Dr. Jones has extensive experience with ferrets both medically and personally. She also has worked with rabbits and guinea pigs. Dr. Jones is knowledgeable in rat medicine and surgery as well as adept at sugar glider castrations.
Ferrets have special dietary needs including high protein and fat. There are a number of high quality ferret diets available on the market today.
Most pet ferrets available today are already altered. If a female ferret is not spayed, there are some very serious health consequences that could lead to death. Castrating a male ferret can help eliminate aggression and decrease their musky odor.
Ferrets are highly susceptible to canine distemper and the disease is 100% fatal. Young ferrets need to have a series of vaccines to protect them properly. Adult ferrets should have a distemper titer performed before vaccinating to minimize the chance for a vaccine reaction, which are fairly common. Rabies is another vaccination recommended for ferrets but there is only one approved rabies vaccine for use in ferrets. Like dogs and cats, ferrets are susceptible to heartworms. Monthly heartworm medications are available and come in a meat chew or topical liquid.
Adrenal gland disease is the most common ailment in ferrets with almost 85% of ferrets developing the condition. Signs of adrenal disease include hair loss, extreme itchiness, aggression, a swollen vulva in females, and trouble urinating in males. If left untreated, the affected ferret will slowly succumb to the disease. The only treatment option that will completely cure adrenal disease is surgery to remove the affected adrenal gland but ferrets will often develop disease in the other gland. The alternative treatment is a deslorelin implant that usually lasts 12-18 months. This synthetic “hormone” only reduces the clinical signs but does nothing to keep a tumor from growing. This is a viable option when an inoperable tumor exists or age, concurrent disease, or finances make surgery impossible.
There are a number of other conditions that are common in ferrets which include insulinoma (tumor of the pancreas that causes low blood sugar), heart disease, lymphoma, and skin growths. Yearly exams can help with early detection facilitating easier treatment.
Rabbits need diets high in fiber and roughage to maintain gastrointestinal health. Alfalfa based hay can lead to bladder stones due to the higher calcium content. Rabbits have teeth that continue to grow throughout their life so they need to chew on a hard substance like wood to keep the teeth from becoming overgrown. Rabbits can also develop hairballs that can block the intestines.
It is important to have rabbits spayed and castrated as it can reduce aggression and spraying behaviors. Female rabbits will commonly develop uterine cancer and other reproductive problems that can become life threatening.
Rats should be on a block type diet as a seed based diet can easily cause obesity. Rats have incisors (front teeth) that continue to grow throughout their life and they can become overgrown. These teeth can cause eating difficulties.
Rats are also very prone to developing respiratory infections and early detection is key to successful treatment. Respiratory infections are generally a chronic problem that rarely have complete resolution and will need to be treated periodically.
Mammary tumors are very common in both female and male rats. Spaying female rats at a young age has shown to successfully prevent the development of these tumors. Early castration may also help decrease the odor associated with male rats.
Guinea Pigs are unique in their dietary needs in that they must have added vitamin C as they are unable to produce their own supply. It is important that their pelleted based diet is fresh and stored in a dark place to maintain the best levels of vitamin C. Treats containing vitamin C and various fruits/vegetables can also provide vitamin C. Pelleted food should be used as a seed based diet can cause obesity and vitamin deficiency as pigs will pick out their favorite part of the diet. Alfalfa based diets are good for young guinea pigs but animals more than 6 months of age should receive a timothy based feed. Pellets made with alfalfa can lead to bladder stones due to high calcium content. Hay is also another vital element to a guinea pig’s diet. Guinea pigs, like many other rodents, have incisors (front teeth) that continue to grow throughout their life so dental health needs to be monitored closely.
Breeding a female guinea after 6-8 months of age can be life threatening as the pelvis has already fused and pups are unable to pass through the birth canal. The guinea pig will need a Caesarian section in order to save her life as well as the pups.
Sugar Gliders are a small nocturnal animal; this is a serious consideration when deciding to acquire this animal as a pet.
Sugar gliders have a unique dietary requirement as they are omnivorous meaning they eat both animal and plant matter. Crickets, mealworms, cooked poultry without the skin, and eggs are good sources of meat based items. Fruits, vegetables, and seeds are good sources of plant based foods. Sugar gliders have a voracious appetite so a balance between diet and exercise is crucial to prevent obesity.
Male sugar gliders that are not castrated will develop a bald spot on their head when they reach sexual maturity. This is where one of their scent glands lie. Most of the time the bald spot will resolve when they are castrated. Castration will also result in decreased odor and aggression.