Ashleigh Vet Clinic Homepage Back to to previous page

Cage Pets:

As a small animal practice we deal with all animals kept as pets. Mostly we deal with mammals with some birds and occasional fish. The nurses and vet have been on courses about care for the popular types of cage pet. Reptiles and exotic birds are usually best dealt with by specialists: if you need help finding one, we can help. We have treated tortoises, terrapins, snakes and lizards occasionally and so can help in an emergency. For useful links on these species and a tortoise/reptile specialist vet, click here.

Feeding correctly is of IMMENSE IMPORTANCE in all cage pets. For excellent information regarding feeding rodents go to The Oxbow Company's library

The commoner species we treat are:

Rabbits
Guineapigs
Hamsters and Gerbils
Rats and Mice
Chinchillas and Degus
Ferrets
Cagebirds
Exotics including invertebrates

There are clubs or societies for people interested in most species of cage pets. If you want to know more, contact the surgery.

There are no drugs licensed or designed for cage pets except for 2 vaccines for rabbits and a spray to repel parasites. This means that medical treatment is difficult and limited. At least we now have a safe antibiotic for them.

Rabbits:

It is now relatively common for rabbits to be kept as house pets rather than just in hutches. They can be house-trained and, especially if neutered, are relatively simple to keep indoors.

The absolute commonest problem for rabbits is dental disease caused by wrong feeding. Especially since the dwarf breeds became popular (and they are now just about the only ones we see) at least 80% of all rabbits brought to the surgery have problems associated with an abnormal diet. Wild rabbits eat grass and wild rabbits get very little dental disease. Pet rabbits tend to be fed on cereals and greens other than grass. Rabbits' teeth grow all the time and must be worn down by their food or problems will occur. Grass is very abrasive and the teeth are designed to chew lots of grass Less abrasive plant material (even hay) will not wear the teeth properly and they will overgrow. Many rabbit feeds are mixtures of cereals from which the rabbits can and do select the bits they like. What they leave tends to be teh calcium containing ingredients and so when the owners conscientiously throw away old food every day they are throwing away the rabbit's source of calcium. It has been shown that rabbits on these mixed diets have low blood calcium levels and overactivity of the hormone which removes calcium from the bones. So these rabbits' bones will be soft and their jaw bones will not hold the overgrowing teeth firmly with the result that the teeth both push back up through their sockets and move sideways to change the angle of wear and allow the teeth to grow out or in sideways. There is no cure once this has happened. Prevention of the problem is by giving fresh grass to all rabbits as their main diet.

Parasites in rabbits are mentioned on the Parasites page of this site.

Abscesses are common in rabbits, especially around the face due to dental disease, and these show as swellings which feel hard and can become huge. They are difficult to treat and usually need surgical opening, cleaning and packing antibiotic. They recur commonly and may spread to other parts of the body.

Urinary problems are rare, but occasionally bladder stones will develop. Two common symptoms relating to urine are blood (which, in a female rabbit, is often the first sign of cancer of the womb and needs urgent treatment) and an orange discolouration which may look like blood. This is caused by pigments from certain plants and is nothing to worry about.

Snuffles is a very unpleasant disease which can be fatal. A discharge of pus from the nostrils should be treated urgently.

Neutering of rabbits is beneficial in several ways: urine spraying will usually be prevented, aggressive behaviour especially by does on heat is eliminated and cancer of the womb, which is a common cause of death in does, is prevented.

One useful link is The Rabbit Welfare Association

The British Rabbit Council is under construction: keep trying

Go to top of page

Guineapigs:

These are relatively troublefree pets, from the disease point of view. Diet is important mainly because guineapigs, like humans but unlike most mammals, cannot make their own Vitamin C. They can, therefore, suffer from scurvy so it is important that they get either specially made food or plenty of fresh fruit.

Guineapigs are especially easy to breed: in fact it is sometimes hard to prevent them from breeding as males can be fertile by the time they are 8 weeks old. It is important therefore to make sure you know what sex of guineapigs you have if you mix them. Because they are social animals, they are happier living in groups, but do need adequate space.

For information about the National Cavy Club click

Go to top of page

Hamsters and Gerbils

These smaller rodents are very popular and there are several species of each. Each species has a different home in the wild and it is important that you know what sort of hamster or gerbil you have to make sure that you provide the correct environment for it. Correct bedding is vital as some may be eaten and it was common in the past to see hamsters with fatal intestinal problems caused by this.

Tumours are common in both these animals, but many can be removed successfully as long as they are seen early. Both animals are quite good at coping with operations.

Links for these small furries are: and

Go to top of page

Rats and Mice

Though these species are considered as pests when they arrive uninvited, they make friendly pets, especially rats which seem to enjoy close human contact. They are however rather prone to skin diseases which can be difficult or impossible to treat. Tumours are very common in both, possibly associated in many cases with carcinogenic preservatives in wood-shavings used for bedding. Many tumours are malignant so that even after prompt surgery they may still be fatal.

Rat link at and for mice

Go to top of page

Chinchillas and Degus

Chinchillas are extremely pretty animals but are slightly difficult as pets. They need very careful handling and should only be selected as pets after careful sreading of their requirements. Much information can be found on an American website: click this logo .

Degus are rare but very pretty pets. See this link for lots of information.

Go to top of page

Ferrets

This is a link to the National Ferret Welfare Society site

Go to top of page

Cage birds

Like reptiles, birds are perhaps better treated by specialists. We treat a few budgerigars and parrots and rather more wild birds. Particularly surgical treatment is more successful when carried out by a vet who does plenty of such treatment.

Click this for Yorkshire Budgerigar Society or here to search for useful links.



Reptiles

International Zoo Veterinary Group in Keighley are specialists in exotic animals including reptiles. Find them via this link:

The British Chelonian Group which covers Tortoises, Terrapins etc site is a good source of information about these animals. Information about other reptiles can be found on the British Herpetological Society site .

Go to top of page

Exotics including invertebrates

There are many exotic animals kept as pets nowadays: spiders, various aquatic animals, insects, snails, zoo mammals and reptiles. Most vets see very few of any particular exotic animals but a few do specialise in their treatment. It is generally best to get such a pet to someone with experience of its species, or at least phylum.

For specialist attention to These creatures see Vets4Exotics a Manchester based practice providing 1st opinion and referral services in all exotic species, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish and invertebrates.

Go to top of page