Physical Examination of Small Exotic Mammals

Key Points

  • Before you start the hands-on portion of your examination, perform a visual exam. The visual examination should include information about the cage as well as the appearance and mentation of the animal.
  • Obtaining the patient’s weight and temperature should be the first part of the physical examination.
  • Auscult the heart and lungs using an infant or pediatric stethoscope.
  • The primary deviation from the typical “head to tail” method of physical examination is the oral exam in rabbits and rodents. The oral examination can be very stressful for many small mammals and is generally performed last.
  • One of the most effective ways to perform an oral examination on a small mammal is with an illuminated bivalve nasal speculum.
  • Look for any dental abnormalities such as malocclusion, tooth overgrowth, fractured teeth, or points on the lingual or buccal surfaces of the premolars or molars.

Physical examination in exotic small mammals is performed similarly to examinations in dogs and cats, however many small mammals can easily become stressed. Approach these patients calmly, gently, and quietly. Gather all items that may be needed during the physical exam beforehand since it is essential to keep time to a minimum. Ideally schedule examination of nocturnal species such as sugar gliders, rats, and mice during the evening hours. It can also be helpful to dim the lights while examining these species . . .


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