Small furries health

Small furries health

Vital signs to look out for every day to stop your pet getting poorly. Why do ferrets need vaccinating?

Many of our smaller furries can suffer from poor health from time to time. When we say ‘small furries’, we mean chinchillas, dwarf hamsters, Syrian hamsters, ferrets, gerbils, guinea pigs, mice and rats.

Check your small furry pets every day. Visit your vet straight away if you see any of these signs: 

  • Diarrhoea 
  • Significant weight change, either up or down, over a short period 
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Drinking much more or less than normal 
  • Lack of energy/sleeping more than usual 
  • Unusual swellings 
  • Skin conditions 
  • Limping 
  • Unusual bleeding 
  • Signs of pain, such as sensitivity to touch 
  • Runny eyes or nose 
  • Overgrown teeth 
  • Be alert to any change in your pet’s behaviour as this could point to the possibility of illness.
Signs of ill health

Signs of ill health

Check your small furry pets every day. Visit your vet straight away if you see any of these signs:

  • Diarrhoea 
  • Significant weight change, either up or down, over a short period 
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Drinking much more or less than normal 
  • Lack of energy/sleeping more than usual 
  • Unusual swellings 
  • Skin conditions 
  • Limping 
  • Unusual bleeding 
  • Signs of pain, such as sensitivity to touch 
  • Runny eyes or nose 
  • Overgrown teeth 
  • Be alert to any change in your pet’s behaviour as this could point to the possibility of illness.

Use grooming time to examine your pet. Some pets require regular grooming, particularly if long haired, such as guinea pigs and hamsters.
Ferrets

Ferrets

How do I stop my ferret getting obese?
Ferrets get obese if they eat too many calories and can’t exercise enough, so follow these rules:

  • Give your ferrets a large hutch and big exercise area with lots of things to climb on and explore. They need a minimum of 10 m sq floorspace.
  • Don’t feed fatty or sugary foods, e.g. unhealthy human foods such as crisps, cake or chocolate. 
  • Feed complete ferret nuggets and follow the packet guidelines on how much to feed. 

If you think one of your ferrets is obese, visit your vet for advice. 

Should I get my ferrets vaccinated? 
Talk to your vet about the risk of Canine Distemper (CD) and ask what they recommend. Ferrets can be vaccinated against CD, a nasty viral disease which is almost always fatal. Most at risk are ferrets that spend time out in public places, e.g. being walked on a ferret lead and harness. 

Thinking of travelling abroad with your ferret?
Your ferret will need to vaccinated against rabies and travel under the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS). Please visit www.defra.gov.uk/wildlife-pets/pets/travel/pets/ for more information.
Mice

Mice

Take your mouse for a check-up with your vet if you notice:

  • Difficulty breathing, snuffling and wheezing as respiratory infections, involving lungs and breathing, are among the most common illnesses in mice.
  • Runny eyes or nose as these can develop into life-threatening pneumonia.
  • Any lumps and bumps developing as mice are prone to certain tumours, some are more serious than others.
  • Becoming inactive.
  • Going off their food. 
  • Poor coat condition.
Rats

Rats

Respiratory infections, involving lungs and breathing, are some of the most common rat illnesses. Your rat may have any of these signs:

  • Runny nose or eyes.
  • Difficulty breathing or snuffling and wheezing. 
  • Losing weight.

Common causes of respiratory infections in rats:

  • Cage not cleaned out often enough. This leads to a build-up of ammonia, making rats more vulnerable to respiratory infections.
  • Dusty bedding e.g. woodshavings or sawdust.
  • Poor ventilation e.g. rats kept in a tank rather than a cage with bars.
  • Overcrowding : keeping too many rats in a cage.

What should I do if my rat has any signs of respiratory infection?
Take your rat to the vet, clean out the cage more frequently and ask your vet for advice about which bedding to use.

How can I stop my rat becoming fat?
Obesity is common in pet rats. It reduces their quality of life and can lead to other diseases. Rats get obese if they eat too many calories and can’t exercise enough, so follow these rules:

  • Give your rats a large cage to live in with lots of things to climb on and explore, including an exercise wheel. 
  • Give them natural treats from pet shops. They’ll enjoy them and they’re healthy too.
  • Don’t feed fatty or sugary foods, e.g. ‘honey sticks’.
  • Don’t feed them unhealthy human foods, e.g. crisps, cake and chocolate.
  • Avoid giving sunflower seeds and peanuts as they’re high in fat. If you are going to feed them, just give them occasionally, as treats.
  • Feed complete rat nuggets, not seed-based mixes which can lead to obesity as rats leave the bits they don’t like. Rat nuggets contain all the nutrients that rats need, in the right amounts.

If you think your rat is obese, ask your vet for advice.

What should I do if my rat gets red staining around the eyes and nose? 
Take your rat to your vet as it could be stressed. Rats have special glands in their eyes, called Harderian glands, which produce reddish brown liquid from their eyes and nose. Rats produce more of this liquid when they are stressed – it can look like red tears or a nose bleed. Your rat could be stressed due to:

  • Pain
  • Lack of cage space
  • Draughty or noisy living environment 
  • Poor nutrition
  • Stressful handling 
  • Disease 
  • Presence of predators, such as the family cat

What do I do if I notice any lumps and bumps on my rat?
Take your rat to your vet for a check-up. Rats are prone to certain types of tumours – some are more serious than others.