Barna Veterinary Clinic (00353) 91867008
Moycullen Veterinary Clinic 091 868572

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Small Pets

  • Rabbits
  • Gerbils
  • Hamsters
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Mice
  • Rats
  • Chinchillas
  • Ferrets
  • Reptiles and Amphibians
  • Snakes
  • Terrapins/Freshwater Turtles
  • Bearded Dragons

Rabbits

Rabbits at Barna & Moycullen Vet Clinic

Rabbits have been seen traditionally as a children’s pet but their curious, yet timid nature, lends them better to adult company. More and more people are keeping house rabbits, which are more treated like cats – have access to ground level of the house, use a litter tray and even watch television.

Socialising

Rabbits are very sociable creatures and like other rabbit or human company. Contrary to traditional ideas of housing a rabbit with a guinea pig, it is best to house like with like, as rabbits can seriously injure guinea pigs when play-fighting or trying to mate.

Obviously, when housing rabbits together it is responsible to check, and check again, the sex of the rabbits or have it neutered, as two bunnies become twenty very quickly!

Outdoor Housing

All rabbits, whether house rabbits or outdoor rabbits, need access to the outdoors in the form of a large and secure run, preferably without a mesh floor, as they can cause foot problems.

Exercise

Exercise is important for rabbits to prevent behavioural, obesity and spinal problems. So they need a large run or supervised ‘hopping’ in the open garden.

Rabbit Hutch

If sleeping outside, make sure the rabbit hutch is secure, cleaned weekly, with bedding changed daily and that they always have access to hay and water.

Feeding

The most common problems with rabbits are all diet related. Remember, a rabbit is not a small dog or cat. They are, in fact, more like a cow or sheep, in that they constantly graze and their guts are constantly digesting.

Availability of Food

Food needs to be available to them at all times, or a lack of it can risk the bowels shutting down and this can result in death. A rabbit off their food for more than 12 hours should be brought in as an emergency to your vet!

Type of Food

Rabbits are designed to eat grass. Therefore, grass and hay are the best diets for them. The pelleted and flaked foods is a diet of fast-food to the rabbit – tasty but not healthy – so this should make up only a maximum of 20% of their diet. Try giving them the grass cuttings after mowing the lawn. Dandelion leaves go down a treat! Green leafy vegetables – spinach, cabbage, cauliflower leaves, lettuce, broccoli and root vegetables, like carrots are great for variety and nutrition. Some fruit may be given as a treat – apple, pear, strawberry.

Taking Care of Your Rabbit’s Teeth

Also, make sure the rabbit has some branches or wood available for chewing on to keep teeth trimmed down, like our own finger nails, they grow constantly.

Unsuitable diets, such as diets high in pelleted foods, can cause overgrowing of teeth as the rabbit is not chewing enough. This can cause ‘kebabing’ of the tongue, with the teeth on either side sticking through it, or a tooth spike sticking through the check. These can be filed down to a normal level by your vet, but prevention is better than cure!

Grooming

It is important for rabbits, as well as enjoying it, to have a good brush which reduces the possibility of fur balls and gut obstruction.

Nail trimming is also essential, as rabbits’ nails can get very sharp indeed. Call in, so we can show you how you can do this at home.

Vaccination

We recommend that your rabbit is vaccinated at 10-12 weeks of age, and than annually, against two diseases:

Viral Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease (RHD)

Viral Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease (RHD), also known as rabbit calicivirus disease (RCD), is a highly infectious and often fatal disease within 12-32 hours from respiratory and heart failure.

Myxomatosis

Myxomatosis, a viral disease is also usually fatal with swelling of lips, eyelids, ears and genitalia and a fever.

There are no effective treatments for either of these diseases. Both are spread by insects (fleas and flies), so a flea treatment is appropriate to prevent being bitten. However, some flea treatments for small animals can cause death in rabbits, so please contact us and ask for our advice in parasite control.

Neutering

Rabbits can reproduce from an early age and unfortunately, it is only when an owner finds a newly born litter of rabbits, that they realise that they don’t have two males or females after all! Rabbits are notoriously difficult to sex, so please let us confirm the sex of your rabbit for you.

Neutering male rabbits is a good idea, as they can often become aggressive when older.

Spaying female rabbits means, that as well as preventing pregnancy, we prevent the development of uterine cancer. Uterine cancer is nearly always fatal and can occur even in young rabbits.

Neutering and spaying facilitates house training of indoor rabbits and allows harmonious communal housing.

Further Information On Rabbits

More information – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabbit or contact Barna Veterinary Clinic directly, if you have any further questions on Rabbits and their healthcare.

Gerbils

Gerbils at Barna & Moycullen Vet Clinic

Like hamsters, gerbils like to sleep during the day and are not suitable for very young children, as they are also very quick!

Gerbils make for entertaining pets, especially if you give them a deep half-full terrarium (glass) tank of dry compost or sand – watch them dig amazing tunnels!

Further Information On Gerbils

More information http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerbil or contact Barna Veterinary Clinic directly, if you have any further questions on Gerbils and their healthcare.

Hamsters

Hamsters at Barna & Moycullen Vet Clinic

Hamsters can make good pets if you are a night owl! Most people do not realise that these little guys are nocturnal – they sleep during the day! So when you want to see them in action during the day, all they do is sleep and then they keep you awake at night going around and around and… In their little exercise wheel!

Hamsters can be grumpy when woken during the day, so it is not uncommon for these little critters to bite if a finger is poked at them while sleeping. Exercise is important for hamsters, and an exercise ball or a series of tubes can be a good way to keep them active. Males can be aggressive, so introduce a new house mate at a young age.

Further Information On Hamsters

More information – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamster or contact Barna Veterinary Clinic directly, if you have any further questions on Hamsters and their healthcare.

Guinea Pigs

Guinea Pigs at Barna & Moycullen Vet Clinic

Originally from South America, Guinea Pigs come in a variety of coat colours and types – some even Elvis like! Guinea Pigs are extremely sociable animals and can be housed together in same-sex couples or groups to discourage aggressive behaviour and fighting.

Housing

Guinea Pigs can be housed in purpose built plastic and wire cages. A traditional rabbit hutch is also a suitable type of housing – provided it is secure and well-ventilated. When choosing a home for your Guinea Pig, it is important to choose a type of housing that is large, spacious and well-ventilated. The home you choose should also be secure – to protect your Guinea Pig from potential threats such as cats and foxes (if kept outdoors) and also to prevent your pet from escaping. Ideally, a solid floor is preferable to one made of wire mesh to prevent damage to your Guinea Pig's toes and feet. Wood shavings are commonly used as a bedding material. Your pet should also have access to an outdoor run on a daily basis, to allow them to exercise and graze on fresh grass. The run should be easy to move, to ensure that continued grazing on fresh grass is available. Guinea Pigs also love having somewhere to hide – so it is important to ensure you provide your Guinea Pig with a few different ‘hide-outs’ to make them feel safe and secure.

Once you have selected an appropriate home for your pet, it is important to choose a suitable location in which to put it. Ideally, the cage or hutch, should be located in an area that has access to natural light and is free from drafts and sheltered from wind. To provide environmental enrichment toys, such as cardboard tubes and various types of chew toys can be provided, to ensure that your pet’s home is a fun place to be and to help maintain good dental health.

Feeding

For a balanced diet Guinea Pigs require grass or hay (ad lib) and fresh, leafy green vegetables should also be provided daily. A commercially prepared ‘complete’ food should also be given but this should only make up a small portion of your pet’s overall diet. Foods that are high in sugar, including fruits, should be avoided. Water should be available to your pet at all times, and a water bottle is ideal, as long as fresh water is provided daily. Vitamin C supplementation is required in Guinea Pigs as they cannot make their own. Fresh green vegetables or 1/4 Vitamin C tablet dissolved in their water daily, is enough to meet their requirements.

Common Ailments

Vitamin C Deficiency

Guinea Pigs are unable to produce their own Vitamin C and, therefore, must be provided with a direct source of Vitamin C in their diet to prevent deficiency. Feeding fresh leafy green vegetables, and small amounts of Vitamin C rich food, such as kiwi fruit, can help ensure your Guinea Pig gets an adequate amount of this essential vitamin in their diet. Vitamin C can also be provided in your pets water, using liquid or tablet forms (1/4 tablet dissolved in their water) but this must be changed daily.

Dental Problems

Guinea Pigs that are fed an unsuitable diet (eg. mainly on pellets) are highly susceptible to developing dental problems or dental disease. Guinea Pigs teeth grow continuously throughout their lives, and in the wild, their teeth are worn down naturally, as they spend a large portion of their day grazing on highly fibrous material such as grass. It is important that your Guinea Pig is allowed to graze throughout the day on either grass or hay – as this should make up the majority of your pets diet.

Parasites

Guinea Pigs are also at risk of acquiring internal and external parasites, such as worms and mites. There are ‘spot-on’ treatments that are available for both prevention and treatment of these infestations. Please contact the clinic for further information.

Further Information On Guinea Pigs

More information – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guinea_pig or contact Barna Veterinary Clinic directly, if you have any further questions on Guinea Pigs and their healthcare.

Mice

Mice at Barna & Moycullen Vet Clinic

Mice are friendly little creatures and very curious. They can be easily tamed with gentle handling. Keep them occupied with toys and exercise tunnels, as these intelligent creatures get bored easily. They typically live for 1-2 years.

Further Information On Mice

More information – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mouse or contact Barna Veterinary Clinic directly, if you have any further questions on Mice and their healthcare.

Rats

Rats at Barna & Moycullen Vet Clinic

Rats, contrary to popular belief, probably make for the best rodent pet, as they are exceptionally intelligent and affectionate. They rarely, if ever, bite. They get used to being handled early and love human company. Rats live for 2-3 years on average.

Further Information On Rats

More information – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rat or contact Barna & Moycullen Veterinary Clinic directly, if you have any further questions on Rats and their healthcare.

Chinchillas

Chinchillas at Barna & Moycullen Vet Clinic

Chinchillas originate from the Andes mountains in South America. They are members of the rodent family and inhabit rocky barren areas in the wild. Chinchillas found in the wild are grey in colour but a wide variety of colours are now available.

Housing

Chinchillas should be kept in a large multilevel wire cage. The height and width of these cages should allow plenty of space for climbing. Wire cages are preferred as they allow good ventilation. These cages are often available with a solid or wire mesh floor. The benefits of using a cage with a wire mesh floor, is it allows urine and faeces to fall below and away from your pet. Providing toys and climbing accessories is a good way of enriching your pets environment and allowing them to engage in natural behaviours. A nestbox or ‘hide-out’ should be placed in the cage also, as Chinchillas are quite shy by nature and this will provide security and somewhere for your pet to feel safe. It is important to choose a location for your pets cage that is cool, dry and well ventilated. Chinchillas should be provided with a sand bath to help them maintain their soft, dense coat. Chinchilla sand can be provided in a shallow tray for this purpose. Ideally, the sand tray should be removed after 30 minutes, as prolonged exposure to the dust/sand can cause eye irritation and infection.

Diet

Chinchillas are herbivorous meaning that they eat a diet consisting of grasses, leaves, seeds and fruit. A high fibre diet is essential to your pet, to maintain healthy teeth and digestion. To feed your pet a suitably high fibre diet, the majority of your pets diet should consist of good quality, fresh meadow hay. Commercially prepared Chinchilla pellets can be fed in small quantities daily, although this should make up only a minor part of the Chinchillas diet. Fruits, such as apple and pear and branches from fruit trees, can be given as treats. Feeding a low fibre diet can lead to a wide range of health problems including dental disease, gut stasis and fur chewing.

Common Ailments

Dental disease is one of the most common issues seen in Chinchillas that are kept as pets. As with all rodents, Chinchillas teeth are constantly growing and this growth can lead to dental problems. Gut stasis is another common problem, where the gut stops functioning correctly. One of the main causes of these issues is a low fibre diet. In the wild, constant grazing on a highly fibrous diet leads to the teeth being worn down naturally from chewing this type of food material. Dental malocclusion from overgrown teeth occurs, and can cause severe ulceration of the gums and mouth. A high fibred diet is integral to keep a Chinchillas gut constantly in motion – this is key to healthy digestion. A low fibre diet, or feeding of foods high in sugar, can disrupt the normal movement of the gut, resulting in gut stasis. Chinchillas are also susceptible to developing respiratory infections that can be caused by poor ventilation and immunosuppression. Therefore, the importance of providing a suitable diet and habitat for your pet cannot be understated.

Further Information On Chinchillas

More information – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinchilla or contact Barna Veterinary Clinic directly, if you have any further questions on Chinchillas and their healthcare.

Ferrets

Ferrets at Barna & Moycullen Vet Clinic

Ferrets are extremely energetic and acrobatic animals, that are great fun to watch and need plenty of space and exercise. They will live happily indoors or outdoors, provided they have suitable housing, with sufficient shelter from extremes of heat or cold.

Housing

If kept indoors, Ferrets may be kept in either wire mesh or wooden cages with a solid floor. Litter trays can be placed in several locations within the cage/enclosure to provide ‘toilet areas’. Ferret housing should always include a dark, quiet sleeping area with soft bedding, as this will allow the ferret to feel secure and perform their natural hiding behaviour. Suitable substrates for an outdoor enclosure, include newspaper and woodchip flooring, whereas wood shavings or hay can be used as bedding material for indoor cages.

Neutering/Spaying

Ferrets reach sexual maturity at 6-12 months. Neutering and spaying is recommended for both male and female ferrets. Entire male ferrets (known as Hobs) can be very aggressive to other ferrets. Female ferrets (know as Jills) are at risk of developing aplastic anaemia if they come into heat and are not mated. An entire female ferret will come into season in Spring, and may remain in a state of persistent oestrous unless ovulation is induced (ie she is mated by a male). The prolonged release of these hormones can then cause bone marrow suppression, and the resulting anaemia can be a life threatening condition. Spaying is a permanent solution to this issue, although an implant is also available that can be used to suppress oestrus for up to 2 years. Entire ferrets (both male and female) have a very distinctive strong, musky smell, and for people that would like to keep their pets indoors, this is often another important consideration.

Vaccination

Ferrets can be vaccinated for Canine Distemper. This is a highly contagious disease with a high fatality rate.

Microchipping

Ferrets like other pets can be microchipped to provide your pet with a permenent form of identification.

Further Information On Ferrets

More information – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferret or contact Barna Veterinary Clinic directly, if you have any further questions on Ferrets and their healthcare.

Reptiles and Amphibians

Reptiles and Amphibians at Barna & Moycullen Vet Clinic

These pets require very specific housing needs such as specialised lighting, humidity and heat. Most problems in these pets relate to poor management and lack of knowledge about their basic requirements. Please make sure, if you are considering such a pet, that you thoroughly research its husbandry needs before buying it.

Further Information On Reptiles And Amphibians

More information – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reptile or contact Barna Veterinary Clinic directly, if you have any further questions on Reptiles and Amphibiansand their healthcare.

Snakes

Snakes at Barna & Moycullen Vet Clinic

Snakes are becoming increasingly popular as pets and many species are now available. The species most commonly kept as pets include corn snakes, ball pythons, boas, king and milk snakes. All snakes have particular requirments with respect to housing, feeding and husbandry.

Lifespan: Corn snakes can live up to 15-25 years and Ball pythons 35-45 years so the relatively long lifespan of snakes should be an important consideration when choosing a snake as a pet.

Housing

Snakes may be housed in a suitably sized glass or plexi-glass aquarium or tank. This type of accommodation allows for clear viewing of your pet and also helps with maintaining relative humidity. Ideally, the tank or cage will have a door that can be latched shut, as snakes can make great escape artists! Branches from hardwood trees, driftwood, hanging ropes and grapevines can be added to the habitat to add environmental enrichment. A ‘hide out’ should also be provided to help your pet feel secure. Suitable substrate or bedding for snakes include plain/unprinted newpaper/paper, paper towels or indoor/outdoor carpeting. Snakes require environments that have high temperatures with high humidity. Temperatures of between 25-30C should be maintained in your pets habitat and heat lamps or heaters with thermostats may be used for this purpose. A thermometer should be placed into the cage/tank, and this should be monitored regularly, to ensure that a suitable temperature is maintained. An artificial UV light source is beneficial for your pet as access to direct, unfiltered sunlight is not always possible or ideal. Ideally, lights should be used to mimic natural light patterns ie. lights are on for 10-12 hours during the day and are turned off at night 12-14 hours.

Diet

Most pet snakes consume a basic diet of rats and mice, although snakes will have specific feeding requirements depending on their breed/species. Water should be provided in a heavy dish (ceramic would be suitable) to prevent spillages or the dish being overturned.

Shedding

Snakes can shed 4 to 8 times per year. The frequency with which snakes shed their skin depends on a number of factors, including habitat temperature, the amount of food fed and frequency of feeding, age (young snakes shed more frequently) and the snake’s activity level. Shedding can take 1-2 weeks and healthy snakes usually have no trouble shedding, however, poor husbandry and diet can lead to problems, so you should observe your pet closely during this time.

Further Information On Snakes

More information – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snake or contact Barna Veterinary Clinic directly, if you have any further questions on Snakes and their healthcare.

Terrapins/Freshwater Turtles

Terrapins/Freshwater Turtles at Barna & Moycullen Vet Clinic

The Terrapin originates from Southern and Central USA. Terrapins are most active during the day time and are omnivorous – meaning they eat both meat and vegetables. When young, juvenile terrapins eat a mostly carnivorous diet although their diet becomes more herbivorous as they grow into adults.

Lifespan: 15-25 years. Sexual maturity is reached between 3-8 years.

Size: Can grow up to 12-13 inches or 30cm.

Housing

Terrapins require a semi-aquatic habitat that has access to land and a basking area. A tank or ‘terranium’ is a suitable type of housing. The size and the volume of water in the tank should allow ample space for swimming and maintaining good water conditions. The depth of the tank should be 1.5-2 times the length of the turtle’s carapace or straight carapace length (SCL) – this involves measuring the length of the shell from front to back. Cleaning of the tank should be performed on a weekly basis and gloves should be worn.

Equipment Required

*Filtration is required as Terrapins produce a high level of waste. Filter media such as sponges should be removed and cleaned every 4-7 days and should be replaced every 3 months.

*Heating. A water heater will be required to heat the water to maintain a temperature of 28-29 C.

*Basking area and basking light to heat the area to 29-32C (for juveniles) or 21-26C for adult Terrapins.

*UV light (Reptile UVB) is required to ensure healthy shell growth and hardening. These bulbs should be changed every 6 months and should be placed inside the tank/terranium.

Diet

Juvenile terrapins should be fed a diet consisting of 60-70% animal matter including: turtle pellets, earthworms, mealworms, crickets, small fish (avoid use of raw or cooked meats), with the remainder of the diet consisting of vegetables and leafy greens. Supplements should be used to ensure that requirements for Vitamin A and calcium are met especially in juveniles. Adult turtles require approximately 70% vegetable matter (chopped leafy greens such as kale, romaine/red leaf lettuce and shredded carrot) and 30% turtle pellets.

Further Information On Terrapins/Freshwater Turtles

More information – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terrapin or contact Barna Veterinary Clinic directly, if you have any further questions on Terrapins/Freshwater Turtles and their healthcare.

Bearded Dragons

Bearded Dragons at Barna & Moycullen Vet Clinic

Bearded dragons originate from Central and Eastern Australia. They generally have a good and docile temperament, provided they are well cared for and handled. They have a lifespan 10-12 years.

Housing and Environment

Like most reptiles bearded dragons also have specific environmental needs and requirements. They require a tank habitat (4×2 ft long for 2 adults) with a heated basking area. A UVB light and a basking light are required to keep your pet happy. The lights should be on for 12-14 hours per day, to ensure an optimum daytime temperature of 27-35 C in the habitat. At night, the temperature should be allowed to drop down to approximately 21 C. Humidity should be kept at 20-30%. Suitable substrate or bedding, include ceramic tile, reptile carpet or newspaper, paper towels (for young/juveniles). Sand and other types of loose substrate or bedding should be avoided, as these can lead to impaction (not being able to pass faeces).

Diet

A diet of live prey including crickets, roaches or mealworms, as well as fresh greens and vegetables should be given daily. When feeding greens and vegetables, small pieces should be given. Young bearded dragons require a higher amount of live prey and a small amount of vegetables but this changes as they get older. Crickets and mealworms can be dusted in calcium supplement powder. A young dragon should be fed approximately 80% live prey and 20% greens and vegetables until 12-15 months old. At this age protein intake can be gradually reduced until the diet fed consists of a higher quantity of greens (80% of adult diet) compared to protein (20% of adult diet). Vegetables that are high in calcium should be given, such as rocket, kale and romaine lettuce but other vegetables, including carrots and broccoli can be added for variety. Water can be provided in a small shallow dish.

Further Information On Bearded Dragons

More information – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pogona or contact Barna Veterinary Clinic directly, if you have any further questions on Bearded Dragons and their healthcare.