Exotic Pets

   

Rabbit Care

Food

Rabbit Pellets: 
A good quality rabbit pellet may be offered daily, but in limited quantities. Over feeding a pelleted diet can led to obesity, heart disease, liver disease, chronic diarrhea, and kidney disease. Buy pellets that are high in fiber (18% or more) and low in calcium. Keep pellets refrigerated or in a cool and dry area to prevent spoilage. If you need to buy more then two months of pellets at one time, make sure to freeze them.

Rabbits up to 8 months of age can have free choice because they are still growing. Do not refill the food bowl if all the pellets are eaten before the next day. However, after 8 months they should be on a maintenance diet, the following chart is a daily amount to feed your adult bunny:

  • 2-4lb of body weight – 1/8cup daily
  • 5-7lb of body weight – 1/4cup daily
  • 8-10lb of body weight – 1/2cup daily
  • 11-15lb of body weight – 3/4cup daily

Rabbits tend to eat small frequent meals through out the day, therefore, timothy or grass hay should be offered daily in unlimited amounts. The fiber in the hay is extremely important because it promotes normal digestion and prevention of hairballs. Alfalfa hay is not recommended because it can be too high in calcium and carbohydrates.

Fresh foods (greens): 
Fresh greens can be fed at 1 cup per 5 pounds of body weight. If you bunny is not used to eating fresh fruit, start gradually. Add a new fresh food every 5-7 days. If these foods lead to diarrhea within 24-48 hours discontinue that food. Below are some fresh foods you can try with your bunny:

  • Carrots
  • Carrot tops
  • Kale
  • Collard greens
  • Romaine Lettuce (do not give light colored leaf or iceberg lettuce)
  • Parsley
  • Radicchio
  • Clover
  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli (leaves and top)
  • Green Peppers
  • Basil
  • Raspberry leaves
  • Peppermint leaves
  • Celery
  • Mustard greens

Treat Foods: 
You can feed 1 tablespoon per 5 pounds of body weight, per day. Again, if diarrhea is seen, discontinue the treats. The following is a list of treat foods:

  • Strawberries
  • Papaya
  • Pineapple
  • Apple
  • Pear
  • Melon
  • Raspberries
  • Peach
  • Kiwi
  • Cherries
  • Mango
  • Cranberries

Water: 
Fresh water should be available at all times. Water should be changed on a daily basis and their water container should be washed out weekly. You can use either a water bottle or a heavy bowl that is attached to the side of the cage so it cannot be tipped over.

Cecotropes: 
Rabbits produce a "special" type of dropping called cecotropes. These droppings contain vital nutrients, amino acids, proteins, and vitamins that help the digestive tract. They are softer, greener, and have a strong odor. These dropping are generally produced in the evening. Your rabbit will instinctively eat these droppings on its own.

Forbidden goods: 
Avoid foods that are high in fat and starch, such as most commercial treats. Below are some examples of high fat and starch foods to avoid:

  • Beans
  • Bread
  • Chocolate
  • Peas
  • Cereals
  • Corn
  • Nuts
  • Wheat
  • Oats

Environment

Cage 
Exercise is vital for the health of your rabbit! Rabbits are built to run and jump in large areas. "House" rabbits should never be kept completely confined to their cage; confinement can cause several health problems such as, obesity, poor bone density and muscle tone, behavioral problems, and pododermatitis (inflammation of the feet).

A cage should be used for part of the day, but your rabbit needs to be let out to exercise on daily basis. The cage should allow the rabbit to stand up on its hind legs without hitting the top of the cage; provide a resting spot, and a spot for the litter box.

Litter Box Training

Rabbits are relatively clean pets and can be litter box trained relatively easy. Determine which corner of the cage your bunny prefers to use, and place the litter box there. Make sure the sides of the litter box are low enough for your rabbit to get in and out of. It can sometimes be helpful to place some droppings in the litter box. You should use a pelleted litter; it is non-toxic and digestible if eaten.

Temperature

Be sure to keep the cage well ventilated and in a cool area. Basements are often too damp which can lead to upper respitory problems. The best temperature for a rabbit is between 60F to 70F. If the temperature is in the mid 70s you may notice clear discharge from the nose. If the temperature goes about 80F and humidity is high it can potentially be fatal. If there is no air-conditioning available, freeze a plastic milk jug full of water and leave it in the cage, this will help keep the cage cool.

Rabbit proof your home before allowing your rabbit out of the cage to exercise. Move any electrical cords, toxic plants, and rodenticides out of reach. Rabbits love to chew/dig up carpet and furniture. Toys are a good idea when your bunny is out. They love items that make noise and items they can hide in and chew on.

Valley Veterinary Hospital recommends yearly exams on rabbits and vaccinations are not needed. 

 

Ferret Care

Choosing a Ferret

Ferrets are very dependent on their human companions. Potential owners should evaluate their ability to commit since they require continuous care and supervision. Their average life span is 6-10 years.

Ferrets are very social animals, but may bite or nip if mishandled. Ferrets get along well with dogs and cats if properly introduced. It is not recommended that they interact with birds, rodents, or small reptiles as they are predatory animals by nature.

When selecting a ferret, choose one that is bright eyed and alert. Whether you select a female or a male ferret be sure to have them spayed or neutered. Most pet stores that sell ferrets are already spayed/neutered. If not, it is best to have it performed before six months of age. Descenting a ferret helps reduce their musky odor. This can be performed at time of spay/neuter.

Diet

Ferrets require a high protein diet. Premium quality cat food or specialty ferret foods are recommended. Water should be available at all times and is best if it is in a bottle. Food should also be available at all times. Occasionally fruits and vegetables may be used as treats.

Hygiene

Bathing is recommened once or twice a month. The water tempurature should be luke-warm and use a shampoo formulated for ferrets. Be careful not to get water in the ferret's eyes or nose. Clean their ears on a weekly or monthly basis to remove wax build up and trim nails every other week with a nail trimmer or a cat claw trimmer. If nails are left unattended they can get caught in bedding, carpet or cage wire and can splinter. Ferrets should also have regular dental care. Brushing their teeth at home with a finger tooth brush and pet toothpaste will help prevent tarter and plaque build up.

Housing

The cage should be large enough for your ferret to have some play space. A blanket or towel can serve as a sleeping place for them. A litter pan should be placed in a corner of the cage. Ferrets should have a least one room in your home that is "ferret proof". Be sure to eliminate loose boards, open drains or air ducts and cover any holes. Ferrets are very curious animals, they will investigate almost anything.

Exercise

Ferrets love to play games, run, jump, slide, and do somersaults. The best type of toys for ferrets are made of hard plastic, so when they bite them they can't destroy them. Ferrets can sometimes get carried away when playing and will nip or bite. A loud, firm "NO" is a good disciplinary action.

Vaccines

Valley Veterinary Hospital recommends yearly wellness exams along with yearly distemper and rabies vaccines. 

 

Guinea Pig Care

Guinea pigs are gentle, loveable, and rarely bite or scratch. They come in a variety of colors and coats. Their vocabulary includes about 9 sounds, ranging from whistling to purring to squealing. They are active in the morning and evening, but easily adjust to the household routine. They love to explore new areas, but if they get scared they will either freeze or scatter in different directions.

Housing

They are very social animals and can live with other guinea pigs. Male guinea pigs should not be housed together. If aggression is noticed, you need to separate your pigs right away. You may notice them engaging in "barbering" (chewing on each others hair); this is normally not an aggressive behavior. It can be caused by many things, such as boredom, excitement, or dietary deficiencies.

When housing multiple guinea pigs, the cage needs to be large enough for food dishes, toys, and still allow room for them to move around. The cage for a single guinea pig should be at least 24inch w X 18inch h. The cage should have a wire top and sides with a solid base; wire flooring can cause irritation to their feet. Wire sides allows plenty of airflow and ventilation in the cage. Guinea pigs should be housed where there are no drafts, chills, excessive heat, or sudden temperature changes. The base of the cage should be three inches high to keep the bedding in, yet still allows the pig to see what's going on around them.

Their bedding should be at least two inches deep, nontoxic, nonabrasive, dust free, and absorbent. Saw dust should never be used.

Entertainment

Guinea pigs can get bored very quickly. They should be given toys such as, a running wheel, escape tunnels (PVC piping big enough for them to run through), ladders, and plywood boxes to keep them entertained.

Nutrition

Guinea pigs are herbivores. They need to be fed a pelleted diet made for guinea pigs. It should contain at least 16% crude protein. Timothy hay and fresh water should be offered daily. Guinea pigs cannot produce vitamin C, therefore a vitamin C supplement should be added to their water. Other options for vitamin C are cabbage, kale, or a small piece of an orange. Treats can be offered in moderation. The following can be fed as treats:

  • Lettuce
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Pea Pods
  • Pears
  • Apples
  • Pineapple
  • Papaya
  • Blueberries

Guinea pigs pass special feces called cecotropes. By ingesting these droppings, they are provided with proteins and vitamins.

Health Care

Guinea pigs should be examined by a veterinarian twice a year. Their toenails should be trimmed every two weeks and their teeth need to be trimmed as needed. Common health concerns are colds, diarrhea, weight loss or gain, not eating, inactivity, eye or nasal discharge, hair loss, and limping. If any of these symptoms occur you should have your guinea pig examined right away.

 

Chinchilla Care

Chinchillas are an odorless rodent that has a compact body with small limbs, large eyes and ears, long whiskers, and a fluffy tail. They weight anywhere from 400 grams to 800 grams and females tend to be larger then males. Their average life span is 10 years. Chinchillas are quiet, shy, and they rarely bite.

Housing

Chinchillas are very active and require a large, multi-level cage. They are also active chewers so their cages should be made from metal. Chinchillas can easily hurt their feet or limbs if they get caught in the wire flooring, so a majority of the cages floor should be solid. Be sure there is a "hideaway" spot and shelves in their cage. They are active and love to jump around and climb on items. They love to chew on and play with toys, be sure their cage has plenty of toys to play with. Wheels are a good source of activity outside of their cage. Look for a wheel that is a solid piece of plastic with small slits in it for airflow. When looking for bedding for the base of their cage chose a shredded or pelleted paper product, aspen, or wood shavings. Cedar shavings can be irritating to their skin.

Dust Baths

A dust bath should be offered for 5-10 minutes every 24-48 hours. Use commercial dust made for chinchillas. Keep the dust bath clean and free of waste; remove it when your chinchilla is done using it.

Litter Box Training

It can be done and it takes some time. Watch where your chinchilla is going now and place the litter box there. Also place a few droppings in the box; this will help your chinchilla understand what the litter box is.

Temperature

Chinchillas originate from the dry, cool, Andes Mountains. High temperatures, high humidity, and direct sunlight should be avoided. Ideal temperatures should be kept between 50-60ºF and should not go over 82ºF. Humidity should be kept at 40% or less. Prolonged exposure to temperatures above 80ºF can result in heat stress. Treatments include cool water baths or fluid therapy by your veterinarian.

Nutrition

Chinchillas need a high fiber, low energy diet in order to prevent enteric (digestive) problems. A tough and fibrous diet helps to keep their open-rooted teeth (continuous growing teeth) trimmed. Timothy hay should be offered at all times along with a small amount (1-2tbsp) of chinchilla pellets daily. Fruit and a small amount of greens can be offered as treats. Some examples of treats would be raisin, dried banana chips, yogurt, and unsalted sunflower seeds. Avoid breads, cereals, and nuts. If you are planning on changing your chinchilla's diet, it needs to be done gradually. Fresh water should be offered daily in a water bottle mounted to the cage.

Heat stress, dental problems, limb fractures, diarrhea, respiratory infections, and fur ring are common health concerns with chinchillas. Valley Veterinary Hospital recommends yearly examination with a veterinarian. 

 

Rat Care

Food   

Statistics
Lifespan: 2-4 years
Body weight: 300-400 g
Sexual maturity: 42-65 days
Gestation: 21-23 days
Liter size: 6-20
Newborns: body hair by 1 week of age and open eyes at 2 weeks
Weaning: 21-42 days
Daily diet consumption of adult (g): 15-20
Daily water consumption of adult (mL):22-33

Pet Potential/Behavior

  • Easy to care for.
  • Very little odor.
  • Affectionate and intelligent animals that bond quickly to their owners; rarely bite.
  • Albino rats tend to be the most calm and easily handled.
  • Hooded rats may be more aggressive and active.
  • Basically nocturnal, but can be active during the day.
  • Need at least 30 minutes each day for exercise.
  • Chew on objects to maintain incisor teeth, which grow continuously. It is important to have plenty of chew sticks available.
  • Dogs, cats, and ferrets are rats’ predators.
  • Often difficult to litter-train (fecal).

Anatomy and Physiology

  • Rats are characterized by elongated bodies, short fur, small eyes and ears and hairless tails.
  • Rats do not have gallbladders.
  • Rats do not vomit due to the presence of a limiting ridge at the junction of the esophagus and stomach.
  • Females have extensive mammary tissue.
  • Because rats have poor eyesight, they rely on whiskers and scent for sensory input and spatial orientation.
  • Rats teeth turn yellow as they age (albino fur as well).
  • Rats have harderian glands which are located behind the eye. These cause “red tears” from stress or illness.

Sexing and Reproduction

  • Male rats have a scrotum,making them easily differentiated from female rats.
  • The distance between the anus and genital area is roughly twice as long in males as in females.
  • Only female rats possess nipples.
  • Rats are communal, and males and females may be combined in an uncrowded enclosure for breeding.
  • If a female is not bred by 8 months of age, her pelvis will fuse and she may have difficulty giving birth later.
  • Spaying may help to prevent mammary tumors, which are common in middle-aged to older rats.

Housing

  • Housingshould be constructed of escape-proof wire mesh with plastic or metal solid flooring and should be large enough to allow nesting, burrowing and exercise.
  • Rats love to climb so a tall habitat is recommended; it will allow challenges for your rat.
  • Minimal enclosure size guidelines for one adult rat are 24” x 24” x 12” (61 x 61 x 30 cm).
  • A secure wire screen clamped top or other roof is necessary to prevent escape.
  • Ideal room temperature should be 5-80 degrees F (18-26 degrees C).
  • Ideal humidity should be 40-70%.
  • Because rats are social and need companionship, they should be maintained in same sex or altered sex groups.
  • Suitable substrates include shredded paper (non-inked), recycled newspaper composite materials or pellets, hardwood chips or shavings and compressed wheat straw.
  • Cedar should not be used as litter because it is detrimental to the rat’s health by causing microsomal oxidative liver enzymes.
  • Bedding should be a minimum of ¼ inch to 1 inch deep and changed at least 1-2 times per week.
  • Housing should be cleaned weekly to minimize respiratory disease risk.  Remove wet spots daily.
  • Exercise may be provided in the form of a large exercise wheel and climbing toys.
  • Toys, such as tubes (paper towel rolls), provide the rat with environmental enrichment and exercise.

Diet

  • Rats are omnivorous (eat both animal and plant derivatives) rodents.
  • Rat/rodents pellets provide a complete diet. Recommended brands include Mazuri, ZuPreem and Oxbow Pet Products.
  • Small amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables may be added.
  • Seed-based diets are not recommended as they do not meet nutritional requirements and predispose to obesity.
  • Adults require 5-10 g of pellets per 100 g body weight daily and 10 ml of water per 100 g body weight daily.
  • Fresh water should be available at all times, ideally provided via a drinking bottle or sipper tube.
  • Food consumption should be monitored when new food is offered because rats may be suspicious of new food.
  • Discard food if not eaten within 24 hours.

Grooming and Hygiene       

  • Rats stay clean and rarely need baths.
  • Consult with a veterinarian if your rat’s teeth or nails seem too long.
  • Because all rats are potential carriers of infectious diseases, such as Rat Bite Fever, always wash your hands before and after handling your rat and/or habitat contents to help prevent the potential spread of diseases.
  • Pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems should contact their physician before purchasing and/or caring for a rat.

Extra Tip

  • May be helpful to purchase a gram scale to keep track of your rat’s weight and food consumption.

This information is provided through Valley Veterinary Hospital and the following sources. If you have any further questions regarding rat “husbandry and health, please contact our hospital at701-232-3391.

“The Exotic Guidebook Exotic Companion Animal Procedures,” written by Susan LeckDVM Dipl ABVP – Canine & Feline Practice Edited by Peter Fisher, DVM.

Petco Animal Care Sheets, Rat; www.petco.com 

 

Hamster Care

Physiology:

  • Lifespan: 3-5 years
  • Body weight: 80-150 g
  • Sexual maturity: 45-75 days
  • Gestation: 15-18 days
  • Liter size: 5-9
  • Weaning: 20-25 days
  • Daily diet consumption of adult (g): 10-15
  • Daily water consumption of adult (mL): 9-12

Pet Potential/Behavior:

  • Adapt well to captivity.
  • Small; do not require a lot of living space.
  • Relatively inexpensive to maintain.
  • Can easily become tame with frequent, gentle handling.
  • Hamsters should have a set schedule where a consistent amount of time and attention is given each day. This is especially important for maintaining tameness.
  • Hamsters may bite or show aggression in response to rough handling, sudden disturbances, being around other hamsters, or when they are pregnant, lactating, ill or in pain.
  • Nocturnal animals, active during the night and sleep during the day.
  • Solitary; never house more than one adult hamster per habitat.

Anatomy and Physiology:

  • Hamsters are short-tailed, stocky rodents that are known for their abundance of loose skin.
  • Hamsters have large cheek pouches that are paired muscular sacs extending as far back as the scapula.
  • The pouches are used for transporting food, bedding material and occasionally young.
  • Have distinctive hip or flank glands that should not be misdiagnosed as skin tumors.
  • Females are typically larger than the males.

Sexing and Reproduction:

  • Male hamsters have rather large scrotal sacs that give them rounded posterior.
  • The female hamster’s posterior is pointed toward the tail.
  • Males have a greater anogenital distance than females, and a pointed genital papilla with a round opening.

Housing:

  • Syrian golden hamsters are solitary and should not be housed in multiples under any circumstances.
  • Housing should be constructed of escape-proof wire mesh with plastic or metal solid flooring and should be large enough to allow nesting, burrowing and exercise.
  • A secure wire screen clamped top or other roof is necessary to prevent escape.
  • Ideal room temperatures should be 71-75 degrees F (21-24 degrees C).
  • Ideal humidity should be 40-70%.
  • Suitable substrates include shredded paper (non-inked), recycled newspaper composite material or pellets, hardwood chips or shavings and compressed wheat or straw. Cedar may cause harm and is not recommended.
  • The enclosure should be cleaned thoroughly at least weekly to reduce odors and decrease the likelihood of respiratory or skin inflammation associated with soiled bedding. Remove wet spots daily.
  • A hide box with deep litter for burrowing is recommended.
  • Exercise may be provided in the form of a large exercise wheel and climbing toys.
  • Toys, such as tubes (paper towel rolls), provide the hamster with environmental enrichment and exercise.

Diet:

  • Young hamsters should be fed a pelleted diet with a minimum of 16% protein and 4-5% fat.
  • Hamsters eat solid food 7-10 days of age, so food and water must be accessible for their small size.
  • Mature adults thrive on a slightly lower protein level 12-14%.
  • Treats may include tiny bits of apple (no seeds or skin), raisins and walnuts.
  • Drinking water should be provided via sipper tubes.
  • Water can also be obtained from carrots and other fruits and vegetables.
  • The food bowls should be carefully monitored to avoid mistaking seed hulls for whole seeds. Hamsters also tend to hoard food and hide it, leading to spoilage.
  • Hamsters pack large quantities of food into their cheek pouches.
  • Offering to much fresh produce and not enough fiber may result in diarrhea.

Grooming and Hygiene:

  • Hamsters stay clean and rarely need baths.
  • Consult with a veterinarian if your hamster’s teeth or nails seem too long.
  • Because all hamsters are potential carriers of infectious diseases, always wash your hands before and after handling your hamster and/or habitat contents to help prevent the potential spread of diseases.
  • Pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems should contact their physician before purchasing and/or caring for a hamster.

Extra Tip:

  • May be helpful to purchase a gram scale to keep track of your hamster’s weight and food consumption.

This information is provided through Valley Veterinary Hospital and the following sources. If you have any further questions regarding hamster husbandry and health, please contact our hospital at 701-232-3391.

“The Exotic Guidebook Exotic Companion Animal Procedures,” written by Susan Leck,

DVM Dipl ABVP – Canine & Feline Practice Edited by Peter Fisher, DVM.

 

Gerbil Care

Physiology:

  • Lifespan: 3-5 years
  • Body weight: 50- 80 g (females) 80-130 g (males)
  • Sexual maturity: 65-85 days
  • Gestation: 24-26 days
  • Litter size: 3-7 pups
  • Weaning: 21-24 days
  • Daily diet consumption of adult (g): 5-7
  • Daily water consumption of adult (mL): 4

Pet Potential/Behavior:

  • Appropriate pets for beginners.
  • Friendly, clean, quiet and curious pets.
  • Rarely bite and easily handled.
  • Produce minimal odor and waste.
  • Active during the day and night, peak activity occurs at night.
  • Gerbils require at least 30 minutes of attention per day.

Sexing and Reproduction:

  • Males have a large, dark scrotum and a longer anogenital distance than females.
  • Breeding pairs tend to be monogamous and maintain lifelong relationships.
  • Gerbils should be introduced before they are 8 weeks of age to reduce the risk of fighting. Adult gerbils of either sex may fight to the death if introduced as adults.
  • Neutering the male can prevent overpopulation.

Housing:

  • Gerbils are social animals and are best housed in pairs.
  • The minimum cage size should be 36 square inches per gerbil; a pair requires a minimum of 180 square inches.
  • The enclosure should be escape proof with a secure lid.
  • The enclosure should be cleaned thoroughly at least weekly to reduce odors. Remove wet spots daily.
  • Ideal environmental temperature is 60-70 degrees F (16-21 degrees C).
  • Ideal relative humidity should not exceed 30-50%.
  • Exercise wheels and plastic exercise balls provide an outlet for energy.
  • Gerbils like to build nests out of nesting material.

Diet:

  • Commercial pellet diets are available for gerbils.
  • Alfalfa hay should be available for grazing and is a good calcium source for nursing females.
  • Excessive consumption of sunflower seeds and other high-fat foods will lead to obesity.
  • Provide fresh drinking water via a sipper tube.

Grooming and Hygiene:

  • Gerbils stay clean and rarely need baths.
  • Consult with a veterinarian if your gerbil’s teeth or nails seem too long.
  • Because all gerbils are potential carriers of infectious diseases, always wash your hands before and after handling your gerbils and/or habitat contents to help prevent the potential spread of diseases.
  • Pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems should contact their physician before purchasing and/or caring for a gerbil.

Extra Tip:

  • May be helpful to purchase a gram scale to keep track of your gerbilr’s weight and food consumption.

This information is provided through Valley Veterinary Hospital and the following sources. If you have any further questions regarding gerbil husbandry and health, please contact our hospital at 701-232-3391.

“The Exotic Guidebook Exotic Companion Animal Procedures,” written by Susan Leck,

DVM Dipl ABVP – Canine & Feline Practice Edited by Peter Fisher, DVM.

* Information taken from "Ferrets, Rabbits, and Rodents", written by Katherine E.Quesenberry and James W. Carpenter.



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