A pet doesn’t have to initially cost a lot money to be a beloved member of your family…and to deserve proper veterinary care when they are ill. Rats, rabbits, and guinea pigs all have their own needs.
Pet rats are intelligent, inquisitive, clean, and gentle and often form bonds with their human caregivers. When they become sick, it’s important that you take them to see your local exotic veterinarian: someone who is knowledgeable about common rat health issues and diseases.
All rats are born with and carry Mycoplasma Pulmonis. This is a respiratory disease that may affect your rat at some point in its life, however some rats may go their entire lives without showing symptoms. Flare ups of
Mycoplasma may be caused by several factors such as a weakened immune system, poor living conditions/husbandry issues, and stress.
Symptoms can include; sneezing, wheezing, red nasal and ocular discharge, sniffling, difficulty breathing and even lethargy. If your rat is displaying all or any of these symptoms it’s very important to take them to the vet. If left untreated, this respiratory disease could prove fatal.
Tumors (Benign and Malignant):
Rats by nature are very susceptible to the development of tumors. Some are more common than others, of course. For example, mammary tumors are common in rats because of their widely distributed mammary tissue. These tumors can be benign or malignant.
Your veterinarian will likely recommend surgical removal of the tumor, since some types of tumors can grow and spread to other locations in the body. Tumors can severely limit a rat’s mobility if they’re allowed to grow too large. It is best to remove the tumors as soon as possible in order to avoid the worst complications. Chances of recurrence may also be minimized if the tumor is removed early; and in the case of female rats, if an ovariohysterectomy is performed at the same time as the mass removal.
Looking for a pet who is as interactive as a puppy but not as demanding? What about a bunny? Rabbits make wonderful pets in the right situations. If you live in a small home, don’t have very young children, and don’t want to have to walk a pet but have time to play with it, you might want to consider a rabbit. Like rats, rabbits can come with their own unique veterinary needs.
Rabbits’ teeth never stop growing and, as a result, they may sometimes become overgrown. Luckily, overgrown teeth can be treated with prompt veterinary care. Take your rabbit to a rabbit-friendly vet (like our vets here at Oakview) and then follow any aftercare instructions. To prevent overgrown teeth, feed your rabbit a healthy diet (lots of Timothy hay!) and provide it with appropriate objects to chew.
This condition is said to have occurred when a rabbit’s digestive system slows down, and digested food is unable to move as usual through the gastrointestinal tract. Symptoms include decreased or no fecal output, reduced appetite, lethargy, and abdominal discomfort. It is often referred to as a ‘silent killer’ as it is a fatal condition that can cause sudden death to your pet within a short time. It is common in middle-aged to older rabbits that have been fed poor diets, but it can affect a rabbit of any age, breed, and gender.
Proper feeding helps to prevent this problem from occurring. A rabbit’s diet needs to consist of foods with the right amount of fiber along with moisture to keep the digestive tract functioning properly (lots of Timothy hay and fresh, leafy greens). If your rabbit is showing any of the above signs of GI stasis, contact your exotic veterinarian immediately!
Given their relatively low-maintenance care, unique personalities, strong ability to bond with their owners and generally long lifespans, guinea pigs make terrific first pets for families. Although generally healthy and hardy little pets, guinea pigs are susceptible to illness and disease just like any other pet. Like rabbits, guinea pigs can suffer from gastrointestinal stasis. Below are two other common piggy health concerns.
Respiratory Issues – Pneumonia:
Pneumonia is one of the most significant diseases of pet guinea pigs and can be caused by several bacteria, including Bordetella and Streptococcus. Guinea pigs can naturally harbor these bacteria and may be asymptomatic (appearing healthy) carriers. These bacteria tend to be ‘opportunistic,’ meaning they infect susceptible animals, multiply, and cause disease if the opportunity arises.
Stress, such as overcrowding, pregnancy, and the presence of other illness, increases the chance that infection will develop, and young animals are most often affected (think young guinea pigs from the local pet store). The bacteria are spread by direct contact, airborne particles, and on contaminated hands or other objects. Infected guinea pigs may be off food, have discharge from the eyes or nose, sneeze, or have trouble breathing. By maintaining a healthy living environment for your guinea pigs and caring for their overall health (with help from your veterinarian), you will ensure your guinea pigs live happy and healthy lives without respiratory problems.
Guinea pigs are very prone to development of urinary calculi (stones). These stones most often form in the bladder but may also form in the kidneys or ureters (tubes that drain the kidneys into the bladder). Stones may become lodged in the ureter or the urethra (the tube carrying urine from the bladder to the outside), causing a life-threatening obstruction.
Bladder infections can occur, especially in female guinea pigs, and often stones develop in association with an infection. Signs of urinary problems often include anorexia (not eating), blood in the urine, straining to urinate, a hunched posture (with straining), and small, frequent urinations; if an obstruction occurs, the guinea pig will be unable to produce urine. Any guinea pig with signs of a urinary tract problem should be seen by a knowledgeable veterinarian right away. Regular, annual veterinary check-ups can help detect problems, such as urinary tract stones, in guinea pigs before they develop into life-threatening emergencies.
The dollar cost for most of these pint-sized pets is low, and the cost of housing and accessories throughout their lives is also relatively low. But their value shouldn’t be measured in dollars and cents. Unfortunately, according to the National Pet Owners Survey, only two out of 10 owners consult a veterinarian for a small pet.* The virtues of these little critters far exceed their size, so it really is worth investing time, emotion, and financial resources into their care.
Call Oakview Vet to schedule a Wellness exam for your little furry exotic today!
*according to the APPA (American Pet Products Association) website and their ‘National Pet Owners Survey 2017-2018’.
by Lindsey Truikys
Lindsay has been an assistant at Oakview since 2017. She comes to us from the prestigious Anti-Cruelty Society in Chicago and has a degree in zoology. She is passionate about rescuing animals of all species! Currently she has 4 rescued pets. She is smart, unique, and overflowing with compassion!