Illustrated Articles

Medical Conditions

  • Pet birds often become ill when they are not cared for or fed appropriately. Birds can develop infections with bacteria such as Chlamydia psittaci and parasites such as Giardia. They also commonly suffer from reproductive problems, such as egg binding and reproductive tumors. Many feather-pick when psychologically stressed or sexually frustrated. Birds on all-seed, high-fat diets may become obese and develop fatty liver syndrome. Older birds may develop cloacal papillomas or cancer. Your veterinarian familiar with birds will formulate an appropriate diagnostic and treatment plan if your pet bird becomes ill.

  • Turtles commonly suffer from vitamin A deficiency, respiratory diseases, abscesses, shell infections, shell fractures, and parasites. Vitamin A deficiency (hypovitaminosis A) occurs as a result of feeding turtles an inappropriate diet. Symptoms include a lack of appetite, lethargy, swelling of the eyelids, swelling of the ear, kidney failure, and respiratory infections. Respiratory tract infections are most often caused by bacteria. Abscesses are treated surgically and may also require antibiotics. Shell infections can be challenging to treat. Gastrointestinal parasites are treated with appropriate deworming medications. Seek immediate veterinary care if there is any deviation from normal in your aquatic turtle.

  • Turtles commonly suffer from vitamin A deficiency, respiratory diseases, abscesses, shell infections and fractures, and parasites. Vitamin A deficiency occurs as a result of feeding turtles an inappropriate diet. Symptoms include a lack of appetite, lethargy, swelling of the eyelids, swelling of the ear, kidney failure, and respiratory infections. Respiratory tract infections are most often caused by bacteria. Abscesses are treated surgically. Shell infections can be challenging to treat. Gastrointestinal parasites are treated with appropriate deworming medications. Seek immediate veterinary care if there is any deviation from normal in your pet turtle.

  • Common conditions of pet snakes include infectious stomatitis, parasites, skin infections, inclusion body disease, respiratory disease, and septicemia. Infectious stomatitis may not be a primary disease but may be secondary to an injury to the mouth or to husbandry issues such as poor nutrition, improper environmental temperature or humidity, or overcrowding. Both internal parasites and external parasites may cause diarrhea, breathing difficulties, regurgitation, swelling of internal organs, itching, skin irritation, anemia, mouth infection, and weight loss. Cryptosporidiosis can cause thickening of the stomach muscles, impaired digestion, vomiting, and weight loss. Dermatitis is often seen in snakes kept in environments that are too moist and/or dirty. Inclusion body disease is a serious viral disease in which affected snakes cannot right themselves when placed on their backs, may appear to be star gazing, and may be paralyzed. Most respiratory infections in snakes are caused by bacteria but may also be caused by viruses, fungi, and parasites. Septicemia in snakes occurs when bacteria and their toxins proliferate in the blood stream causing lethargy, lack of appetite, open-mouth breathing, red discoloration to the scales, and death.

  • Anorexia means lack of appetite or refusal to eat. Anorexia can be a normal condition associated with the breeding season, egg bearing, or shedding. Anorexia can also be a symptom of an underlying environmental problem or diseases including infectious stomatitis, internal parasites, gastrointestinal blockage, intestinal infections, respiratory disease, kidney or liver failure, tumors, or gout. Salmonella can cause severe gastrointestinal disease or life-threatening septicemia. Many animals and people carry these bacteria without showing any clinical signs, yet they shed the bacteria in their feces and serve as a source of infection for others. Snakes commonly develop lumps and bumps either on their skin or within their bodies. External lumps may be caused by abscesses, tumors, or parasites. Internal swellings can be caused by organ enlargement, retained eggs in species of snakes that lay eggs, tumors, or even constipation. A healthy, well-maintained snake will shed its skin in one piece. Some snakes experience difficult or improper shedding. Burns occur with pet snakes when the animal, naturally seeking a warm place to rest, either finds a place that is too hot or stays in that hot spot too long. Offering live prey to a snake should be avoided, as live prey can cause severe bites and life-threatening injuries to the snake. Dystocia occurs when a female snake is unable to pass eggs and may require medical or surgical procedures.

  • COVID-19 is a disease caused by the coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. Current evidence suggests that person-to-person spread is the main source of infection. While there is evidence of transmission from humans to dogs and cats, it does not appear to be a common event at this time. If you suspect that you are ill with COVID-19, you should practice the same precautions with your pet as you would with people: wear a mask, keep your distance, wash your hands regularly, and avoid cuddling and other close contact. If your pet needs veterinary care while you are sick with COVID-19, do not take your pet to your veterinary clinic yourself.

  • Crop infections in birds are not as common as they once were, but are still a potentially dangerous condition in all avian species. A slowing or stoppage of crop motility can be caused by bacteria, yeast and a variety of viruses. Early veterinary attention is essential to help treat this condition.

  • Rabbits have incisors plus molars in the back of the mouth for grinding and chewing. Rabbits also have two small, tube-shaped incisors (peg teeth) behind the large upper incisors. Since the teeth continuously grow, the upper teeth must meet the lower teeth to allow for proper wearing of tooth surfaces, preventing overgrowth. All teeth must meet and wear at the same rate as they are growing, or malocclusion with resultant improper tooth wear, and overgrowth of the incisors and/or molars, can occur. Overgrown teeth can cause many problems. leading to pain and infection. Rabbits with chronic dental problems need regular veterinary care including repeated dental filings. Feeding rabbits a diet of mainly high-fiber hay to promote chewing and teeth wear may help reduce the development of dental problems.

  • Common conditions of pet ferrets include diarrhea, intestinal foreign bodies, parasites, heart disease, and various tumors. This handout outlines the causes, clinical signs, and treatment options for each of these conditions. Any variation from normal should be a cause for concern and should be immediately evaluated by your veterinarian.

  • Common conditions of pet rabbits include upper respiratory tract infections, internal and external parasites, dental disease, GI stasis, uterine problems, and pododermatitis. Upper respiratory infections are often caused by bacteria including Pasteurella multocida. Rabbits can become infected with various intestinal parasites, as well as external parasites such as ear and fur mites, fleas, and occasionally ticks. Rabbits’ teeth are continuously growing but chewing food, as well as chewing on wooden blocks, branches, and toys, helps them wear their teeth down at a rate equal to their growth. Occasionally, tooth or jaw trauma or disease causes misalignment of the upper and lower jaws and overgrowth of teeth results. Regular yearly check-ups enables early diagnosis and treatment of some rabbit diseases. Whenever a rabbit stops eating, for whatever reason, it is important to take her to see your veterinarian immediately for an evaluation.