The approach to analgesia and sedation in exotic companion mammals faces special challenges, including small patient size and unique features of the prey species mentality. Recognition of pain is more difficult in rabbits and rodents because many small mammals are very good at hiding the signs of pain commonly observed in predator species. Instead pain in a rabbit or rodent is often inferred from the patient’s clinical condition as well as the absence of normal behaviors. The diagnostic and therapeutic plan frequently requires some form of chemical restraint in exotic mammal medicine. When compared to general anesthesia, sedation is a safer option for the debilitated or critically ill small mammal.
Manual restraint of exotic companion mammals is a challenging but necessary part of veterinary practice. In the recording of this R.A.C.E.-approved webinar, Ms. McClellan reviews the approach to predator and prey species as well as the principles of capture and handling of several species of small exotic companion animals in a hospital setting including from rabbits, guinea pigs, and chinchillas to small rodents, hedgehogs, and sugar gliders.
Released for National Veterinary Technician Week 2014, Nursing Care for Exotic Companion Mammals is part of an Exotic ICU series providing advice on the management of small exotic companion mammals in a critical care setting. Specific recommendations on caging, medicating, feeding, and monitoring the critical small mammal are explored as well as important potential sequelae to the stress of hospitalization.
One of the more common illnesses in rats is respiratory disease. Although most cases of respiratory disease in the rat are multifactorial, the most significant and serious bacterial pathogen is Mycoplasma pulmonis…
Although some diseases are merely arranged alphabetically, other lists are based on the mnemonic acronym DAMNIT. This commonly used veterinary medical record scheme divides disease mechanisms into the following categories: degenerative, anomalous, metabolic, neoplastic or nutritional; infectious, inflammatory, idiopathic, immune-mediated, or infarct/vascular; and traumatic or toxic. Exercise professional judgment when evaluating this information. Differential Diagnosis in Rats is designed as an aide or reminder system for use by qualified veterinarians and should never be used for diagnostic decision-making.
As in other species, to manage pain successfully, one must know when pain might occur. Several common medical disorders can result in acute pain such as otitis, conjunctivitis, and acute gastrointestinal disease. Chronic pain can arise from conditions such as arthritis, which commonly develops in older…
A variety of agents may be used in small mammals with ectoparasites. Download this easy-to-use table for a list of agents used to manage lice, flea infestation, mange or acariasis.
Download the Equipment List table for a detailed list of equipment needed for high-quality small mammal care.
Small mammals, such as rabbits and rodents, are stoic by nature and have evolved to mask their illness to avoid predation. This behavior can create a false sense of security in owners and a clinical challenge for veterinarians. In some cases, an animal that appears clinically normal may in fact have a terminal illness. Use hematology and biochemistry analysis to characterize the true physiological status of these species and aid in disease diagnosis.
Rabbits and rodents may suffer from a wide range of dental problems. Although the vast majority of cases are related injury or to lack of wear and tooth elongation, dental caries, a bacterial plaque-associated disease, may also be seen.
Providing nutrition to the hospitalized small mammal is a fairly straightforward process. Encourage owners to bring their pet’s “regular” diet to minimize the risk of food refusal or gastrointestinal upset. Also consider keeping the following food items available…
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.
Blood collection is challenging in rats and mice, and heavy sedation or general anesthesia is almost always required in clinical practice. Increasing patient body temperature to promote vasodilation can also be helpful. Gently warm the rodent by placing its cage on a heating pad set on low or by placing the cage in an incubator set at 39°C (102°F) for 5 to 10 minutes. Monitor the patient carefully…
More hay please…Prolonged chewing of tough, abrasive foods such as hay causes rapid tooth wear in rabbits and herbivorous rodents. To compensate for this, these species have permanent teeth that grow and erupt continuously, never producing anatomical roots. Learn more in Dental Anatomy of Rabbits and Rodents by Dr. David Crossley.
Hematological and serum chemistry tests are considered part of the minimum database, yet collecting blood samples from small mammals can be extremely challenging. This review article reviews the recommended venipuncture site in popular exotic companion mammals including many rodents, rabbits, ferrets, hedgehogs, and sugar gliders. Sample collection from peripheral vessels including the cephalic, saphenous, tail, jugular, ear, and submandibular vein is discussed.
Blind venipuncture sites such as the cranial vena cava and femoral vessels are also described. Veterinary health professionals are also acquainted with the potential risks associated with blood collection from these small species, especially those presenting in advanced diseased states. Tips for clinical success are also shared.
External reproductive anatomy is obvious in some adult small mammals such as the ferret, sugar glider, hedgehog, rat, guinea pig, and hamster. Gender determination or sexing can be challenging in some species like the chinchilla, and in many neonatal rodents. In these cases, reliance on anogenital distance or the distance between the rectum and the urogenital region is considered best practice.
Most species of mites are host-specific, however take special precautions, such as wearing exam gloves, to minimize the spread of potentially zoonotic pathogens. Humans that become infested with Sarcoptes scabei may develop wheals, vesicles, papules, and intense pruritus. Pet owners, especially children, may become infected with…
Although fungal disease is uncommon in small mammals, dermatophytosis is the most common mycosis seen in clinical practice. Despite the low incidence of clinical disease, rodents are common asymptomatic carriers of dermatophytes. Fungal pathogens are generally more important for their zoonotic potential. Rodents are frequently asymptomatic carriers of ringworm, and transmission of disease to human caretakers is not uncommon.
Can’t quite recall the dental formula of the African pygmy hedgehog–or perhaps you never knew? Use LafeberVet’s “Small Mammal Dental Formulas: Cheat Sheet” as a quick and easy clinical resource.
Acquired dental disease is an important problem in pet rabbits and rodents. Clinical management of dental disease is complex, frequently involving invasive technical procedures, therefore it is preferable to promote dental health, rather than treating dental disease.
Unfortunately respiratory disease is common in pet rats. Although most cases of respiratory disease in the rat are multifactorial, the most significant and serious bacterial pathogen is Mycoplasma pulmonis. Institute medical therapy as soon as possible in rats with respiratory disease since this improves…
This brief article was created to serve as a synopsis of LafeberVet’s longer, more detailed “Analgesia in Small Mammals” authored by veterinary anesthesiologist, Dr. Paul Flecknell.
An important differential for lumps and bumps: Mammary gland tumors are relatively common in rats and mice, and are also seen in African pygmy hedgehogs and guinea pigs. Get the facts about mammary tumors in small mammals. Review diagnostics, management, prognosis and prevention of this important condition.
The Norwegian or brown rat is originally from Asia where it lived in burrows on the plains of northern China and Mongolia. The rat arrived in Europe in the early 18th century and had reached America by the late 18th century. The brown rat was the first species to be domesticated for scientific purposes.
Rats are clean, friendly, playful, and quiet, and of all the “pocket pets” they are considered uniquely responsive to their owners.
The ferret is a predator species, however most exotic companion mammals are prey species. Although ferrets are generally quite bold and may be approached in a manner similar to that used for cats and dogs, many exotic small mammals can become easily stressed in a hospital setting. Approach these patients calmly, gently, and quietly, striving to minimize stress whenever possible. Gather all items that may be needed during the physical examinationor procedure beforehand since it is essential to keep handling time to a minimum. Also be sure to perform a visual examination before you lay hands on your patient. Observe the appearance and mentation of the pet to ensure it can handle manual restraint.
Although we’d like to believe you need look no further, exotic animal medicine is a diverse and varied topic. View LafeberVet’s ever-growing list of additional online resources on small mammal medicine.