Educational Articles

Small Mammals

  • Hedgehogs have several unique problems Understanding these problems will allow you to better care for your pet and minimize future health care problems.

  • There are four major hormonal diseases in ferrets. This handout covers adrenal gland disease and diabetes mellitus. Adrenal gland disease occurs in a large number of ferrets in North America, while diabetes mellitus is a rare, but an important problem.

  • Any cage used to house a pet rodent must be easy to clean, as poor husbandry and hygiene can contribute to illness in these animals. The bigger the cage, the better, as rodents need room to exercise and explore. While some species of rodents may be housed in pairs or groups, unneutered males and females should not be housed together, or they will breed. Different species should not be housed together. Rodents love to dig and bury and should be provided with paper bedding or shredded or recycled paper in their cages. The cage should be spot-cleaned daily and the bedding changed completely at least weekly. Toys provide enrichment and psychological stimulation, as well as exercise, for pet rodents. Since rodents like to burrow, they should have a hiding place in the cage, and chinchillas should have a box containing special, fine particle sand in which to bathe.

  • A large, well-ventilated cage with a plastic bottom and wire walls and top is suitable. Wire bottom rabbit cages are acceptable, but to decrease foot trauma, at least half of the wire floor should be covered with plastic, Plexiglas, or untreated wood. The bottom of the cage can be lined with hay or commercially available recycled paper products. Rabbits can be trained to use a litter box. Since rabbits like to dig and to chew, offer cardboard boxes, paper tubes, paper bags, and hard plastic baby toys for entertainment. Rabbits should never be allowed to run loose in the house unless they are supervised or contained in a rabbit-proof room as they love to chew and can be destructive. Offering your rabbit chew toys may prevent your him from chewing inappropriate objects. Rabbits tolerate cold better than heat and are very sensitive to heat stroke. Keep their environmental temperature at or below 80°F (26°C), and make sure their enclosure is well ventilated.

  • If you saw a person have a seizure or fall down the stairs or wreck a car, what would you do? You'd call 911. But what should you do when the crisis involves your pet? You call a pet emergency number. Ask your veterinary hospital how they handle after-hour emergencies.

  • There are four major infectious diseases seen in pet rabbits. Myxomatosis is spread by bites from mosquitoes, flies, fur mites, and fleas and can also be acquired from injuries caused by contaminated thorns or thistles. Subcutaneous swelling extends around the eyes, ears, and genital region and can progress to skin hemorrhages, breathing difficulties, decreased to no appetite, fever, generalized skin tumors, and death. Viral hemorrhagic disease is transmitted by direct contact with infected rabbits, rodents, and contaminated cages, dishes, and clothing. If signs are present, they include decreased appetite, fever, lethargy, collapse, convulsions, coma, difficulty breathing, foaming at the mouth, bloody nasal discharge, and death. Encephalitozoonosis causes a latent condition in rabbits. When signs do develop, the affected rabbit may develop dense white cataracts in one or both eyes, a head tilt, nystagmus, lack of appetite, difficulty walking, uncontrollable rolling over in one direction, tremors, and seizures. Pasteurellosis commonly causes abscesses, respiratory infections, and chronic inflammatory disease in rabbits. It can infect the nasolacrimal ducts, eyes, ears, and nose, and can cause abscesses of tooth roots, bones (particularly the jaw), skin, tissues under the skin, and internal organs.

  • An insulinoma is a tumor that involves the beta cells of the pancreas. Beta cells are the cells that produce the hormone insulin. Insulinomas are surprisingly common in ferrets.

  • Itraconazole is given by mouth in the form of a capsule, tablet, or liquid to treat fungal infections in cats and for off label treatment in dogs and small mammals. The most common side effects are anorexia, vomiting, liver toxicity, skin lesions, or limb and vessel swelling. It should not be used in pets with liver disease or low stomach acid production, and used with caution in pregnant, lactating, or pets with heart disease. If a negative reaction occurs, call your veterinary office.

  • Ketoconazole is an antifungal given by mouth in the form of a tablet, used off label to treat fungal infections in dogs, cats, small mammals, and reptiles. The most common side effects are vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, and weight loss. Do not use in pets that are allergic to it, and use severe caution when using in cats or pregnant pets. If a negative reaction occurs, please call your veterinary office.

  • Grief is the normal and natural response to the loss of someone or something. When grieving, one is said to be in a state of bereavement. The loss of a pet can cause intense grief and sorrow. Given that so many people consider their pets as members of the family, this grief is normal and understandable. Each person experiences grief in a different way. Contrary to popular belief, grief does not unfold in clean, linear stages, nor does it have a timeline. Grief is a full body experience that includes physical, emotional, cognitive, social, and spiritual responses. A healthy grief journey comes from taking the time to work through feelings rather than trying to push them away, moving toward the experience of loss to learn to live with it. There are many ways to manage grief, including receiving support from others, finding comfort in routines and play, keeping active, taking breaks from the sadness, remembering your pet, memorializing your pet, searching for meaning, and eventually, possibly bringing a new pet into your life. Grieving takes time. Usually it gradually lessens in intensity over time, but if it doesn’t, then professional counseling may help.