Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Small Pet Care: Health check-ups

When small pets (rabbits, ferrets, guinea pigs, hamsters, rats, mice, gerbils, chinchillas, etc.) get sick or hurt, by the time symptoms become obvious is generally too late. So giving your pet health check ups regularly and keeping up with grooming is necessary and could save your pet's life.

What are these check ups?

Basically these "check ups" are you (the owner) regularly checking your pet for anything that could be wrong health wise. You can also take them to the vet too, but every week or so you want to make sure to give your pet a little check up.

What am I looking for?

When giving your pet a health check up here is what to check:

Condition of the fur: check for:
 odd discoloration (besides stains from the litter box!), missing patches of fur, greasy feeling (that just means that they need a bath)

Condition of the skin: check for:
 lumps, bumps, scabs, discoloration, red spots, fleas or other bugs, dandruff, bleeding, scratches, cuts, swelling

Teeth: check for:
excessive length, odd discoloration, crookedness, twisted teeth, curling teeth (twisted and curling teeth does not apply to ferrets, only to the critters with constantly growing teeth), broken teeth

Ears: check for:
redness, swelling, cuts and scratches, bleeding, flaking skin in the ears, debris (especially in ferrets there ears need cleaning from time to time), cold ears (cold ears only applies to rabbits, and only if they are constantly cold)

Eyes: check for:
mucus (in rats, mice, and gerbils mucus looks like blood, so if they look like they have bloody eyes or noses, it is probably mucus), cloudy eyes, any wounds, swellings, irritation (animal is constantly holding eye shut)

Nose: check for:
mucus (again rats, mice, and gerbils all have red mucus that looks like blood, so don't get confused) any wounds or irritations

Feet: check for: 
swelling, redness, bleeding, favoring a foot, excessively long or curling nails (that means you need to start clipping them!) 

And yes, check the litter box (or just the cage if you don't use a litterbox): check for:

blood in urine (note: rabbit urine often turns orange or red once exposed to the air, this is not blood), soft stools, constant excessive calcium deposits (only applies to rabbits, they always have calcium deposits in their urine, but if there is a lot of it and it is thick, then there is a problem!), 

Make sure you always make sure that they are eating and drinking normally and behaving normally as well.

If you see any of the things mentioned above, contact a veterinarian that works with small animals right away. (with the exception of greasy fur and long nails that just means they need some more grooming!)

Here is a list of some common health problems:

symptoms: excessive itching, dandruff, loss of fur, swellings, scabs, redness of skin, bleeding, and scratched skin, head shaking

try to catch this quick! other wise it is a huge pain to deal with!

symptoms: swollen, red, or bleeding feet
This is most common in guinea pigs and rabbits, but any small animal can get it. Because rabbits and guinea pigs don't have pads on their feet like cats and dogs, their feet can easily become irritated from excessive urine in the cage, or walking on rough surfaces and wire floors. Note: rabbits often have small pink callouses on their feet, and should not be a problem unless they start to swell, redden, or bleed, or seems to cause the rabbit pain.

If the feet are not bleeding or seriously injured, making sure they have soft surfaces, and a clean cage may solve the problem. If it persists go to a vet for medication. And if it is bleeding and serious definitely go to a vet right away.

bloating/ GI (gastreo-intestinal) stasis:
this is most common in rabbits because they cannot vomit and the unique design of their digestive system. The symptoms are: loss of appetite, animal seems to be in pain, swelling (bloating) of the stomach, not eating or drinking or using the litter box.

symptoms: mucus in eyes, mucus in nose, sneezing, lethargy
Yep, critters get colds too, but they may be severe and could cause death.

Misaligned teeth
symptoms: crooked, curling, or excessively long teeth, and lack of appetite
This is very common in rabbits as well as guinea pigs and sometimes even rats, hamsters, gerbils, mice etc. The vet will tell you what needs to be done, but most often the vet will need to regularly clip the teeth for you so that your pet will be able to eat. 
Note: ferrets cannot get this

Note: health check ups may be tricky with hamsters, gerbils, and mice. I find that watching them yawn to look at their teeth and taking a look at them when they are in a clear exercise ball is helpful. 

1 comment:

  1. Sounds as if you have to become very familiar with your critter and look for anything out of the ordinary. Guess it pays to do your research, know what normal is and spend plenty of time with your pet. You've obviously done your homework!
    -Old Animal Lover
    p.s. - Hmm, I noticed those references to ferrets again....