Educational Articles

Small Mammals

  • Fluconazole is an antifungal medication used off label in cats, dogs, and small mammals to treat fungal infections, especially those in the brain and spinal cord. It is given by mouth in the form of a tablet or liquid suspension, and is also available as an injection for hospital use. Common side effects include gastrointestinal upset such as decreased appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea but liver toxicity can also occur. It should be used with caution in pets with liver or kidney disease, or pregnant or lactating pets. If a negative reaction occurs, call your veterinary office.

  • Gastrointestinal disease occurs commonly in ferrets - from dental disease, through gastrointestinal foreign bodies to persistent diarrhea. Some, such as foreign bodies, are readily prevented, while others require considerable diagnostic investigation and may need long-term treatment.

  • Rabbits that are not eating may have developed gastrointestinal (GI) stasis. GI stasis is typically caused by a physiologic change in bacteria. Rabbits may stop eating because they are sick with other diseases, such as dental problems or kidney disease, or when they are stressed, overheated, painful from injuries or arthritis, or uncomfortable from other gastrointestinal problems such as bacterial, viral, or parasitic intestinal infections. Some rabbits get GI upset when they are eating too much carbohydrate and not enough fiber. Supportive care treatment either in or out of the hospital will be prescribed for a rabbit with GI stasis. Prevent GI stasis by feeding your rabbit a high-fiber, hay-based diet with supplemental vegetables, a small amount of pellets and fruit. Have your rabbit checked regularly by a veterinarian who can monitor for the occurrence of other underlying diseases that may contribute to the development of GI stasis.

  • Guinea pigs are generally hardy, healthy animals but are susceptible to certain diseases. They cannot make their own vitamin C and require supplementation or they may develop scurvy. Guinea pigs get various tumors, particularly skin and mammary tumors. Guinea pigs also get abscesses (accumulations of pus and bacteria) in lymph nodes, skin, muscles, teeth, bones, and internal organs. They are very prone to development of urinary calculi that form in the bladder, kidneys, or ureters which may become lodged, causing a life-threatening obstruction. In addition, guinea pigs often are affected by ringworm and can get fleas and lice. Barbering is a problem, usually associated with boredom, in which the guinea pig chews or barbers its own hair or the hair of its cage-mate. Pododermatitis, or bumblefoot, in which sores develop on the bottom of the feet from pressure, is common in overweight animals housed on wire-bottomed or dirty cages that abrade the feet.

  • Rabbits have unique gastrointestinal tracts and need a high-fiber, low-carbohydrate diet to help keep the normal GI bacteria fermenting their food. When they are fed a diet high in carbohydrate, administered certain types of antibiotics, or undergo a rapid diet change, they can develop life-threatening GI stasis. Rabbits with GI stasis become lethargic, dehydrated, weak, lose weight, and must be treated by a veterinarian as soon as possible. Only rarely do rabbits develop true GI tract obstructions from ingesting foreign objects and require surgery to remove the obstruction. Rabbits are coprophagic, consuming cecotropes overnight that serve as a source of critical protein and vitamins. Rabbits that eat high calcium alfalfa-based diets or high-calcium vegetables are prone to developing bladder stones that must be removed surgically. Bunnies housed at temperatures over 80°F are subject to heat stroke, since they cannot sweat and should be housed inside in a cool place, or if outside, should have plenty of shade and water.

  • Rodents commonly develop certain health problems. Rabies is very unlikely in pet rodents (especially those housed inside, away from other animals). Many rodents barber their own hair or the hair of a cagemate as a result of stress in the form of overcrowding, fighting, or boredom. Foot necrosis is caused by fine fiber or thread nesting material wrapping around toes or feet and cutting off circulation. Guinea pigs cannot make their own vitamin C, so they must receive it as a supplement in their diets. All pet rodents, but especially guinea pigs and chinchillas, are very susceptible to life-threatening heat stroke from high ambient temperatures (greater than 80°F or 27°C). Certain antibiotics should never be used in rodents, as they upset the normal bacteria that live in rodents’ gastrointestinal tracts and favor toxin-producing bacteria that can be fatal to rodents. Chromodacryorrhea is seen in mice, gerbils, and most often in rats Diarrhea can have several different causes in rodents including infections with different bacteria, parasites, or viruses. Rodents also commonly get fractured bones from mishandling or falls, bacterial skin infections (dermatitis) on their faces, and may also experience seizures.

  • Common conditions of pet hedgehogs include external and internal parasites, ringworm, cancer, gastrointestinal diseases and pneumonia.

  • In the wild, hedgehogs eat a diverse selection of insects as well as some plant material and very occasionally small or baby mammals (like pinkie mice). Hedgehogs usually eat at night.

  • The cage should be large enough to allow the hedgehog to move around. 2 x 3 feet (61 x 91cm) should be the minimum floor space provided. Walls must be high enough to prevent escape, as hedgehogs are good climbers. A glass aquarium or smooth sided cage is a reasonable choice for many owners.

  • Relatively new to the pet industry is the African hedgehog. Hedgehogs can make interesting, somewhat challenging, yet fun and enjoyable pets. They are mammals whose entire back is blanketed with spines like a porcupine.