Dario d’Ovidio, DVM, MS, SpecPACS, DECZM (Small Mammals) presented this live, interactive, webinar, RACE-approved for 1 hour of continuing education.
The guinea pig is a gentle, highly social rodent, that commonly serves as a companion animal and an experimental model in North America and Europe. Food preferences are established early in life, and a guinea pig can refuse to eat if their food type or presentation is changed. For this reason, small mammal veterinarians recommend exposing juvenile guinea pigs to a variety of chows and vegetables. Guinea pigs also do not tolerate environmental changes well. When exposed to something perceived as dangerous, the response of the guinea pig is generally to freeze, or less commonly flight.
Guinea pigs are small, docile rodents, that must be approached with great care. Accurate evaluation of patient health status requires a thorough history, careful visual examination, and a detailed physical examination. Like most prey species, the guinea pig frequently hides signs of pain and illness. To improve clinical success, take measures to minimize stress by maintaining the animal in a quiet exam room and approaching the patient in a slow, quiet manner. The hospitalized guinea pig can also benefit greatly from the presence of a bonded cage mate. Monitor appetite and eliminations carefully in the guinea pig, and offer the same diet as fed in the patient’s home whenever possible as guinea pigs establish strong food preferences early in life.
This learning aid is designed to assist the participant in meeting the needs of VECCS-certified facility. The basics of emergency medicine and critical care universal, however veterinarians face a unique set of challenges when caring for birds, exotic companion mammals, and reptiles. Level 1 of this teaching module reviews the basics of exotic animal critical care. To learn more in Level 2, review the key points on critical care or supportive care for each taxonomic group: birds, exotic companion mammals, and reptiles. Each summary page includes a brief quiz that tests your knowledge and reinforces fundamental principles. Delve deeper into critical care of exotic animal patients in Level 3 by browsing pertinent exotic animal content on LafeberVet.
Although the principles of emergency medicine critical care are universal for all species, this approach must be balanced with an understanding of the unique aspects of small mammal medicine. Use this summary page to review the basic approach to the exotic companion mammal patient and select additional links to supplement your knowledge base.
Although the principles of emergency medicine critical care are universal for all species, this approach must be balanced with an understanding of the unique aspects of avian medicine. Use this summary page to review the basic approach to the avian patient and select additional links to supplement your knowledge base.
Although patient history is important in all species, improper diet and substandard housing are often major contributors to illness in non-traditional pets. This means that a detailed and accurate history is often one of the most critical diagnostic tools for the exotic animal patient. This review focuses on birds, reptiles, and small exotic companion mammals, beginning with the signalment and presenting complaint, before moving onto the environmental history, dietary history, and of course the medical history.
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.
The approach to a prey species like the rabbit often calls for a profound paradigm shift for clinicians used to dealing only with cats and dogs. Rabbits can stress very easily in a clinical setting and the challenge of managing a small mammal like the rabbit increases exponentially when they are presented for illness or injury.
Rabbits are prey species. Their survival depends on the ability to be alert and respond quickly, and they possess acute senses of smell and hearing. Approach rabbits in a calm, quiet manner. Stressed or critically ill rabbits may not tolerate prolonged handling. Evaluation and treatment may need to proceed slowly in stages.
Many exotic animals seen in clinical practice are prey species. In the wild, individuals that appear sick or injured are easy prey for predators, and they may even be segregated or attacked by group members. When faced with the stress of a strange examination room, most prey species will attempt to appear alert and strong as an instinctive survival adaptation.
Domesticated since the early 16th century, the companion rabbit retains many of the behavioral characteristics of its wild ancestor. A video recording summary of key points, or the more detailed article, explores some of these shared characteristics as well as rabbit behavior that influences clinical practice and animal welfare. This content is part of a RACE-approved teaching module on rabbit basics.