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Small Mammals

  • Ferrets are true carnivores and cannot handle a diet containing more than 4% fiber. There are several good commercial ferret foods available that are dry foods. Ferrets have a very quick gut transit time (the time from eating to defecating) of three to four hours, so they appear to eat and defecate constantly. Fresh water should be available all the time.

  • The preferred basic diet for guinea pigs is unlimited amounts of Timothy or other low-calcium hay, supplemented with smaller amounts of a commercial, high-fiber, Timothy-hay based guinea pig pellets. The diet should be supplemented with a variety of fresh, well-washed, leafy greens or colored vegetables; especially those high in vitamin C. Guinea pigs cannot manufacture their own vitamin C, therefore it is important that guinea pigs receive a vitamin C tablet or liquid vitamin C directly by mouth every day. Provide fresh clean water in a sipper bottle and check the tube for blockages each day.

  • All pet rodents must be fed a good, high quality rodent chow available at pet stores. Many veterinarians also recommend offering hay and fresh vegetables to rodents to encourage chewing and the wearing down of their continuously growing teeth. Diets containing seeds and nuts are not recommended, as they are high in fat and low in nutrition. Water may be offered in a bowl or in a sipper bottle. Seeds, nuts, pasta, unsalted popcorn, or a whole grain cracker can be offered as occasional treats. You can also feed your rodent fresh, well-cleaned vegetables daily and occasionally give a small amount of fruit. Unlike most pets, guinea pigs do not make their own vitamin C and should be fed a commercial high fiber guinea pig pellet with added vitamin C. Chew toys made from hard wood are commercially available in pet stores for rodents and should be offered to help prevent overgrowth of the incisors.

  • Rabbits are herbivores and are considered grazers. Rabbits should have a daily diet of mostly hay, a smaller amount of fresh vegetables, and a limited number of pellets. Hay is the most important part of a rabbit's daily intake. A common cause of obesity and soft stool is over-feeding pellets. Rabbits should be fed and provided with fresh water daily; hay should be available at all times. A pet rabbit’s diet should be supplemented with a variety of leafy green vegetables every day. The high sugar content in fruits (and even carrots) may upset the normal GI tract bacteria if given in excess. Rabbits engage in coprophagy, which means they eat their own feces at night. These fecal pellets are called cecotropes and serve as a rich source of nutrients, specifically protein and vitamins B and K.

  • Ferrets commonly get infestations of an ear mite called Otodectes cynotis. Many ferrets show no symptoms of infestation. Subsequent problems of the ears are rare. Ear mites are acquired from other affected animals at the breeders, in pet stores or animal shelters.

  • Due to their well-deserved reputation as escape artists, ferrets should be housed in a cage that can be securely closed and/or locked. The cage should be as large as you can afford; a suggested minimum size might be 24 x 24 x 18 high (60 x 60 x 45 cm).

  • There are several common diseases or conditions that may affect the pet ferret. Like dogs, ferrets may get heartworms, distemper virus, heat stroke and a variety of cancerous conditions. Yearly veterinary health examinations are recommended to assess the presence or absence of any of the diseases listed above.

  • Mast cell tumors are one of the most common skin tumors in ferrets. These tumors are typically a small, raised growth on the skin that erupts, may bleed, then heal only to reoccur several weeks later in the same location. Unlike mast cell tumors in dogs, mast cell tumors in ferrets do not spread to internal organs.

  • Finasteride is given by mouth and is used off-label to treat benign prostatic hypertrophy (enlarged prostate) in intact male dogs, and may also be used for adrenal problems in ferrets. Give as directed. Side effects are uncommon. Do not use it in sexually developing animals or in females, including pregnant or nursing females. If a negative reaction occurs, please call your veterinarian.

  • Flea infestation is a common problem in pet ferrets, especially in ferrets that go outdoors or live in a house with dogs, cats, or other animals who have fleas. Affected ferrets may or may not be itchy depending on the sensitivity of the individual animal to flea bites. Early in the infestation, there may be no signs that your ferret even has fleas. Young ferrets with heavy infestations may even become anemic as the fleas feed over time. Some topical medications used to treat fleas in dogs and cats appear to be safe in ferrets but should only be used under the guidance of a veterinarian familiar with ferrets.

Royal Ford Veterinary Hospital
610 Ford Drive, Unit 3
Oakville, Ontario L6J 7V7
Phone: 905-337-1880

Hours of Operation
Monday-Friday: 8:00am – 7:00pm
Saturday: 10:00am – 1:00pm
Sunday: Closed