10 Things My Dog Taught Me

 hannah 5

 

  • Today is the only day that counts. camp canine 05-07-11 004

    • The past is already gone and the future isn’t here yet so why ruin the beauty of today. Don’t spend so much time brooding about what’s gone or hasn’t happened yet that you miss the magnificence that is today.
  • Don’t hold grudges.

    • If you’re honest with yourself, there are truly very few things in life worth staying angry about. Forgive and then forget about it.Cooper k9 kindness

  • Food is meant to enjoy.

    • Yes we need to eat healthy food but it can still be enjoyable. Sometimes we get so caught up in what is best for us we forget to add in some of what makes us feel the best.

  • Exercise is important but make sure you have a great time while you’re getting it.

    • Have you ever watched how much fun your dog has playing outside? Don’t forget to put plenty of play into your exercise schedule.agility dog

  • Never be afraid to show someone just how much you love them.

    • Well, OK temper this a little, at least until you really get to know the object of your affection but there is someone special in your life make sure they know it!

  • Play hard, Rest hard!

           When you have fun don’t be afraid to let go and enjoy it for all it’s worth!   After fun, well… after fun there is always time for a good nap in the sun.summertime

  • Sometimes rules are meant to be broken.

    • Everybody needs rules but what we don’t need is to make life so hard and so circumscribed that there is no room left to be us. Go ahead and stray off the path of perfection once in a while. It’s OK. Your dog said so.

  • Growing old is really OK.

    • Dogs don’t waste a whole lot of time on their outward appearance. They may be old or missing an eye or maybe even a limb but they know that the most important thing is having friends who love you.10334375_321584181300002_8022760032003261428_n[1]

 

  • Take time to stop and investigate your world.

    • Take the time to really enjoy the world around you. It’s a wonderful place. As a species, we humans spend way too much time rushing and fussing and fixing but not near enough time just enjoying.ball and dog

    • Don’t be afraid to leave your mark on the world.

      Your mark may be your children, your wood carving, your poetry, music or maybe just the way the way you made someone smile. The point is, that it doesn’t really matter. Just don’t be afraid to let the world know that you are here.underdog

10 GOOD Reasons Why Your Next Pet Should Come From a Shelter

puck and santaIn the spirit of giving this holiday season we thought we would remind you why your next pet should come from one of our local shelters.

 

  1. You know what you are getting.

    Unlike a puppy, if you adopt an adult animal, he/she will already have a fully developed personality. In addition, most shelters temperament test their animals before putting them up for adoption so there is little chance of bringing home an unstable animal.

  2. Some animals receive extra training and socialization.singing beagle

    How great is it to get a pet that is already house trained! Even better, if you adopt through an agency that utilizes foster care, your pet may have received some basic obedience training as well. Shelters will generally be willing to help you should problems develop post adoption.

  3. Your new companion wants and appreciates the chance to bond with you.

    Ending up in a shelter is a scary process. Pets may arrive there due to the death of a previous owner, financial difficulties, or simply because they got lost. These are usually great animals who just need a second chance and will be forever grateful to their new owner.singing dog 3

  4. Shelters are a better option than a puppy mill.

    You have no idea about the breeding, or socialization of animals that come from a puppy mill. You may pay a large amount of money for a pet that has spent its entire life in a small kennel with little human contact. When profit is the main motivator, you can be sure that little attention is paid to preventing inherited disorders either

  5. You are saving lives.

    When you adopt a pet from a shelter you are not only saving the pet you bring home but making room for another animal in that facility or foster program as well. It feels pretty singing dog 5good to save one life but it’s even better when it’s two.

  6. You are helping your community. When you adopt from your local humane society the fees you pay help to fund all of their programs. Most shelters also provide community education, patrol for strays and lost pets and ensure animals they adopt out are spayed or neutered.

  7. You will have help finding the right animal for your family.

    Shelters want their placements to work and they will work hard to help you find the right animal for your home environment. Unlike buying from a pet store, you get to know ahead of time if your dog or cats prefers children or other pets.singing dog4

  8. Yes, you can find a purebred animal.

    A surprising number of purebred dogs and cats can be found at your local humane society. Being a purebred does not make them immune from circumstances that can land them in a shelter.

  9. Shelters also have puppies and kittens and ferrets and rabbits and birds .

    If you really love having a baby in the house, shelters usually have young animals up for adoption too. They can also be a great place to find your next rabbit, guinea pig or ferret.

  10. Your pet may already be spayed or neutered.sing along

    Because all shelters are concerned about pet overpopulation, your pet will most likely already be altered. If you adopt an animal that is too young most provide vouchers for later spaying and neutering. That’s one less thing for you to worry about.

Here are links to our local shelters:

Humane Society of Scott County

Quad City Animal Welfare Center

K-9 Kindnessprince and Santa

King’s Harvest

Rock Island County Animal Shelter

Animal Aid

Is Your Pet Ready for Spring

  • Is your pet current on vaccines? 

    • Dogs: Rabies, Distemper, Leptospirosis, Parainfluenza, Parvovirus, Hepatitis and if there is a concern, Bordetella and Lyme.

    • Cats: Rabies, Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calici virus, Panleukopenia and where there is a concern, Feline Leukemia.

    • Exotics: Rabies and other vaccines recommended by your veterinarian.

  • Has your pet had their Heartworm or Feline leukemia Tests.

  • Are your pet’s current on their parasite testing and protection?

    • Dogs: Intestinal and Heartworm prevention

    • Cats: Intestinal and yes, Heartworm prevention

    • Exotics: Absolutely, intestinal parasite prevention

  • Has your pet been spayed or neutered?

    • Spring is the time for love and that cute kitten or puppy you got around Christmas is ready for reproduction.  Are you?

  • Have you cleaned up the rodenticide that you put out last fall? 

    • You may have forgotten about any poisons you put out in the fall but rest assured your pet will find them. 

    • Accidental poisoning is a common and preventable year round problem

  • Properly dispose of antifreeze when you drain your radiator.

    • This deadly poison takes lives every spring.

  • Once the snow melts check your yard for items that could be hazardous to your pet.

    • Glass, nails and other items can become buried in the snow and forgotten.  Be sure to do a sweep of your yard every spring.

  • Mend your fences.

    • Fences can be damaged over the winter and it may not be visible until the snow melts.  Check gate latches as well.

  • Did your pet slow down over the winter?  Spring is a great time to work on getting winter weight off.  The great news is it works for both of you.

    • Start any exercise program slowly and watch your pet for signs of arthritis or injuries that may go unnoticed during the sedentary winter months.

  • Don’t forget the leash!  Everybody has cabin fever by the end of winter.  Make sure your pet is safely under leash and not able to follow the urge to wander.

10 Questions for Dr. Lauren Hughes

 

 

1. How old were you when you decided to become a veterinarian?

Like a lot of my colleagues, I wanted to become a veterinarian ever since I was a little kid, around 5 years old. It was the idea of what a veterinarian actually was that changed for me over the years. When I was in high school, I got to job shadow through the Interact program and Key Club and got a much better idea of what the job entailed and I fell in love with the career. My work as a zoo keeper at Niabi Zoo solidified my want to work with wildlife and exotic species.

2. What is the best part of your job?

As much as I love the work with the variety of species I see on a daily basis, what I love most about the job is giving back to the community and working with the owners of all these pets. Establishing a relationship with my clients and their family and getting to know them is a lot of fun.

3. What’s the most interesting case you’ve ever had?

During my last year of vet school, a large male Rottweiler came into the clinic with a swollen abdomen and we took x-rays, thinking the dog had a twisted stomach. When we began surgery, there was nothing wrong with the stomach at all and everything appear normal within the abdomen. During surgery, the dog’s right hind leg began to swell and he did not recover well from surgery. We ended up having to keep him in the ICU and do several more surgeries and through diagnostic testing and bacterial culture, we discovered that he had flesh eating bacteria, necrotizing fasciitis, and was unfortunately unable to recover. I will probably never see a case like that again in my lifetime.

4. What’s the most difficult part of your job?

Humane euthanasia is always the most difficult part for me. It is such an emotional time for the owners and I’m a crier anyway, so it doesn’t help the situation. The blessing of working with animals is that we have the ability to alleviate their suffering in cases of severe, incurable disease or when it’s time for them to cross that rainbow bridge, but it’s never a happy experience and doesn’t get any easier.     

 

5. Why become a vet when you could have gone into human medicine and made more money?

Because of the variety of species I work with, every day brings something new and challenging. With the exotic animals that I see, as well as the animals from Niabi Zoo, the database of knowledge in some of these critters is extremely limited and brings about my “MacGyver” skills, trying to find new ways to treat patients that have never been done before as well as diagnose their diseases. More money would be nice, but I think I would get bored. I love what I do, so the money really isn’t a factor to me.

6. We know you have to like animals for this job but what are the other unique requirements?

Communication skills, creative thinking, and flexibility. Not every patient presents the same way, even if they have the same disease and not every owner has the same budget so approach do disease treatment and animal management is always different.

7. How has veterinary medicine changed since your parent’s time?

The view of animals in the home has changed significantly over the years. Pets are now much more part of the family than ever before, so the care for them has definitely changed and improved.

8. Even though both jobs require the same amount of education; how does veterinary medicine differ from human medicine beyond the obvious question of species?

Many veterinarians “do everything” still, even though we have specialists. There are so many general practitioners in the veterinary world that act as surgeon, dentist, nutritionist, physical therapist, Chiropractor (wink, wink Dr. Meredith), radiologist, and many more. Your role changes so frequently based on your patient and it’s needs. This is much different than practitioners in the human world.

9. What do you think the new horizons for veterinary medicine will be?

Holistic medicine is becoming more prominent, as well as animal nutrition. Owners are becoming much more aware of the nutritional needs of their pets and asking a lot more information about appropriate diets.

10. If someone gave you a magic wand and you could go back and do it over again, would you still become a vet?

Yes, but I’d never want to do vet school again!

Guinea Pigs

 

Cavia porcellus, better known as the Guinea Pig is a South American Rodent that has been domesticated for around 3,000 years.  They are used primarily for food in South America but are beloved as pets here in North America.  Guinea pigs are generally easy to handle, non-aggressive, come in a variety of coat types and colors and are a favorite small companion for children of all ages.

Guinea pigs live an average of 5 – 8 years.  Thick bodied with short limbs they can weigh anywhere from 700 to 1200 grams. Pigs are a social animal and prefer to have a housemate.  Females become sexually mature at the tender age of 6 weeks of age so if you have a mixed group, neuter your male. Gestation is about 4 weeks. Guinea pigs produce “precocious” young who are eating solid foods within 5 days of birth.  One important thing to know is that if females do not give birth before 6 months of age their pubic symphysis will mineralize rendering them unable to deliver a baby.

Guinea pigs can be kept in a wire cage with a solid bottom and shredded paper bedding.  Avoid wire bottom cages since they can cause injuries and other foot problems. The same goes for aromatic shavings which cause skin irritation and respiratory problems. Guinea pigs prefer to have a hiding place or hutch for privacy and an exercise area. Do not use an exercise ball. They are not climbers and do not need a cage top.  Just make certain that the sides are high enough to keep them in.  As their name suggests, Guinea pigs can be quite messy and should have their enclosure and feed dishes cleaned frequently. One final point to remember is that these mountain dwellers do not tolerate high temperatures or humidity.  Try to keep temperatures between 61 to 75 degrees.  Anything above 80 degrees can cause heat stroke.

Guinea pigs are vegetarians and need a diet comprised primarily of timothy hay, a commercial pelleted feed with added vitamin C and fresh vegetables such as dandelions, parsley and kale.  A small amount of fresh fruit is OK but only as a treat. Guinea pigs cannot synthesize vitamin C so great care must be taken to ensure that they receive an adequate (10mg/kg/day) amount in their feed.  Vitamin C tablets are also available.

The most common problem we see in Guinea pigs at the Animal Family is dental disease caused by malocclusion of the molars.  If your pig is not eating well or simply looks poor it is important to have the teeth checked. 

Guinea pigs are very sensitive to changes in diet and environment.  Because of this, they are prone to GI problems due to an over growth of “bad bacteria”.  Use of the wrong type of antibiotic can also cause GI problems in pigs.  Signs may include bloating, diarrhea and loss of condition.

We see urinary calculi and bladder infections more than we would like too.  It is more common in pigs on a high calcium diet like alfalfa, but some may simply be genetically predisposed to developing urinary tract problems. Signs may include, frequent urination, straining to urinate, blood in the urine and vocalizing while urinating.

Their small lungs and sensitivity to Bordatella bacteria make pneumonia a particular problem for Guinea pigs.  Stress, exposure to dogs and other Bordatella carriers and poor ventilation can all cause disease.  Signs include nasal discharge, sneezing, rapid respiration and lethargy.  Severe cases can cause death.

Bumble foot or Pododermatitis is seen in animals kept on wire flooring.  This problem can be quite severe if it goes untreated.  Swelling, ulceration and secondary infection can render your pig unable to bear weight.  If your pet develops this problem even though you have proper flooring, you may need to check your source of Vitamin C. 

Mites and ringworm are another common problem of Guinea pigs. You may see intense itching and hair loss.  The good news is both are also easily treated. Your pig will love for helping him with these nasty critters.

Our blog is only meant to be an introduction to Guinea pigs. More information is available through your veterinarian, the library or on-line.

10 Reasons Why Your Pet Should be on Flea Prevention

 

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!  There are a lot of good reasons to avoid this hopping, biting scourge of the insect world aside from the obvious “yuck” factor surrounding them.

 

  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.

 

  1. Fleas can transmit hemoplasmas, a blood borne parasite that can cause damage to the red calls which results in anemia in your pet.

 

  1. 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.

10 Questions for Dr. Kathy Van Buer

1)  How old were you when you knew you wanted to become a veterinarian?

I knew that I wanted to go into medicine since I was about 3 years
old. My mom was a nurse and I was always treating all of my dolls,
stuffed animals, live pets and other critters that I would find. I
decided specifically on veterinary medicine in college, although spent
a lot of time with animals throughout my childhood.
2)  What is the best thing about being a veterinarian?

The best part is actually getting to work with a huge variety of
critters from tiny animals like hummingbirds and sugar gliders to
turtles, dogs, cats and guinea pigs to really big animals like
elephants and giraffes! I only wish unicorns and dragons were real! I
find the wide variety of animals and various adaptations to their
various environments absolutely amazing and am honored to get an
opportunity to work with them all.
3)  What have been your most interesting cases?  

I’ve had lots of really cool cases over time.
The penguins from a zoo had been getting sick and dying and we found out
they were eating the lead pellets that were dropping out of the lead
belts the pool cleaners were wearing…or

 The case of a missing snake
(We found that the other snake in the cage had eaten it- radiographs
showed a snake in a snake)!…or

 The case of a dog from Florida with a
rash that turned out to be an unusual parasitic worm that had formed
inside blisters in it’s skin, easily treated with dewormer medication
once we knew the cause.
4.  What  is the most difficult part of being a veterinarian?

 When there really isn’t anything much that I can do to help a patient, as I really like to fix things and make the animals all better. Oh, and paperwork- yuck!
5. Why did you become a veterinarian instead of a human doctor?

 As a veterinairan every day is different. I get to be actively involved in all aspects of care of each animal from birth to death including preventative care, surgery, and diagnositics and am able to be a part of the pet’s family as well. No two days are ever the same and life is never boring!
6.  Aside from loving animals, what other unique qualities do you think it takes to become a veterinarian?

Learning to read and interpret the animals’ symptoms since they can’t talk. In addition, you have to be rather creative, thinking outside the box, finding new uses for items, etc.  Constantly learning new things and adapting old things to new situations.  Problem solving and extrapolating from one species to the next.
7.  What changes have you seen in veterinary medicine since your parents time?

There have been huge advances in human and animal medicine. Pets are more a part of the family. Increased technology in information sharing and diagnostics. More specialists available and referrals. Increased interest in exotic and nontraditional animals.
8.  Other than species , what do you think the main differences are between human and veterinary medicine?

 Patients can’t talk so  you need to read signals, pay attention to small details, listen to owner observations to get information. Pets are the property of owners so treatment depends on owner decisions,  there are few pets with insurance so may have limited resources despite ability to treat problems. There is a
lot of emotional attachment to pets. Degrees of pet care expectations
vary with the owner. Many costs regarding patient care and equipment
are the same but much lower fees can be charged for pets. Few
medicines are actually made specifically for animals. Euthanasia is an
option.
9. What do you think the new horizons in veterinary  medicine will be?

 Advances in human medicine will also allow for advances in animal medicine especially regarding cancer treatments. More referral and specialty practices. Gene studies are likely to play a role in animal health futures as they will in human health.
10. If you could wave a magic wand and do it all over again, would you?

 Yes- being a veterinarian has allowed me so many unique and amazing opportunities that I wouldn’t want to miss them by doing something else!

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 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.