Illustrated Articles

Small Mammals + Care & Wellness

  • Many owners of small mammals are surprised to learn that all pets need at least an annual checkup. Exotic pet veterinarians typically recommend check-ups at least once a year for young, healthy pets and twice a year for geriatric animals. During a check-up your veterinarian may recommend diagnostic testing, including blood testing, fecal analysis, microbiological testing, and radiography. While most of diagnostic tests can be performed on awake animals, depending on the species and temperament of the pet, some exotic pet veterinarians recommend performing these tests under short-acting gas anesthesia.

  • Cheyletiellosis in rabbits is a condition caused by the common rabbit mite, Cheyletiella parasitovorax. This mite’s effects are sometimes called "walking dandruff" because they are large, whitish mites that crawl across the skin and hair of a rabbit and cause excessive flaky skin. Other clinical signs of cheyletiellosis include itching, scratching, and hair/fur loss. This species of mites can live in the environment for a short time and affect people and other animals, so it is important to follow your veterinarian's recommendations for treating the environment and all pets in the household.

  • This handout provides basic guidelines for feeding a pet chinchilla a healthy and balanced diet tailored to the specific needs of chinchillas.

  • Chinchillas can make fun, enjoyable pets. They can live 15-20 years, so the family must plan for a long-term commitment. They require a cage with a wheel to run in to help them maintain their health and strength. Yearly veterinary examinations are highly advised as they are very good at hiding symptoms of illness.

  • Chinchillas are generally hardy animals but can have several unique problems; understanding them will help you care for your pet and manage potential health problems.

  • The cage should allow the chinchilla to move around a lot, as they are very active, agile, and acrobatic animals. Multilevel cages, similar to those designed for ferrets, work well, as long as there are no areas where a chinchilla could get its limbs or feet caught. Most owners house one or two pets in a cage; often the two pets are mates. Chinchillas require a dust bath for normal grooming. Cages should be emptied and cleaned at least weekly with soap and water.

  • Hospitals providing curbside care have restructured their practice to avoid the need for clients to enter the lobby and exam rooms. This is designed to promote physical (social) distancing and reduce the spread of COVID-19. Curbside care offers a number of benefits for you and your pet. By eliminating the need for you to enter the hospital, potential COVID-19 outbreaks are reduced. The veterinary team is protected under a curbside care model, and in turn, so is your pet. Even in curbside care, you will have an opportunity to speak with your veterinarian in order to discuss findings and recommendations. To help the curbside appointment go smoothly, bring a written list of concerns or fill in any forms your practice has sent to you prior to the appointment. Curbside care truly is in the best interests of you and your pet.

  • Ferrets are carnivores and cannot handle a diet containing more than 4% fiber. A good quality ferret diet should contain 32-40% protein and 10-15% fat. There are several good commercial dry foods for ferrets.

  • 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.