Illustrated Articles

Small Mammals + Medical Conditions

  • Guinea pigs are generally hardy, healthy animals but are susceptible to certain diseases. They cannot make their own vitamin C and require supplementation or they may develop scurvy. Guinea pigs get various tumors, particularly skin and mammary tumors. Guinea pigs also get abscesses (accumulations of pus and bacteria) in lymph nodes, skin, muscles, teeth, bones, and internal organs. They are very prone to development of urinary calculi that form in the bladder, kidneys, or ureters which may become lodged, causing a life-threatening obstruction. In addition, guinea pigs often are affected by ringworm and can get fleas and lice. Barbering is a problem, usually associated with boredom, in which the guinea pig chews or barbers its own hair or the hair of its cage-mate. Pododermatitis, or bumblefoot, in which sores develop on the bottom of the feet from pressure, is common in overweight animals housed on wire-bottomed or dirty cages that abrade the feet.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.