size and amount of feces is another sign associated with this syndrome. The underlying cause is the overgrowth of the molar teeth and will most likely require regular molar trims with your veterinarian. Providing and encouraging the consumption of hay may aid in prevention/decrease of dental issues.
Heat stroke – High temperature and humidity are not tolerated well by chinchillas. Signs of heat stroke include extreme lethargy, panting and bright red mucous membranes. If these signs are seen, veterinary attention should be sought immediately.
Fur Chewing – Some of the potential causes for this behavior include stress, boredom, dietary imbalance, or hereditary factors. Providing chew toys and enrichment along with a proper diet may aid in decreasing this behavior.
Fur Ring – This is a condition when fur tightly wraps around a male chinchilla’s genitalia and may develop into a life threatening condition. Symptoms include, excessive grooming of the genitalia, straining to urinate or producing small amounts of urine more frequently. If any of these symptoms are observed, your chinchilla should be checked by a veterinarian.
Diarrhea –The most common cause of diarrhea / soft stool is an inappropriate diet or decreased fiber intake, but bacterial and parasitic infections may also be present.
Respiratory Disease – Upper respiratory infections are commonly seen in pet chinchillas. Signs include an increased respiratory rate and an accumulation of mucous on nostrils and on the inside of the forearms.
Cage – We recommend using a wire bar style cage with appropriately sized bars so the hamster cannot escape. It should be a minimum of 1 foot wide by 3 foot in length. The cage bottom should be solid, as screen mesh/wire floor can irritate the feet and cause injuries. We don’t recommend using aquariums with a screen top due to poor air circulation in the enclosure.
Substrate – Bedding should consist of a paper pulp product (like Carefresh or Yesterday’s News), newspaper or computer paper. Wood chips/shavings are not recommended as they can irritate a hamsters eyes and respiratory tract.
Hide box – Hiding areas, such as cardboard boxes, paper towel rolls, and tissue boxes should be provided to minimize stress and to give them somewhere to hide/sleep during daylight hours.
Wheel – A running wheel of appropriate size should be provided for exercise. Vegetable oil or coconut oil can be used to lubricate the moving parts of the wheel to help minimize sounds.
Cagemates – We recommend housing hamsters individually, as most species will fight with one another, regardless of gender.
We recommend feeding a commercial hamster pellet or rodent block diet that does not contain seeds in the mix. The diet should generally be offered “free-choice”. Oxbow Hamster and Gerbil Diet is a good, high quality diet.
Treats – May include small pieces of vegetables, fruit, unsweetened cereal and hays such as timothy or orchard grass. Seeds and treat sticks are not recommended as a regular part of the diet because they are high in fat and low in protein and calcium.
Water – Should be offered in a sipper bottle or a spill-proof bowl; change water daily. Clean bowls/bottles every couple of days in the dishwasher, or soak them in 1:30 bleach:water solution, to prevent harmful bacterial growth. Check the ball in the sipper portion of the water bottle on a regular basis to be sure it does not become stuck and deprive your hamster of water.
Always use two hands and be very gentle. Try to avoid exposing your pet to excessive noise, excitement and over-handling. If children are handling the hamster, have them sit on the floor and hold it in their laps. Only allow them to handle the pet with adult supervision.
An initial visit to an exotic animal veterinarian is recommended when you first acquire your pet. The doctor will do a complete physical exam and spend some time discussing husbandry and diet. Thereafter, it is recommended that your pet be brought in every 6-12 months for routine physical exams, or sooner if your pet is showing signs of illness or another problem requiring medical attention.
Malocclusion of Incisor Teeth – Normally, hamsters do not need their teeth trimmed. Malocclusion occurs when the front (incisor) teeth do not meet properly and grow too long for the animal to eat. Regular trimming of the incisor teeth may be necessary if this occurs.
Lice and Mites – Lice and mites are very common skin parasites in newly acquired rodents and mites can become a problem in geriatric rodents. Symptoms may include itchy and/or red skin, hair loss and irritability. Treatment for both lice and mites may include injections and/or a topical medication.
Rats are highly social and intelligent animals that can make excellent pets. Lifespan averages 2-3 years, although this may be shortened by severe respiratory infections and/or mammary tumors.
Cage – Minimum of a 1’ x 3’ enclosure with a secure top for each pet. Cage bottom should be solid, as screen mesh/wire can irritate the feet.
Substrate – Bedding should consist of a paper pulp product (like Carefresh or Yesterday’s News), newspaper or computer paper. Wood chips/shavings are not recommended.
Hide box – Hiding areas such as cardboard boxes, paper towel rolls, and tissue boxes should be provided.
Cagemates – House rats as individuals or in same sex pairs/small groups. Monitor closely for fighting, and separate if necessary. Spaying or neutering may be worthwhile in certain situations, as it allows for mixed gender social groups, and may reduce the chance of mammary tumors. Rats kept individually should be handled daily.
Rat food/lab or rodent blocks – Should generally be offered “free-choice”. Oxbow makes a high quality rat diet.
Treats – May include small pieces of vegetables, fruit, unsweetened cereal, or small amounts of healthy people food. Seeds and treat sticks are not recommended as a regular part of the diet because they are high in fat and low in protein and calcium.
Water – Should be offered in a sipper bottle or a spill-proof bowl; change water daily. Clean bowls/bottles every couple of days in the dishwasher, or soak them in 1:30 bleach:water solution, to prevent harmful bacterial growth.
Always use two hands and be very gentle. Try to avoid exposing your pet to excessive noise, excitement, and over-handling. If children are involved, have them sit on the floor and hold the rat in their laps. Only allow them to handle the pet with adult supervision.
It is recommended that all newly acquired pet rats receive a complete physical examination by an exotic animal veterinarian. Thereafter, you should have your pet examined by a veterinarian every 6-12 months, or sooner if your pet is showing signs of illness.
Respiratory Infection: Respiratory infections are very common in rats and are caused mainly by a bacteria called Mycoplasma. The rat should be treated with antibiotics right away. If left untreated, the infection could develop into pneumonia.
Lice and Mites: Lice are very common skin parasites in newly acquired rats. Symptoms may include itchy and/or red skin, hair loss and irritability. Treatment for lice may include injections and/or a topical medication.
Lumps: Mammary tumors are common in rats, male and female. Neutering/Spaying around the age of 6 months can help decrease the incidence of these tumors. When kept together, rats will sometime bite each other which can cause a pocket of infection called an abscess. Both of these conditions would require surgery and/or oral antibiotics to treat.
Sugar Glider Care
Sugar Gliders are small marsupials native to Australia, Indonesia, and New Guinea. The female glider, along with other marsupials, carry their babies, called joeys, in a pouch on the abdomen. Female gliders are pregnant for a total of 16 days before giving birth. Joeys are weaned at about 3-4 months old, and they become sexually mature between 8-14 months old. The average weight of an adult Sugar Glider is 85-140 grams. The average life span of a glider with a proper diet and adequate care is 8-12 years
Caging: Due to their extremely active nature, sugar gliders should have the largest cage possible. Minimum cage size for 1-2 adult gliders is 36 X 24 X 48 inches. Cages should be made of wire mesh to allow for proper ventilation. Wire spacing should be no larger than 1.0 X 2.5 cm wide. Several different food and water bowls/bottles should be placed throughout the cage.
Environment: The cage should provide adequate climbing branches to allow for proper exercise and toys for enrichment. A nest box or pouch should be provided high in the cage to allow for rest during the day. The ideal temperature range for sugar gliders is between 75-80 F.
Bedding: Paper based bedding is preferred for the cage floor, as cedar and pine chips can lead to respiratory issues. Small pieces of fleece cut into small squares can be used in the nest box/pouch and should be changed every couple days.
Captive diet: Several commercial sugar glider diets are available and should encompass at least 75% of the daily dietary intake. Fresh fruits should comprise the other 25% of your glider’s diet. Healthy fruits, such as, berries, melon, kiwi, papaya and mango should be offered. Fruits that should be avoided include: grapes, bananas, apples, pears and any canned fruit.
Water: Water should be available at all times and changed daily. Most sugar gliders will learn to drink from sipper bottles.
Behavior: Sugar gliders are nocturnal and spend most of the day sleeping, however, many will acclimate to your schedule and be ready for social interaction with their owners during the evening. Sugar gliders are very social animals and should not be kept as a solitary pet. Self-mutilation and depression will develop without significant social interaction. They do well in small groups of 2 -3 per enclosure. Sugar Gliders make a variety of noises to communicate with their owners and their cage mates. Some of these noises include “crabbing” when scared, barking during play, hissing and sneezing while grooming and/or playing, and purring or chirping to relay a sense of contentment.
Handling: Care must be taken as gliders may bite when agitated or disturbed. When well-socialized and handled frequently, they may be docile and easy to work with for their owners. At the veterinarian, sugar gliders often have to be sedated with gas anesthesia to be properly examined.
Exercise is extremely important for the longterm physical and mental health of your glider. Branches, a plastic wheel designed for Sugar Gliders with a closed bottom and some bird toys may be used to promote an active lifestyle. Constant supervision is highly recommended when out of the cage. A small tent that can be put up in a room is a great way to offer safe access to exercise; this will keep them from getting lost/loose in the house.
Obesity: Obesity is common with captive sugar gliders and may lead to cardiac and respiratory problems. To prevent this, food must be rationed and adequate exercise should be provided. Treatment involves elimination of high fat diets and gradual weight loss. Weight loss may be monitored using an accurate gram scale.
Malnutrition and Hypocalcemia: This condition is a common cause of hind leg paralysis in sugar gliders and is mainly the result of inadequate calcium intake or improper calcium/phosphorus balance in the diet. Treatment involves supportive care and correction of underlying dietary issues. Other common symptoms of malnutrition include dehydration and diarrhea, blindness, hair loss, and seizures. In severe cases, malnutrition and hypocalcemia can cause death.
Dental Disease: Dental tartar and periodontal disease is common in sugar gliders provided a soft, high carbohydrate diet. Advanced dental disease can occur and result in exposure of the tooth root and tooth root abscesses. Glider owners should regularly monitor their pet for facial swellings, weight loss, and eye discharge, as these can be indicators of dental disease. Regular oral examinations and a good diet are required to help prevent this condition.
Self mutilation: Sugar gliders may self mutilate from a variety of causes including solitude, stress, sexual frustration, improper nutritional status and lack of exercise. Proper nutrition, socialization, appropriate nesting areas, exercise outside of the cage, enrichment activities and good cage hygiene can help reduce stress in captive sugar gliders and prevent self destructive behaviors. Male gliders should be neutered to reduce hormonal surges and sexual frustration, both of which can be stressors leading to self mutilation.
Tremoring or seizures
Cage – Your hedgehog’s cage should be at least 2 feet wide by 3 feet long. A plastic bottom cage with narrow wire sides or 35+ gallon clear rubber maid-type container with ventilation holes drilled in the sides, may also be used. A hiding place should be provided; large diameter PVC pipe, wooden/cardboard boxes, or commercially available hides work well.
Bedding – Newspaper and/or paper bedding, such as Carefresh, work well as cage substrates. Fleece bedding may also be used. Any bedding should be changed/cleaned daily to every few days as needed to maintain a clean environment for your pet.
Litter – Some hedgehogs may be litter box trained. If a litter box is provided, paper bedding, such as Carefresh or Yesterday’s News litter, work well. Sand or clumping litter (often made for cats) may stick to the hedgehog or be accidentally consumed and should be avoided.
Temperature – Environmental temperature should be between 75-85 degrees F, with low humidity (less than 40%). A daylight cycle with 10-14 hours of low light levels (and 10-14 hours of darkness) should be provided.
Commercial diets - There are several commercially prepared hedgehog diets available. Because there are not a lot of feeding trials associated with these diets, we recommend feeding a kibble non-grain free cat food such as Cat Chow or Friskies. Some hedgies will eat small pieces of fruit as a portion of the diet. Offer healthy fruits such as berries, melon, kiwi and papaya (avoid grapes and apples).
Water – Fresh water should be available at all times. A sipper bottle or bowl can be used. and changed daily. Most hedgehogs will learn to drink from sipper bottles.
Insects – Mealworms and crickets may be offered as treats and for enrichment.
Exercise – Exercise wheels are highly recommended, as pet hedgehogs have a tendency to become overweight. The wheel should have a solid floor, rather than wire, to prevent entrapment of the feet. Hedgehogs should also be allowed out in a large area, with supervision, on a daily basis. This provides exercise and an opportunity for socialization.
Handling – A small towel may be used when handling to protect your hands from the hedgehog’s spines. Make sure that the body is well supported to prevent dropping and to give the hedgehog a sense of security. Loud noise or bright lights will frighten many hedgehogs and cause them to curl up into a ball. Many times, patience and a dimly lit room is all that is needed to help calm a nervous hedgehog.
An annual examination is recommended, since hedgehogs will often hide signs of illness. ***Sedation may be required for the detailed oral exam or if the patient is uncooperative. Nails should be checked for overgrowth and trimmed if needed.
Mites – Mite infestation is commonly seen in young or newly acquired hedgehogs. Signs include dry, flaky skin, quill loss and white or brown crusts at the base of the quills or around the eyes. This condition is easily treated with the administration of anti-parasitic medications.
Obesity – Food must be rationed to prevent obesity. Overweight hedgehogs have large fat deposits under the legs and can not roll up completely. Treatment involves elimination of high fat diets and exercise to encourage gradual weight loss. Weight loss may be monitored using an accurate gram scale.
Fatty liver syndrome – This syndrome may be caused by a number of factors including stress, poor diet, anorexia, obesity, and pregnancy. Signs may include lethargy, yellow discoloration of the gums and skin under the arms, and diarrhea. Treatment consists of correcting the underlying cause and assist feeding.
Dental disease – Hedgehogs can develop a number of dental disorders. Signs include red or swollen gums, tartar accumulation on the teeth, and gingival recession. In cases of severe dental disease, tooth extraction may be required.
Tumors – Oral tumors are common in captive African pygmy hedgehogs. These masses may be locally invasive and cause considerable discomfort and impede eating. Mammary gland and uterine cancer are also commonly seen in female hedgehogs.
Nutritional Disorders – Hedgehogs primarily on a diet of insects may develop calcium related disorders. Signs may include generalized weakness, tremors and may progress to musculoskeletal disorders.
Salmonellosis – Several strains of salmonella have been isolated from hedgehogs and transmission to humans has been documented. When handling any hedgehog, we recommend to wash hands immediately after handling or coming into contact with any fecal material.
Bloated, itchiness and/or quill loss
Herbivore Dental Disease
INTRODUCTION: Rabbits, guinea pigs and chinchillas have incisors and cheek teeth (premolars and molars) to assist in the task of apprehending and chewing food. The teeth are open-rooted, which means they grow continuously throughout the animal’s life. When the teeth are aligned properly, eating fibrous foods (i.e. timothy/orchard grass hay) helps control overgrowth through appropriate wearing of the chewing surface. The top and bottom cheek teeth grind against the food and against each other in a somewhat circular motion. Complete physical examinations should be performed by an experienced exotic animal veterinarian every 6-12 months to help catch dental disease early and before permanent damage can occur. While the incisors are often visible on simple exam, the cheek teeth cannot be properly seen without specialized medical instruments. In some cases, a thorough dental exam requires that the animal be anesthetized.
DENTAL DISEASE: If the teeth are not aligned properly (dental malocclusion), the areas of the teeth that do not have an opposing surface to grind against may overgrow and even become pointed in shape. The cheek teeth of the bottom jaw may overgrow into the tongue, causing wounds/ulcers, or they may grow over the tongue, entrapping it and making eating a challenge. The cheek teeth of the top jaw may overgrow into the sensitive tissue of the cheek, causing wounds/ulcers. Left untreated, overgrowth of teeth can result in abscesses of the cheek or jaw, reduced appetite, GI stasis, or even death.
CAUSES OF DENTAL DISEASE: Although dental disease usually occurs in animals over the age of three years, though it is occasionally a problem in younger animals as well. Early disease may be due to Vitamin C deficiency (in guinea pigs), inadequate roughage (hay) in the diet, or a congenital abnormality/poor genetics. In rabbits, selective breeding for particular aesthetic traits and altered shape of the skull (i.e. shortening of the jaw/nose as compared to wild relatives) often causes misalignment of teeth and chronic dental disease. Older animals may develop problems as shifting teeth become misaligned with age.
SIGNS/SYMPTOMS: Decreased appetite, decreased quantity/size of fecal pellets, audible teeth grinding, excessive drooling, and discharge from the eyes and nose may all indicate a problem with the teeth. If you notice any of these signs, please contact your veterinarian immediately.
PREVENTION AND TREATMENT: The best prevention is to feed large amounts of roughage (i.e. timothy/orchard grass hay), which helps to wear teeth and prevent overgrowth. Unfortunately, this may be inadequate in animals with misaligned teeth/a genetic predisposition to dental problems. In order to perform a thorough oral exam and safely perform teeth trimming/filing, the animal must be anesthetized (asleep). Because dental disease can become a chronic issue, frequent anesthetized dental procedures can become expensive. Depending on the animal, it usually needs to be performed every 4-16 weeks. Complications from dental disease can be prevented if problems are addressed early. If you suspect dental issues in your pet, please contact your veterinarian immediately.
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