by Melissa Nelson, DVM
More and more pet parents are finding that rats, rabbits, guinea pigs, and other small mammals make social, playful, and enjoyable small pets. What many people don’t know is that these furry friends can develop many of the same issues as our dogs and cats, as well as problems unique to their species.
Did you know that small pets like rats, rabbits, chinchillas and guinea pigs can develop breast cancer? Did you know that spaying and neutering your small pet decreases the risks of unwanted pregnancy, breast cancer, and aggressive behaviors? Just as with dogs and cats, these routine procedures on small pets can help prevent problems later in life.
Were you aware that the teeth of these small pets continue to grow throughout adulthood? Regular dental checkups are a great way to make sure your small mammal pet stays healthy and continues to eat. If these little ones stop eating for more than a day, the bacteria in their intestinal tract will start to produce large amounts of gas that can cause them extreme pain and can lead to death if not treated. It is very important to make sure these little ones are eating and drinking every single day and to have them checked out if there is a problem!
Many veterinarians have experience with small pets
Veterinarians have been seeing more and more of these adorable pets as they become more popular in the greater Asheville area. Many vets have experience with small mammals, and perform both routine and emergency surgery on these patients. One area pet parent has three female rats and three (recently neutered) male rats. One of her female rats tried to attack her cat through the cage and broke her jaw, which, with several procedures, healed very well.
Recently, a poor guinea pig named Pepe went to REACH for a painful belly and not eating, and an x-ray revealed a bladder stone. Pepe was brought to Skyland Animal Hospital, where the stone was surgically removed and substantial infection addressed. Within thirty minutes of recovering from anesthesia, Pepe was happily eating the salad a staff member had brought for lunch that day!
Dr. Nelson knows small mammals. She once had a chinchilla that lived to be 18 years old. After graduating from the Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 2002, she first practiced in Michigan. She later practiced in Hickory, NC before becoming the new owner of Asheville’s Skyland Animal Hospital. Skyland is a certified Fear Friendly Practice and is also becoming an accredited Feline Friendly Practice.