Library

Small Mammals + Care & Wellness

  • Prairie dogs (most often black-tailed prairie dogs) are becoming popular as pets. Like all rodents, they have teeth that continually grow throughout life. They are active, playful and sturdy rodents and can make wonderful, affectionate pets if purchased young, socialized properly and given lots of attention.

  • If properly handled and socialized, rabbits make curious, sociable, pleasant, docile, quiet, and gentle pets. They rarely bite but can scratch with their sharp claws and powerful hind legs if improperly handled. If held improperly, a rabbit can kick hard and dislocate or break its back, resulting in severe chronic disabilities that may even necessitate euthanasia. Their average life span is 5-8 years old (small breeds can reach 10-14 years old), and they reach breeding age at 6 months. Rabbits pass cecotropes at night which are softer, stickier, and darker than normal fecal pellets and contain important nutrients. Providing your rabbit with unlimited amounts of hay and blocks of wood to chew helps prevent overgrown teeth, a common condition in pet rabbits.

  • Pet rodents, sometimes also referred to as pocket pets are very popular pets. Hamsters, rats, mice, gerbils, and guinea pigs are the most common rodents kept as pets. They make good first pets for young children and as a rule require minimal care.

  • Guinea pigs live, on average, 5-6 years; although some can live to 8-10 years of age. Their teeth grow continuously, throughout life, and it is critical that they eat grass hay, such as Timothy hay, every day to help them wear down their teeth as they grow. Young guinea pigs display a unique behavior called popcorning when they are happy, in which they jump straight up in the air and let out squeals of delight. Guinea pigs reach sexual maturity at around 3-4 months of age; therefore, if young males and females are housed together, they should be separated by this age, otherwise they are likely to breed. The average gestation period for guinea pigs is 63 days. If gestation continues over 70 days, the guinea pig should be seen immediately by a veterinarian, and it is likely that the entire litter will be stillborn.

  • It is not difficult to find your pet the extra care they may need if you have a busy schedule or are traveling. With the excellent pet sitter options available today, having a pet at home does not mean you cannot take a vacation every once in a while. Be sure to interview any potential sitters and use trusted friends, your vet, or online resources when looking for sitters. Hiring a pet sitter for your pet may be like a vacation for them as well!

  • COVID-19 is a human respiratory disease that was initially discovered late in 2019. This disease is caused by a new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, that has not previously been identified in humans. Physical distancing, or social distancing, is one of the most effective strategies available to reduce the spread of COVID-19. While physical distancing, walking your dog is fine as long as you are feeling well and can remain at least 6 feet away from other people. If you have cats, find new ways to play with them indoors. Many veterinary clinics are adjusting their policies to reflect physical distancing guidance related to COVID-19. If your pet needs veterinary care (or if you need to pick up medication, a prescription diet, etc.), call your veterinary hospital first to determine how to proceed.

  • Like rabbits and guinea pigs, prairie dogs require a diet high in fiber. As they are hind-gut fermenters, they need alfalfa up to one year of age and Timothy hay after one year of age plus a high quality prairie dog pellet. Treats should be kept to a bare minimum as prairie dogs are prone to obesity.

  • In the wild, prairie dogs burrow in the ground and make tunnels. Indoor caging must be long enough and deep enough whereby the pet has a chance to dig and make a borrow. Boxes and tubes large enough to crawl through make excellent additions to the cage.

  • Telemedicine is the act of practicing medicine from a distance and your appointment will be conducted by a licensed veterinarian. Before your appointment, gather information on your pet’s history and your current concern. Look at a calendar and write down a timeline of your pet’s problems. Be prepared to answer questions that you would normally be asked at an in-person appointment. Write notes to help you remember everything. Most telemedicine appointments involve the use of some type of video chat. Conduct your visit in a quiet area with good lighting and have your pet with you before the call starts. Not all concerns can be addressed through telemedicine. If your veterinarian is unable to arrive at a diagnosis via telemedicine, he or she can help you determine the next step for your pet to ensure that he or she receives optimal care.

  • Winter cold weather poses a number of risks for our pets. Antifreeze commonly used in winter is extremely toxic if ingested. Cold damp weather can be very harmful so dogs should ideally be kept inside most of the time during the winter. If this is not possible, dogs need a raised shelter large enough to be comfortable but small enough to retain heat. Extra calories are needed for outdoor dogs to keep warm. Paws can be affected by frostbite, as well as ice or damaging ice melt compounds. Feet should be checked and wiped after being outside. Rabbits should be maintained at constant temperatures as they are not able to handle the differences between indoor and outdoor temperatures in winter.