Adrenal Gland Disease in Ferrets
Adrenal cortex is divided into 3 zones:
Stages of Adrenocortical Disease in Ferrets
Causes of Adrenocortical disease
Signs of Adrenocortical Disease
GnRH Feedback Loop
Negative Feedback of GnRH
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 mortalityDownload & Print
Basic Rabbit Facts
Lifespan: 7-10 years
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:
Common Medical Problems:
Chinchilla Care and Facts
Common Medical Problems:
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).
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.
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:
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 (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
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.
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:
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.
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.
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 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:
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
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).
There are two varieties of ferrets, based on coloration:
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.
Ferrets - Sexuality, Diet, and Vaccinations
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!
Schedule of Care
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.Download & Print
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:
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:
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:
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:
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.Download & Print
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.
Ferret Immunization Schedule
Four to six (4-6) weeks of age:
Six to eight (6-8) weeks of age:
Nine to eleven (9-11) weeks of age:
Twelve to fourteen (12-14) weeks of age:
Six to Eight Months of Age:
One Year of age:
Two and three years of age:
Three years of age and older:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.Download & Print
Getting Vitamin C into Your Guinea Pig’s Diet
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:
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:
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
|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|
(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
Guinea Pig Care and Facts
Common Medical Problems:
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.
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.
African Hedgehogs (Atelerix albiventris)
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:
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”.Download & Print
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.
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.
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.Download & Print
Rat Care and Facts
Common Medical Problems:
Sugar Glider Care
Common Medical Problems:
Switching Your Rabbit to a Hay-Based Diet
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.
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)