Illustrated Articles

Small Mammals

  • Coccidial organisms, including Eimeria, are parasites that can infect rabbits, especially young and recently weaned rabbits. These host-specific organisms live in rabbit intestines and can infect the liver. Healthy, mature rabbits housed in good environments may only be transiently affected, while young, immunocompromised rabbits kept in poor environmental conditions may succumb to infection and die. Many rabbits that have this disease do not show any or signs, but if they do, they may have infrequent or intermittent watery, mucousy, or possibly blood-tinged diarrhea. Diagnosis involves examining a fecal smear under a microscope or performing a fecal float test. If your rabbit's diarrhea progresses to moderate to severe in intensity, your veterinarian will hospitalize your rabbit to provide supportive care until it is well enough to go home.

  • Cytology is the microscopic examination of cell samples. Cytology can be used to diagnose growths or masses found on the surface of the body, and also to assess bodily fluids, internal organs, and abnormal fluids that may accumulate, especially in the chest and abdomen. Cells can be collected using various methods including fine needle aspiration, skin scraping, impression smear, cotton-tipped swabs, or lavage. A biopsy is the surgical removal of a representative sample of tissue from a suspicious lesion. The most common biopsy techniques are punch biopsy, wedge biopsy, and excision biopsy. The tissue is then processed and is examined under a microscope via histopathology. Histopathology allows the veterinary pathologist to make a diagnosis, classify the tumor, and predict the course of the disease.

  • Rabbits have incisors plus molars in the back of the mouth for grinding and chewing. Rabbits also have two small, tube-shaped incisors (peg teeth) behind the large upper incisors. Since the teeth continuously grow, the upper teeth must meet the lower teeth to allow for proper wearing of tooth surfaces, preventing overgrowth. All teeth must meet and wear at the same rate as they are growing, or malocclusion with resultant improper tooth wear, and overgrowth of the incisors and/or molars, can occur. Overgrown teeth can cause many problems. leading to pain and infection. Rabbits with chronic dental problems need regular veterinary care including repeated dental filings. Feeding rabbits a diet of mainly high-fiber hay to promote chewing and teeth wear may help reduce the development of dental problems.

  • Dexamethasone is given on and off label, by mouth or injection, to treat various inflammatory, autoimmune, and adrenal gland conditions. It can also be used off label as a diagnostic test. Common side effects include increased drinking, urination and/or appetite, dull/dry haircoat, weight gain, pot-bellied appearance, muscle weakness, panting, vomiting, or diarrhea. Do not use in pets that are allergic to it, have systemic fungal infections, diabetes, or stomach or intestinal ulcers, or are taking NSAIDs. It should not be used in rabbits or in surgical pets. If a negative reaction occurs, please call your veterinary office.

  • Diazoxide is used to treat certain tumors (insulinomas) in ferrets and to treat low blood sugar secondary to excessive insulin secretion in dogs.

  • Diphenhydramine is given by mouth or as an injection and is used on and off label to treat allergic reactions, motion sickness, and to induce sedation. Side effects include sleepiness, and less commonly dry mouth and gastrointestinal upset. Diphenhydramine should not be used in pets that are allergic to this medication and should be used cautiously in pets with glaucoma, enlarged prostate, thyroid or heart disease, or are lactating. If a negative reaction occurs, please call your veterinary office.

  • Common conditions of pet ferrets include diarrhea, intestinal foreign bodies, parasites, heart disease, and various types of tumors. Any variation from normal should be a cause for concern and should be immediately evaluated by your veterinarian.

  • Common conditions of pet rabbits include upper respiratory tract infections, internal and external parasites, dental disease, GI stasis, uterine problems, and pododermatitis. Upper respiratory infections are often caused by bacteria including Pasteurella multocida. Rabbits can become infected with various intestinal parasites, as well as external parasites such as ear and fur mites, fleas, and occasionally ticks. Rabbits’ teeth are continuously growing but chewing food, as well as chewing on wooden blocks, branches, and toys, helps them wear their teeth down at a rate equal to their growth. Occasionally, tooth or jaw trauma or disease causes misalignment of the upper and lower jaws and overgrowth of teeth results. Regular yearly check-ups enables early diagnosis and treatment of some rabbit diseases. Whenever a rabbit stops eating, for whatever reason, it is important to take her to see your veterinarian immediately for an evaluation.

  • Common conditions of pet rodents include respiratory diseases, gastrointestinal problems, dental problems, and tumors. Signs of respiratory disease in rodents include nasal and/or ocular discharge in mild infections, and wheezing, coughing, and open-mouth breathing in severe infections. Gastrointestinal disease, including diarrhea from various causes and gastrointestinal stasis is common in pet rodents. All rodents have teeth that grow continuously throughout their lives. Occasionally, these teeth grow too long and cut into the gums, causing pain, or prevent the mouth from closing properly, which often makes the pet stop eating. Just as in people, cancer is often seen in pet rodents, especially mammary (breast) tumors in rats and mice. Rodents with signs of respiratory or GI disease or evidence of a tumor should be seen by a veterinarian who can properly diagnose and treat the underlying condition.

  • Doxycycline is an antibiotic given by mouth in the form of a tablet, capsule, or liquid, used off label to treat certain infections. Common side effects include stomach upset, sun sensitivity, and increases in liver enzymes. Serious side effects include liver failure, seizures, and trouble swallowing. Do not use in pregnant pets, and use cautiously in pets with liver disease or in young pets. If a negative reaction occurs, please call your veterinary office.