Making Veterinary Less Stressful for Your Dog

 

We have all seen owners and/or trainers who have taught their dog, bird, horse or cat to do amazing things. Birds with huge vocabularies, bike riding dogs and dancing horses. So how hard should it really be to teach our dog to tolerate a visit to the vet?? If you’re willing to invest a little time, you can train your dog to be a happier patient.

 

It’s all about practice, practice, practice.  The first place your new puppy should visit is the veterinary office. The very first visit should just be to say hello and get some treats. Use the second visit to make sure they are healthy…

Get your puppy used to having his/her feet handled at home. Start by holding a paw then move on to grasping a toenail. Even if you never plan on clipping nails at home, get your pup accustomed to the clipper around their feet. Remember to use lots of treats and praise!

 Teach your puppy how to take pills before they actually need to. Have your puppy sit sideways next to you or on your lap if they are small. Place one hand around the top jaw with your thumb and middle finger behind the canines. Use your other thumb and forefinger to gently open the lower jaw. Now just place a small treat or piece of cheese in the mouth on the tongue. Do this a few times and you shouldn’t have any trouble when the time to actually medicate comes along. Today there are even specially made products to hide pills in that most dogs love!

Handle your puppy’s ears, clean the area around their eyes, lift their tail and run your hands along their abdomen. Desensitizing your pup to handling is one of the kindest things you can do for them.

Teach your dog to stand quietly. Much of a veterinary exam is done with the pet standing. If your dog is accustomed to standing calmly beforehand the stress level will go way down. Again, use treats and gentle praise to let your dog know they are doing the correct thing.

Teach your dog to walk on a leash. If your dog is out of control in the waiting area things will only go downhill in the exam room.

Once your pet is protected by vaccines, schedule a puppy class and/or doggie daycare. A well socialized dog is a stable dog.  No kidding…our happiest patients are campers and Puppy Class alumni.

It’s OK to bring something from home. A toy or blanket work fine and pets find the familiar odor of home calming .

If you‘re nervous your dog will be too. Whatever you feel telegraphs directly to your pet. Some people can’t actually be in the room with their dog and that’s OK. Just don’t let your limitations make things more difficult for your pet.

Davenport, Iowa Veterinary Clinic Lists 10 Reasons People Take Pets to the Humane Society.

 

According to the ASPCA, “approximately 5 million to 7 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year, and approximately 3 million to 4 million are euthanized (60 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats). Shelter intakes are about evenly divided between those animals relinquished by owners and those picked up by animal control. These are national estimates; the percentage of euthanasia may vary from state to state.” 

That is a really sad statistic.  We work closely with many of our local shelters at Animal Family and are always surprised at the quality of the pets we see.  These animals are neither worthless nor dangerous.  In fact, often the opposite is true.  Many are pure bred and almost all are loving, healthy animals who through no fault of their own end up homeless.

The 10 most common reasons owners give when surrendering a pet at the Humane Society of Scott County are:

  1. The owner is moving and is not able to take their pet with them
  2. The pet is too active for the owner to handle.
  3. The owner does not have enough time to devote to pet care
  4. The owner has encountered problems with housebreaking
  5. The animal is too expensive to care for.
  6. The animal is too young, too old or has developed health issues.
  7. The owner or a family member is allergic to the pet.
  8. The pet does not get along with another animal in the household.
  9. The pet belonged to a child who no longer lives in the home.
  10. The pet has become pregnant

Do you see a common thread among many of the reasons for pet relinquishment listed above?   How many of these problems could be avoided by a little research and planning before acquiring a pet.  For all the information on specific breeds that is available, it seems that people still jump into pet ownership on impulse.

So, please, before you bring a pet into your life, do your research. Think about your lifestyle, future plans, and overall health.  How busy are you?  Can you even afford a pet at this time?  Do you have the time or interest for training, walks and general health and coat care.  Don’t pick your pet based on looks.  Don’t assume you have to have a puppy and never, ever give a pet as a gift without a thorough discussion with the prospective new owner first.

Next week, we will go over what you need to think about before you add a new pet to your family.

Davenport IA, Veterinarian Talks Explains Diseases You Could Share With Your Pet…but Shouldn’t

 

According to the AVMA, in 2007 there were 72 million pet dogs, 82 million pet cats and over 4 million pet birds. At least 3% of the US households own a reptile. Almost one half of those pet owners consider their pets to be a member of the family. We are a pet loving country. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that we can share more than love with our pets. Did you know that according to the Center for Disease Control that almost 14% of the US population has been infected with Toxacara (roundworm of dogs and cats). That’s because up to 30% of dogs fewer than 6 months of age and 25% of all cats are infected with roundworms.

Cats and dogs can carry Roundworms, Tapeworms, Hookworms, Leptospirosis, Ringworm and Rabies to name a few. Pocket pets and reptiles can carry Salmonella. Birds can also carry Salmonella as well as Psittacosis (a bacterial disease).

Who is most at risk? According to our friends at CAPC (Companion Animal Parasite Council), it is generally those who come in contact with the soil the most often. That includes, gardeners, plumbers, sunbathers and of course children. Immune compromised individuals need to be particularly careful.

So should we get rid of all of our pets? No need to get so carried away. Following are some relatively simple measures you can take to control the risk of zoonotic transmission in your family.

  1. Wash your hands after handling pets, soil and feces. Be especially vigilant with youngsters.
  2. Don’t eat or smoke while you handle your pet. Especially if it is a reptile, bird or pocket pet.
  3. Pets and food preparation do not go together.
  4. Keep your pets on a regular schedule of deworming. Dogs and cats should be on broad spectrum, year round anti-parasitic products.
  5. Get annual fecal parasite checks. That’s because you may give your pet his preventative but he may either spit it out or throw it up later on.
  6. Treat pets and their surroundings for fleas.
  7. Dispose of pet feces on a daily basis.
  8. Cover up your children’s sandbox when it’s not in use.
  9. Feed only cooked, canned or dry dog and cat food.
  10. Don’t allow birds or reptiles to roam loose in the house.
  11. If you are scratched by your pet, wash the area thoroughly.
  12. Vaccinate. Yes, there is some risk (1/10,000) of soft tissue sarcomas in cats with the use of Rabies and Feline Leukemia vaccines. We try to make it safer by vaccinating every 3 years. However, our biggest concern is that Rabies is out there and it kills all of us all the time.
  13. Immune compromised individuals should not own reptiles or amphibians.
  14. Don’t let your dog or cat drink from the toilet bowl. According to CAPC this can spread human adapted strains of parasites to pets

Davenport IA Veterinary Clinic Explains How Socializing Your Pet Makes Them Better Citizens

All dogs can bite.  We like to think that we can avoid any difficulties with our pets by simply choosing the “right” breed; not so.  Although you may not actually cause behavior problems in your pet, you can unknowingly reward them.  Since we know that it is always easier to prevent rather than change an established behavior: developing ways to make your pet a good family member and citizen should be an important part of pet ownership.

Biting is not the only thing we complain about.  Barking, jumping up, digging, house soiling, chewing on inappropriate items, food aggression and fear of strangers are just some of the things we don’t like.  Can these behaviors be prevented?  Of course they can.  Sometimes it is simply a matter of management.  Others require an active effort on your part to train and socialize your pet. Here are some ideas for keeping making your pet a good citizen.

  1. Teach your dog to sit.  This should be the first thing a puppy learns.  Any pup old enough to go to a new home is capable of learning to sit.  It’s OK to teach the command by using a treat.  The ASPCA has a great site that will show you how to teach a sit.  The importance of this command in your relationship with your pet is that sitting quietly is a prerequisite before any kind of interaction with you. That means that you don’t unthinkingly pet your dog should they bump or rub against your hand. Believe it or not if you are consistent about requiring a quiet sit first and socializing second, it will set a solid base from which to build your relationship with your new dog. 
  2. Better yet, try an obedience class.  There are very few dogs that won’t benefit from obedience training.  It doesn’t have to be a competitive obedience class and it doesn’t have to involve harsh methods.  Look for something that will help you with basic commands and routine maintenance such as nail trimming, tooth brushing and socialization with other pets and people. The key is to establish good communication with your pet from the beginning.
  3. Get your pet out in the world.  You can’t expect your dog to comfortable in the world if they never get beyond your backyard.  Once your pet is properly immunized, wormed and protected from fleas, get them out to parks, for car rides and long walks.  If your schedule is extra busy, consider putting them in doggie daycare but please don’t just lock them in the backyard.
  4. Spay or neuter your pet.  This can’t be said often enough.  The reasons for keeping a dog intact are very few indeed.  Hormones will always get in the way of training. Worse, they can cause dog to dog aggression and lead to health problems later in life.
  5. Children and dogs should always be supervised.  Obviously this is not only important for the safety of the child but for the pet as well. Children can’t read animal body language.  They are often at eye level with a pet and may be seen as lower in social ranking than adults.  Children need to be taught to how handle their pet gently yet assertively.   Even when pet and child are both trained, they never be left alone together.
  6. Take your pet to the vet for something other than vaccines.  If you happen to be driving by the vet’s office, stop in.  Bring the dog inside for some treats.  Let the staff pet them and then go home.  You will be surprised how much more relaxed your pet will be if you do this a few times. 
  7. If you run into a problem you can’t handle, call a professional.  There is nothing wrong with asking someone more experienced to help you with your pet. The key is to go for help before a problem gets out of hand.

This is only meant to get you started thinking in the right direction.  Talk to your veterinarian about trainers in your area if you’re unsure where to go.  Just remember to have fun and always keep your pet social.

Davenport, Iowa Veterinarian Itching to teach you about Fleas

 

Who hates fleas?  Everybody hates fleas!  Ctenocephalides canis or felis better known as the common flea is not a visitor anyone ever welcomes to their home.  For those of us who have had to deal with a flea infestation- once is definitely enough! Aside from the obvious “yuck” factor, there are a lot of good reasons to avoid this hopping, biting scourge of the insect world.

  1.  Fleas make their living by biting other animals and feeding on their blood.  When fleas bite they inject saliva into the skin of their host which can cause inflammation, itching, allergic dermatitis and hair loss.  Even worse, if the host is small enough or the number of fleas’ large enough, anemia can result from blood loss.
  2. Fleas don’t just bite your pet.  They bite you.  They bite your children.  Everybody gets itchy.
  3. A single female flea can lay up to 50 eggs each day and up to 2000 eggs in her short life time!!!  Of course by the time you discover that your pet has fleas, there are most likely eggs and larva throughout your home.
  4. Fleas act as a transport vehicle for the aptly named “Flea” tapeworm.  Pets ingest fleas as they groom.  Once the flea is in the digestive system, the larva breaks free and finds a home in your pet’s intestines. An adult tapeworm can grow up to 75 cm (29.5 inches).  According to CPAC (Companion Animal Parasite Council), “Infections of children with D. caninum following ingestion of an infected flea are occasionally reported. The disease induced in the child is generally mild, confined to the intestinal tract, and readily treated, but can still be distressing to the family.”
  5. Fleas carry the Plague – the Bubonic Plague.  This is particularly important in the Rocky Mountain States.
  6. Fleas carry Typhus and yes it can be transmitted to humans.  According to Pubmed Health, “Typhus is caused by one of two types of bacteria: Rickettsia typhi or Rickettsia prowazekii.” The form of typhus depends on which type of bacteria causes the infection. Murine typhus occurs in the southeastern and southern United States, often during the summer and fall. It is rarely deadly. Risk factors for murine typhus include:
    1. Exposure to rat fleas or feces
    2. Exposure to other animals such as cats, opossums, raccoons, skunks and rats
  7. Fleas can help to transmit “Cat Scratch” disease from one cat to another.  We humans get Cat Scratch Fever when we are scratched by an infected feline.
  8.  Fleas can transmit  Mycoplasma haemofelis a blood borne parasite that can cause damage to the red calls which results in anemia in your pet.
  9.  Even if your pet never goes outdoors, you can carry fleas into the house on your pants legs. Fleas can survive the winter just fine as long as you continue to heat your home. 
  10. Once there is an established flea infestation, it can be time consuming and expensive to resolve.  Like so many other problems fleas are much easier to prevent than alleviate.

 

I don’t know about you but I’m going to go make sure my dog is up to date on his flea prevention.

Ways to Recognise Illness in Your Cat From Davenport, Iowa Veterinarian

The decrease in feline veterinary visits has us worried.   We love our cats but do not provide them with the same level of care that we do our dogs.  It’s true that cats are great at masking illness.  However,  by putting off a veterinary visit until your cat is seriously ill,  we  only make for greater expense for us and stress for our pet.  We all need to learn how to better recognise the signs of illness in cats, so this week we have decided to reprint a great article  from Pet Docs on Call covering  just this subject.

 

By Dr. Jen Mathis, Certified Veterinary Journalist and member of the Veterinary News Network received veterinary care in the past year.hadn’t”There are 82 million pet cats in the U.S., compared with 72 million dogs, making cats the most popular pet.  Yet studies show the number of feline veterinary visits is declining steadily each year. A 2007 industry survey revealed that compared with dogs, almost three times as many cats

Though there are many myths about cat health, the truth is, cats need regular veterinary care, including annual exams and vaccinations, just like dogs do. More importantly, because they are naturally adept at hiding signs of illness, annual exams can result in early diagnosis of health problems. Early diagnosis often results in longer quality life at less cost.

Boehringer Ingelheim is trying to help cat health by teaching about the 10 subtle signs of sickness in cats:

1. INAPPROPRIATE URINATION – At least 80% of the time this is a medical problem often associated with conditions ranging from kidney disease to arthritis. Behavior is the least likely cause.

2. CHANGES IN INTERACTION – Cats are social animals. Changes in their interaction often signal pain or anxiety.

3. CHANGES IN ACTIVITY – Medical conditions such as arthritis can produce a decrease in activity while an increase can signal a condition such as hyperthyroidism.

4. CHANGES IN SLEEPING HABITS – While cats sleep 16 to 18 hours a day, they usually should be quick to respond to someone walking into a room. Difficulty lying or rising is also a problem.

5. CHANGES IN FOOD AND WATER CONSUMPTION – Eating or drinking more or less can be signs of a range of underlying medical conditions.

6. WEIGHT LOSS OR GAIN – Weight changes in cats often go unnoticed because of their thick coats. It is not an expected part of aging, but rather a medical problem.

7. CHANGES IN GROOMING – A poor hair coat is a common sign of many medical conditions in cats.

8. SIGNS OF STRESS – Sudden lifestyle changes can cause stress in cats, resulting in symptoms such as decreased grooming to eating more frequently. These are also signs of illness, so sickness should be ruled out before stress issues are addressed.

9. CHANGES IN VOCALIZATION – An increase in crying or howling is common with older cats and can be caused by high blood pressure (leading cause of blindness), kidney problems, thyroid issues, stress or pain.

10. BAD BREATH– 70 percent of cats have gum disease as early as age 3. Pets are not supposed to have bad breath as it usually means infection. Since 2/3 of the tooth is under the gum-line, many cats have problems that can’t be seen without x rays. Dental problems cause kidney problems.

“Have we seen your cat lately?” If not, an exam may be just what your cat needs to help live a longer quality life! For more information, please check with your veterinarian!”


Davenport, Iowa veterinarian Reaches Out to Cat Owners

Have We Seen Your Cat Lately?

We love our cats in the United States.  Unfortunately that doesn’t always translate into appropriate veterinary care. Yes there are plenty of owners who do everything for their cats – exams, vaccines, spay/neuter and dental care – whatever they need.  However they may not be in the majority. Too many neglect health issues until their cat becomes seriously ill.

One scenario may be for a feline patient to come in for kitten vaccines, spay or neuter surgery and then not be seen again until they are sick. Other owners will keep up on rabies vaccines but little else.  Too many of us don’t provide our cats with the same level of care that we do their canine counterparts.

Cats can be difficult to transport.  They don’t like their carriers. They don’t like the clinic. Then again, many think because their cat is indoors, no vaccines are required. We tell ourselves cats are hardy survivors. They don’t need as much veterinary care.

Wrong.  Cats need all the same care that other animals do.  According to Scott Bernick at Animal Family, “This has been a disturbing trend in veterinary medicine.  Unfortunately we are seeing more cats come in with severe illness, leaving the owners with fewer options and increased expenses.”

Cats need to be vaccinated just as much as other pets.  Core vaccines are those recommended for all cats. These are diseases that are commonly found in the environment. That means there is a realistic risk of exposure, infection and development of a disease.  This is particularly the case with kittens.  In the case of Rabies, it is mandated by law for the protection of public as well as animal health.

The following vaccines are considered core:

  • Feline Panleukopenia:      All kittens should receive this vaccine as early as 6 weeks and then at 3-4 week intervals until 16 weeks of age.  All kittens should receive a 1 year booster.  Non vaccinated adults should receive 2 doses 3-4 weeks apart.  Annual vaccination is not recommended in all adult cats.  At Animal Family we vaccinate every 2 years.
  • Feline Rhinotracheitis:     All kittens should receive this vaccine as early as 6 weeks of age and then in 3-4 week intervals until 16 weeks of age.  All kittens should receive a 1 year booster.  Non vaccinated adults should receive 2 doses 3- weeks apart.  Annual vaccination is not recommended in all adult cats.  At Animal Family we vaccinate every 2 years
  • Feline Calicivirus:  All kittens should receive this vaccine as early as 6 weeks of age and then in 3-4 week intervals until 16 weeks of age.  All kittens should receive a 1 year booster.  Non vaccinated adults should receive 2 doses 3-4 weeks apart.  Annual vaccination is not recommended in adult cats.  At Animal Family we vaccinate every 2 years
  • Rabies:         State statutes determine how often Rabies vaccines are administered. In Iowa a single dose is required as early as 12 weeks of age. All kittens should receive a 1 year booster.  Non vaccinated adults receive 1 vaccine and a booster 12 months later.  Thereafter adults can receive Rabies vaccination in 3 year intervals provided it is given on schedule.  Otherwise another 1 year booster will be required.

The following vaccines are considered noncore:

  • Feline Leukemia:    Feline Leukemia testing and vaccination is strongly recommended for all kittens and for individuals whose health is compromised.  Kittens test negative for the virus prior to vaccination.  Two doses are administered as early as 8 weeks of age and 3-4 weeks later.  Only cats that are at risk (such as those who go outdoors) should be vaccinated at yearly intervals thereafter.           
  • Feline Immunodeficiency Virus:            This vaccine is only recommended for only for cats with high risk of exposure.  Because the vaccination  itself can cause a positive result on antibody testing, there is some controversy surrounding its use

 

  • FIP:    Generally not recommended due to concern about whether the vaccine is effective or not.
  • Feline Chlamydophila and Bordatella are only recommended when the diseases are present in multi-cat environments.

We are participating in a nationwide National awareness program aimed at reminding people of the importance of regular veterinary care for their cats.  During the months of April, May and June   Animal Family will provide dental exams, weight checks and body assessment scores free of charge.  It would be a great time to update vaccines and get a wellness check up for your cat as well.

Davenport, Iowa Veterinarian Provides a Guide to Vaccinations

Vaccinations are one of the most common procedures a pet receives at the veterinarian’s office   Vaccines help enhance your pet’s  immune response as a way to prevent infectious disease.  Most species including humans receive vaccines at some point in their life.

We begin the process in young animals as maternal antibodies (received in the womb and while nursing) decrease. Once an animal becomes an adult, vaccinations are continued at regular intervals based on manufacturer’s recommendations and those of agencies such as the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) and AHHA (American Animal Hospital Association) and AAFP (American Association of Feline Practitioners).  Your vet may increase frequency or even discontinue specific vaccines on a given animal if there is concern regarding immune response.

Vaccines are divided into two groups – either core or noncore. Core vaccines are recommended for every animal of a given species. An example of a core vaccine would be Parvovirus. It is endemic to the United States and can cause death or severe illness in affected dogs.

 Noncore vaccines are recommended for those individuals who are at risk for exposure to certain infectious agents. An example would be recommending Lyme vaccine for a pet that has had tick (which are known to transmit Lyme disease) infestation in the past or frequents areas that are known tick habitats.

AAHA vaccine guidelines consider the following vaccines core:

:

  • Canine Parvovirus: All puppies should receive 3 doses between the ages of 6 to 16 weeks administered 3 – 4 weeks apart. All puppies should also receive a one year booster. Unvaccinated adults require 2 doses at 3 – 4 week intervals. Annual vaccination is not recommended in adults.  This is why we use a 2 year vaccination interval at Animal Family.
  • Canine Distemper Virus: All puppies should receive 3 doses between the ages of 6 to 16 weeks administered 3 – 4 weeks apart. All puppies should also receive a one year booster. Unvaccinated adults require 2 doses at 3 – 4 weeks apart.  . Annual vaccination is not recommended in adults this is why we use a 2 year vaccination interval at Animal Family.
  • Canine Adenovirus (Hepatitis):  All puppies should receive 3 doses between the ages of 6 to 16 weeks administered 3 – 4 weeks apart. All puppies should receive a one year booster. Unvaccinated adults require 2 doses at 3 – 4 weeks apart.  Annual vaccination is not recommended in adults. This is why we use a 2 year vaccination interval at Animal Family.
  • Rabies: State statutes dictate rabies vaccine protocolsIn Iowa, puppies should receive one dose as early as 4 months.  All puppies receive a 1 year booster. Thereafter a dog may go to 3 year vaccination intervals.  Unvaccinated adults receive a single dose, a booster at 1 year and boosters every 3 years thereafter. Boosters must be done close to the original administration date or the animal will require a 1 year booster.

 

AAHA vaccine guidelines consider the following vaccines as non-core:

  • Parainfluenza: All puppies should receive 3 doses between the ages of 6 to 16 weeks administered 3 – 4 weeks apart.  All puppies should receive a one year booster. Unvaccinated adults require a single dose. 
  • Bordatella (Kennel Cough): Both puppies and unvaccinated adults should receive 2 doses 3 – 4 weeks apart.  Thereafter annual boosters are recommended for high-risk animals.  We consider this to be a core vaccine at Animal Family because all dogs have exposure to other canines
  • Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme disease):  Puppies should receive 2 doses.  The first at 9 – 12 weeks and the second 3 – 4 weeks later. Unvaccinated adults should receive 2 doses at 3 – 4 week intervals.  Annual boosters are recommended thereafter. Vaccination is recommended for those animals who live in or visit areas where exposure to tick vectors is high or animals who live in an area where the disease is considered to be endemic.
  • Canine Coronavirus:  AAHA does not recommend this vaccine since clinical cases rarely occur.
  • Leptospira:  Puppies should receive 2 doses between the ages of 12 to 16 weeks administered 3 – 4 weeks apart. All puppies should receive a one year booster. Unvaccinated adults should receive 2 doses 3 – 4 weeks apart. Annual vaccinations are recommended thereafter.  We consider Leptospira a core vaccine at Animal Family because we see clinical cases every year.

This covers the vaccines recommended for dogs.  Next week we will cover feline vaccination recommendations.

Davenport Veterinarian’s Guide to Pocket Pets, Part 2

Last post, we covered some general information on pocket pets.  This week we are introducing you to some of the small but mighty critters we see at Animal Family Veterinary Care Center.  Of course, this is just an introduction, so, if you’re interested,  feel free to facebook us with any questions you may have at Animal Family

Each type of pocket pet has its own requirements.  Hamsters are nocturnal and sleep through much of the daylight hours.  In addition, many don’t get along well with others of their kind and will need to be housed separately. Hamsters will bite if frightened.  Our experience at the clinic has been that the larger Teddy Bear hamsters are generally much easier to handle. Most hamsters live 2 – 3 years.   Like all rodents, hamsters can be prone to respiratory and GI troubles.  All rodents have teeth which grow continually which causes dental problems when malocclusion is present. Rodents with malocclusions will eventually stop eating if their teeth are not cared for.

Gerbils and mice are both a little friendlier than hamsters although again, in our experience, both will bite if frightened.  They are small, fast and agile and can easily slip through your fingers making them a poor choice for small children.  They are susceptible to the same health issues as hamsters and have about the same life span.  All of the pocket pets which were originally bred to be used as lab animals are especially prone to tumors as well

Rats are extremely smart, gentle and social.  Most can be taught to perform tricks and can become quite attached to their owner.  Rats generally get along great with each other as well but it is a good idea to house same sex pairs unless you want a lot more rats.  Sadly, rats are more prone to develop tumors than any other pocket pet. We don’t see as many dental problems with rats but they can be susceptible to respiratory infections.  The average rat lives to 2-3 years of age.

Guinea Pigs make wonderful pets.  Nonaggressive and social, they will quickly become accustomed to handling. Unlike other rodents, guinea pigs must receive supplementation of Vitamin C on a daily basis or they become ill.  Even though most foods formulated for guinea pigs contain added vitamin C you need to make certain it is fresh or the Vitamin C will degrade.   Guinea Pig’s larger size means that they require more room to move around. However, unlike mice and gerbils, guinea pigs are not climbers.  They come in a large variety of different coat types and colors.  On the down side, guinea pigs have very small lungs for their size and will become quite sick if they contract any respiratory disease.  In general guinea pigs live 5 – 6 years.

Rabbits, like guinea pigs also make wonderful pets.  Rabbits are not rodents but lagomorphs.  They come in a huge number of varieties, coat colors and sizes.  Most housetrain easily and will use a cat litter box.  In general, females tend to be the most cantankerous but are better behaved if spayed.  Unaltered females housed together will fight.  In addition, females can develop mammary tumors and reproductive tract disease if left intact.  Unaltered males will spray urine to mark territory.  They do well on a diet with large amounts of timothy hay and small amounts of rabbit pellets and veggies.  They are susceptible to respiratory and dental problems and generally live 5 – 8 years or more.

Ferrets are a Mustelids and the clowns of the pocket pet world.  Smart, active, agile and a little stinky, ferrets are endlessly entertaining.  They require lots of exercise but can get into trouble if left out unsupervised.  Of the small mammals, ferrets are the guys we see the most often for foreign bodies. Unlike the other small pets discussed so far, ferrets need to be vaccinated for distemper and rabies.  Not everybody loves ferrets.  They are banned in some states while others require that they be registered.  Ferrets can be taught to use a litter box and will learn to walk on a leash and halter.   They are true carnivores and unable to handle fiber.  Fortunately there are several commercial ferret diets available.  Although they have a lifespan of 5 -8 years, ferrets are prone to developing adrenal tumors and insulinomas as they mature.

Chinchillas were once used for the fur trade but have recently become popular as pets.  They are considered nocturnal but can be active during the daytime.  They prefer a diet of hay and pellets with small amounts of fruit, nuts and veggies added in. They are active but enjoy being cuddled and rarely bite.  Their housing requirements are similar to a rabbit but their optimal temperature is 50 – 60 degrees.  They are very susceptible to heat stroke, and don’t do well in high humidity.  They also require access to a dust bath 2 -3 times a week.  Common chinchilla problems include dental malocclusions, respiratory and GI disease. They can live 9 -17 years.

Hedgehogs are insectivores.  We generally see the African Pygmy Hedgehog in practice.  There a few commercial diets available for hedgehogs. They require a diet that is high in protein and low in fat.  Dog and cat foods alone are not adequate and will need to be supplemented with mealworms, crickets, fruits and veggies. Don’t feed too much or leave food out all the time or your hedgehog can become obese.  Although cute, hedgehogs are solitary and generally not too happy with being held.  They require a 20 gallon or larger aquarium or other smooth sided enclosure and 75 – 85 F temperature year round. They don’t like toys but will use exercise wheels if one is provided. Hedgehogs will develop tartar and gingivitis if you don’t take care of their teeth.  We also see them for obesity, tumors and fatty liver syndrome.

Sugar Gliders are marsupials.  They are nocturnal, highly social animals.  Please don’t keep one all by itself.  If handled from a young age they can develop a bond with their owners.  They are primarily insect eaters but also consume tree sap in the wild.  They do not eat foliage or fruit in the wild. A good diet is composed of 50% commercial insectivore diet and 50% “Leadbeaters mixture “(your veterinarian can provide you with the recipe). Diced fruits, worms and crickets can be acceptable treats in captivity. Sugar gliders can be hard to keep healthy in captivity.  They suffer from stress related disorders and one of their main health problems is malnutrition.   Because they glide they are also susceptible to trauma. Pneumonia, diarrhea and blindness are other problem seen in captive sugar gliders.

One final reminder; just like your dogs and cats, pockets pets need to checked annually for parasites. It is also a good idea to bring them in yearly for an overall health check.  Since most exotic pets mask illness, this is one way to help us diagnose any medical problems early enough to treat them. Our aim is to keep them healthier and you happier.

Remember, this is just a quick overview of the world of pocket pets.  If you are considering adding one of these charmers to your home, please do your research first.  Shelters are already seeing an increase in the number of little critters that are thoughtlessly acquired then just as thoughtlessly discarded.  Please don’t add to the problem.

Davenport Veterinarian’s Guide to Pocket Pets – Part 1

Just what exactly is a pocket pet? We use the term to describe small mammals.  These include rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, mice, rats, gerbils, ferrets, sugar gliders, chinchillas and hedgehogs.  Some have been around for years and others such as sugar gliders and hedgehogs are relatively new to pet owners.  Each has its own specific set of needs and health issues and all have become a growing part of veterinary medicine.  We certainly enjoy having them as patients at our clinic.

One of the key differences between the pocket pet owners of today from those of the past is the desire to provide better care for their pets. No longer satisfied with just replacing one pet with another should illness occur, they insist on quality care.  Pocket pets have become near and dear to our hearts, often assuming the same importance as dogs and cats to many owners.  Often one of the biggest hurdles in small mammal ownership is finding a veterinarian who is well versed in the specific requirements of their unusual pet.

Why choose a pocket pet? They can be a great option for those with limited space or a rental situation where larger animals are not allowed.  They are generally housed in a cage and so are much less likely to damage your home or apartment. Even better, the cost of feeding and caring for a little critter is generally about ½ or less than that of a traditional pet.  For the most part, most pocket pets are nonaggressive and will adapt quite well to handling.  They each have individual personalities, are quite playful and generally fun to have around.  Some, such as rats and ferrets, are highly trainable and capable of learning tricks and other complex behaviors.

Like any other pet, small mammals have specific housing, feeding and care needs. Not all of them may be appropriate for young children.  The small size of many pocket pets makes them fragile and particularly susceptible to injury if dropped or handled roughly.  Others, although cute to look at,  require much more detailed care than others.

One final reminder; just like your dogs and cats, pockets pets need to checked annually for parasites. It is also a good idea to bring them in yearly for an overall health check.  Since most exotic pets mask illness, this is one way to help us diagnose any medical problems early enough to treat them. Our aim is to keep them healthier and you happier.

Remember, this is just a quick overview of the world of pocket pets. If you are considering adding one of these charmers to your home, please do your research first.  Shelters are already seeing an increase in the number of little critters that are thoughtlessly acquired then just as thoughtlessly discarded.  Please don’t add to the problem.

We will take a closer look at each of the individual pocket pets in upcoming blogs.  So, be sure to check back in.