Illustrated Articles

Small Mammals + Medical Conditions

  • Rabbits have unique gastrointestinal tracts and need a high-fiber, low-carbohydrate diet to help keep the normal GI bacteria fermenting their food. When they are fed a diet high in carbohydrate, administered certain types of antibiotics, or undergo a rapid diet change, they can develop life-threatening GI stasis. Rabbits with GI stasis become lethargic, dehydrated, weak, lose weight, and must be treated by a veterinarian as soon as possible. Only rarely do rabbits develop true GI tract obstructions from ingesting foreign objects and require surgery to remove the obstruction. Rabbits are coprophagic, consuming cecotropes overnight that serve as a source of critical protein and vitamins. Rabbits that eat high calcium alfalfa-based diets or high-calcium vegetables are prone to developing bladder stones that must be removed surgically. Bunnies housed at temperatures over 80°F are subject to heat stroke, since they cannot sweat and should be housed inside in a cool place, or if outside, should have plenty of shade and water.

  • Common conditions of pet hedgehogs include external and internal parasites, ringworm, cancer, gastrointestinal diseases and pneumonia.

  • Hedgehogs have several unique problems Understanding these problems will allow you to better care for your pet and minimize future health care problems.

  • There are four major hormonal diseases in ferrets. This handout covers adrenal gland disease and diabetes mellitus. Adrenal gland disease occurs in a large number of ferrets in North America, while diabetes mellitus is a rare, but an important problem.

  • An insulinoma is a tumor that involves the beta cells of the pancreas. Beta cells are the cells that produce the hormone insulin. Insulinomas are surprisingly common in ferrets.

  • Common conditions of pet prairie dogs include obesity, dental disease, respiratory disease, heart disease, and parasites. Prairie dogs can also be afflicted with cancer and ringworm.

  • Reproductive disease in ferrets is rare today, as most pet ferrets are spayed or neutered at a young age. One disease that is still occasionally seen in pet ferrets occurs in females that are not spayed. This is called hyperestrogenemia and is a result of persistently high blood levels of estrogen in unspayed females that are not bred or fails to ovulate.

  • Ferrets are susceptible to a number of different diseases of the respiratory system. The symptoms of respiratory disease are similar, regardless of the cause. Some respiratory diseases can be fatal, and it is important to attempt to determine the cause of disease in order to determine a prognosis.

  • Ferrets commonly develop skin disease, including infections with parasites (fleas, mites, ticks), bacteria, viruses (distemper), and fungus (ringworm). They are also subject to both benign and malignant tumors, including mast cell tumors. Adrenal tumors also cause hair loss and itchy skin in ferrets. All skin problems should be brought to the attention of your veterinarian, who will recommend the most appropriate treatment for the specific problem.

  • Walking Dandruff (cheyletiellosis) in rabbits is caused by a common rabbit fur mite (Cheyletiella parasitovorax). The mite's effects are called "walking dandruff" because these large, whitish mites crawl across the skin and fur, and cause excessive flaky skin on a rabbit.