General small furry advice


We use this term to describe the myriad of small furry animals that routinely come to the clinic for treatment. These include rats, mice, hamsters, chinchillas, guinea pigs, degus and gerbils. Many people seem to think that small furry pets such as guinea pigs are the ‘easy’ option. Because of this, they can sometimes not get the attention and care they deserve.

It is important to know all about your particular species to ensure that your pet receives the correct food and environment (housing, bedding, etc) and that they are handled in the right way. We’re happy to offer advice on any of these subjects. You might need help in determining the sex of your pet as this can sometimes be surprisingly tricky. Depending on the species concerned you may need to house your small furries in separate groups to prevent either breeding or fighting, or perhaps both!

All the small furries have a lifespan of approximately two years, except for guinea pigs who will live for around five years, while chinchillas and degus can easily live for 10 years.

The most common problem that we see in all the small furries is dental disease, usually as a result of an incorrect diet that has softened the bones supporting the cheek teeth. This results in the tooth roots shifting their position so that the tooth arcades become mal-aligned. We can correct this by trimming or rasping the teeth while your pet is asleep under a general anaesthetic.

Other common ailments include respiratory disease in rats and mice, bowel disease in hamsters and gerbils, large skin tumours in rats and mice, diabetes in hamsters, skin mites in guinea pigs, or ringworm in all of the small furries.

But don’t let this put you off! The small furries can make great pets if you choose wisely, especially for children.

General small furry advice:

  • Check their teeth and nails regularly.
  • Use a complete food, rather than a mix. Otherwise, your pet will just pick and choose the tastiest bits and leave the rest!
  • Small furries are very susceptible to extreme weather, and cannot cope with hot weather.
  • All small furries are sociable animals and will be far happier with a bit of company.
  • Remember that your small furry pet is a prey animal– just because your cat or dog may not be able to actually get to them through their cage, it doesn’t mean that the small furry won’t be terrified if they can see or even smell them. Think about how secure you’d feel staring at a tiger through a thin wire mesh!
  • Small furry pets are likely to be stressed by handling initially. Build up contact with your pet gradually until they are comfortable with you and try to win them over and make them feel comfortable by offering treats.

If you are interested in getting a small furry pet or have any questions or concerns about a current pet, please contact the surgery for advice.

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