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Adrenal Gland Disease in Ferrets

Adrenal Gland Disease in Ferrets

Adrenal Gland

  • Endocrine gland that sits above the kidneys
  • Divided into a cortex and a medulla
  • Main responsibility is to regulate the stress response through the synthesis of corticosteroids (i.e. cortisol) and catecholamines (i.e. adrenaline)

Adrenal Cortex

 Adrenal cortex is divided into 3 zones:

  • Zona glomerulosa: Main site for production of mineralocorticoids, namely aldosterone
  • Zona fasciculate: Mainly responsible for producing glucocorticoids (cortisol)
  • Zona reticularis: Produces androgens (estrogen, testosterone)

Stages of Adrenocortical Disease in Ferrets

  1. Adrenal hyperplasia:
  • Increase in the size of the adrenal cells resulting in an increase in the amount of hormones produced by the adrenal cortex
  1. Adrenal adenoma:
  • Benign tumor arising from the cortex of the adrenal gland
  1. Adenocarcinoma:
  • Malignant (cancerous) tumor arising from the cortex of the adrenal gland

Causes of Adrenocortical disease

  • The exact causes of the changes in adrenal glands that lead to adrenocortical disease is unknown
  • Several possible hypotheses:
  • Early age of sterilization (typically between 4-6 weeks of age)
  • Prolonged photoperiods
  • Genetic component due to inbreeding
  • Diet

Signs of Adrenocortical Disease

  • Hair loss (alopecia)
  • Vulva swelling in females
  • Enlarged prostate in males and urethral obstruction
  • Increased sexual aggression (males often grab and drag females by the nape of the neck)
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Pruritus (itchiness)
  • Thinning of the skin
  • Lethargy
  • Enlarged adrenal glands

GnRH Feedback Loop


Negative Feedback of GnRH

  • The absence of normal gonadal secretion of estrogen and other androgens in neutered/spayed ferrets results in a lack of negative feedback on the hypothalamus, causing continuous secretion of GnRH and continuous stimulation of the hormonal cascade
  • The continuously secreted GnRH in turn stimulates the pituitary gland, which consequently secretes Luteinizing Hormone (LH) and Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH)
  • If ferrets incorporate gonadal cells into the adrenal gland, LH and FSH will stimulate an increased secretion of sex hormones by the adrenal gland, thus resulting in the adrenal gland changes that result in adrenocortical disease


  • Ferrets are descended from the European polecat, who inhabit a region of the world where there are long periods of darkness
  • Ferrets in the United States are exposed to less definitive seasonal photoperiods
  • Ferrets kept at light cycles longer than 8 hours have been reported to have increased GnRH and LH production, increasing the risk of adrenal disease


  • Melatonin’s exact mechanism of action is poorly understood, but it does inhibit GnRH secretion from the hypothalamus
  • Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland within the brain during dark hours
  • It is thought that ferrets experiencing artificially prolonged photoperiods may become deficient in melatonin, increasing their likelihood of development of adrenal disease
  • Keeping your ferret in a dark room will increase their melatonin production and reduce the risk of adrenal disease development

Treatment Options for Adrenal Disease


Ferretonin is a melatonin implant about the size of a grain of rice that is injected under the skin of your ferret between the shoulder blades


Melatonin is a natural inhibitor of GnRH. By inhibiting GnRH, the production of LH and FSH is reduced, preventing their negative effect on the adrenal gland. The implant is broken down by the body and eliminated, and must be administered repeatedly with the return of adrenal disease signs (i.e. hair loss)


Lupron is a long-acting GnRH analog. It can relieve clinical symptoms of adrenal disease for 2-8 months. Lupron is administered by injection every 1 or 4 months. Lupron functionally imitates GnRH stimulating the release of FSH and LH from the pituitary gland and ultimately the production of estrogen and testosterone, which negatively inhibits any further release of GnRH from the hypothalamus. Consequently, Lupron in the long-term will decrease the production of the sex hormones that facilitate adrenal disease


Deslorelin is a GnRH-agonist that stops the production of sex hormones (testosterone and estrogen). Deslorelin is an implant that is injected under the skin of the ferret between the shoulder blades, allowing the continuous, low-level release of the drug. Unlike Lupron and Ferretonin, Deslorelin only has to be administered every 18 months to 2 years. Deslorelin works by inhibiting the synthesis and release of LH and FSH by the pituitary gland, decreasing the effect of these hormones on the adrenal gland


Surgical removal of the adrenal gland is the only definitive treatment for adrenal disease but is performed only if the other treatment approaches are no longer effective. Removal of the right adrenal gland is considered more challenging because it is found attached to the caudal vena cava (great vessel which transports the bulk of deoxygenated blood back to the heart). Removal often results in significant blood loss. Most veterinarians in turn debulk the majority of the right adrenal gland. This often leaves hormone-secreting tissue and the tumor in turn often continues to grow and produce clinical signs. The use of drugs (mitotane, ketoconazole, or streptozocin) currently utilized to treat hyperadrenocorticism in humans, dogs, and cats is unsuccessful in ferrets as it targets a different layer in the adrenal cortex that is not affected with ferret adrenal disease

New Surgical Option Used at AEAC

2-surgery technique: The first surgery involves the placement of a 5-mm ameroid constrictor ring just distal to the adrenal gland around the caudal vena cava. Ameroid constrictor rings are stainless steel rings that have a nearly closed C-shape. The inner part of the ring is a synthetic colloid (ameroid) that swells slowly as it contacts abdominal fluid and stimulates the inflammatory process. The C-shape forms a complete ring during surgery when the steel key is seeded between the ameroid and steel wall. The second surgery is performed 1-3 months later in order to allow collateral circulation to develop. During the second surgery, the ameroid constrictor ring is removed, as well as a portion of the caudal vena cava and associated adrenal gland and the caudate process of the liver. Thus far, there has been 8 successful cases out of 9 procedures performed with no mortality

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Basic Rabbit Facts

Basic Rabbit Facts

Lifespan: 7-10 years


  • Grass or timothy hay: Free choice (90% of diet; alfalfa is not preferred).
  • Green leafy vegetables: A loose pile the size of the rabbit’s head; good choices are: kale, turnip greens, parsley, broccoli leaves are best.


  • 24” x 24” x 18” - high for small breeds
  • 36” x 36” x 36” - high for larger breeds
  • A solid floored area is needed but solid walled cages should be avoided.

Temperature: 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit, keep humidity low.

Litter training: Start with a small area and place your litter box in a corner (it’s best to pick a corner where the rabbit has already used). Reward your pet when it uses the box and never punish him when he is in the litter box.

Schedule of Care: 

  • Annual physical examination
  • Spay/neuter at 3-6 months of age
  • Nail trims as needed if unable to trim at home

Common Medical Problems:

  • Cancer in female rabbits: Prevent by spaying your rabbit at a young age.
  • Aggressiveness and urine spraying: Prevent by neutering your rabbit at a young age.
  • Overgrown teeth due to malalignment: Trim teeth every 3-8 weeks if malaligned.
  • Diarrhea: True diarrhea is uncommon but soft stools are common. Intermittent soft stools are normal, with the soft stool occurring at night and hard stools occurring during the day. Rabbits may eat these stools, which is normal behavior. Sudden diet changes or a low fiber diet may cause persistent soft stools. Introduce new food slowly and follow the diet recommendations listed above.
  • Pasteurellosis: Pasteurella multocida commonly inhabits rabbit sinuses. When stressed, these bacteria can overgrow and cause infection throughout the body. With any signs of illness, have your rabbit examined. Commonly seen signs are runny nose, loss of appetite, decreased activity, abnormal head posture, and skin lesions.
  • Chyletiella (Fur mite): Causes excessive hair loss and dander. A veterinarian’s treatment is needed.
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Chinchilla Care and Facts

Chinchilla Care and Facts


  • Chinchillas are native to the Andes Mountains in South America. In the wild, they live in burrows and rock crevices.
  • Chinchillas are intelligent and active. They are affectionate, playful animals that bond quickly to their owners.
  • Average lifespan is up to 10 years, but a few make it to 20 years.
  • Chinchilla teeth grow continuously. Chewing hay shortens the teeth.
  • Males weigh between 400-500 grams, females 400-600 grams.
  • When frightened, chinchillas may loose a large amount of fur. This is called a fur slip.


  • The bigger the better, as chinchillas require a lot of space. The cage should be large enough to accommodate feeding supplies, hide boxes, toys, and allow plenty of room to move around. Chinchilla urine is high in ammonia, which is irritating to the lungs, so they need to be able to move away from where they urinate. Caging should be tall enough to allow them to jump and climb.
  • The cage should have multiple levels.
  • Use solid bottom cages with wire sides for ventilation. Cover the cage bottom with several inches of Carefresh (crumbled soft paper).
  • Dust baths are necessary to counterbalance their naturally oily skin and to maintain a beautiful soft fur. Commercial or volcanic dust baths should be offered several times per week for 20-30 minutes.
  • Temperature range needs to be 65-80F. The combined temperature and humidity must always be below 150.
  • Thoroughly clean the cage and change the substrate 1-2 times weekly.
  • Aromatic cedar and pine shavings are not recommended. They contain resins that may be irritating to the skin and lungs of chinchillas.
  • Never put a cage in direct sunlight or drafty area.


  • Feed an unlimited amount of Timothy hay.
  • Pellets are not part of the natural diet. They do not provide the long-stem fiber needed for intestinal health or tooth maintenance, and can lead to obesity. If you choose to feed pellets, use Timothy based pellets and limit to 1-2 Tbsp per day.
  • It is not recommended to feed alfalfa hay or pellets. Alfalfa is high in fat and calcium, which can predispose your chinchilla to certain diseases.
  • Offer fresh, clean water daily in a water bottle with a sipper tube.
  • Sweet treats, fruit, and seeds are unhealthy and can lead to digestive problems and obesity, even when given in small amounts.

Common Medical Problems:

  • Obesity - Prevent with proper diet and exercise.
  • Dental disease (infection, overgrown teeth, sharp points on teeth) - Causes include improper diet, genetics, and trauma. Signs include decreased appetite, drooling, grinding teeth, and eye or nasal discharge.
  • Gastrointestinal stasis (decreased motility of stomach and intestinal contents through system) - Signs include decreased appetite, decreased fecal production, hunched posture, distended abdomen, and lethargy. Prompt medical attention is required.
  • Diarrhea - Causes include bacterial, fungal, and parasitic infections. Diarrhea can lead to dehydration, weight loss, and electrolyte imbalances.
  • Heat Stroke - Chinchillas are extremely susceptible. Signs include being in a hot environment, salivating, shallow breathing, and lethargy.
  • Physical examinations are recommended every 12 months.
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Feeding Adult Guinea Pigs

Feeding Adult Guinea Pigs

 Guinea pigs are well developed at birth and are able to eat an adult diet within a few months. They are strict herbivores, which means that they only eat plants. Like rabbits, guinea pigs are hindgut fermenters that practice coprophagy (ingestion of one’s own feces).

Digestive System

Coprophagy may be a source of B vitamins and a means of optimizing protein utilization. However, its precise contribution to the nutritional needs of guinea pigs is not fully known.

As hind gut fermenters, guinea pigs digest much of their food in the cecum and colon (large intestine), which are at the end of the digestive tract. The cecum, a large, thin-walled sac located at the junction of the small and large intestine, contains up to 65% of gastrointestinal (GI) contents. Within the cecum, bacteria and protozoa aid digestion of foods taken in by the guinea pig.


Fiber is needed for these bacteria and protozoa within the cecum to stay in balance and function properly. Fiber also aids in maintaining normal GI motility or movement. Without fiber, the gastrointestinal tract slows down, resulting in subsequent changes in the cecum pH, fermentation, and bacterial population. With time, these changes in the intestinal tract environment can lead to indigestion.

You can provide this essential fiber by feeding your guinea pig free choice grass hay. Oxbow recommends feeding unlimited quantities of timothy, brome, orchard, or oat hay. Hay also helps prevent boredom by satisfying your guinea pig’s innate desire to chew, which is an important means of dental health maintenance.

In addition to hay, Oxbow’s Cavy Cuisine is a high-fiber pelleted diet, which contains stabilized vitamin C and is designed to meet the specific nutritional needs of your guinea pig.

Health Concerns

Guinea pigs are becoming a more valued, loved, and cared for pet in the eyes of their owners. As a result, veterinary care for guinea pigs has increased. Veterinarians seeing guinea pigs are noticing several health problems attributed to nutrition: vitamin C deficiency, gastrointestinal ileus, obesity, enteritis, and urolithiasis.

Vitamin C deficiency

Signs of vitamin C deficiency (scurvy) include:

  • Hind leg weakness
  • Gum inflammation
  • Unkempt fur coat
  • Bleeding in the joints or under the skin.

Like humans, guinea pigs are unable to produce their own vitamin C and require a dietary source. Daily requirements of vitamin C range from 20-50 mg per kg of body weight.

In order to prevent vitamin C deficiency and subsequent scurvy, Oxbow recommends feeding your guinea pig Cavy Cuisine, a pelleted diet containing stabilized vitamin C. Offering one of Oxbow’s GTN-50C™ tablets on a daily basis will also ensure your guinea pig is receiving all the vitamin C he/she needs.

Gastrointestinal Ileus

Gastrointestinal ileus (malfunction of the digestive tract due to gut slowdown) is commonly seen in guinea pigs on low-fiber diets. Often, pet owners do not notice the signs associated with gastrointestinal slowdown until it is too late. Decreased appetite, a bloated or tense abdomen, along with lethargy and a decrease in the volume and size of feces passed are all signs of gastrointestinal ileus.

Diets that incorporate high levels of non-digestible fiber in the form of free choice grass hay promote increased gut motility and thereby prevent this gut slowdown. Oxbow’s Cavy Cuisine is made from high-quality timothy hay that provides the appropriate fiber needed for healthy digestive system function.


Obesity in guinea pigs can lead to respiratory, heart, and liver disease. Typical guinea pig feeds on the market contain high levels of fat, commonly over 3% and as high as 5%. These feeds contain corn, oats, and other grains that are designed to appeal to the consumer, but raise the starch and energy content of the food. When these high-fat foods are fed free choice, obesity can occur.

Obesity not only leads to the previously mentioned health problems, but can also prevent coprophagy, which is necessary for the maintenance of normal gastrointestinal health of the guinea pig. Cavy Cuisine was designed to prevent obesity by adding sufficient fiber, while eliminating grains that raise fat content. This combination of high fiber and low fat aids in overall digestion. The minimum fiber level of Cavy Cuisine is 25% and the maximum is 28%, providing a healthy balance of fiber and energy.


Enteritis (intestinal inflammation associated with toxin production) is a problem commonly associated with diets that contain high levels of energy (starch and glucose). A low-fiber, high-starch diet promotes gut hypomotility and changes the intestinal pH and microbial population, which allows pathogens (bad bacteria) to produce toxins that can be fatal.

The guinea pig with enteritis may have soft stools and be hunched and inactive due to increased GI gas production and the resulting abdominal pain. High-fiber, low-starch Cavy Cuisine is formulated to prevent enteritis.


Urolithiasis (bladder stones) is being seen in more and more guinea pigs. Although many are secondary to urinary tract infections, a certain percentage of stones are caused by an imbalance of calcium and phosphorus in the diet.

Grass hay is a forage feed, the natural diet for a wild guinea pig, has higher calcium to phosphorus ratio. Grains have the inverse relationship and contain more phosphorus than calcium. Research has proven that diets containing an inverse ratio of calcium and phosphorus can cause stones and soft tissue calcifications. Dietary levels of vitamin D and magnesium may also influence the development of bladder stones.

Cavy Cuisine provides the mature guinea pig with the proper calcium to phosphorus ratio and appropriate levels of vitamin D and magnesium.

Peter G. Fisher, DVM ~ Pet Care Veterinary Hospital


  1. Hillyer, EV, KE Quesenberry, and TM Donnelly. “Biology, husbandry and clinical techniques [guinea pigs and chinchillas].” Ferrets, Rabbits, and Rodents: Clinical Medicine and Surgery. Eds. Quesenberry and Hillyer. Philadelphia: WB Saunders, 1997. 243-59.
  2. Kupersmith, D. “A practical overview of small mammal nutrition.” Seminars in Avian and Exotic Pet Medicine 7:3, WB Saunders, (1998) 141-47.
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Feeding Your Pet Chinchilla

Feeding Your Pet Chinchilla

Nutrition plays a major role in keeping your pet chinchilla healthy. Fiber is of the utmost importance in preventing gastrointestinal upset and dental problems, two of the most common health issues plaguing the pet chinchilla.

The chinchilla is a medium-sized rodent whose original habitat included the semi-arid, rocky slopes of the Andes in present day Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina. Chinchillas are known for their thick lustrous, fur coats, which enable them to thrive at the cooler mountain elevations of 10,000-15,000 feet.

By studying chinchillas in their natural environment, we know that they eagerly seek out berries, herbs, and cactus fruits, as well as high-fiber foods such as grasses and the bark of small shrubs and bushes.

Natural Behavior

In order for nutrients to be extracted, chinchilla’s diet requires a large volume of food intake and prolonged chewing, both of which are important factors in maintaining the chinchilla’s gastrointestinal and dental health. In captivity, it has been shown that chinchillas ingest most of their food at night and are selective feeders: when given the choice, they will select the most tender, succulent plant parts first. If not controlled, this high-energy, lower-fiber intake will lead to obesity.

Based on our dietary knowledge of the wild chinchilla, together with studies measuring the nutritional intake of the pet chinchilla, it has been determined that the pet chinchilla does best on a diet composed of free choice (available all the time) hay and a small daily ration of pellets. This diet meets the chinchilla’s fiber and energy needs without causing obesity.

These nutritional requirements can be fulfilled by feeding your pet chinchilla with:

  • Free-choice grass hay
    • Western Timothy
    • Oat
    • Orchard
    • Brome
  • 1-2 tablespoons Oxbow Chinchilla Deluxe pellets

By providing extra energy, protein, vitamins, and minerals, Chinchilla Deluxe pellets play an important role in ensuring the nutritional balance of your chinchilla’s diet.

Digestive Health

In addition to meeting nutritional requirements, the high-roughage diet of the chinchilla is critical in helping to prevent two of the most common health disorders seen in these animals: dental disease and gastrointestinal disease. We can mimic the chinchilla’s natural high-roughage diet by feeding hay as the primary food source.

Like the rabbit and guinea pig, the chinchilla is a hindgut fermenter, meaning it digests much of its food in the cecum and colon (large intestine), which make up the end of the digestive tract. In the chinchilla, the cecum (appendix in humans) is a large blind-ended sac located at the junction of the small and large intestine. Inside the chinchilla’s cecum, specific bacterial populations aid digestion of foods.

Fiber is necessary for these bacterial populations to stay in balance and function properly. Fiber also stimulates gastrointestinal motility, which allows ingested food to move along properly for normal digestion.

Without fiber, the gastrointestinal tract slows down, resulting in changes in cecal pH, fermentation capabilities, and microorganism populations. Over time, these disruptive changes can result in various forms of chinchilla indigestion: gastrointestinal stasis, constipation, or diarrhea.

Health Concerns 

GI Stasis

The chinchilla with gastrointestinal stasis will be anorexic or have a reduced appetite and will produce very small stools or none at all. The chinchilla with constipation will strain to defecate, and the few fecal pellets passed are thin, short, round, and occasionally bloodstained.


The chinchilla with diarrhea may or may not have a reduced appetite and will pass soft stools that frequently mat the fur around the anus. Again, these forms of chinchilla gastrointestinal upset are commonly associated with inappropriate diets –diets that contain excess amounts of grains, seeds, and/or fresh greens without sufficient roughage or fiber.

Dental Disease

Dental problems, such as malocclusion, molar root overgrowth, and molar spurs, are also common in chinchillas. As in the rabbit and guinea pig, all of the chinchilla’s teeth grow continuously. Improper wearing of teeth secondary to a diet low in fiber and the lack of suitable chewing materials can result in sharp points on the upper and/or lower molars, resulting in painful ulcers on the cheek and/or tongue.

The chinchilla with dental problems often has a depressed appetite, and you may observe food dropping from its mouth as it attempts to chew. Irritation from the molar spurs may also cause increased salivation, which results in a wet matted chin (a syndrome also known as “slobbers”). Providing plenty of free choice hay ensures a normal chewing pattern, thus encouraging normal dental wear.


Chinchillas can thrive on either grass or legume hay. Veterinary nutritionists and clinicians usually recommend feeding an assortment of grass hays free choice and mixing in alfalfa hay if desired (at a 50:50 ratio), for variety and increased levels of protein and calcium. Oxbow Pet Products timothy, orchard, oat, and alfalfa hays are always fresh from the farm.


When it comes to feeding a concentrated ration, we recommend alfalfa-based pellets that contain more than 18% crude fiber and a minimum of 10% protein. Oxbow Pet Products’ Chinchilla Deluxe provides a good balance of fiber, protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals and is the pellet diet of choice for your pet chinchilla.

As a general rule, we recommend feeding 2 tablespoons (30 grams) of Chinchilla Deluxe to each adult chinchilla on a daily basis. The quantity of Chinchilla Deluxe fed to growing, pregnant, or lactating chinchillas should be increased to approximately ½ cup or more per day. Conversion from a seed/pellet mixture to this highly palatable pellet is usually simple, but a gradual conversion over a period of one to two weeks is recommended in order to prevent digestive upset.


Treats such as fresh vegetables or herbs can be offered but should be fed in limited quantities. A diet containing too many vegetables can result in diarrhea and gastrointestinal upset.

Feed no more than ½ cup of herbs or leafy green vegetables for your chinchilla each day. Some suggestions include:

  • Mint
  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Thyme
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Butter crunch
  • Red leaf lettuce
  • Cilantro
  • Carrot tops
  • Dandelion greens

Feed the same foods consistently in order to prevent digestive upset, and avoid gas-forming vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower.


Water is a fundamental necessity for the domestic chinchilla. Although city drinking water is adequate for chinchillas, excessive chlorine can be very dangerous. If tap water has a strong disinfectant smell, it should be aired in a wide receptacle for 24 hours, or filtered water should be offered. High quality bottled water is preferable to chlorinated drinking water.

It is obvious that nutrition plays a key role in keeping your pet chinchilla healthy. Fiber is of the utmost importance in preventing gastrointestinal upset and dental problems. Offering your chinchilla a continuous supply of Oxbow Pet Products’ timothy hay, mixed with alfalfa hay if desired, is one of the best ways to ensure adequate fiber intake. Be consistent with the amount of Chinchilla Deluxe fed and the type and quantity of treats offered. Your chinchilla’s digestive tract thrives on consistency, and your reward will be a pet that is active, bright, alert and healthy.

Peter G. Fisher, DVM ~ Pet Care Veterinary Hospital


  1. Donnelly TM, Schaeffer DO: Disease problems of guinea pigs and chinchillas. In: Hillyer EV and Quesenberry KQ, eds. Ferrets, Rabbits, and Rodents: Clinical Medicine and Surgery. Philadelphia, WB Saunders, p 270-281, 1997.
  2. Hoefer HL, Crossley DA: Chinchillas. In: Meredith A and Redrobe S, eds. BSAVA Manual of Exotic Pets, fourth edition. Gloucester, England, British Small Animal Veterinary Association, p 66-75, 2001.
  3. Wolf P, et al: The Nutrition of the Chinchilla as a Companion Animal-basic data, influences and dependences. Journal of Animal Physiology a. Animal Nutrition (87) p 129-133, 2003.
  4. Grau J. The chinchilla – breeding in various climates [in Spanish]. Infochin. Available at: Accessed July 28, 2002.
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Ferret Care

Ferret Care 

Ferret Basics

  • Lifespan: 5-8 years
  • Weight: Males 2-4 lbs (neutered)
  • Females 1 ½ – 2 lbs (spayed)

Housing: House ferrets in rabbit or larger sized cages. Most ferrets will use a litter box. Ferrets can be destructive if left to run free unsupervised, and will definitely eat things you may not suspect (especially if left to run unsupervised).

General Information

There are two varieties of ferrets, based on coloration:

  • “Fitch” ferrets are buff with black masks, feet, and tails.
  • “Albino” ferrets are white with pink eyes.
  • Females are called “Jills” and males are called “Hobs.”
  • Baby ferrets are called “Kits.”

Ferrets are born deaf and blind. Their period of pregnancy is 42 days. The kits’ eyes and ears open at 3-4 weeks of age. Their temporary teeth begin to erupt at 14 days of age, at which time they begin to eat solid food. The permanent teeth erupt at 47-52 days of age. The kits are weaned by the time they are 8 weeks old. They reach their adult weight at 4 months of age. The average life span of a pet ferret is 9 – 10 years.

Hobs are usually twice as large as Jills, but both sexes undergo weight fluctuations of 30-40% of their body weight. Fat is added in the fall, and lost in the spring.

Ferrets have paired musk producing glands beside the anal opening, which secretes when the animal is angry, excited, or in estrus (heat). These glands may be removed to reduce (not eliminate) the musky odor, which makes them a more pleasant pet. They do not have self-developed sweat glands, and are prone to heat strokes at temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Ferrets typically have good personalities and adapt well to human companionship, particularly if they have been raised from infancy in close human contact.

There is NO natural animosity between the ferret and the dog or cat. They are inquisitive and playful by nature. When given supervised freedom in which to satisfy their innate curiosity (and inclination to burrow), they need no special equipment. Some pet ferrets have even been trained to walk with a leash and harness. Because they tend to urinate and defecate in habitual places, they are easily trained to use a cat litter box. 


  • Kits should be dewormed at the time of initial vaccination.
  • Yearly fecal examination should be performed by your veterinarian to check for any intestinal parasites.
  • Flea products that are safe for cats should be used on ferrets.
  • Ferrets are very susceptible to ear mites and should be examined often by the owner when there are other pets are in the household, which could transfer this disease.

Ferrets - Sexuality, Diet, and Vaccinations


  • Ferrets reach sexual maturity in the spring following their birth.
  • Usually they are 9 – 12 months of age when they reach sexual maturity.
  • Breeding season is from March to August, but ferrets can be bred year-round if the light is controlled at 16 hours each day.

The Hobs’ breeding readiness is signaled by the descent of the testicles into the scrotum. The testicles remain in the scrotum ONLY during the breeding season. Unless breeding is planned, CASTRATION is RECOMMENDED at six months of age to decrease aggressiveness and the musky odor.

Onset of estrus (heat) in the Jill can be recognized by enlargement of the vulva. Ovulation is induced by copulation (breeding), and if fertilization fails to occur, a pseudo-pregnancy of 42 days will occur. Jills may remain in estrus for up to six months if copulation does NOT occur. Jills NOT INTENDED for breeding SHOULD BE SPAYED AT 6 MONTHS OF AGE!! Because they remain in heat for prolonged periods of time, a condition called HYPERESTROGENEMIA occurs. This causes fragile bones, ANEMIA, poor blood clotting, and sometimes, DEATH!


  • Pet ferrets are easily maintained with commercial cat food (dry) supplemented with occasional cooked liver or meat scraps. Ferrets have little, if any, capacity to digest fiber (basic component of most dog food). They do NOT need to eat mice or other rodents
  • Small bones should be withheld from the diet to prevent them from becoming lodged in the mouth, stomach, or intestine.
  • Fresh water, in either a cup or drinking bottle, should be available at all times.

Schedule of Care

  • 2-4 Weeks: First canine distemper vaccine
    • Optional fecal exam
  • 6-8 Weeks: (After 1stVisit) Canine distemper booster
  • 3 Months: Rabies vaccine
  • 4-8 Months: Castrate or spay
    • De-scent optional
  • Yearly: Canine distemper and rabies vaccine boosters.

After three years of age, we recommend an exam every six months with a complete workup, including yearly blood work.

* Note that neutering ferrets markedly decreases odor without de-scenting as most ferret smell is from glands in the skin. Tattoos in your ferret ears indicate he/she have already been neutered/spayed and de-scented.

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Ferret Diseases

Ferret Diseases

Ferrets are susceptible to a number of diseases, most notably canine distemper, which is considered 100% fatal. Ferrets can be protected from distemper by vaccination. After three years of age, ferrets become prone to several geriatric diseases, including adrenal neoplasia, polycystic kidneys, lymphosarcoma, insulinoma, and skin neoplasia.

Aplastic anemia: Female ferrets that are not spayed and not allowed to breed can quickly develop a fatal anemia. We recommend spaying before eight months of age, but not before six months (to potentially prevent adrenal tumors).

Green Virus Diarrhea: This is a very infectious disease thought to be caused by a coronavirus. No preventive measures are effective. Supportive care with fluids and liquid is the most important component of survival.

When your ferret reaches three years of age, we recommend an annual Geriatric Examination, which consists of:

  • Physical Examination to evaluate your ferret’s heart and lung sounds, body temperature, weight, and general condition.
  • 4-6 hour Fasting Blood Panel and Glucose/Insulinoma Test to check for kidney or liver disease, infection, or other degenerative conditions sometimes associated with advancing age.
  • Booster Vaccinations against canine distemper and rabies.
  • Optional Test may include urinalysis and stool culture.

The above Geriatric Examination will require a short stay in the hospital, so your ferret can wake up gently from anesthesia.

Abnormalities in any of the above test may lead to further diagnostic test such as:

  • Ultrasonography
  • Cardiography/echocardiography
  • Electrocardiogram

Tumors in Pet Ferrets

Pet ferrets suffer from an unusually high incidence of cancer, especially pancreatic and adrenal tumors. It is estimated that 30 to 40 percent of ferrets over the age of three have one or both tumor types. For this reason, we recommend semiannual examinations of all ferrets over the age of three. Early detection can aid in treatment of these tumors and prevent complications associated with grave prognosis.

Pancreatic tumors or insulinoma

Tumors of the pancreas produce an oversupply of insulin causing low blood sugar. Early signs include periodic weakness, weak hindquarters, profuse salivating, staring blankly into space, and weight loss. In advanced cases, ferrets are depressed for long periods of time, and may seizure or go into a coma. Diagnosis is based on demonstrating low blood sugar levels after a 4-5 hour fast.

There are several treatments for pancreatic tumors:

  1. Surgery to remove tumors. Some are easily removed, while others are so small and scattered, making complete removal impossible. During surgery, a complete exploratory is done to look for other tumors or abnormalities.
  2. Dietary therapy. Small frequent, high protein meals are fed, including meat-based baby food, cooked meat, or high protein feline supplements such as A/D.
  3. In addition to surgery and dietary therapy, one or more drugs may be added to help blood sugar elevation.

Adrenal Tumors

Tumors of the adrenal gland can be one of several tumor types. Early signs of cancer may include symmetrical hair loss, thinning skin, itchiness, and swelling of the vulva. Additionally, male ferrets can become unable to urinate. Muscles wasting and mild to severe depression are seen in advanced cases. Diagnosis is difficult because there are very few tests for this disease. Diagnosis is confirmed at surgery. Treatment options include:

  1. Surgery to remove cancerous adrenal gland. An exploratory surgery is preformed to rule out spread and other tumor types.
  2. Drug therapy to destroy tumor. This is only effective against certain types of tumors and is not recommended for ferrets that also have pancreatic tumors. 


Lymphoma is a tumor of the lymph node system. Signs of lymphoma depend on how extensive the individual tumor is and where it is causing problems. A tumor in the chest is sometimes fatal, because it severely affects breathing. Most of the time, the tumor will cause a weakened and ineffective immune system or organ damage. Chemotherapy is instituted to put this cancer in remission after extensive blood work to see if the body can handle the medication. Generally there is no surgical cure.

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Ferret House Training

Ferret House Training

Ferrets can be easily housetrained. However, many will need reminders throughout their lives, particularly if they are engaged heavily in play and a litter box is not handy.


  1. Place a small box with low sides or a similar container in a corner of the ferret’s cage. (Triangular-shaped boxes are available specifically for ferrets). It is best to use the corner that seems to be its preferred spot for urinating and defecating. Initially while the ferret is a baby, you can work on the instinctive level that ferrets do not relieve themselves in their home territory or nest.
  2. Fill container about half full with box filler such as hardwood, pine shavings, or a composite recycled pellet.
  3. Place some recently deposited feces in the litter box.
  4. When your ferret starts backing up in any corner, place it in the litter box and position it to back up in the corner with the box. Your ferret will catch on quickly. Most ferrets do make an effort to get to their box.
  5. Coach your ferret with phrases like “go potty.” Many ferrets learn verbal commands for using the box, and will go on command.
  6. Praise and reward your ferret whenever it uses the litter box. Discipline and scolding for defecating or urinating in an unacceptable spot rarely work, as it is difficult to make sure the ferret is associating the action with the discipline. A more successful approach is close supervision, coaching, and rewards for using the right place.
  7. Gradually increase the areas accessible to the ferret and provide supervision. At the first sign of the ferret’s backing up into a room corner, place it back in its litter box. It is advisable to have a litter box in every room or area where the ferret spends a great deal of time. Quick accessibility is the key. If there is no box in sight, a ferret may back up into any corner.
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Ferret Immunization Schedule

Ferret Immunization Schedule

Four to six (4-6) weeks of age:

  • Pediatric physical examination
  • CDV vaccination, if dam was not vaccinated.

Six to eight (6-8) weeks of age: 

  • Pediatric physical examination
  • CDV vaccination
  • Fecal examination for parasites
  • Deworming, if required

Nine to eleven (9-11) weeks of age:

  • Pediatric physical examination
  • CDV vaccination
  • Fecal examination for parasites
  • Deworming, if required

Twelve to fourteen (12-14) weeks of age:

  • Complete physical examination
  • CDV vaccination
  • Rabies vaccination
  • Fecal examination for parasites (optional)
  • Begin heartworm preventive

Six to Eight Months of Age:

  • Spay/Neuter if required, de-scent if required

One Year of age:

  • Complete physical examination
  • CDV vaccination
  • Rabies vaccination
  • Dental prophylaxis (optional; strongly recommended – should be done every other year)
  • Complete blood count
  • Fecal examination for parasites (if indicated)

Two and three years of age:

  • Complete physical examination
  • CDV vaccination
  • Rabies vaccination
  • Complete blood count
  • Fecal examination for parasites (if indicated)

Three years of age and older:

  • Ferrets should be examined every six months from here on
  • Complete physical examination – should be done every six months
  • CDV vaccination – annual boosters required
  • Rabies vaccination – annual boosters required
  • Dental prophylaxis – should be done every other year
  • Complete blood count – done annually
  • Fasting blood glucose – done annually
  • Fecal examination for parasites – done annually, more often if indicated
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Gerbil Care

Gerbil Care

The Mongolian gerbil (Meriones unguiculatus) is a small rodent native to the desert regions of Mongolia and Northeastern China. Gerbils are burrowing social animals that are active during the day and night. Their burrows are composed of elaborate tunnels with multiple entrances, nesting rooms, and food compartments. The native color variety is agouti, mixed brown with dark pigmented skin, light brown to white ventrum (chest and abdomen), and darker dorsal (back) coat. Other color varieties include black, white, and cinnamon. Color combinations of black or brown with a white band over the chest area are also common. Gerbils have a marking scent gland, which appears as a tan colored hairless area in the middle of their abdomen.

The gerbil is a curious, friendly, and nearly odorless rodent, which makes it a very popular pet. They have adapted well to captivity and tend to be relatively free of naturally occurring infectious diseases. These rodents rarely bite or fight, are easy to keep clean and care for, and are relatively easy to handle. These qualities make the gerbil an ideal pet. The average lifespan of a gerbil is 3-4 years.


As with any pet, good quality food and clean, fresh water must be provided at all times. In the wild, these animals feed on leaves, seeds, and roots. Current recommendations for feeding in captivity are pelleted rodent rations containing 20-22% protein. These rations are typically processed as dry clocks or pellets designed for rodents. Seed diets are also formulated and sold for gerbils, but these diets should only supplement the basic rodent pellet. Gerbils prefer sunflower-based diets to pellets, but these seeds are low in calcium while high in fat and cholesterol. When fed alone, seed diets often lead to obesity and potential nutritional deficiencies. Gerbils eat approximately 5 to 8 grams of food daily, eating both during the day and night.

Although gerbils in the wild derive most of their fluid from the foods they ingest and require little water to drink, caged gerbils must be provided with a continuous source of clean water. Inadequate water consumption can lead to infertility, lower body weight, and eventually death. Water is easily provided in water bottles equipped with sipper tubes. This method also helps keep the water free from contamination. Always make sure that the tubes are positioned low enough to allow easy access. The average adult gerbil drinks approximately 4 to 10 mL of water daily. Although this amount is only a fraction of the total bottle volume, fresh water should be provided daily, not only when the bottle empties.


The gerbil’s natural curiosity and friendly disposition makes it fairly easy to handle. Most gerbils will approach a hand introduced into their cage and can be easily scooped into the palm of the hand or picked up by grasping the base of the tail. Be careful only to grasp the gerbil by the base of the tail as the skin over the rest of the tail is easily pulled off when handled. Gerbils not accustomed to being handled may jump and run, but are rarely aggressive. Once picked up, the gerbil can be restrained with one hand using the over-the-back grip. This can be done by scruffing the loose skin over their neck between your thumb and index finger while holding the base of the tail with your fourth and fifth fingers. The gerbil may struggle when held on its back or manipulated, so be careful not to let it escape.


Several types of cages are available that are suitable for housing gerbils. Many of these units come equipped with cage furniture, such as exercise wheels, tunnels, and nest boxes as added luxuries. Such accessories, as well as sufficient litter depth within which to burrow, are desirable for the pet’s psychological wellbeing. Cages should be constructed with rounded corners to discourage chewing. Gerbils will readily chew through wood, light plastic, and soft metal. Therefore, recommended caging materials are wire, stainless steel, durable plastic, and glass. Beware that glass and plastic containers drastically reduce ventilation and can lead to problems with temperature and humidity regulation. These materials make suitable cages when at least one side of the enclosure is open for air circulation. In addition, make sure that the enclosure is escape proof.

Gerbils thrive in solid bottom cages with deep bedding and ample nesting material. Bedding must be clean, non-toxic, absorbent, relatively dust free, and easily acquired. Shredded paper or tissue, pine shavings, and processed corncobs are preferred beddings. Make sure that the wood shavings and ground corncob are free from mold, mildew, or other contamination before using. Do not use cedar chips or chlorophyll impregnated shavings, since they have been associated with respiratory and liver disease. Provide at least two inches of bedding in the cage to allow normal burrowing behavior. Cotton and shredded tissue paper make excellent nesting materials.

Adult gerbils require a minimum floor area of 36 square inches and a cage height of 6 inches. A breeding pair of gerbils requires a much larger area, approximately 180 square inches. Optimal temperature range for gerbils is between 65 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. The relative humidity should be between 30% and 50%. Twelve hour light cycles are preferred, with gerbils being roughly equally active day and night.

Gerbils are social animals that tend to cohabitate well together. The typical social interactions consist of grooming, wrestling, and communal sleeping. However, gerbils may become aggressive to intruders, and they may fight when crowded or mixed as adults. Breeding pairs are kept together, with the male even helping to raise the young.

As a rule of thumb, the cage and accessories should be thoroughly cleaned at least once every week. An exception to this schedule is when newborn babies are present, in which case you should wait until they are at lest two weeks old. Other factors that may require increased frequency of cleaning are the number of gerbils in the cage, the type of bedding material provided, and the cage design and size. Cages are sanitized with hot water and nontoxic disinfectant or detergent, and then thoroughly rinsed. Water bottles and food dishes should be cleaned and disinfected daily.


Gerbils should be paired by the time they reach sexual maturity, at 7 to 8 weeks of age. Gerbils typically form lifelong, monogamous pairs. The first mating typically occurs at about 10 to 12 weeks of age. Loss of or separation from a mate can make it difficult to rebreed a gerbil. Harem breeding of two females to one male has also been successful, but may lead to some fighting. The male gerbil participates in the care of the young. If a male is removed from the cage for an extended length of time after birth, fighting may ensure even when reintroduced a few weeks later.

The gestation period of non-lactating gerbils is 24 to 26 days on average. A fertile postpartum estrus may result in pregnancy, with a gestation length of over 30 days when the female is nursing her young. Litter size averages from 4 to 6 pups that are born blind and naked. Ears open at 3 to 7 days, hair coat develops at 7 to 10 days, incisors erupt at 12 to 14 days, and eyes open at 14 to 20 days. Weaning occurs by the age of 21 days. The estrous cycle lasts 4 to 6 days with spontaneous ovulation. Monogamous pairs may produce a new litter every 30 to 40 days, for a total of 6 to 7 litters during their reproductive lives. The female gerbil is reproductively active until about 18 months of age. Males may continue to be fertile until at least 24 months of age.

Young gerbils are rarely abandoned or cannibalized. Some factors that may lead to abandonment include small litters, excessive handling of young, lack of nesting material, and lack of an area for concealment of the nest. If a mother gerbil abandons a nest, fostering may be possible if the orphans and host litters were born within a few days of each other. Hand feeding of neonatal rodents is difficult and often unrewarding.

Non-Infectious Conditions


The gerbil has a genetic tendency to develop epileptic form seizures. The occurrence rate for the general pet population is 20 to 40%. These seizures may be initiated by fright, handling, or exposure to a new environment. The attacks can be mild (slight shaking) to very severe (violent convulsive body jerking, erratic movements, and collapse). The convulsions appear not to have any long-term effects. However, in some rare instances, death may result following very severe seizures. Anticonvulsant therapy is not recommended, and can cause more serious side effects than the seizures themselves. Frequent handling during the first few weeks of life and providing a stable environment with a complete, balanced diet can help suppress the seizures in genetically predisposed gerbils.

Tail Sloughing

Improper handling of gerbils can result in the loss of fur from the end of the tail. This occurs when the animal is grasped by the tip of the tail. The skinless tail segment dies and sloughs off, with the stump usually healing without complications. In some instances, the tail may need to be amputated.

Nasal Dermatitis (Bald Nose)

Gerbils commonly develop hair loss on the nose and muzzle with open lesions and crusting. This condition is often attributed to abrasions from coarse bedding or rough surfaces within the cage or its environment, but also the Harderian gland may be involved. The Harderian gland is located behind the eye and produces a secretion that empties onto the globe. From the eye, this material is drained into the nose through the nasolacrimal duct. The secretion is mixed with saliva and spread over the hair coat during grooming. This condition can arise if this material is over produced or not used.

Nasal dermatitis tends to affect young mature gerbils most often. It spreads from being a localized nasal hair loss to hair loss involving the face, legs, and ventral body surfaces in advanced cases. Cedar shavings used as bedding tend to worsen the condition. In severe cases, secondary bacterial infections may occur. If treated early in the course of the disease with appropriate antibiotics, this condition often resolves. However, if not attended to early, the treatment may be unrewarding. Surgical removal of the Harderian gland results in recovery of the condition, but the procedure is rarely performed. A veterinarian may recommend the use of baths to aid in removing the excessive secretions, thus resulting in partial recovery.

Disease Conditions

Renal Disease

Old gerbils, 2 ½ to 4 years of age, often present with a history of weight loss, loss of muscle mass, poor appetite, and lethargy. In addition, an increase in water consumption may be observed. These are all signs consistent with renal disease in old gerbils. Treatment is only supportive in rodents, with emphasis on providing ample fresh, clean water and food at all times to prevent stress that may trigger full renal failure.


Gerbils have a relatively high incidence of cancer after they reach 2 years of age. The organ most affected is the ovary. Ovarian tumors are common in female gerbils with poor reproduction performance. They may present with early cessation of reproduction, decreased litter size, or distended abdomens. All of these signs may also be present with cystic ovaries as well.

The skin is the second most affected site for tumors in the gerbil. Squamous cell carcinomas and melanomas are most frequently encountered. Melanomas have a tendency to develop around the ear, foot or base of the tail.

The ventral marking scent gland is the third most common site of neoplasia. This gland is located in the mid-abdominal area. It is a hairless, oval tan structure, which tends to be more prominent in males. The gland produces an orange-colored secretion, which is used to mark its territory. Tumors of this glad appear as abscesses on the abdomen. Usually the tumor is not malignant, but may have a secondary bacterial infection. Many other organs may be affected by cancer, but it occurs much less often. When possible, surgical intervention as early as possible is the treatment of choice.

Tyzzer’s Disease

The most commonly reported infectious disease of gerbils is Tyzzer’s Disease, caused by Bacillus piliformis, a gram-negative bacteria that infects living cells. The disease causes a high death rate especially in young male gerbils. Clinical signs are nonspecific, primarily consisting of ruffled fur, lethargy, hunched posture, and poor appetite. Diarrhea may also be present. The disease causes changes in the heart, liver, lymph nodes, and digestive tract, which can be observed at necropsy. Special stains of tissue samples from dead rodents can confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment of affected colonies with tetracycline antibiotics in the drinking water may be of some benefit in the case of an epidemic. Supportive care with fluid therapy is often necessary in affected animals.

Prevention is the key to this disease. High-level sanitation and minimal stress greatly reduces the occurrence of this disease in colony situations. Tyzzer’s Disease typically affects gerbils that are stressed by weaning, shipping, and adjusting to new environments. Strict sanitation prior to introduction of new animals is important in preventing outbreaks.

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Vitamin C for Your Guinea Pig

Getting Vitamin C into Your Guinea Pig’s Diet

The Tablet

GTN-50C is a chewable stabilized form of vitamin C. It provides small animals 50 mgs of vitamin C per tablet.

Why Feed Vitamin C

Guinea pigs are not capable of producing their own vitamin C and require supplementation. Symptoms of a vitamin C deficiency include:

  • Rough hair coat
  • Delayed wound healing
  • Brown discoloration of the teeth
  • Swelling or bleeding of the gums
  • Possible death

Also there is some research that suggests additional amounts of vitamin C may be beneficial in times of stress. Each animal’s stress threshold can vary. Stress can be as minimal as a change in the household inhabitants’ routine to a major trip to the veterinarian. Excess vitamin C is excreted through the urine and not absorbed by the body. Long-term supplementation of over 100 mg per day should be discussed with your veterinarian. 

Introducing Vitamin C

We all know how picky or persnickety our animals can be and how they can wrap us around their fingers before we even know what is happening. So, we need to out-think them.

Keep in mind that any tip needs to be given time to work. One needs to be patient and persistent when trying something different. You need to give a new food or treat more than one try. Many times we don’t give our pets enough time to adapt and get used to a new idea. We give up too easily rather than helping the animal work through a process that will ultimately benefit you and him/her.

Often, guinea pigs do not understand that the tablet you are offering them is edible because they have never eaten anything in a tablet form.

Use things your guinea pig likes to help the transition:

  • The easiest: Break the tablet in half to release the aroma. Leave the tablet so your guinea pig gets the idea that it is something he should try or offer it to your guinea pig by holding the broken tablet in your hand.
  • It’s a wrap: Break up the tablet or crush the tablet and roll in a piece of romaine lettuce.
  • Sweet tooth: Cut a groove in an apple, grape, or carrot and slide the tablet through the juice.
  • Special situation: Add a crushed tablet to 1 tablespoon of water and immediately syringe feed.

Don’t forget! Your persuasiveness can ultimately be the best tool for transitioning your guinea pig to vitamin C.

Vitamin C content of selected foods and their appropriateness for guinea pig diets
Food Item Weight or
Volume of Food
Vitamin C in weight or volume of food Amount needed to
provide 25mg/day
Guava 1 cup = 165mg 377mg 1.1 tbsp
Red Peppers 1 cup chopped = 149g 190mg 2.1 tbsp chopped
Kale 1 cup chopped = 67g 80.4mg 5 tbsp (1/3 cup)
Tendergreen 1 cup chopped = 150g 195mg 2.1 tbsp chopped
Parsley 1 cup = 60g 79.8mg 5 tbsp (1/3 cup)
Broccoli 1 cup chopped = 91g 81.2mg 5 tbsp (1/3 cup)
Broccoli flowerets 1 cup = 71g 66.2mg 6 tbsp (between 1/3 and ½ cup)
Broccoli leaves 1 oz = 28g 26.1 mg 2 tbsp
Broccoli stalks 1 oz = 28g 26.1 mg 2 tbsp
Lambsquarter 1 oz = 28g 22.4mg 2.2 tbsp
Cauliflower 1 floweret = 13g 6.0mg About 4 flowerets
Strawberry Avg berry = 18g 10.6mg About 2.5 average berries
Kiwi 1 cup = 17 g 164mg 2.4 tbsp
Green pepper 1 cup chopped = 149g 120mg 3.4 tbsp chopped
Mustard greens 1 cup = 56g 39.2mg ½-3/4 cup
Cooked broccoli 1 cup = 156g 101.2mg cup
Cooked Brussels sprouts 1 cup = 156g 96.7mg Just over cup
Kohlrabi 1 cup = 135g 89.1mg Just over ½ cup
Papaya 1 cup = 140g 86.5mg Just under 1/3 cup
Snap peas 1 cup = 98g 58.8mg Just under ½ cup
Turnip greens 1 cup = 55g 39.5mg Just under ½ cup
Red cabbage 1 cup = 70g 39.9mg Just under ½ cup
Orange Avg orange = 131g 69.7mg Between 1/4 and ½ avg orange
Cooked kale 1 cup cooked = 130g 53.3 mg About ½ cup
Peas 1 cup = 58mg 58mg About 1/2 cup
Clementines Avg Clementine = 74g 36.1mg Almost ½ average Clementine
Cantaloupe 1 cup balls = 177g 65mg Betwee1/4 and ½ cup of melon balls
Pineapple 1 cup chunks = 165g 78.9mg 1/3 cup of chunks
Dill weed 5 sprigs = 1g 0.9mg 154 sprigs
Dried tarragon 1 oz = 28g 14mg About 4 tbsp
Dried basil 1 oz = 28g 17.1mg About 3 tbsp
Dried oregano 1 oz = 28g 14mg About 4 tbsp
Lemon Avg lemon = 58g 30.7mg 80% of average lemon
Dried cilantro 1 tbsp = 2g 9.9mg 2.5 tbsp
Chinese cabbage
(pak choi or bak choi)
1 cup shredded = 70.0g 31.5mg Over ½ cup
Beet greens 1 cup = 38g 11.4mg Over 2 cups
Starfruit (carambola) Avg fruit = 91g 31.3mg Over ½ of an average starfruit
Collard greens 1 cup = 36g 12.7mg 2 cups
Watercress 1 cup chopped = 34g 14.6mg About 1 and ½ cups
Grapefruit Avg fruit = 120g 38.5mg Just under grapefruit

Blue = excellent choice for supplementing guinea pig diet
Green = good choice for supplementing guinea pig diet
Orange = fair choice for supplementing guinea pig diet
Red = poor choice for supplementing guinea pig diet

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Guinea Pig Care and Facts

Guinea Pig Care and Facts 


  • Native to the Andes Mountains of South America
  • Guinea pigs are social animals and rarely bite.
  • Lifespan is 5-6 years.
  • Guinea pig teeth grow continuously. The process of chewing hay shortens the teeth.
  • Males reach sexual maturity at 3 months of age and females at 2 months. The gestation period is 59-72 days. Babies are born with a full coat and open eyes.
  • Males weigh between 900-1200 grams, females between 700-900 grams.


  • The bigger the better. The cage should be large enough to accommodate feeding supplies, hide boxes, toys, and allow plenty of room to move around. Guinea pig urine is high in ammonia, which is irritating to the lungs, so they need to be able to move away from where they urinate.
  • Use solid bottom cages with wire sides for ventilation. Cover the cage bottom with several inches of Carefresh (crumbled soft paper).
  • Temperature needs to be within the range of 65-79
  • Thoroughly clean the cage and change the substrate 2-3 times weekly.
  • Aromatic cedar and pine shavings are not recommended. They contain resins that may be irritating to the skin and lungs.
  • Never put a cage in direct sunlight or drafty area.
  • For playtime, fill a toddler pool with Oxbow oat hay and let them play. Cavies are natural burrowers that will wheek and whistle in their exciting new habitat.
  • Do not house intact males together, as they often fight and compete for resources.


  • Feed an unlimited amount of Timothy hay.
  • Pellets are not part of a guinea pig’s natural diet. They do not provide the long-stem fiber needed for intestinal health or tooth maintenance and can lead to obesity. If you choose to feed pellets, use Timothy based pellets and limit to ¼ cup per day.
  • Guinea pigs are unique in that they require Vitamin C daily in their diet. Give your guinea pig 20-50 mg of vitamin C daily. You can use Oxbow or OTC children’s chewable vitamin C tablets. There are vitamin C drops that can be added to the water, but these inactivate quickly and your guinea pig may refuse the water.
  • Supplement the diet daily with veggies high in vitamin C, such as bell peppers, tomatoes, kiwi, and oranges. Stay away from veggies and greens high in calcium or oxalates.
  • It is not recommended to feed alfalfa hay or pellets to your guinea pig. Alfalfa is high in fat and calcium, which can predispose your guinea pig to certain diseases.
  • Offer fresh, clean water daily in a water bottle with a sipper tube. Approximate daily water consumption is 100-150 mL (3-5 oz) of water a day.
  • Sweet treats, fruit, and seeds are unhealthy and can lead to digestive problems and obesity, even when given in small amounts.

Common Medical Problems:

  • Obesity - Prevent with proper diet and exercise.
  • Dental disease (infection, overgrown teeth, sharp points on teeth) - Causes include improper diet, genetics, low vitamin C, and trauma. Signs of dental disease include decreased appetite, drooling, or grinding teeth. Preventative measures are proper hay diet and vitamin C supplementation.
  • Abscesses - Injuries from housing structures and cage mates can cause an abscess. These usually appear as circular lumps on the skin. These need to be surgically lanced.
  • Gastrointestinal stasis (decreased motility of stomach and intestinal contents through system) - Signs include decreased appetite, decreased fecal production, hunched posture, distended abdomen, and lethargy. Prompt medical attention is required.
  • Diarrhea - Causes include bacterial, fungal, and parasitic infections. Diarrhea can lead to dehydration, weight loss, and electrolyte imbalances.
  • Heat Stroke - Guinea pigs are extremely susceptible to heat strokes. Signs include being in a hot environment, salivating, shallow breathing, and lethargy.
  • Bladder stones - Stones in the bladder can cause infection and inflammation in the bladder, leading to pain. They can also lodge in the urethra and obstruct the ability to urinate. Inability to urinate is an emergency situation. Signs include difficulty urinating, painful urination, change in urine color, decreased appetite, and lethargy. Preventative measures include feeding a proper diet, avoiding food high in calcium or oxalates, and proper water intake.
  • Ovarian cysts - Signs are not always immediately present. Signs can include any of the following: hair loss, distended abdomen, lethargy, hunched posture, and decreased appetite. Prevent by spaying all females.
  • Mites - The most common skin disease, mite infestation may manifest with severe itchy skin (which can look like a seizure), crusts, and red skin.
  • If breeding is planned, make sure to breed the female by 6 months of age to prevent the need of a C-section. In females that have not given birth at least once, the pelvic canal will decrease in size at 6 months of age, closing down to a size too small for a baby to pass through.
  • Physical examinations are recommended every 12 months.  It is recommended to spay or neuter every guinea pig.
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Hamster Care

Hamster Care

Basic Information

Hamsters are peculiar little rodents with large cheek pouches and short stubby tails. They have gained popularity as pets and research animals since the 1930’s. The Syrian hamster’s (golden hamster) wild habitat extends through the Middle East and Southeastern Europe. In 1930, a litter of eight baby hamsters were taken to Israel and raised as research animals. Virtually all domesticated hamsters sold in the pet trade are research descendants of the three of the survivors of this litter. Hamsters were first introduced to the United States in 1938.

Since their domestication, several color and hair coat varieties of the Syrian hamster have arisen through selective breeding. The three basic groups that now exist include the common “golden” hamster, colored shorthaired “fancy” hamster, and longhaired “teddy bear” hamster. All three varieties are popular as pets, while the research community generally employs the basic hamster.

Occasionally, one may encounter other species of hamsters, but these are much less common than the Syrian hamster. The smaller, dark brown Chinese hamster (dwarf hamster) is often used in biomedical research, and they are sometimes acquired as pets. These hamsters are recognized for their small size, dark brown color, and black stripes over their backs. The Armenian (grey) hamster and European hamster are the two other species occasionally used in research, but seldom kept as pets. The following information pertains particularly to the Syrian or golden hamster, since they are by far the most popular.


As with any pet, good quality food and clean, fresh water must be provided at all times. The precise nutritional requirements of hamsters have not been fully determined. In the wild, these animals feed on plants, seeds, fruit, and insects. Current recommendations for feeding in captivity are pelleted rodent ration containing 15% – 20% protein. These rations are typically processed as dry blocks or pellets designed for rodents. Seed diets are also “formulated” and sold for hamsters, but these diets should only supplement the basic rodent pellet. Seed diets contain high levels of fat, which can easily become rancid if improperly stored. In addition, when fed alone, these diets often lead to obesity and potential nutritional deficiencies.

Other supplements to the diet may include sugarless breakfast cereals, whole wheat breast, pasta, cheese, cooked lean meats, fresh fruits, and vegetables; all fed in moderation. Hamsters eat approximately 12 grams of food daily, and usually consume the majority of this at night. Hamsters are like pack rats that often hoard their food into a corner of their cage, making it seem as though they eat a lot more than they really do.

Water is easily provided in water bottles equipped with sipper tubes. This method also helps keep the water free from contamination. Always make sure that the tubes are positioned low enough to allow easy access to the pet. Juvenile hamsters need special consideration in whether they are strong enough to use the sipper tube, as well as are able to reach it. The average hamster drinks approximately 10 mL of water per 100 grams body weight (average adult size). Although this amount is only a fraction of the total bottle volume, fresh water should be provided daily, not only when the bottle empties.


Hamsters handled frequently from a young age usually remain docile and will seldom bite. These animals are of a docile nature and can be gently picked up by cupping in one or both hands and held against one’s body. However, beware that even docile hamsters may bite if surprised or abruptly awakened from sleep.

On the other hand, other hamsters may not have received a lot of attention and handling throughout their lives, and thus may be more apprehensive and aggressive. Any animal whose personality is not fully known must be approached cautiously. The use of a small towel or gloves can assist the handler in capturing and restraining such a pet. Another method of capture involves coaxing the animal into a container (such as a can or tube), which can then be removed from the cage. Once removed, biting hamsters can be restrained by grasping a large amount of skin at the scruff of the neck. Using this method, as much skin as possible must be grasped because their skin is very loose. If lightly scruffed, the hamster can easily turn around within its skin and bite the handler.


Several types of cages are available that are suitable for housing hamsters. Many of these units come equipped with cage furniture such as exercise wheels, tunnels, and nest boxes as added luxuries. Such accessories, as well as sufficient depth within which to burrow, are desirable for the pet’s psychological wellbeing. Cages should be constructed with rounded corners to detour chewing. Hamsters will readily chew through wood, light plastic, and soft metal. Therefore, recommended caging materials are wire, stainless steel, durable plastic, and glass. Beware that glass and plastic containers drastically reduce ventilation and can lead to problems with humidity, temperature, and odor concentration. These materials make suitable cages when at least one side of the enclosure is escape proof, since these little rodents are known escape artists.

Hamsters do very well in solid bottom cages with deep bedding and ample nesting material. Bedding must be clean, non-toxic, absorbent, relatively dust free, and easily acquired. Shredded paper or tissue, wood shavings, and processed corncob are preferred beddings. Be sure that the wood shavings and ground corncob are free from mold, mildew, or other contamination before using. Cotton and shredded tissue paper make excellent nesting materials.

Adult hamsters require a minimum floor area of 19 square inches and a cage height of 6 inches. Female breeding hamsters require much larger areas. Optimal temperature range for hamsters is between 65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, with babies doing best at 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. The relative humidity should be between 40 and 70%. Twelve hour light cycles are preferred, with hamsters being more active during the night.

Pet hamsters are generally housed alone. Mature female hamsters tend to be very aggressive towards one another and should never be housed together. Females are also larger and more aggressive than males. Thus, males usually need to be separated immediately after breeding. Males may also fight when housed together, but tend to be less aggressive than females.

As a rule of thumb, the cage and accessories should be thoroughly cleaned once to twice a week. An exception to this schedule is when newborn babies are present. In this case, wait until they are at least two week old. Other factors that may require increased frequency of cleaning are the number of hamster in the cage, the type of bedding material provided, and the cage design and size. Cages are sanitized with hot water and nontoxic disinfectant or detergent, and then thoroughly rinsed. Water bottles and food dishes should be cleaned and disinfected daily.

Breeding Considerations

The sex of the hamsters can easily be determined. Mature male hamsters possess large, prominent testicles, which often alarm owners who first notice them and mistake them for tumors. In addition, the genitourinary to anal separation is much wider in males then females, making it possible to differentiate genders of young hamsters.

Male hamsters should be first bred at 10 to 14 weeks of age. Females can be bred at the age of 6 to 10 weeks. As the female comes into heat, she will begin assuming a breeding stance with her back swaying and body stretched out. When petted over her back, she will remain motionless and sway her back even further. Thin mucus will be noticed coming from her vulva. For breeding, place the females into the male’s cage about one hour before dark. Closely observe the pair for mating activity or fighting. Females can be very aggressive towards males and can cause serious injuries. At the first sign of aggression by the female, remove the male, and then try again the next night. Also, remove the male shortly after a successful mating has taken place.

Hamsters have very short duration of pregnancy, lasting only 15 to 16 days. Just before delivery, the expectant mother will become restless and may discharge a small amount of blood from her vulva. Do not handle or disturb her at this time. It is wise to clean her cage two weeks following breeding, so that her cage is relatively clean when babies arrive. Litter size ranges from 5 to 10 pups, but larger litters are not uncommon. The pups are born hairless with their eyes and ears closed. However, they do already have their front teeth, the incisors.

Provide ample nesting material and bedding for the new mother and young. Plenty of fresh food and water should be available before the babies are born. Do NOT disturb the mother and young for any reason during the first week after birth. If a mother hamster seems threatened for any reason, she typically will kill and cannibalize the young. In other instances, she may stuff the young into her cheek pouches and frantically carry then around the cage looking for a safe place to establish a nest. Occasionally, pups will suffocate as a result of this activity, especially if the disturbance is prolonged.

Young hamsters usually begin eating solid food at 7 to 10 days of age, but are not weaned until 21 to 25 days. Provide food on the cage floor for the young, and also have soaked, softened pellets available for them. Make sure that the water bottle is low enough for the weanlings to use, and that they are strong enough to use it. You can also provide an alternative water source during this time for the pups.


Proliferative Heitis (Wet Tail)

The most commonly encountered bacterial infection recognized in hamsters is the “wet tail” disease. The precise cause of the disease is not fully understood, but underlying infections with the bacteria Campylobacter fetus subspecies jejuni have been reported. Similar Camplyobacter sp. are responsible for serious intestinal diseases in other animal species, such as swine, dogs, ferrets, primates, and even humans. Although this agent is suspected to be an underlying cause of this syndrome, pure cultures of the bacteria cannot reproduce the disease, suggesting other predisposing factors or agents. Such contributory factors include improper diet, sudden dietary changes, overcrowding, and other stressors.

This disease most often affects weanling hamsters between the ages of 3 to 6 weeks, but hamsters of all ages are susceptible. Since this is the age at which most hamsters are sold, this is a common disease encountered in recently acquired pets. The longhaired “teddy bear” hamster seems to be more vulnerable than the other varieties.

Death may result within 1 to 7 days after the onset of watery diarrhea. Other signs include matting of the fun around the tail, unkempt hair coat, hunched stance, loss of appetite, dehydration, emaciation, and irritability. Blood from the rectum and rectal prolapse may be noted in some serious cases. This is a very serious disease, with death being the most likely outcome.

Due to the severity of the disease, any hamster exhibiting these signs must be examined by a veterinarian as soon as possible. Antibiotics, fluid therapy, and anti-diarrhea medications will be administered to the patient. Supportive care will also be instituted. Despite all the best efforts, treatment is often unrewarding with death occurring within a couple days in many cases.

Hair Loss (Alopecia)

Hair loss can occur for a number of reasons in hamsters. The loss of hair can be due to both disease and non-disease conditions. Continual rubbing on feeders or sides of the cage as well as barbering, hair chewing by cage mates, are examples of non-disease related causes of alopecia. Infestation with demodectic mites is one of the most common infectious causes of patchy alopecia and scaling in hamsters. Other conditions that lead to hair loss include adrenal tumors, thyroid deficiency, and chronic renal disease. Some of these conditions may be correctable, while others are not.

Demodex mites are the most common external parasite causing problems in hamsters. The mites live within the hair follicles and certain skin glands of their host. The presence of these mites result in dry, scaly skin and subsequent hair loss, especially over the back and rump. This disease is rarely a problem by itself. Demodectic mange in hamsters is often associated with chronic, debilitating diseases or other underlying problems. For this reason, a thorough examination must be performed on any hamster presented with mites. To confirm the presence of mites, the veterinarian may perform a skin scrapping for microscopic observation. Treatment for the mites is often possible, but remember that there may be another problem, often more severe, underlying this one which must also be addressed.  

Old Age Disease (Geriatric Conditions)

Hamsters tend to have relatively short life spans when compared with other species. The average life expectancy of a hamster is between two and three years of age. For this reason, spontaneous aging diseases are not uncommon in these animals, typically after age of one. Two of the most common geriatric diseases of hamsters are amyloidosis (protein deposition in various organs) and cardiac thrombosis (blood clots in the heart). Treatment of these conditions involves managing clinical signs since cures are not possible. Unfortunately, diagnosis of virtually any geriatric carries with it a poor prognosis.

Amyloidosis is a condition where proteins produced by the body are deposited in various organs, primarily in the liver and kidneys. Kidney and liver failure often occurs as a result of this protein deposit. Many other organs are also affected, and the changes are irreversible. Signs of this condition include swollen abdomen, urinary problems, dehydration, poor appetite, and rough hair coat. Supportive care is the only treatment since this condition is eventually terminal.

Blood clots within the heart occur at a relatively high frequency in older hamsters. This condition is known as cardiac thrombosis, and typically occurs in the left side of the heart. Many factors are involved in the formation of these clots including clotting disorders, heart failure, circulation bacterial infection, and amyloidosis.

Many other old age diseases occur in hamsters over the age of one year. Liver and kidney diseases are not uncommon in middle age to old hamsters. Other conditions commonly encountered are gastric ulcers, tumors, and dental diseases.

**Special thanks to Drs. Harkness, Wagner, Roskopf, Woerpel, August H. Battles, and Dr. Bobby R. Collins, whose published information on this subject was compiled to produce this article.

Hamster Facts

  • Average Life Span: 2 – 3 Years
  • Adult Body Weight: 100 – 150 grams
  • Environmental Temperature Range: 65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Relative Humidity Range: 40 – 70 %
  • Age at First Breeding: Male: 10-14 weeks
  • Female: 6-10 weeks
  • Gestation Period: 15 ½ – 16 days
  • Litter Size: 5 – 10 (average)
  • Weaning Age: 21 – 25 days
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Hedgehog Care

Hedgehog Care

African Hedgehogs (Atelerix albiventris)


  • Up to 10 years 


  • Commercial hedgehog food, lots of insects (crickets, bee moth larvae)
  • Small amounts of diced fruit and vegetables
  • Diet for an average‑sized hedgehog fed once daily in the evening should consist of:
  • 50% Hedgehog food
  • 25% Fruit/vegetable mixture
  • 25% Crickets or bee moth (or other wild caught insects)
  • Water bottle or crock to provide fresh water


  • Wire cages are not recommended.
  • Walls and floor of the enclosure should be smooth, non‑climbable, and easily cleaned.
  • Soft, absorbent bedding, such as Carefresh/shredded newspaper should be provided.
  • A nest box, just slightly larger than the animal should be provided at all times.
  • No more than one male should be present in one group/cage.
  • Temperature should be kept between 75 ‑ 85 degrees Fahrenheit. 


  • African Hedgehogs reach sexual maturity as early as 2 months of age.
  • Gestation length is between 34‑37 days with a litter size ranging from 1‑7 pups.
  • Males should be removed from the cage prior to parturition, since cannibalism of young may occur. Weaning generally occurs between 4‑6 weeks. 

Common Problems:

  • Internal/External parasites ‑ see your veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment.
  • Respiratory infections ‑ prevented by maintaining the hedgehog’s temperature between 75‑85 degrees. Clean, absorbent bedding decreases the susceptibility to respiratory and other infections.
  • Cancer - Hedgehogs are susceptible to a variety of cancers.
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House Training Your Rabbit

House Training Your Rabbit

Most rabbits can be litter box trained. However, there is not a guarantee that every individual rabbit is going to succeed. They are not like cats, who instinctively seek loose litter to bury their waste. Try these steps to housetrain your rabbit:

  1. Place an 8” x 8” cake pan, or similar container with low sides, in a corner of the rabbit’s cage. It is best to use the corner that seems to be its preferred spot for urinating and defecating.
  2. Fill the container about half full with box filler (pelleted recycled paper or other organic products such as pelleted grass). Wood shavings, crushed corncobs, walnut shell and clay litter are not recommended.
  3. Place some recently deposited feces in the litter box.
  4. When your rabbit is using the litter box well, move it when it’s lightly soiled into a large box (a fresh litter box without the markings of its own waste will not carry the same message). Rabbits may spend several hours just sitting in the box. This is acceptable, as long as the rabbit is not soiling itself or chewing on the box or litter. Do not punish the rabbit when it is sitting in the litter box.
  5. Praise your rabbit whenever it uses the litter box and possibly even reward it with a small treat (taken out of the fruit/veggie portion of daily diet – do not exceed the daily ration).
  6. When the litter box is in regular use, move the rabbit into a small room, like a bathroom, with at least two litter boxes in opposite corners. Remember, your rabbit will be more likely to use the litter box if it doesn’t have to go a long way to find it. Make sure that there is one litter box visible at all times.

Allowing Freedom Outside

When your rabbit is very tame and comes to your call in the house, you can begin letting it loose for a few minutes outdoors at times. Make sure that your fenced yard is secure enough to keep rabbits in and dogs out.

Your rabbit will love to nibble the grass, but don’t allow it to eat very much the first few times. Like any new food, fresh grass must be introduced slowly. A rabbit that is acclimated to fresh grass can live outdoors, weather permitting. Rabbits seem to love it and the tunnels they dig are not necessarily escape runnels, only “rabbit warrens”.

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Pot-Bellied Pig Care

Pot-Bellied Pig Care

At birth, pot-bellied pigs weigh 8-15 ounces and mature into a weight of 60-125 pounds. They are clean, intelligent, and can make high quality pets. They usually have good dispositions and are seldom aggressive towards humans, with the exception of mating boars as they root and squeal. If pigs are kept in a clean environment, odor is not a problem except in unsaturated males who develop a strong scent at 3-5 months of age.

In general, pigs require the same environmental comfort zone as people. The major difference is that they don’t sweat or pant to cool themselves. Ideal temperatures for adult pigs are 60-75 degrees Fahrenheit. The major problem is not keeping them warm enough in the winter, but rather keeping them cool enough during the summer months. If housed outside, they need access to sprinklers, pools, and/or fans to maintain their normal temperature. Heat stress is a major problem and can be fatal.

For pet pigs kept in the house, housing requirements are simple. The pig needs a place to sleep, and a place to eat. Pigs are nesting animals and will readily sleep in a dog bed. They are very sloppy drinkers and drinking water should be placed in a heavy bowl and kept in an area where spills are acceptable (i.e. shower stall). Sanitation is accomplished by housebreaking at an early age. Pigs can be litter box trained or trained to go outdoors. Pigs have extremely well developed senses of smell and are incredibly strong. It is important that all food sources within reach of the pig are extremely well secured or they will get to them. This includes refrigerators!


One of the major problems of miniature pigs is that they love food a little too much. Free-choice feeding always results in extreme obesity. Commercial pig rations are all balanced based on the concept of free choice intake, which means that a miniature pig on restricted feed can suffer protein vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

Most commercial diets for commercial pigs will adequately meet the needs of pot-bellied pigs. Young growing pigs should be fed 14% protein and then switched to 12% protein at 4 months of age. Intake must be restricted and an additional source of fiber, such as alfalfa, must be added to supply the necessary bulk. Pot-bellied pigs have a large stomach capacity requiring a diet high in fiber. The commercial diet should be supplemented with alfalfa hay or pellets at a mix of 80% commercial feed to 20% alfalfa.

Obesity and excess protein consumption will lead to the same geriatric problems we now see in dogs and cats such as arthritis, kidney failure, and heart disease. These rations are fed to young pigs at the rate of one-half cup per 20-25 pounds and one cup per 60-75 pounds for adult pigs. An adult pig that is getting a cup of feed per day feels like you are starving it to death. This can be remedied by feeding a variety of high fiber vegetables including: grass, hay, raw vegetables, etc.

Major dietary problems can result if too much of the food intake becomes snacks, such as potato chips, bread, etc. The major problem is with mineral levels, which can result in skeletal weakness and fractures. Chewable pet vitamins should be given to prevent vitamin/mineral deficiencies.

Veterinary Care:

Miniature pigs should be given an initial vaccination series to protect them from Atrophic Rhinitis and Erysipelas, as well as dewormed. Annual boosters of vaccines are necessary and annual internal parasite examinations should be performed.

Pig Behavior:

Pigs are highly independent animals. The secret to pig training is to control the source of food. Pigs are highly motivated by food as a reward. Physical discipline does not work. Pigs love to be scratched behind their ears and along the abdomen. One of the most difficult steps in training is being able to pick up the pig because this scares the untrained pig. When you hold a pig, make sure you hold it level with firm support of the chest and rump. Negative rewards should generally be no more violent than spraying with a water bottle as punishment.

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Rat Care and Facts

Rat Care and Facts 


  • When handled gently, rats are clean, docile, cuddly, and easily trained.
  • Rats are intelligent and social, and can learn tricks.
  • Lifespan is 2-3 years.
  • Do well living singly or in groups.
  • Rats are prolific breeders with males reaching sexual maturity at 65‑110 days and females at 65‑110 days. The gestation period is 21‑23 days.
  • It is recommended to spay and neuter your rats in the first few months of life to decrease health problems and aggression between cage mates.
  • Males weigh between 260-500 grams, females between 225-325 grams.
  • Rats are unable to vomit and do not have a gall bladder.


  • The bigger the better. The cage should be large enough to accommodate feeding supplies, hide boxes, nesting areas, and toys.
  • Use solid bottom cages with wire sides for ventilation.  Cover the cage bottom with several inches of Carefresh (crumbled soft paper). Use a cage with multiple levels.
  • Temperature range needs to be 70-80F and humidity at 45-55%.
  • Add fleece pouches and houses to hide in.
  • Place rodent chewing toys, tubes, wheels (no open rungs), ropes, fleece pouches, and shelves throughout the cage for exercise and play.
  • Thoroughly clean the cage and change the substrate 1-2 times weekly. Rat urine is high in ammonia, which is irritating to their lungs.
  • Aromatic cedar and pine shavings are not recommended. They contain resins that may be irritating to a rat’s skin.
  • Never put a cage in direct sunlight or in a drafty area.


  • Feed a pelleted rat diet. These diets are specially balanced for your rat’s digestive system. Rats require 20‑27% protein for optimal health. Approximate food consumption of adult rats is 15-20 grams (less than 1 oz).
  • It is not recommended to feed seeds, as seeds are high in fat, which can lead to obesity and increase the risk of mammary tumors.
  • Offer fresh, clean water daily in a water bottle with a sipper tube. Approximate daily water consumption of adult rats is 22-33 mL (1-2 oz).
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables in limited quantities can be offered as treats (limit to 1 tbsp. daily). Avoid gas-forming vegetables, such as broccoli or cauliflower.

Common Medical Problems:

  • Obesity - Prevent with proper diet and exercise.
  • Mammary Tumors - Decrease risk by spaying by 3 months of age, giving 0.2-0.4 mL of flaxseed oil daily, and limiting fat in the diet. A depot hormonal injection (Deslorelin) can also be given to decrease risk of tumor development. The best treatment is prevention, but if a tumor does develop, it is removed surgically.
  • Pneumonia - Typically caused by bacteria. Signs include decreased appetite, difficulty breathing, eye and nasal discharge, which may be red, and decreased grooming. Pneumonia is treated with antibiotics and supportive care.
  • Abscesses - Injuries from housing structures and cage mates can cause an abscess. These usually appear as circular lumps on the skin and may have a white center. These need to be surgically lanced.
  • Lice - Most common external parasite. The lice can be seen crawling on the skin. These lice only infest rats and are easily treated.
  • Kidney failure - Usually occurs in elderly rats. Signs include decreased appetite, changes in urination frequency and urine color. Treatment depends on the cause but always involves giving fluids.
  • Physical examinations are recommended every 6-12 months.
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Sugar Glider Care

Sugar Glider Care


  • The sugar glider is a marsupial species native to New Guinea and Australia.
  • Lifespan is 12-15 years.
  • Nocturnal and live in colonies of 6-10 with one dominant male.
  • Males mark territory with scent glands.
  • Females have a pouch in which to raise their young.
  • Males weigh between 100-160 grams, females between 80-130 grams.
  • These agile climbers can use their patagium (gliding membrane) to glide up to 50m.


  • The bigger the better. Minimum cage size is 36”X24”X36” with PVC coated wire. Wire spacing should not exceed 1.0”X0.5”.
  • Temperature range needs to be 75-80
  • Provide multiple food and water dishes high up in cage.
  • Hang multiple fleece pouches high in cage.
  • Place branches, wheels (no open rungs), and shelves throughout cage for exercise and play. Do not use wood shavings.


  • Feed a pelleted sugar glider insectivore diet and Gliderade (a vitamin-enriched nectar supplement). Gliders require vitamin D3 in their diet.
  • Supplement several times a week with gut-loaded insects, such as crickets and grasshoppers.
  • Supplement calcium to growing, pregnant, and lactating sugar gliders.
  • Fruits and vegetables should not comprise more than 5% of the diet. Too much of these items leads to obesity and metabolic disease.


  • Sugar gliders are highly social creatures that require being housed in groups of 2 or more.
  • Optimal time to socialize with humans is 8-12 weeks out of the pouch.
  • Spend at least 2 hours a day interacting with your glider.
  • Gliders are very vocal. They will be heard crabbing when frightened, barking when lonely or playful, purring when content, and may sneeze or hiss while grooming.

Common Medical Problems:

  • Malnutrition and Obesity - Prevent with proper diet and exercise.
  • Nutritional Osteodystrophy - Prevent with diet containing vitamin D3 and calcium.
  • Gingivitis and Tartar - Prevent with regular feeding of insects (the exoskeleton helps remove tartar).
  • Self-Mutilation and Hair Loss - Prevent by providing proper socialization, housing in groups of 2 or more, and having a large enclosure with plenty of opportunities for play.
  • Eye Injuries - Monitor for squinting or discharge from eyes.
  • Neutering of males is recommended to decrease aggression and self-mutilation.
  • Annual physical exams with fecal checks are recommended.
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Switching Your Rabbit to a Hay-Based Diet

Switching Your Rabbit to a Hay-Based Diet

Introducing Hay

Many rabbits have simply never seen that long, dry stuff (also known as hay) and don’t recognize it as food. Always keep an abundant supply of hay in the litter box and if the rabbit seems disciplined do not sample on his own, a long piece of hay can be tapped on his nose. This tapping quickly gets annoying and causes the rabbit to bite at the hay to make it stop bothering him. This test helps determine if a rabbit is simply unaware that hay is food or if he is just being stubborn. Bunnies that haven’t seen hay before are usually quick to figure out that the hay they bite off tastes good and will proceed to eat. Good habits should be reinforced by providing pellets only once a day for a limited time – a couple hours at most. If they don’t finish their pellets in that time, remove them and leave them to their hay pile for the rest of the day.

 Making the Switch

For rabbits used to “gourmet” pellets with all of the extra seeds, fruit, and nuts, keep a small quantity of higher-calorie, higher-protein pellets on hand and mix it in with Oxbow rabbit pellets to gradually switch the rabbit over to low-calorie, low-protein pellets. Some rabbits can be switched in a matter of days. Others will carefully eat the “good” pellets and leave all of “bland” pellets behind. For these rabbits, provide only the “bland” pellets (and lots of hay) for a couple of days, which usually gets them realizing that’s all they’re going to get, so they better start eating them.

Gaining Greens

Rabbit owners can be less stern about greens. When feeding high-quality Oxbow pellets, rabbits are getting a nutritionally complete diet. Greens supplement the diet with micronutrients, but more importantly with taste and texture variety. Because rabbits may experience adverse reactions such as gas or soft stools when trying new foods, like people, only introduce one new food item at a time. Romaine lettuce, parsley, and cilantro are good options. When first introducing an item, offer one herb stalk or one lettuce leaf. Assuming there are no adverse reactions, the serving can be increased over the next two to four days. A second new food item can then be added using the process. If a rabbit doesn’t eat the food right away, try placing it in the food dish and walking away. Many rabbits are cautious about new foods and need time to investigate and think it over before tasting it. Others will wait until they are alone before sampling the food.

Say No to that Cute Twitchy Nose!

This won’t be easy. Rabbits are very good about giving a pathetic yet accusing looks that lead you to believe they are about to starve to death. Remember this: owners that stick to a healthier diet will likely enjoy having a furry companion in their lives longer. Just like with people, rabbits that eat a well-balanced diet are more likely to live longer, healthier lives.
By: Minnesota Companion Rabbit Society (MCRS)

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