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Small Mammals

  • Common conditions of pet rodents include respiratory diseases, gastrointestinal problems, dental problems, and tumors. Signs of respiratory disease in rodents include nasal and/or ocular discharge in mild infections, and wheezing, coughing, and open-mouth breathing in severe infections. Gastrointestinal disease, including diarrhea from various causes and gastrointestinal stasis is common in pet rodents. All rodents have teeth that grow continuously throughout their lives. Occasionally, these teeth grow too long and cut into the gums, causing pain, or prevent the mouth from closing properly, which often makes the pet stop eating. Just as in people, cancer is often seen in pet rodents, especially mammary (breast) tumors in rats and mice. Rodents with signs of respiratory or GI disease or evidence of a tumor should be seen by a veterinarian who can properly diagnose and treat the underlying condition.

  • Doxycycline is an antibiotic given by mouth in the form of a tablet, capsule, or liquid, used off label to treat certain infections. Common side effects include stomach upset, sun sensitivity, and increases in liver enzymes. Serious side effects include liver failure, seizures, and trouble swallowing. Do not use in pregnant pets, and use cautiously in pets with liver disease or in young pets. If a negative reaction occurs, please call your veterinary office.

  • Enalapril is used on and off label and is given by mouth or injection to treat heart failure, high blood pressure, chronic kidney disease, or proteinuria. Common side effects include loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and tiredness. Do not use in pets that are allergic to it, have an acute kidney injury, or have certain heart conditions. If a negative reaction occurs, please call your veterinary office.

  • Encephalitozoonsis is an infection that can affect the kidneys, eyes and nervous system of rabbits. It's caused by an organism called Encephalitozoon cuniculi or E. cuniculi, a small microsporidian parasite that's intracellular (it has to live within another cell).

  • Enrofloxacin is an antibiotic given by mouth or in the muscle commonly used to treat bacterial infections in cats, dogs, and off label in small mammals, birds, and reptiles. Common side effects include vomiting, diarrhea, and lack of appetite. It should not be used in growing or dehydrated pets, or in cats with kidney disease. Use cautiously in pets with seizures, liver, or kidney disease. If a negative reaction occurs, please call your veterinary office.

  • Ferrets are true carnivores and cannot handle a diet containing more than 4% fiber. There are several good commercial ferret foods available that are dry foods. Ferrets have a very quick gut transit time (the time from eating to defecating) of three to four hours, so they appear to eat and defecate constantly. Fresh water should be available all the time.

  • The preferred basic diet for guinea pigs is unlimited amounts of Timothy or other low-calcium hay, supplemented with smaller amounts of a commercial, high-fiber, Timothy-hay based guinea pig pellets. The diet should be supplemented with a variety of fresh, well-washed, leafy greens or colored vegetables; especially those high in vitamin C. Guinea pigs cannot manufacture their own vitamin C, therefore it is important that guinea pigs receive a vitamin C tablet or liquid vitamin C directly by mouth every day. Provide fresh clean water in a sipper bottle and check the tube for blockages each day.

  • All pet rodents must be fed a good, high quality rodent chow available at pet stores. Many veterinarians also recommend offering hay and fresh vegetables to rodents to encourage chewing and the wearing down of their continuously growing teeth. Diets containing seeds and nuts are not recommended, as they are high in fat and low in nutrition. Water may be offered in a bowl or in a sipper bottle. Seeds, nuts, pasta, unsalted popcorn, or a whole grain cracker can be offered as occasional treats. You can also feed your rodent fresh, well-cleaned vegetables daily and occasionally give a small amount of fruit. Unlike most pets, guinea pigs do not make their own vitamin C and should be fed a commercial high fiber guinea pig pellet with added vitamin C. Chew toys made from hard wood are commercially available in pet stores for rodents and should be offered to help prevent overgrowth of the incisors.

  • Rabbits are herbivores and are considered grazers. Rabbits should have a daily diet of mostly hay, a smaller amount of fresh vegetables, and a limited number of pellets. Hay is the most important part of a rabbit's daily intake. A common cause of obesity and soft stool is over-feeding pellets. Rabbits should be fed and provided with fresh water daily; hay should be available at all times. A pet rabbit’s diet should be supplemented with a variety of leafy green vegetables every day. The high sugar content in fruits (and even carrots) may upset the normal GI tract bacteria if given in excess. Rabbits engage in coprophagy, which means they eat their own feces at night. These fecal pellets are called cecotropes and serve as a rich source of nutrients, specifically protein and vitamins B and K.

  • Ferrets commonly get infestations of an ear mite called Otodectes cynotis. Many ferrets show no symptoms of infestation. Subsequent problems of the ears are rare. Ear mites are acquired from other affected animals at the breeders, in pet stores or animal shelters.